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Revelations in Venezuela: the end of denial in the CNE cheating

By Daniel Duquenal

04.11.04 - There are moments when public servants lose their calm and composure and suddenly you know what they are all about, what they are really up to. Such a unique moment came today to Jorge Rodriguez, the real president of the Venezuelan Electoral Board, CNE. It would be risible if the stakes were not so high.

From last Sunday election, when the CNE announced "unofficial" results, by itself quite an insecure statement for such an organization, we are dragging some questioned results. One is Carabobo state. It is not the point to enter into the technicalities of the result at this time, but suffice to say that the problems found there justified an intervention of the Caracas CNE inside the local CNE branch, in order to take to Caracas all the electoral material to finish the counting there.

The sensible claim of Carabobo governor is that it does not make sense that his political organization would made a clean sweep of all the assemblymen circuits while losing himself the election with a significantly lower percentage margin. In Venezuelan electoral tradition this has never happened to this amazing extent. Actually, even second finishers in Venezuelan elections tend to have significantly higher voting than their political party, the explanation residing in the fact that many small parties rally behind a main candidate for the top office while running on their own for minor offices.

Now this is something that can be solved quite easily. We select at random, say, a 20 % of the boxes and count the ballots one by one. Most states have already been settled and results accepted. So one cannot even claim that counting Carabobo votes would set a "dangerous precedent".

It turns out that when Salas Feo went to Caracas today to see how things were going he found out that the CNE was just recounting the summary tallies that he had questioned, making the whole exercise totally useless, and the transfer to Caracas of the voting documents pure theatrics. He left the reunion and complained that he had been lied to in the deal on Tuesday morning. He withdrew the witness that he had sent to accompany the tally and went to court.

Now, maybe the governor has been ill informed, maybe he is totally mistaken, but what followed was totally unacceptable. Within a few minutes Carrasquero and Rodriguez went to out to make their own declarations, in an absolutely inappropriate manner.

Carrasquero: "what Salas Feo has informed is a whole bunch of lies, a bulk of incorrect terminology" and he went on defending the impartiality of the CNE which to his understanding has been demonstrated by the recent proclamation of the winners from the opposition. Making abstraction of the fact that performing one's duty is no sign of impartiality, only what is expected from him, I doubt very much that a successful governor, going for his third term, does not manage electoral technology and lingo. Carrasquero was a modest lawyer until one year ago he was pulled out of nowhere to preside the CNE. I am sure that Salas Feo would have made a better job than this third rate lawyer.

But it was not going to stop there. Rodriguez proceeded then to add insult to injury. Salas Feo is known affectionately among his followers as "El Pollo", the chicken, because he is the son of the previous governor Salas Romer, and for his youth, which has not stopped him to acquire the respect of his people for his own merits and survive the chavista onslaught brilliantly. Well, Rodriguez in what is an unacceptable attitude said: "el seņor Pollo told us that he had understood that all boxes were going to be opened, a thing that was never said and that cannot be done because it goes against the norms in the tallying process".

In other words Rodriguez used deliberately the nickname of Salas Feo with mockery and a sneer to diminish him, a Governor that represents the third state in the country and who got, even by his alleged defeat number, nearly 50% of the trust of his people. This is simply unacceptable from a public servant who has been merely appointed transiently against the 4th highest elected public servant of the country. And amen of implying that he was the one making the rules and that the boxes were not to be open, ever, August 15 style. So why the boxes?

I am not too sure how I could best express the impression that I got from the whole disgusting show. It was obviously the mad shrink expressing all his ill acquired power, all his abuse of authority, lowering himself to levels that would made him lose his license if he ever were to talk like that to or of a patient. Perhaps that is why he left practice to become an abusive politician, empowered by the great leader and not by any personal merit.

What is sure is that my initial impression of the October 31 election as having been reasonably honest is gone. I thought that the voting act by itself might have been reasonably fair and the count reasonably adequate, though the organization and the campaign have been deeply fraudulent by so many abuses already reported in these pages. But now, seeing the almost mad man look of Rodriguez, and the incommensurable pettiness of Carrasquero I am absolutely convinced that significant fraud has been committed on October 31. As in August, the CNE is doing its best to hide something, but it will be discovered anyway.

I went to vote because I cannot help it, I must vote even if I know that there is a problem with my vote. It is in my genes. And I also thought that by voting the mask would be taken off, as they would be forced to cheat once again. Well, for a couple of days I was fooled, but now I know that I did the right thing Sunday because now I can claim that my vote was stolen in Yaracuy where a similar pattern as in Carabobo has happened. If the CNE refuses to take the adequate steps, then there is no point ever again to go to vote. This Carabobo incident, today ill declarations of possessed little men unable to rise above their condition, have made all worth it. Anyone that still believes after today that there are honest elections in Venezuela is delusional.

And if you persist and think that the Zulia victory of Rosales was a mark of democracy in Chavez, you are very mistaken. Rosales is in the famous Carmona list. As a formidable electoral opponent probably Chavez decided to let him win and get him later through the courts. That way he will be forced to resign, new elections held and a better chavista candidate sworn in. Tiny Nueva Esparta will be dealt with when it stops serving its purpose as a democracy poster state in Venezuela.

Thus is the logic of non-democratic regimes, any dissidence becomes opprobrious to them.

Sooner or later.

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