Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Electoral Day post: boring Venezuelan local elections

Although I do not think it really worthwhile, I still will be write a post with a few updates through the day. From past experiences, I have found out that people do appreciate this type of info, in particular when they live overseas and cannot vote. And even if they live at home, just to see how voting is working elsewhere, from the point of view of the voter on the street...

9:30 AM

The day did not start very well. I stayed up late watching an old Bond flick on cable "You only live twice", but I am a sucker for Bond movies, even as they are now totally outdated technologically, when not downright silly. However they do reflect something of the times when they came out, something of what people thought the future would be. Bad Russians, not so good Americans (you needed ratings everywhere in the world) and of course rather nice and not as inconsequential as one would have thought Britishers.

Still, when the voting station close to my house opened the racket was enough to wake me up by 6 AM. At 7 AM, desperately tossing around to get back a couple more hours of sleep (it is Sunday after all) the "pregonera" (street peddler) of Yaracuy al Dia started screaming for people to get up and buy her papers. She never does it that early on Sundays! Yaracuy al Dia is the rather infamous pro Chavez paper and I suppose it is some sort of conspiracy to force chavistas to go out and vote.

Well, eventually I did manage to go back to sleep but by 8:30 I was up fixing the coffee pot and leaving to buy the Sunday papers: EL Universal, El Nacional and El Yaracuyano, the almost as infamous anti Chavez local paper that I feel compelled to buy on Sundays, as I cannot bring myself to buy Yaracuy al Dia anymore, too awful. I used to buy both, only on Sundays, but since the Recall Election I have stopped buying pro Chavez papers, as I have stopped watching VTV which I religiously watched, duty bound to inform myself and on occasion my readers. But after August I saw no point anymore in hearing or paying to read the eternal repeats, slogans and complaints of chavismo when I can get a quick summary anywhere else.

Thus on my way to the newspaper stand I passed in front of two deserted voting centers. I have been watching the one close to my home and indeed on occasion I can see someone coming in and out. But the main activity consists on two soldiers and one officer, in their really ugly new Cuban like drab olive uniforms. Boy, are they ugly!

For the record, in August 2004 the lines went completely around the block by 8 AM......

Abstention will be heavy, no matter what they say, even in Yaracuy who tends to vote more than other places. In fact I could not help but to observe that the lottery ticket shop two blocks away had more people than the voting station. Obviously people know where the odds of a better future lay.

2:10 PM

I have not voted yet. It is open until 4 PM.

Or is it?

Rodriguez, the CNE ineffable head with his crispating voice and tone has just announced that voting will be extended until 6 PM. "Due to weather and some logistical problems". Translation: chavismo has trouble to make their people vote and requested two more hours to improve the low participation numbers, as seen on TV. Indeed, the beaches in Caracas sea shore are full; the longest voting line I have seen so far on TV had no more than a half dozen people; here, across the street the situation is the same, people on occasion walk in. Even in October 31 2004, there was until around 1 PM a line of a dozen people. Today, no line, at all, at any given time. In fact the showing across is so poor that I have desisted to try to drive around and watch the other voting center: Globovision is not lying, it is showing what I see from my window.

Now, I will share a little bit of gossip. My S.O. in Caracas has decided not to vote though I am still working on it. However, my putative mother in law who has voted for Chavez every time announced today that she would vote for the Primero Justicia candidates. She lives downtown Caracas, in the Calcutta like city that Bernal has created. All her love for Chavez could not convince her to vote for Bernal candidates. The mess it too obvious, too many homeless, too much trash, too deficient a garbage collection system, too tired to have to be home at a curfew time imposed by crime, too tired of fighting with illegal peddlers for a path to walk on the side walks, etc, and more etc.... We are all in awe! My S.O. siblings have been deserting Chavez long ago (S.O. did vote for Chavez in 1998, first and last time, being even more of a against Chavez than I am, as I assume when one works as a public employee it is easier to watch the beast from inside). Oh well...

