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The repair process for the Signatures of the Recall Election in Venezuela

By Daniel Duquenal

Saturday 8, May 2004 - A few questions for the Coordinadora Democratica and Sumate. In a few hours the opposition umbrella organization is going to hold a rather memorable day: a test run for the repair process scheduled late this month. The stakes are high and from the success of Saturday's demonstration might come the final result as to whether the CD will go to repairs. Or try adventure, albeit justifiably.

The purpose of Saturday's exercise is for people who signed to 1) re-confirm their status and will if their signatures are "valid" (this blogger own case); 2) confirm the will to go to repair one's firm if it has been put under "observation"; 3) complain if one's signatures is not allowed to go to repair and 4) (perhaps) for those who signed but do not appear anywhere, to at least lodge a complaint. To understand this better it would be a good idea I think to ask some of the important questions that are running within Venezuela, creating great anguish in both sides incidentally.

Indeed, there are many serious questions that the CD must answer to demonstrate to the followers of the opposition that it is worthwhile to keep going on, that one day we will indeed get the option to repudiate Chavez legally. One wonders looking at the way that the Electoral Board, CNE, has been acting lately, or the rhetoric of Chavez (again today in an unspeakable cadena from a school pack with children while he uttered a most vile and violent discourse totally inappropriate for small children).

What about the people that signed and do not show up in any list?

This is becoming everyday a bigger and bigger issue and one that currently CD or Sumate (the organization that does the CD electoral work) are dodging! Effectively many people are complaining that their names do not appear in any list, CNE or Sumate. Even tonight, in Globovision's "Alo Ciudadano" to my great surprise I saw two phone calls that made it through of people that do not appear in any list.

And this was no fluke as I personally know three people in such situation.

One is a dramatic case. It is the relative of mine who was sick in December and for whom I took the pain to find and transport an "itinerant" signature collector with the chavista witness, in my car. The form was filled by the collector, approved by the witness, and thumb printed and signed by my relative. Well, when my relative introduces her ID number in all the databases available she comes out as not having signed anywhere. Now this is grave because not only she is a registered voter but she voted in all recent elections. What happened with her firm? Was it subtracted after she signed? Where the "itinerant" collectors working for the chavista side? Does Sumate really controls the process? What can my relative do? Looking at the platitudes that the Sumate representative was saying tonight on such cases ("well, you should go anyway tomorrow and bring coffee for the other guys") I am allowed to express some doubt, to wonder if these people really understand what is going on.

What about the people that signed to recall Chavez and now under pressure are "having second thoughts"?

Indeed, the real CNE president, Rodriguez, has been claiming that people that decided that they were sorry could just withdraw their signatures by showing up. This is a shameful move from the chavista controlled CNE. First, people that "are who are having second thoughts" and would like now to stamp their signatures" cannot do so!!!! Rodriguez thesis seems to work one way but not the other one. Where is thy fairness Rodriguez, as lamely you declare to the press that you are tired to discuss rules? Why did you not do your job right?

But this goes further. According to the CNE rules of last fall, before all sorts of modifications were made after the signatures were collected, to withdraw your signature you had to prove that someone else had signed for you. In other words you had to come forward and make a legal statement that could be used to pursue the person that signed for you in courts. Now you just go and say "I am sorry". How can we protect the public servants who are pressured EVERYWHERE to withdraw their signatures? This is no joke, as the cases now amount in the thousands, and more if you add up relatives of public servants. Thus it is easy to imagine the even larger numbers of the unreported cases as the judicial system collapses.

What are the conditions and protections that the citizens will have during the actual repair process?

From the above question it is clear that safety and trust are everyday more an issue. For example, how do I know that if I stay home someone else is not going to go with a fake ID to remove my signature? Reports of fake ID being issued have become so strong that the CD has asked for an international auditory of the Venezuelan ID system. This is no idle complaint as the US has pointed out that it is very easy for terrorists or just criminals to acquire a real Venezuelan passport! This is why incredibly I have to go tomorrow to write down somewhere that I am not "having second thoughts" and that I meant what I did!

At least one thing has been gained, Jimmy Carter himself and Gaviria will be in Venezuela during the repair process which might ensure that no open violence occurs these days. One would expect more from them, but one must understand that they do get only one chance to declare governmental fraud. They must be absolutely sure that there is no other option but to declare Chavez an election fraud. Still, the insecurity on one's good name is quite an issue that must be addressed unambiguously at some point, the sooner the better.

What guarantees do we have that the repair process will be the last hurdle?

Of course we are all aware that chavismo will try its outmost to find a way to rob the opposition from its victory. Now that they have admitted that 15% did signed, that their "megafraud" campaign was only hot air, they are cornered, and thus desperate and ready for anything. Beyond this how do we know that the CD has a Plan B? Does the CD understand that having a Plan B is a motivating factor for people to get again through one major ordeal?

One very troubling thing on this subject is the STILL discordant data to the the point that the CD has asked to proof the repair books before the repair day. Immediately the chavismo representative to the CNE, the ineffable representative Lara has refused, raising all sorts of suspicions. Why not let the opposition check out the material before the new journey?

There are more questions but these will do for the time being. Regardless tomorrow will find me early where I signed late November. I will sign anything to prove that I mean it. I will ask how I can make sure that my signature is not stolen. I will do all what one must do when one knows he is dealing with crooks.

PS: for once I did not deliberately placed links in this post. There would simply be too many of them, and most of the assertions I wrote are today public knowledge from any one who watches TV or reads the Venezuelan papers. When even major political figures are denied the possibility to repair their signatures (amazingly from both sides) you know that there is something rotten in Venezuela.

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