Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Electoral Fraud in Venezuela keeps apace

Perhaps the government was hoping that toppling the Columbus statue Tuesday would shift attention to other matters (1). But no such luck. Early this Wednesday afternoon it was all over as unpleasant incidents in front of the Electoral Board itself, CNE, brought back the news focus on what really matter: what kind of elections we are going to have October 31? If we have them, obviously, since the way things are looking it might be just possible that they might have to be postponed (2).

The news was about the Electoral Registry, REP. At this point this is probably the best documented element as to how electoral fraud could be committed or, for that matter, was committed on August 15 . It might be good to put up a couple of tables to illustrate these points. But first a little bit of background.

During the months of June and July the Chavez administration conducted a huge voter registration drive, coupled to an ID issuing campaign. Many complaints were made at the time as for the laxity of the process. It is important to note that nobody contested the need to register people that were unwilling or unable to register for a variety of reasons. However it was natural that suspicions would arise when the administration having been so deficient at issuing ID for the past few years suddenly was in such a hurry. Apparently over two million people were registered to vote in barely three months!

Another factor that raised quite a lot of protest was that many people were shifted from one district to another one. However the opposition accepted that as the numbers of people complaining were not that high, it would not change the expected electoral result of August 15. Unfortunately it seems they were wrong. Post August 15 examination detected that in fact the numbers of people that were shifted were large and corresponded more to pro Chavez supporters (3). Not to mention the districts were there were more voters than inhabitants! Tulio Alvarez in his electoral fraud report, promptly pointed that such shifts were a way to commit fraud, more so for the regional elections than the Recall Election.

So, how would the fraud work using a manipulated REP? Let's take the case of Yaracuy, my home state whose governor was in the news Tuesday. Below you can see the official results as reported by the CNE web page (4):

Venezuela Total August 2004Yaracuy Total August 2004
Voted NO5,800,62959.1%135,09960.2%
Voted SI3,989,00840.6%88,28739.4%

Now let's look at what Governor Lapi said on TV that night, alongside Mayor Lopez of Chacao. In his presentation he claims that 35,208 Yaracuy voters did not introduce an address in their registration to the Yaracuy REP. Now, I happen to live in Yaracuy and I happen to know that it is impossible to have 35 K people without an address. Even by Venezuelan notoriously bad standards at registering proper residency addresses. One can, in Venezuela, give such an address: Juan Perez, Caserio La Guanipa, carretera a Ejido, sector El Bucare. And people somehow will make it there. The translation of that address: Juan Perez, hamlet La Guanipa, Ejido road, El Bucare sector. No number, no actual street name, no nothing and still this is valid. How does an address like that work: well, Juan Perez lives in the hamlet La Guanipa which is somewhere along the road to Ejido. Whether you come from or go to Ejido is irrelevant as it is understood that this is the only road around. Once you reach La Guanipa you ask for El Bucare sector which might mean a group of 4-5 homes across the stream or above a small hill. When you get there, well, you ask for Juan Perez. I am tired of looking for such addresses in a country where even Caracas streets change names any time and do not have a numeration system. We can all cope, so should the CNE.

There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for the CNE not to demand people to write down an address, any address even (5).

But how could this 35,208 sans address folks could affect the Yaracuy vote? A table might start helping. Yaracuy is formed by 14 districts with about half of the population concentrated in 4 districts.

The Yaracuy case
Voted NO135,099
Voted SI88,287
Voters without address35,208
Average voters in 4 most populous districts38,110
Average voters in 10 least populous districts15,244
80% of voters without address divided by 10 least populous districts2,817
Average possible percentage of these voters per small district18.5%
Average spread between winner and loser according to referendum result

From 5% to 20% of the vote!!!

How can the CNE or some interested party use this table? Very simply. In small districts it is possible to vary the local REP by up to 20% (only a few hundred people shifted a few weeks before the vote). Since most of the new "no address" electors were recruited in chavista social programs it is a safe bet to assume that at least 80% of them would vote for Chavez, normal abstention included of course. So, a good manipulation of the REP could win for chavismo 2 to 5 town halls for Chavez in Yaracuy, in addition to the couple it already holds, WITHOUT increasing the percentile vote of chavismo of the 2000 elections! Gerrymandering of the purest form, but adapted to the era of computing. You move people and not borders, much easier as you only need to give them the bus fare, if that.

Now, about what happened Tuesday. Well, Lapi, Lopez and around 150 elected mayors and governors went to the CNE to bring the proofs of irregularities in the REP, responding to a previous challenge of Rodriguez. What did the CNE do? It used the National Guard to block the access, even though one of the 4 standing rectors, Sobella Mejias, tried to intercede and was just plainly disregarded by the Guards.

At some point Rodriguez went on to say that there "might" be up to 5% of people without address. This was promptly denied by Lopez calling Rodriguez a liar (6). Note: the meeting between the CNE and the elected officials had been set long in advance and cancelled by the CNE at the last minute. It is also interesting to note that for all of Rodriguez litanies as to the opposition not giving proof of fraud, when this one comes he refuses to receive them.

Is there a meaning to this show? Well, the oppositon has found a good one: to force the government to apply the electoral law and only that. This seems to be greatly upsetting the government that prefers to rely on subjective arguments such as "all deserve to vote", an argument that is not denied by the opposition, by the way. So, why the trouble? Very simple: there is indeed a messy REP and indeed gerrymandering is taking place, AT THE VERY LEAST. Surrendering the official REP or accepting just to examine the proofs presented by the opposition would be like opening the Pandora's box of electoral fraud in Venezuela. Who knows what would result on that! For chavismo that is. There is too much risk in accepting that the CNE accounts for its actions. Who knows, we could even become a democracy again...

(1) for a more detailed account in English consult today El Universal English section. Complete, even with some guy with a "foreign accent" stimulating the statue tumbling crowds.

(2) this already happened on May 28, 2000 when very complex elections, similar to the ones coming, had to be split and posponed until July 2000.

(3) another interesting characteristics is that in some districts, such as the Semprun district of the Venezuelan border shown tonight on Globovision's "Alo Ciudadano", thousand of people signed for the Recall Election were shifted to other districts. At the time it was thought that it would be to stimulate the abstention within the opposition, but now it seems that it is more for fraud purposes.

(4) there is a curios point in the CNE web page. They claim that the results are complete yet one STILL cannot find the overseas vote, which are known to have gone above 80% against Chavez. Denial is not a river in Egypt.

(5) the courrier DHL is running a series of adds these days where a guy dressed in bermuda shorts and the yellow short of the company is delivering to the far corners of Venezuela. If DHL can do it, surely the CNE can at least try to do it....

(6) according to Lopez there might 80 % of the new registered voters without address and thus "shiftable" wherever it might help chavismo. That 80 % is actually a staggering 1.8 million people (including people registered several times!). More than 10% of the REP!!!!!

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