Live blogging Venezuela´s presidential election [update]
By Aleksander Boyd
Caracas 03.12.06, 7:15am - This post will be updated regularly, all times are local. Scroll down for the latest news. - A lot of activity in Caracas since before 5am this morning. People woke up to the sounds of fireworks and helicopters. At this hour there are already long lines in most centres. In Las Mercedes voter Raul Sotillo said before 5am he rather voted early and prepare for what will come than showing up at the centre at 10am and spend the whole day queueing. As many others in the queue he´s comfortably sitting on a beach chair with a coffee mug. In a centre of 7 booths (mesas) in Santa Paula only 2 fingerprint readers are functioning.
8:31am: Just got a phone call from London. Allegedly electoral authorities at the Consulate informed voters that according to a last minute resolution the counting of the votes will not take place until tomorrow, instead of upon conclusion of voting at 4pm. If this is so it is a clear violation to electoral norms and current legislation. See copy of memo here.
9:29am: Isaias Rodriguez, Attorney General, is asking Venezuelans to participate in the electoral process. Rodriguez is informing about 4 incidents that have been reported thus far. His office has deployed 600 lawyers (fiscales) nationwide that will see that electoral legislation is complied with. Rodriguez is congratulating Rosales' supporters and campaign team for the extraordinary effort and equally is commending chavistas for having shown support for the process.
9:36am: General Wilfredo Silva, in charge of Plan Republica, informs about some incidents in Falcon state. 97,25% of the 32,700 booths -mesas- are functioning normally. Reports on some malfunctioning fingerprint readers in Miranda were dismissed by Silva, stating that such a marginal number will not affect the process. Silva went on to stress that some sectors tried to resort to violence however Venezuelans are showing exemplary civic and democratic behavior.
9:51am: Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales is about to cast his vote in Maracaibo, Zulia state.
9:56am: Candidate Manuel Rosales says that he has information about the voting process being purposefully slowed in some centres. However Rosales stressed that, in general, the whole process is taking place in normal fashion. Rosales will offer first statement after voting.
10:13am: Candidate Rosales just voted. Rosales asked reporters to head out from the centre to not block the process. Minister of Interior Jessy Chacon confirms the prohibition to organize meetings or assemble in public in clear contradiction to what the Attorney General and director of National Electoral Council (CNE) announced few days ago.
Paris 3:12pm: With a delay of 45 minutes voting started in Paris. 20 of the 600 voters registered at the consulate were migrated to Panama. Sources report that an inordinate number of Cuban agents are in charge of security, literally grabbing voters by the arm and walking them outside the centre.
10:27am: Candidate Rosales is denouncing that in some centres in Miranda, Zulia, Tachira and Bolivar paper tickets issued by the Smartmatic machines come out blank, that is not reflecting the choice selected by voters. Rosales asked voters to be vigilant and check receipts thoroughly before depositing it in the ballot box. "I do not wish to think that this is a deliberate attempt by CNE. Let us have a fair process, let us eliminate doubts. Results must be beyond everyone's doubts."
11:03am: Foreign Secretary Nicolas Maduro indirectly criticised Rosales' statements and stressed that the voting process abroad is taken place under absolute normalcy. Maduro stated that today Venezuelans will religitimate the process and further commented that all around the world there's great expectation about the process of changes that are taking place in Venezuela. Simultaneously Minister of Energy and PDVSA'a CEO, wearing a red jacket, is casting his vote, expressing satisfaction about the electoral process. Ramirez is denying reports of malfunctioning machines.
11:10am: Candidate Manuel Rosales is on his way to Caracas from Maracaibo's airport.
11:23am: CNE directors are giving a press conference regarding claims that paper tickets in some centres do not reflect voter selections. Janeth Hernandez is dismissing the claims stating that the whole system was thoroughly audited, further saying that such claims were also made in previous processes.
11:29am: President Hugo Chavez is arriving at his voting centre in Liceo Manuel Palacio Fajardo in 23 de Enero. Some Latin American electoral observers and journalists are fawning at Chavez's presence. It is to be noted that comments of support made by some observers are in complete violation to electoral norms.
11:42am: President Chavez just voted. Private media cameramen and journalists did not follow Chavez into the centre as they did with Rosales. Chavez is making brief comments in a separate room "it's a beautiful day today, I have just shared some thoughts with international observers, as Noam Chomski states in today's column in Ultimas Noticias, we are giving meaning to democracy." Cruz Mila Ramos from Televen asks about what today's agenda is, treatment to media and the claims made by Rosales about blank paper tickets. Chavez stated "I hope that the whole process transcurs normally. Hopefully those who may be feeling that the votes aren't with them will behave and stop making unsubstantiated accusations. I'll spend the day working, with some family and ministers, we have one of the most transparent electoral system in the world, the process is quite fast and transparent, let us not look for excuses, we must accept results." Second question from Telesur asking whether the opposition will respect results "I haven't spoken to any members of the opposition but some of my ministers have and the shared feeling is that they will respect results whichever they may be. One of the candidates is already launching doubts, I hope everything goes fine in transparent fashion." Third question from a foreign journalist from Japan asking what sort of cooperation will the Chavez government have with North Korea "I don't understand what sort of spin you want to give to the question given that you come from Japan, however we will have relations and cooperation with all governments. Great signals are coming from everywhere and we shall continue having respectful relations with all countries." Oddly enough Chavez left the centre driving himself a red beetle.