I suppose that I should brush my teeth and go vote. For the first time in my life I will be voting in an afternoon: I delighted so much in voting that I always was done by noon. But today it is a chore. By the way, I do not even know the names of my candidates, or what they stand for. It is enough for me to know that they will be defending the sitting mayor whose work is sort of OK. This is what Chavez has done to us, we vote against or for him. Even to sweep our streets. Period.

2:40 PM

I have been receiving messages from people working with Sumate and opposition observers. The numbers would be in the 10% participation around noon, chavismo having lots of trouble to drag their people to vote. Hence the voting extension? Naaahhhh.....

Another rumor is that there is a distribution of Mercal coupons and other goodies in order to convince folks to board the buses and go to vote. Heck, if Chavez gives me Mercal coupons I will go and vote right now!

There is also trouble in one of Carabobo townships, Miranda, where the mayor has to be voted again. Suddenly there were a few buses arriving FROM Valencia with Chavez supporters that have been switched to that district to vote. Imagine that!!!! Nothing on TV so far. So we will wait for final confirmation.

3:00 PM

The soldiers that are watching the voting center across my house are so bored that they are actually helping the rare people that show up to vote in looking for their name on the list. I do tell you ...

I also got preliminary confirmation for the Miranda incident but still nothing on TV.

I guess I am going to get ready now and go to vote and make a driving round of voting centers. See you around 4 PM.

3:50 PM

Actually it started raining so I postponed my voting. Which gave me time to scan TV, including VTV. Amazing!

Jorge Rodriguez just gave an extensive interview to Globovision!!! We all know where the ratings are when someone needs to have their message out!!!

VTV, the state TV, has a small panel of people, all wearing some red on them (very impartial of course). The background is a logo special for the day which looks more like a propaganda item about "popular democracy" than any serious newsy logo adequate for the day. And there are some people that till think that VTV has any objectivity in it. Of course the only long lines shown are those from Amazonas state where there are also governor elections and people are going out to vote. The rest? "people are voting, thank you very much!" and scarce images (you can always find in popular districts little lines of a dozen of people, and if you forget to mention that normally liens there are in the hundred, you might fool a few...

But the best was a William Lara interview, also on VTV. He recognized that although voting was high in popular districts [define high] the middle class and upper class sectors were showing large abstention! I mean, the guy has finally recognized that chavismo cannot count on the people that manage a modern economy!!!! No wonder inefficacy in government is reaching such dramatic levels!!! How come Lara is admitting such a thing!?

Now, before the pro abstention camp chants victory, I do not think that this abstention has anything to do with organization, it has to do with just "I have stopped caring" attitude. Let chavismo collapse on its own! The hole in Paracotos is the perfect omen....

Well, raining is stopping, I am off to vote now.

5:00 PM

I voted. It lasted a few minutes because there was no list of candidates anywhere and I wanted to check again as I am not voting straight ticket (I never vote straight ticket!). During all this time, including the time to consult the list that eventually was given to me from a non descript pile in a corner, my voting time, my complain that the vote I emitted could barely be read on the printed ticket (indeed, it would be very easy for a greasy thumb to smudge my vote and make it "null"), and some chit chat as to how many people came to vote, NO ONE ELSE came to vote at my table. Eventually one guy admitted that of the 500 plus registered voters for that table at around 4:30 barely a hundred had voted!!!! That makes, say, 150 voters in 10,5 hours of voting. 10 voters an hour!

On the way back I drove in front of several voting centers and there was little to no activity. Back home the one in front at the three soldiers at the door, chit chatting. No one inside.

We'll see.

5:50 PM

One of the CNE rectors, Tibisay Lucena, has just announced that due to voting lines and what not, voting has been extended until 7 PM!!!! Excuses, excuses!!! On TV, as I type, she is being questioned and she is answering rehearsed replies. Tibisay Lucena was at the Recall Election time a sub rector and the principal accomplice of Jorge Rodriguez in all the tricks that this one made at the time. She was duly recompensed by being promoted to full rector.

