FOR THE TIME BEING (POR AHORA)
By Víctor García Crespo
August 28, 2004 - The intention of Hugo Chavez to stop the democratic opposition has prevailed. The Organization of American Sates (OAS) has just resolved "To make a recognition to the Venezuelan people and its democratic political institutions by the civic conduct demonstrated during the referendum process and to President Hugo Chavez Frias for having obtained a successful ratification of its mandate." Yes, Hugo Chavez has beaten a recall referendum through a democratic process that was according to the international observers, "fair." Today, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council has ratified him in office. Thus, Venezuelans will have to endure the Bolivarian revolution for at least two more years. However, as everything is with Hugo Chavez, his victory has the same prelude of the defeat he suffered when he failed in his coup d’etat attempt in 1992. Then, he said, he had been defeated "for the time being." Today, when he has come out victorious instead of defeated, I have not doubts that his victory will also be "for the time being," because sooner than later he will be an execrated ex-president.
For, no matter the OAS resolution, and for that matter Jimmy Carter's opinion, I strongly believe this referendum was a fraud. Perhaps, one of the biggest frauds ever committed in an electoral process. And please, do not ask me for proofs. All that I have are indications, signs, clues and traces in a nutshell, what I offer is pure circumstantial evidence coupled with my common sense, my observation of the whole process, and the perception I had when I lined up, for more than five hours, to cast my "YES" vote by touching the screen of a voting machine, and depositing the physical evidence of my vote.
The basic premise from which any inference can be drawn is the policy of total exclusion that Hugo Chavez practices. "You are with me or against me, I don't have adversaries, I have enemies" this is the principle that guides Chavez political behavior. While the National Electoral Council [CNE] was not a puppet of his own, Hugo Chavez used to rave this institution as he has done with every social institution that does not bend its knees to his revolution. Once the CNE became subservient to his interests, and he was able to have the unconditional support and obedience of three out of its five members, he started to praise every measure and action taken by the majority of this "New Bolivarian Institution," and without any fear or doubt he asserted that he would accept any decision proceeding from this organism. But, what about the two remaining dissident voices of the CNE? Who cares, Hugo Chavez said, they are enemies of the revolution, and their stances, opinions and recommendations are by origin, despicable.
Once the CNE made the process of the signatures a nightmare and against their will had to accept the referendum, the CNE came about with the brilliant idea of carrying out the referendum through electronic voting machines. Of course, Chavez enthusiastically welcomed this idea. However, given the intrinsic cheating nature of the government, this decision became really suspicious. Several voices alerted about the dangers and potential fraud if this mechanism was to be put into practice. The opposition put forward these situations to the CNE but in one and every instance, its petitions were denied. In the end, the CNE was smart enough to convince the opposition about "the merits of the system" and thus the table was served.
In referendum day I became proud, once again, to be Venezuelan. It was a good feeling to observe people fulfilling their civic duties, enduring with stoicism every obstacle that government had placed to delay the process, and filling the ballots with their hopes for having a peaceful and fraternal country under a democratic system. As the process continued, the news had already spread to different countries, for instance in New York this news was already on: "From Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, an independent New York-based polling firm, show a major victory for the 'Yes' movement, defeating Chavez in the Venezuela presidential recall referendum. The poll showed 59 percent in favor of recalling Chavez, 41 percent against." The same result was obtained by SUMATE and others serious pollsters. This also was s the proportion that existed in most of the polls before the referendum regarding the percentages of support for the opposition and government, respectively. However, the next morning, Chavez was declared the winner by an almost exact opposite margin, about 58 percent said 'no' to a recall, while 42 percent said 'yes,' As it is well documented, Hugo Chavez had sought to block the referendum by extralegal means, having failed at that, resorted to intimidation to win it. Thus, there was not reason to believe that he would stop at election fraud. The announce was shocking and devastating. I patiently went into my computers files and found something I had already read when Smarmatic became the wizard of the referendum:
"Deployment of new voting machines that do not provide a voter-verifiable audit trail should be halted, and existing machines should be replaced or modified to produce ballots that can be checked independently by the voter before being submitted, and cannot be altered after submission. These ballots would count as the actual votes, taking precedence over any electronic counts. Election integrity cannot be assured without openness and transparency. But an election without voter-verifiable ballots cannot be open and transparent: The voter cannot know that the vote eventually reported is the same as the vote cast, nor can candidates or others gain confidence in the accuracy of the election by observing the voting and vote counting processes." [http://www.verifiedvoting.org]
The body of evidence was in the boxes. Venezuelans immediately wanted to count their votes manually and compare the results with the electronic vote. However the NEC would not allow it and would not do it. The reason? Because the rules (which they did not entirely fulfill according to previous agreement) had been established. Thus, no manual recount was accepted.
I wonder, would it have not been great, enormous, marvelous and an apotheosis for Hugo Chavez and his revolution, to shut everybody’s mouth by allowing a manual recount, confirm the results of the electronic vote and cry aloud to the rest of the world his victory was really the result of the people’s will? The truth is that for Chavez to show such a gesture it was paramount, first, to have the certainty that the votes were there and second to have a magnanimous character. But this was too much to ask for. Hugo Chavez lacks of both.
Hugo Chavez has been ratified as President and we have not choice but accepting this fact. We are disappointed but not deterred. The ominous aftermath of this referendum demands from the leadership of the democratic opposition to gather all the necessary information and evidence to support the claim of a fraudulent action. This will not be an easy task, but there are sufficient elements from which intelligent and expert personnel can formulate hypothesis, research into them and provide conclusions that never can dissipate the clouds of illegitimacy in the Chavista firmament. We have to understand that in this task we are alone. To pave the way for our endeavor, we need neither Carter nor Gaviria or someone else for that matter from the OAS. We also have to understand that with or without fraud, the opposition was defeated and a new approach is necessary. Hugo Chavez turned out to be, at least for the time being, smarter that the current leadership of the opposition. He set up the fraud, and during this setting the opposition was in vain looking for a different way out that never was open or conceded, and thus it was forced to take the government exit. Therefore, some changes are necessary. In a very short period of time the elections of Governors and Majors will be celebrated. This is a big challenge that has to be faced without detriment of the aforementioned task and which demands character and firmness. In every Venezuelan home there will be a Venezuelan soul observing the opposition strategy. There is not more room for mistakes. Otherwise, Hugo Chavez will be in office beyond "for the time being" and Venezuelans will have not democracy, permanently.
© 2004 Víctor García Crespo
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