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Leopoldo González: The man Smartmatic wasn’t expecting

By Olga K | El Gusano de Luz

30.11.05 | Yes, I participate! I vote in gas station surveys and at home we all vote, even on where we’ll eat during out Sunday outings. But I’m not writing today to convince anyone as to what they should do. These lines do touch on the electoral theme, but….

As never before, this article is true to the name of my column “Citizen Chronicles.” It is a first-hand accounting; a citizen’s story. Everything dealing with information technology I will leave to the specialists. I did, however, witness when Leopoldo González presented his report at the voting simulation which took place in Mariches, when he unequivocally and beyond a shadow of a doubt demonstrated to observers from the EU, the OAS, Ojo Electoral and CNE and Smartmatic technicians that it is possible to violate the secrecy of the vote.

Ever since the RR (recall referendum) I had sworn never again to lock up my common sense in the closet, neither for anything nor anyone. Consequently, I have let it run free to ask challenging questions. It is obstinate and inquisitive and above all it doesn’t let emotional or visceral strikes go by; not a single one, no matter where they come from.

This is why, before telling you the story of Leopoldo González and what happened at Mariches, it is indispensable to begin with what is beyond debate: common sense. If Leopoldo, the technician who revealed the mechanism that violates the secrecy of the vote had thought and meekly accepted that nothing more could be done, the CNE and the regime would not at this moment be offering to grant us the rights that before, while on a power trip, they considered to be “concessions” that they in their “divine grace” had refused to honor. This story is both a confirmation and demonstration that only someone who is willing to work, even under the worst conditions, has a chance of achieving something. Success depends on not gauging the size of adversity, but rather it depends on the size of our determination. This is the story of how someone did exactly that. Certain details of that historical event ought to be made public.

1.-Leopoldo González didn’t have sophisticated equipment or financing from foreign sources, or an army of men at his disposal. Rather – with a small team – he decided to do what SUMATE hadn’t done with its technology, or the parties with their organization, or Tulio with his report, or Oswaldo Alvarez Paz with his call for activating Clause 350 of the Constitution. Leopoldo researched. Quietly and with a clear sense of purpose, which was none other than to wrench the secret from the machines, he installed in his computer a program downloaded, for free, from the Internet and went about revealing and proving the real perversion so that now irrefutable evidence finally exists that the secrecy of the vote can be violated....

2.-At the simulation, after each observer voted, Leopoldo ran the program and would say out loud: “Mr. Jones you voted for….” – and he would say the name, “Mr. Smith you voted for that candidate.” When he got to the fifth voter it was the Smartmatic technicians who asked to stop the demonstration. Everyone signed the report that was prepared without reservations or observations. I saw it happen.

3.-Leopoldo doesn’t belong to any political party. However, to do his auditing work he needed credentials from a party, which were processed through Primero Justicia. He actually belongs to the Grupo La Colina. It isn’t a group of electors and not even a civil association. This is a group of professionals who instead of complaining about how badly others are doing things, decided to contribute to make things work out well. Using the same formula they applied to succeed in their professional and private lives, they applied it to public life and politics, namely, a division of labor, teamwork and results based management. They worked for all of us without distinction, you, me, the Tupas, in other words, for Venezuela. They joined the Commando for Unity in order to force political parties to put themselves on a par with a civil society of professionals, technicians and intellectuals where merit is not measured on the basis of media exposure, but on results. And because we did this there were some who called us collaborators...

4.-Stupid actions for which we sooner or later have to pay the price. Only Leopoldo worked on the auditing tasks and he was obliged to practically clone himself in order to cover all the fronts (voter rolls, machines, assignment of codes, programs, etc.). He was so clear in his determination that the country needs people to do things instead of just talking, or even worse sending disheartening messages, that he struggled and struggled until he succeeded in getting Súmate accredited to participate in the audit. I still remember his relief when he told me about it a few days before the voting simulation took place. However, in a decision whose scope is still unknown, Súmate decided not to participate and was left out of the loop at this most crucial moment. History was written, and this important civil organization unfortunately denied itself the opportunity to have its signature included as a witness on the short, but explosively demolishing two-page technical document. In an action that offends my common sense and the sense of purpose of anyone who is a fighter, on the same day that the mechanism for violating the secrecy of the vote was being revealed, Ma. Corina launched a call for everyone to pray! Pardon me, but my mind short-circuited when I heard this. I am guided by the adage “help yourself and God will help you.” I still can’t comprehend that ethereal and spiritual call for prayer when I know that what made that organization great and gave it prestige was precisely its unquestionable automation of the much needed list of citizen. But... what is even more pathetic is the desperate attempt of government officials to focus attention on this candid call to pray, in order to divert attention from what really worries the regime: not prayer but the technical demonstration of the vulnerability of the automated system. And yet there are so many people who are chiming in. Dear God, we never learn!!! Let’s not charge the red cape like bulls. That’s not the way...

Based on the preceding, it is evident that the determination of one single individual can make a difference. If we understand this, perhaps we will be able to put our courage at the service of a cause and not of just simple anger. I repeat, Leopoldo didn’t need an army nor did he demand conditions. He adapted to what was available and made the best of it. So while many question what purpose does an opposition congressman serve when there is a Chavista majority, in Leopoldo’s case, his participation in the audits is absolutely conclusive. Ever since the Recall Referendum everyone has been overcome by depression and by a lack of motivation, which is why we gave up positions held by the opposition as governors, mayors and councilmen, and we even wanted to assign an ethical character to this surrender. What was really ethical and also epic was the effective and efficient mobilization of a small, but resolute group of men and women. One man alone can make a difference, and he did.

Leopoldo is a serene, gentle individual. He doesn’t like to pontificate, but rather gets straight to the point. He dropped that “bomb” with the aplomb of someone commenting on how beautiful the morning is. Without a single exaggerated display of feelinga, without useless hystrionics, and when amidst the pandemonium his revelation had caused someone called for “silence, let’s listen to the specialist,” Leopoldo said with chagrin “no, don’t call me a specialist. I don’t like that. I simply did my work and what I know how to do best.”

Then he added something that most affected me.

He more or less said something that reflects the enormous task we face: “It isn’t that I feel satisfied with what I have discovered … what mortifies me is what we have not found and might have discovered if many of us had been doing this work instead of feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Can anyone refute this torrent of common sense? Anyone?

Today the determination of one man and the drive of a small group of citizens has handed the opposition a winning card, without making distinctions among the strategies selected by the two factions to confront the government. The technical demonstration of the vulnerability of the vote gives the same validity to the position of those who defend participation - because it was by participating that the incontrovertible proof of the vulnerability of the vote was found- as to those who promote abstention. One man alone, one who speaks softly and who wouldn’t stand out in a line queuing to buy tickets at the local movie theater has now given us the opportunity to regroup without anyone “losing face.” That task will have to be fine tuned, delicately, with respect for the hurt inflicted by each side.

But there is another task that cannot wait and which has begun already begun. The parties must remain united and not back down in the demands they make of the CNE. There must be no false starts. It is not about winning a congressional seat, but rather about winning a Congress in clean, transparent and reliable electoral conditions.

With eyes on elections in 2006 none of the parties or individuals can afford to commit political suicide. See, that’s what I’m praying for!

* Translated by M.B.

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