She is lying as far as I know. Only Amazonas has reported any significant lines and that is due that people are motivated there to vote for governor. In Globovision Roberto Giusti is already asking THE question: how come if through the whole day attendance was light, suddenly a few minutes before closing time people are rushing to vote and the CNE needs to keep voting centers open?

This is highly suspicious. I mean, if Tibisay Lucena were saying that in such and such state or city there was this and that problem and then they decided that in those states to keep voting stations open one extra hour, I could still buy it. But when challenged by a journalist she replied something like this: "well, you have limited rounds and we have a global picture. I know what I am talking about". And that is that, no further details!!! B.S.!!! Arrogance!!! Lucena is as usual up to all the tricks she has learned to apply for over a year now!!!

Sobella Mejias? Where are you? This is your chance to shine!!!! Or have you just become a Lucena?

6:22 PM

It did not last long. Primero Justicia has complained about the voting extension announcing that 98% of voting centers are empty and these ones should be closed right now. That there was absolutely no reason to keep them open as by law they should have been closed while the ones with people still voting can remain open as long as necessary by law.

Fraud anyone? As usual, it is the behavior of the CNE, the arrogance of its directors that is the main cause for suspicions. Do they do it on purpose or are they that arrogant?

Things are heating up.

TV, by the way finally showed up the fraud attempt in Miranda township of Carabobo. In other words, indeed, the CNE is being, charitably said, very lax with supervision. If not helping fraud all along. Even when they are winning!!!!!!! Since supposedly it is the opposition who is not voting. Go figure..... Union Radio carries interesting info on how things developed there where the burping governor behaves as your regular small town bad guy, un malandro forajido!

6:51 PM

Maybe I should change the title of this post. The day is turning out to become exciting as the evening progresses.

Sobella Mejias came out and I think I understood that she was not in agreement with the voting extension. Though as usual she tries not to engage herself in a decisive way.

As soon as she shut up, from Primero Justicia we hear that they consider that Mejias has announced that the extra voting is illegal and that they are leaving right then and there for the CNE to confront Rodriguez. I bet you that Rodriguez is going to hide (or already celebrating with Chavez that the strategy to promote abstention has worked and that 90% of municipal councilors are now in the hands of chavismo).

Now my question to all the abstention promoters. So you won, you got obviously one of the highest if not the highest abstention on Venezuelan records. But in a couple of weeks that 90% of chavista councilors will be sworn in and nobody is going, legally, to worry about it. Municipal orders will be voted and we will have to live with it.

So, dear abstentionists: what is the next move?

6:59 PM

Rodriguez on TV. Voting is closed. I suppose that Primero Justicia can go back home.

7:15 PM

I am listening to Jorge Rodriguez. He is completely outdone once again. Taking any criticism personally. Claiming that all he and the CNE did is perfect, that there is no reason whatsoever to complain.

And this used to make a living as a shrink? No wonder he switched to more lucrative activities....

Again, the arrogance of Rodriguez and the CNE is just astounding. And then they complain that so many people do not trust them? I, for one, could never trust Rodriguez. Nobody with such change of moods, so thin skinned, can be trusted in a position where there is so much pressure applied!

8:45 PM

This will probably be the last entry for today as no results will be published until the CNE gives its first official announcement. And there is no need for me to watch results that are meaningless anyway. It can wait for tomorrow. Though Sumate has made a very strong declaration accusing Rodriguez of being a liar, among other irregularities committed today by the CNE. So I might comeback for one last hurrah before going to bed as this unfolds.

However there is something I want to discuss tonight. I forgot to mention that my voting center had no "cazahuellas" whereas we had then in August and October 2004. I started thinking about it and I do not like what I am coming up with.