12:54pm: Allegedly groups of chavista bikers are intimidating voters queueing in voting centres in West Caracas.
1:05pm: Minister of Defence General Raul Baduel has just cast his vote, expressing that the process is normal all around the country.
1:15pm: Official channel Venezolana de Television is reporting that some oppositionists have disrespected officials. Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto warned voters that he would jail those hurling abuse at him. However the lady accused said she did not insult Barreto. Minister Jorge Giordani was also complaining about similar behaviour at his voting centre.
1:19pm: A reader reports from Liceo Boris Bosio in Los Salias, Miranda state, that the queue is not moving alleging that the interior of the voting centre is empty. Purportedly the military chief is preventing people from voting.
2:30pm: At this hour there are still lots of people queueing in many centres around the country. CNE officials have addressed the issue of the blank receipts by saying that it is not that the machines aren't working properly, but rather voters not taking all necessary steps.
5:01pm: Omar Barboza, Leopoldo Lopez and Gerardo Blyde from Manuel Rosales' campaign team just made short statements commending the participation of Venezuelans and stressing that all 54% of mesas will be audited upon conclusion of voting. Barboza called upon the military to refrain from overstepping their responsibilities as some accounts suggest that military personnel are slowing the electoral process.
5:08pm: CNE director Tibisay Lucena is announcing that voting has officially concluded in all but those centres where there are still voters queueing.
6:55pm: Julio Montoya and Roberto Smith just made outlandish statements suggesting that Manuel Rosales won the election. There's an air of triumphalism here at the Rosales campaign headquarters. Montoya's and Smith's statements were starkly in contrast to the more sober, serious and responsible mood shown by Barboza and Lopez earlier.
7:37pm: CONATEL, Venezuela's broadcasting watchdog forbade transmissions and coverage from Miami-based channel Telemundo.
7:46pm: Teodoro Petkoff called upon CNE, CUFAN -military manning the elections- and other officials related to the electoral process to remind them about current legislation, stressing upon the fact that closed centres can not be reopened under any circumstances. Petkoff did so on behalf of Manuel Rosales affirming that whomever thinks it can force the reopening of centres is out of his bloody mind (Petkoff actually said "estan pelando bola," lost in translation...). Petkoff also said that the audit process will take hours and Manuel Rosales will address the nation once conclusive results are known.
8:10pm: Allegedly TELESUR, funded mainly by the Chavez administration, reported that Hugo Chavez won the election. Enrique Andres Pretel from Reuters, in similar irresponsible fashion, reported that an exit poll from Evans/McDonough, whose work is paid for by PDVSA, suggest that Chavez already won. At this hour CNE officials are yet to announce results for the audit process started recently. Note added: TELESUR is not only funded by Chavez it was constituted and is registered in Caracas, therefore such reports are in clear violation to electoral legislation.
8:51pm: In a new low Reuters published "UPDATE 6-Chavez heads to Venezuela reelection-exit pollster" starting the article thusly: (Venezuelan law prohibits the dissemination of polls until the National Electoral Council starts publishing official results. This article is for publication outside of Venezuela). Reporting from Caracas Reuters and its reporters claim that it is prohibited to disseminate polls, however lack of even preliminary results notwithstanding, the news agency keeps publishing its updates.
9:42pm: OAS chief of electoral observation mission Juan Enrique Fischer just left the CNE headquarters in downtown Caracas.
10:06pm: Tibisay Lucena, director of CNE, has just informed that Hugo Chavez won the election with 5,936,141 of votes, results arrived at after 78% of voting centres have been tallied. Manuel Rosales got 3,715,292 votes according to Lucena. People close to the campaign of Rosales informed me, just before the announcement, that Rosales did not have enough votes. Manuel Rosales is expected to address the nation shortly. President Hugo Chavez has just appeared in Miraflores "people's balcony" and is singing the national anthem.
11:37pm: Manuel Rosales has recognised that he lost the election, conceding defeat to the incumbent accepting the results announced by Tibisay Lucena earlier. Although Rosales stated that the difference between the two candidates was not as big as reported his candidacy had failed to gather enough votes to win. Nonetheless he promised he will continue leading the opposition movement for as long as it is necessary to see the promises he made about redistributing oil wealth implemented.
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