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Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez unmasked

By Aleksander Boyd

London 16 Aug. 04 – 14:50 GMT – News outlets around the world have reported the victory of Hugo Chavez in yesterday’s recall referendum. According to preliminary results given by CNE Director Francisco Carrasquero, the NO option got 4.991.483 or 58.25% of the votes. Exit polls conducted during the event by Sumate and other actors estimated that figure to be favouring the SI option instead.

Yesterday Venezuelans residing abroad also voted. The city of London was the polling centre for the UK. I arrived to the Venezuelan Consulate in Grafton Way at around 07:05 AM. At that time there were people already in the queue. The centre was to open at 08:00 AM. Electoral officials opened the centre on time and invited the few of us who were waiting to witness the process of opening the centre, which consisted in verifying that the box to be utilised to deposit the votes was empty and its closure was made in front of us all. Signatures of every participating officials and witnesses from both political sides were printed on the cello-tape used to close the box.

The voting process was absolutely normal and went by in an ambiance of utmost cordiality. At 08:00 PM the voting finished and the centre closed. After following procedures of invalidating in the roll the votes in this circumscription of electors who did not show up, we were invited to witness the tallying process. By then officials already knew how many votes were cast. The auditing of the votes was carried out by officials in the presence of the witnesses of both sides and independent observers that would be 50 odd people who were present. The results were reported in front of everyone. As such I was capable of writing about it late last night when I got home.

Now let us compare the UK’s ideal example with what has happened in Venezuela. Every centre has to produce a tally at the end of the day. The number of votes reported in said tally is not someone’s invention but rather an account made, approved and signed by those involved, i.e. accredited electoral officials and witnesses from each one of the options. An example of the form produced is posted here. That form needs to be sent to the headquarters of the CNE in Caracas, regardless whether the voting took place in Venezuela or abroad. When said forms arrive the scrutiny commences. It has to be borne in mind that such audit at the CNE has to be performed in the presence of officials, witnesses and in the case of the final audit international, national observers and personnel from Smartmatic (company in charge of the e-voting and transmission of related data).

Norms and regulations notwithstanding, the scrutiny in this case were surrounded in secrecy. Directors Sobella Mejias and Ezequiel Zamora were not present; international and national observers were not present; witnesses from both sides of the political divide were not present; staff from Smartmatic were also absent; the tallies have not even arrived in the CNE’s headquarters, therefore the electronically transmitted results can not be compared with the physical tallies produced and guaranteed by those who took active part in the process.

This begs for the question: how can we possibly believe the preliminary results announced by Carrasquero? Paraphrasing Chavez, this is indeed a Mega Fraud. Regardless of who won, the victor needs to prove beyond shadows of doubt in front of the eyes of the Venezuelan electorate, internal political actors and the international community that the results are indeed trustworthy. How can that goal be attained? Simple, respect the norms and have the scrutiny process made in front of the appropriate witnesses. The opposition can not agree with the figure simply because they were not present at the time of the counting; international observers can not endorse the results for the same reason and the people of Venezuela will not rest tranquil in the know that the results are marred with fraud.

The crisis is far from over. Venezuelans in their resilient attempt to solve the strife peacefully and democratically through the ballot box have been, yet again, scammed by an administration that will not accept that has lost the support of the majority, indeed a sad and tragic day for our democracy. On the other hand millions of Venezuelans demonstrated to the world their commitment to democratic precepts and quite obviously the regime’s machinations have left them completely exposed before the eyes of the world. Such a gigantic fraud will indeed go down to history books and its perpetrator is none other than Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.

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