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On Jimmy Carter's transformation from "blind man" in Caracas to electoral guru in the Oval Office

By Pedro Mario Burelli | PMBComments

Washington 20.09.05 | Those of you who over the years have received – and read - my commentary will know well that I do not have much respect for Jimmy Carter, or his eponymous Center. Their slapdash involvement in Venezuela is both unforgettable and unforgivable. By nonchalantly turning a misguided - essentially botched - facilitation exercise into a half baked electoral observation in the August 15th, 2004 recall referendum, Carter, and his sidekicks McCoy & Diez, transformed a dreadful situation into a calamity of epic proportions.

Having contributed to destroy the chances for democracy in an important country in the hemisphere by validating, and even celebrating, the ransacking of its electoral apparatus, it came as a real surprise when President Bush chose him last year as co-head of a Commission to recommend fixes for the U.S.'s intricate quilt of voting procedures.

Yesterday, he and the other co-head, Jim Baker (former Secretary of Treasury and State, and the Bush family's perennial counselor), presented their final report to the President. Of the 87 recommendations that can be found in the study, a few caught my attention because of the difference they would have made before, and after, Venezuela's cartersanctioned recall referendum:

* Calling for verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines – Carter lost track of the paper ballots in Caracas, and I get the impression that the corrupt and partial electoral authorities were fully counting on that.

* Insisting on the impartiality of electoral authorities – Carter never insisted on this as a precondition even though he was in country for almost two years. He seemed always afraid of antagonizing his buddy Hugo, and therefore the referendum proceeded with a demonstrably biased CNE.

* Increasing the legal penalty of any, and all, acts of voter intimidation – I recommend that Carter share with his fellow commissioners the so called Tascon (Maisanta) list that has permitted systematic and ruthless targeting of Venezuela's dissidence. This will give them an idea of what constitutes real intimidation, and Carter can brag that it happened right before his eyes.

At an estimated cost of $1.35 billion, I am pretty certain that these and many of the others bi-partisan recommendations will be implemented to the benefit of the democratic people of the U.S.

At an untold cost in lives and human misery, Venezuela, and its democratic institutions and practices, might one day recover from the combined effects of Hurricanes Hugo and Jimmy. PMB

Note: Keep in mind that Jimmy Carter was recommended to Chávez and José Vicente Rangel by Fidel Castro. Roger Noriega, then U.S Rep at the OAS, and his faithful subordinate Bruce Friedman, enthusiastically embraced the suggestion of his involvement and sold it to the U.S. administration. The U.S. government candidly paid for all of the Carter Center expenses – except, one hopes, the fishing trip in the Ventuari river, that was a courtesy of Gustavo Cisneros - Carter's other chum in Venezuela. Colin Powell instantly seconded Carter's rash judgment and in doing so essentially derailed the chances of a true audit of the paper ballots. So now you go figure who works for whom.

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