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The curmudgeons* of the Venezuelan Electoral Council

By Gustavo Coronel

(15.11.03) In a 3 to 2 split decision by the members of the Venezuelan Electoral Council, Venezuelans abroad will not be able to sign the petition for the presidential recall referendum. The reasons alleged by members of the council Carrasquero, Rodríguez and Battaglini were “technical.” They claimed that the Council couldn’t supervise effectively the process of signing abroad, although similar, more complex procedures have been done before without any problems. Signing offers minimum technical problems. The person goes to a table, signs his or her name, adds the number of his or her identity card and puts his or her thumb imprint on the paper. This can be easily verified, by comparing name, signature and thumb imprint to the records already existing. There is no possibility of fraud in this process, especially if it is done in the consulates of Venezuela around the world, as it has always been done.

If Dr. Seuss could have witnessed this miserly act, he would have added the names of the three curmudgeons listed above to the name of Grinch, to reinforce the title of his tale about the stealing of Christmas: “How the Grinch, Carrasquero, Rodríguez and Battaglini Stole Christmas.” It is miserly because it robs Venezuelan citizens of a civic right for which they have fought gallantly and courageously for many months. If, as Rodríguez claims, these signatures would have no bearing on the final results, what is then the reason to decide in this manner? Is it plain sadism? Is it abject obedience to the master’s voice? Rodriguez asserts that only 26,000 Venezuelans would be entitled to sign in around the world. So much the easier! The reasons given about the technical impossibility of going ahead with the process sound absurd, in the face of this assertion.

Of course, there are many more than 26,000 Venezuelans entitled to sign in abroad. Thousands of Venezuelans have left the country during the last three or four years, obliged to do so by the tragedy the country has become. The estimate of Venezuelans now living abroad is some 400,000. Assuming that only one half of this number are duly registered as voters and can, therefore, sign the referendum, this represents about 200,000 citizens who have been robbed of their right to vote. The real reason is crystal clear. Of this number more than 90% oppose Chávez, otherwise they would still be living in Venezuela. The decision of the Electoral Council is, in effect, depriving the opposition of some 180,000 signatures to request the referendum. This is the crime for which Carrasquero, Rodríguez and Battaglini will be immortalized in the Venezuelan lore.

Worse than the manipulation with the numbers, beyond the despicable and selfish political maneuver, beyond the “trick” predicted by Carter, the decision of the Electoral Council is an act of indecency. No one can rob a citizen of the most sacred right of expressing his/her will. This is only equivalent to the stealing of Christmas. But, as in the tale, the modern versions of Grinch will find that the citizens of Venezuela, no matter where they are, no matter if the act will be valid or not, will come together at the stipulated moment and will sign, will assert their civic right, in civic joy, a joy only comparable to the joy of Christmas. Grinch found himself carving the bird, amazed to find that the will of the people is much stronger than the formal limitations which the evil hearts can conceive.

* Curmudgeon: from the French Coeur mechant, evil heart. Webster’s unabridged Dictionary.

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