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Venezuela: CNE blocks any serious attempt at auditing the Electoral Registry

By Miguel Octavio

09.06.06 | What we feared became true last night: The CNE managed to make the audit of the Electoral Registry (REP) appear to the world to be respectable, but all it is is simply a charade which will make the world believe there was truly an honest audit but in truth is simply a grotesque and dishonest manipulation by our electoral authorities. Simply one more fraud!

As you recall, three universities, Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), Universidad Simon Bolivar (USB) and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello (UCAB) had months ago made a proposal to audit the registry. When the new CNE was named, some universities questioned why only those three should be involved and the CNE “invited” seven universities and a scientific research institute to participate in the audit, in the interest of more democracy, participation and transparency.

For the last week, the three universities that originated the project have been objecting to the fact that the committee became basically a political committee in which the seven “new” institutions would vote as a block drowning the technical proposals of the original three and preempting them. In the end, these three universities simply said that they strongly disagreed with what was approved, in that the CNE was limiting the audit to the internal consistency of the registry and a more thorough job had to be performed in the interest of transparency and in order to have everyone trust the registry.

Now, clearly this is a technical issue. You need experts in databases, demographics, modeling, statisticians and the like. Therefore, the CNE should ask academic institutions that have expertise in these fields to participate if it wanted additional input or a wider range of experts. Let’s first find a way to evaluate qualitatively the institutions involved on both sides.

An easy way would be to look for the total number of publications from each institution last year or in a longer period of time, but this may be too stringent a requirement for some young universities. There is a simpler and more self-consistent way, which is to look at the Program for the Promotion of Research (PPI) which is run by the Government itself via the Ministry of Science. This program is a yearly evaluation of credentials for which Professors need to show either that they are “active” via some form of publication in a regular fashion or that they are at the beginning stages of a career in research in either the social or the natural sciences, even if one has no publications. This seems fair, since the technical requirements for the audit fall in the general area of sociology, statistics, mathematics and computer science. You would think that any well qualified Professor in the academic world in these areas, would and should be part of such a system. Additionally those that qualify get paid an additional amount of money every month, so it is your own interest to qualify.

Well, there are 4432 Professors and/or researchers who are part of the PPI. Of these, only 58 are from the six universities that the CNE requested help from, while 1,215 are from the three original universities that submitted the first proposal, UCV, USB and UCAB. Moreover, only one of the six universities in the CNE group ranks in the top ten in the PPI among public universities in Venezuela, this is Universidad Simon Rodriguez which actually has 45 of the 58 Professors that qualified for it from this group, leaving a scant 13 from the other five! In fact, three of the six have zero Professors in the PPI, including the Maritime University whose technical connection with the audit is tenous at best!

Curiously, the only one in the top ten, Universidad Simon Rodriguez, has no technical careers, but it specializes in Education (including Natural Sciences), business and food technology. Why did the CNE not invite the other seven Universities in the top ten, the majority of which have Math, Computer Science, sociology and engineering departments in favor of these obscure institutions with little relation to the technical issues at hand and the lowest academic levels in the country? I wonder if the CNE members would do the same thing if they were looking for someone to operate on their brains, for example.

Additionally, the six universities that are participating fall under the regime of experimental universities which have limited autonomy and in many cases do not even elect the people that run them, but are directly named by the Government, i.e. Chavez himself. This has been covered quite well today here (In Spanish) in Cuentos Intrascendentes.

Case apart in the CNE group is the seventh member, the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC). This research institute does have 260 researchers who did qualify for the PPI. However, the CNE “invitation” specified that no statisticians should be in the group and that the committee from IVIC be composed of “more than just the researchers”. Thus, IVIC’s representatives to the audit are a sociologist who specializes in the History of Science, two researchers from Anthropology, two technical people from Anthropology, two technical people from Physics and the Head of the computer network. Curiously, no one from the math department was involved. However scientists from IVIC do not approve the proceedings of the commision that represents that institution in the CNE because it was chosen without consulting the scientific community at the IVIC. Additionally, recall that IVIC’s Director was named by Chavez despite the fact that he lost the election by something like 60 to 17 within the community of researchers of the institution. So, he is clearly pro-Chavez and willing to defend the revolution.

Thus, the CNE has managed to do it again, manipulate the process in such a way so as to make it a charade, but make it appear respectable on the surface in the eyes of international opinion and even in the eyes of Venezuelans who may think the Bolivarian University and the others in the group have any semblance of academic excellence or technical expertise. All of this in the name of democracy and transparency. But the truth is that this is one more fraudulent process by the Chavez administration to control and cheat in any electoral process that takes place in order to preserve Chavez and his revolution in power and trampling over democratic principles and fair practices.

I can already see the President of the CNE gloating after the audit that the whole process was transparent because these excellent group of institutions audited the questioned registry.

Clearly, there is a lot to hide in Venezuela’s Electoral Registry, but we already knew that!

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