The "cazahuellas" are the controversial machines where an electronic finger print is taken just as in the US airports authorities do to incoming aliens. Maybe at an airport, but at a polling station? Where people who vote must dip a finger in a stinky ink? (I can smell my finger as type, in spite of thorough washing). And then, how come with so many reports of buying extra finger printing machines my voting center lost its own ones?

This is my explanation. The REAL REASON FOR THE FINGER PRINTING MACHINES is that they allow in real time the CNE to know who is voting and where. Considering the extensive data base on opposition electors courtesy to all these signatures, it is easy for the CNE to predict how the vote is doing and going (what happened on the Recall Election).

Today they knew that centers where the opposition is strong, such as my voting center, would vote lightly at most. What was worrying chavismo was the response of their own electors, the need to have a reasonable participation. Thus there was no need to monitor opposition sectors, to send needed help there to man crucial control tools. It is my theory, at this point, that cazahuellas were sent to all popular sectors, to make sure that the turn out of chavismo would be monitored real time, to give chavismo time to make corrections, to go and fetch their electors, be it from their good will or bribing them with Mercal tickets. How else can one explain that Rodriguez announced that turn out went up in the last two hours? And thus keeping up voting centers? There was no increase in Yaracuy turn out as far as I could see. So, where was that increase?

I am asking people who had cazahuellas in previous processes and not this time to write to Sumate and report it. This might be rather important, in particular if by December they force on us electronic elector registry which combined with voting machines, and cazahuellas could effectively blow away the secret of vote. You can write there, I suppose: info@sumate.org

9:00 PM

A quickie on local impressions (this is a regional blog and I must remind readers).

In Yaracuy ex governor Lapi has bemoaned the lack of voters, as he voted himself. In Carabobo beaches were full, while Valencia and the Puerto Cabello area had few voters. A foreign observer had no qualms in stating that in his opinion no more than 24% voted. In Lara I have relatives that live in a chavista area. Turn out was light, definitley lighter than last October. One realtive who is applying for some government benefit went to vote, least they checked on her voting status. She told me that she was surprised at how many of her neighbors did not bother voting and where supposedly chavista. So it did cut both ways and no wonder the Tibisay and Jorge combo where doing some last minute maneuvers.

10:05 PM

Rodriguez is speaking but he is really not saying much. That is, with 80 % something of machines reporting he still cannot advance an abstention number.... Imagine that..... And forget about an election result. But he cannot repress the data much longer so he needs to make a first bulletin so that the media can start advancing their results. As it is usual in Venezuela, the first ones to know the victors are the media and political party, the CNE (or its previous incarnations) is the last one to know.

An amusing note, Rodriguez is trying to defend the prolongation of voting hours, on emotional arguments of course, since he is violating the law. Each time Rodriguez is pressed on that issue, he replies "why don't you ask what those people feel about that?" Perfect manipulating and indecent reply from someone in his position.

I have a problem with that: there is a law.

You have from 7 AM to 4 PM to vote. Why do people feel that they can decide to waltz in at 6:30 PM to vote and why they must force the volunteers to stay so many more hours of their time? I am sorry, but Rodriguez argument is flawed. When you favor some you start affecting others and this is the end fo fairness. Sorry, but no deal Jorgito. The law states that whoever is on line at 4 PM has a right to force the voting center to remain open until every vote is cast.

On another thing. I did check the abstention in my home state, 32.8 % in October 2004. Let's see what the results are today.

One more update, sorry! 10:41 PM

On TV. Zulia governor seems happy. He obtained enough seats apparently.

Primero Justicia's Gerardo Blyde has just announced in an interview with Nitu Perez Osuna, that wherever Primero Justicia run it carried seats bigtime, even 7 out of 7 out of Chacao, and is fighting for the majority council in Sucre and a few other good resutls here and there. IN SPITE of massive abstention.

[see you tomorrow, I have had it with the Jorgito combo for the day]

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