Saturday, October 30, 2004

An Electoral non-atmosphere in Venezuela

In this veillée d'armes there has been no drama worth reporting during the day. Of course, the petty accusations from each side kept flowing, the hour by hour more obvious electoral fraud is taunting us more forcibly. But it is all a development that the readers of this blog were expecting. A simple summary of the day will suffice to describe what seems more like a day previous to a battle, a call to arms, than what should be a festive pre-election atmosphere.

Squabbling CNE rectors

During the day the rectors kept exchanging accusations. It is astounding that this late in the game an electoral system direction is arguing to this extent! In any normal country such a bitter recrimination would worry all parts as to the effect of the election. But not here!

Rodriguez, the real president donned the little cap he wears on electoral weekends to declare that all was fine. Supposedly as an answer to the continuous media reports on irregularities when installing the ballot centers. As usual Rodriguez did convince few, probably not even the bulk of die hard chavistas who know what is going on and do not mind it all. Such is the mind of people who surrender democracy at the foot of El Supremo, in any country in the world for that matter. Ah! Human nature!

Lonely Sobella Mejias put a brave face in criticizing those that do commit irregularities trying to bar access to opposition witness and electoral workers when installing the electoral centers. She was not anymore convincing than Rodriguez. The whole country knows by now that she is only bark, and no bite. Not to mention that we all know that her role is trying to defend the AD positions, who all criticize. Like AD, she probably thinks that her party will score a surprise when we all know that the election is rigged. Poor Sobella, another one who did not know when to quit and who is now slowly sinking in ridicule.

Electoral fraud suspicions keep growing (as if it were needed...)

All the evidences of fraud are already for all to see. On August 15 we did not know to what extent fraud was to actually take place but we have no doubt of it. But today we know. After all it is now a well accepted fact that the electoral registry is rigged and that the CNE and the High Court have been stalling its correction. The only question is where else will there be electoral fraud. One answer came yesterday.

The interior minister Chacon, flanked by the defense minister, announced that the people would not be allowed to assist to the manual count of the audited ballot boxes (in English). Incidentally it is ONLY one box by center, regardless if that center has 50 boxes or one box. Statisticians can start their little spread sheets.

This was accompanied by a precise threat from the commander of the Nazional Guard (no spelling mistake) who declared, right after leaving a reunion with High Court president Ivan Rincon, that people who tried to open the ballot boxes to count them will be arrested on the spot. So we know that Nazional Guuad abuses are pre-forgiven by the High Court.

What is wrong with this picture? According to the ineffable Chacon, in electronic system voting, box opening is part of the audit and thus not public. Really... And he hopes to increase the public confidence by hiding the most crucial part to a very few witnesses? He also claims that the opposition agreed with it. That this stupid scheme was imposed to a reluctant opposition would be more correct. But Chacon demonstrated in 1992 how to make people agree with you by shooting them down.

To reinforce this militaristic approach to democracy, as the opposition communique smartly pointed out, Chacon persisted tonight by declaring that people were not allowed to gather in front of voting stations to witness at least the printing of the results. Pure intimidatory escalating and more evidence that the government wants to hide something.

Now this blogger is not opposed to certain conditions to ensure some order. Certainly in a school room one cannot let everyone and their brother try to get in when the crucial part of an election takes place. But once upon a time, in the days of the execrated 4th republic, any political party presenting a candidate in a given district was allowed to send an eyewitness when ballots were counted. Now the number of witness is restricted. If electronic voting is progress, then please, let me go back to paper voting! May serve of lesson to the US readers of this blog who might get their votes "lost" next Tuesday...

As if that was not enough we learned other juicy details. For example the voting machines that were audited were not going to be used in the election. A wit pointed out that this was equivalent to prepare for a long trip on your SUV but checking the brakes of the econo-box you use to commute to work.

Add to this all that has been reported before, from the refusal of the CNE to even examine the evidence presented on August 15 claim, to the lack of impartial observers, and a score of other things and the normal observers would be excused from wondering what the results of tomorrow might mean.

To vote or not to vote

After these words the reader can be forgiven to wonder why this blogger will accept to be bothered into voting tomorrow. Well, what else is there to do?

Rumors in my neighborhood are that people are organizing anyway, regardless of what the powers that be are saying or doing. The CNE and the central government are so discredited that no one cares anymore. There is also a sense that there is not enough soldiers to fulfill the threats. Though of course, as in February 27 the army will have no problem in letting the media observe any repression it does as a way to scare people away from voting centers when voting is over. Let's hope for the best on this respect. But one thing is certain, there is more tension tonight than on August 15.

It remains that the fraud is now clearly a real possibility and no one can ignore it, be it in a foreign embassy, an international organization, private Venezuelan homes or visiting tourists. One cannot help but notice that for all the words of Rodriguez a few weeks ago, there has been no more talk of bringing back the OAS or the Carter Center, not even for the auditing as he promised to try. If he were as honest as he claims he is, he would not be squabbling with Mejias this late in the game, he would have helped in sitting the missing 5th rector, he would have offered a more credible counting and auditing system, he would not be as hysterical as he is. All in him screams lies now, it is pathetic. But he is supported by chavismo and the only way to unmask him is to make his work more difficult by going to vote and force him to cheat in such a large scale that it will become too obvious to hide. It might be a silly hope but that is about all that is left to us.

One is to expect that the opposition leadership will be more prepared on the Monday early hours. Their actions will determine if we will lose our democracy once and for all tomorrow or if defeated we will finally get on the road back to reclaim it fully, and eventually expel this nightmarish regime on a not so distant horizon.

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