Thursday, July 29, 2004

A secure and confident Chavez administration?

Thursday 29, July 2004

As electoral campaigns progress each side tries to project an image of confidence, of favorable polls, of creative ideas and what not. But as we look to what is going on in Venezuela with the office holder campaign one cannot but fail to be impressed by the contradictions between the message and the actions. In short, while Chavez says that he is going to electorally trash the opposition on August 15, the actions undertaken by his minions do not project such an image. Let's see a few cases in point.

The Sumate case

A 4th director of the Sumate board, Ricardo Estevez, is indicted of conspiracy and who knows what from having received 53 000 US dollars from the NED. As I have pointed out earlier, whether this grant was legal or not, a lot of other civil society organizations got such grants and for larger amounts. All in the open as the NED must account to the US Congress. Not to mention that 53 000 bucks are certainly not enough to even scratch Chavez hold to power.

The indictments to Sumate seem to suffer from some legal defects, to put it mildly, to the point that one of the justices of the Penal Court of the High Court emitted a ruling to ask for the dossier and check it out. That justice, Marmol de Leon was cited by the Constitutional Court. She is known to have had significant differences of legal opinion with the head of her Penal Court, Angulo Fontiveros who happens to be known as Chavez partisan.

Marmol de Leon was not shy with words today. Plainly, she stated that it was the first stage to put her on trial. It is for all to see that chavismo is trying to pack the court. This started with the new judicial law. Now that it has been passed, while they wait for the new 12 Justices to be appointed, they are trying to get rid of the "unsafe" ones. They either force them to retire or they simply throw them out as was done to justice Arrieche. She is too young to be forced into retirement, and although she was not the only one to sign the ruling she is the only one cited for judicial malpractice, for lack of a better word. She was cited even though the Penal Court said that her actions did not constitute a conflict of attributions. Yet, the Constitutional Court went ahead to cite her, meddling just as they did for the signatures cases (the justices of the Electoral Court have been "retired") and with a celerity that betrays the government interest in liquidating Sumate. There apparently nothing that the Constitutional Court will not do to eliminate Chavez enemies.

Manipulating the electoral registry

A major source of trickery to cheat on elections has always been the manipulation of the electoral rolls. The electoral board CNE seems to become a master at such things.

All sorts of problems are reported at the CNE, from the departure of people on vacation (at 2 weeks from a major election?) to shifting voters to new electoral centers. Perhaps 1 million people have been shifted hours away from where they live and coincidentally most of these have signed the recall election petition or are opposition supporters. But as usual the CNE is slow to give the final listings so all sorts of rumors are fed.

The CNE is not above to try other fronts. One is the insistence by the pro-Chavez directors to go through a burdensome finger printing collection at voting day. Supposedly that would avoid electoral fraud. Well, maybe, but electronic finger printing is an untested procedure during an electoral process, and it seems that it could result in the collapse of the whole system at election day.

But the worst might be the rumor that 18 000 workers of electoral tables (drawn at random by law among the citizenry) will be booted! Apparently they did sign for the recall election and thus cannot be trusted for objectivity at holding an election center. And what about those that did not sign for the recall election? How does the opposition know whether they support Chavez or just do not care enough? Curious concept of objectivity and democracy form the part of the pro Chavez directors, in particular Battaglini, the "taliban" of the trio. As we say in Venezuela :cada ladron juzga por su condicion (every thief judges accordingly, or: one judges people according to one's values).


Two types of censorship have been attempted by Chavismo.

International observers have been fought by Battaglini, a rector on record more than once that they are nto needed. Yeah, right! As if the infamous repair signature episode was not blown up by Carter himself! Undaunted now Battaglini has made it a personal crusade to boot out the Carter Center. Now he is warning the Carter Center that it should not start observation before August 9. This coming after the OAS saying that it would abide by OAS rules and not the CNE. Obviously Battaglini battles the weak link first. Little does he know.

The second censorhip attempt was to fobid broadcast of a new video. Within 24 hours "Cual Revolucion?" went from being censored to be allowed again by CNE Rodriguez. The sin of the video? To show in 1 hour and 15 minutes the 5 years of Chavez rule. The fact are so damming that in a panic move servile Rodriguez on his own took the initiative to ban the video, making himself once again a fool.

But a side story drew some attention. CANTV, the big private phone system of Venezuela was suddenly accused to prepare a fraud during the transmission of electronic electoral results by the Vice President, additionally bemoaning the fact that CANTV is not state owned (yeah, right! it is easier to control people through a state owned company that decides who gets a phone, and who gets spied on, Cuba style). This about the business that has transmitted electronically all the Chavez elections victories. Eventually the government realized that they were being ridiculous and a face saving agreement was reached where the government would "watch" the CANTV technicians.

But the Vice was not going to go off the hook that easily. A strange incident made Carabobo's governor Salas Feo wonder about some missing explosive material from a supposedly well guarded military facility without a shot been fired, nothing, not a hint how this happened. He thus accused the vice of leading some gang about to start trouble and thus cancel the recall election. Rangel dismissed it with irony but without counter suing for such an accusation! Strange indeed!

Polling wars

And of course we cannot leave without the altest round of the polling wars.

Chavez said in his Sunday show that the opposition was afraid to show its polls because they were showing him winning handsomely. And then coincidentally PDVSA popped out a poll from an obscure company that gave Chavez a ten point advance.

Unfortunately for Chavez Mercanalisis, a serious polling joint, had brought some numbers on a June sample where Chavez is losing by more than 15 points. Confirming its results from May, by the way. Mercanalisis as I mentioned in an earlier post is one of the serious polling places and in the past predicted rather well the Chavez victories. So, what is the real story there?

[note added later: Venezuelanalysis does report promptly that poll, for those interested for the details, in English. At the end of the article there is a series of links to all the polls in favor of Chavez, dutyfully reported. Not a single link to any poll not in favor of Chavez. The reader might draw its own conclusions as to the differences between independent blogging and paid sites.]

Finally, just for the fun of it.

The shameless papering up of public space by Chavez propaganda is heartily denounced more and more, while of course the SI posters cannot even get anywhere close. While people such as the ineffable Lara go on to say that there is no law to forbid it so they will put their banners wherever and forbid whatever. Strange concept or democracy and public property. Unluckily for an administration trying to prove that they do not use public funds for such displays, one leader of Argentina's Piqueteros admitted that he got money from Venezuela to go there and support Chavez.
Luis D'Elia, admitted Wednesday to have traveled to Venezuela to participate in the electoral campaign of President Hugo Chávez for the August 15 revoking referendum, "with all expenses paid by the Bolivarian government," the news agency DPA reported. D'Elia, who is known to favor Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner, was in Venezuela for several days to remark the Venezuelan opposition's support to the "U.S. interests in the region."

It is all just unbelievable! And I am not even mentioning all that I have seen on TV!

And it is with such actions that they intend to convince us that the campaign is going their way? Yeah, right...

Only 18 days
until the Recall Election
on Hugo Chavez.

Do I want him out?

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