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Venezuela's recall: Hugo Chavez brought upon himself the fraud claim

By Aleksander Boyd

London 07 September 2004 – The opposition's fraud claim regarding the results of the recall referendum has found a new air of hope with the study conducted by two academics of grand calibre such as Harvard's Ricardo Hausmann and MIT's Roberto Rigobon. The fraud claim sort of needed the support and backing of internationally respected figures to pass from mere political cries to sound analytical reports. The work of the two scholars lays bare the mechanisms employed by Venezuelan electoral authorities (CNE) to conduct the audit proposed by the Carter Centre and the OAS.

The audit

Granting a last 'wish' to the opposition, Jimmy Carter and Cesar Gaviria suggested to the CNE to conduct an audit on a randomly selected number of boxes to dispel any doubts with respect to the transparency of the recall. Further, they respectfully asked CNE director Jorge Rodriguez to use a software that they would provide upon request to randomly select the boxes to be scrutinized. The audit was conducted on August 19th, that is four days after the voting day. Emphasis needs to be made upon the fact that at that stage the totality of the boxes containing votes had not arrived to the official deposit of the CNE, ergo international observers were dispatched on August 18th to the different military garrisons around the country to 'keep a close watch' over the integrity and transport of the boxes to the CNE headquarters in Caracas. Nonetheless most ballot boxes were out of sight under the control of the army for a period of three days. A video of soldiers tampering with boxes in the back of a military truck just adds suspicions as to whether the contents were not altered before sending the electoral cargo to Caracas.

Once in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez' proposed software, and not that of the Carter Centre or the OAS, was utilized to select the boxes to be audited. Hausmann & Rigobon report suggests that indeed the audit was transparent and the votes contained in the boxes matched perfectly the numbers reflected in the tallies produced by the e-voting machines. Their hypothesis stresses that in a universe of say 4580 voting machines used, only the results of 3000 machines were tampered with leaving a cushion of 1580 machines to be audited by whomever willing to do so. However for the transparency of the process to be upheld only boxes from the group of unaltered 1580 could be 'randomly' selected to endure the rigour of international scrutiny and there dear readers lays the problem, i.e. the data fed to the programme used to pick the boxes contained not the total number of machines but rather electoral results and details of 1580 machines. Hence the utmost transparency.

On the remnant 3000 machines fraud could have been committed rather simply just by putting into practice Smartmatic's commercial motto “all things connected.” Thus, it is quite easy to figure that, given the bidirectional capacity of electronic communication of the voting machines, it would have been simple to have sent results (via Telnet, SSH, or any other form of encrypted communication) to a previously selected amount of them. The attitude of the regime's electoral officials only reinforces the apprehension held by very many people that the recall results are bogus. It is the right of the people of Venezuela to have these suspicions cleared in a satisfactory manner and it is the duty of the regime to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Hugo Chavez won a fair election. Towards that end Chavez must allow the opposition to select any boxes/tallies it wants from the total and contrast results. Electoral director Battaglini recent declarations that the issue is closed leads to the belief that the CNE has in fact something to hide.

The 'new light' opposition

I feel compelled to write about the new leadership of the opposition as commended by Chavez. In his view, we should dismiss the leadership of the Democratic Coordinator (CD) and adopt a new set of 'serious and credible' leaders composed by Claudio Fermin, Teodoro Petkoff and Eduardo Fernandez. Although I will not risk to avail past actions of the politicos of the CD I have to say that the mere servile attitude of the aforementioned lot is disgusting to say the least. Here are my reasons: Claudio Fermin's highest ever political achievement was to become Mayor of Caracas. His tenure was plagued with corruption cases, the most notorious of which was “las aceras de Caracas,” a series of contracts given to friends and benefactors to rebuild Caracas' sidewalks. I personally know of a chap who became incredibly rich with these saucy contracts. Loathed by his party colleagues from Accion Democratica, Fermin has tried time and again to regain his political muscle but has failed miserably at it. Our second 'fresh face' is none other than Teodoro Petkoff, yet another political underachiever with many hours in the queue to enter the house of power. He went from being a regular in all the political radio shows to minister of CORDIPLAN during Caldera's second term, that is to say he was an official of the second most corrupt administration of our contemporary history. I remember vividly his steadfast defense of the “decreto 1850,” a decree approved by the said administration to exploit a vast area of forest in Venezuela's Guyana. The core of the issue was the laying of electrical cables trough the middle of forested areas to provide electricity to the northern states of Brazil, measure that was fiercely contested by Pemon aboriginals. Petkoff response in a TV programme was “people have this belief of Imataca (the area in question) to be the garden of Adam and Eve, that's absolute bull. Besides the illegal miners -garimpeiros- have been destroying the area for quite sometime now so I do not understand why the Pemones are making such a fuss about it.” And last but most definitely not least the ineffable Eduardo Fernandez, embodiment of a failure of a politician. I can not remember how many times has this chap run for the presidency, if I am not mistaken in every one since the late 60ies. He heads COPEI, the second den of spineless Venezuelan politicos.

Of course Chavez' invitation to spearhead the opposition must come as a shocker to these gentlemen that have been vying for power for perhaps, what, 3 decades? A lot of foreigners refer to the present political leadership of the opposition as dinosaurs that can not offer something new. Well Fermin, Petkoff and Fernandez are as derelict and outmoded as Pompeyo Marquez. They are incapable of mustering support behind them for the whole country knows their pedigree. Political opponents of Chavez must be fresh faces with innovative ideas and a true commitment to work towards the greater benefit of the nation, not some dodgy old crooks with pending accounts.

Our new disinformation minister

To conclude on a lighter note a brief comment about Venezuela's new information minister Andres Izarra. This individual was immortalized a couple of years ago by giving a stellar account of what happened during the coup of 2002 in the Irish propagandistic film The revolution Will Not Be Televised, thus kick starting his political career. His views were generously rewarded with a job as press attache in Venezuela's Embassy in DC. Not particularly gifted to brief US media on anything, taking into consideration the constant and repetitive call for assistance on Weisbrot, Gollinger and other spinmeisters by the Venezuelan Information Office, Izarra has now been promoted to the Ministry of Information. Therefore a criminal, talking about previous information minister Jessy Chacon who back in 1992 participated in an assault to the state TV channel which caused the deaths of a number of technicians, has left the chair for a pathological liar in charge of information. Long live the revolution!!!

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