Friday, September 17, 2004

Open Letter to Jennifer McCoy, from the Carter Center

Dear Ms. McCoy

I remember all your frequent visits to Venezuela, when your dashing presence meant for us that the world cared to try to avoid a tragedy in Venezuela. Often I wondered about how you were able to deal with the vulgarity of our political establishment, in particular those holding office. Not that the other side is all classy, mind you, we know better. But you were like a breath of All American fresh air in our sewery atmosphere.

You did a good job, at least until Chavez was forced to accept the signatures. And then the Carter Center crumbled. What happened?

I am not even talking about the quick announcement on Monday 16. In the preceeding months you had accepted unacceptable conditions that made the European Community balk at visiting Venezuela for the referendum. But we should have seen it coming, the signs were already there early this year when you protest about the invalidation of 2 good million signatures was not as purposeful as it should have been.

I can still get over the early announcement of your boss (to whom I wrote a couple of weeks ago through this same page, I trust he read the letter). What I cannot get over is how easily you got conned the day of the audit. And even lied, apparently. Indeed, you allowed the CNE to use its own program to select the "random" audit which right now is questioned. How could you fall into such a political trap? Had you not spend enough time around us to know that you were surrounded by crooks, and from both sides?

Let me help you here. Even if you were absolutely 110% certain that the "random number" generating program of the CNE was safe, you should have insisted in using yours. This was a major political blunder from your part, aggravated when considering that the opposition did not accept that audit from the start and thus was not going to accept your verdict. It was for you to set stringent enough audit that the opposition would have had a hard time discarding it. Or even better, not go to the audit yourself. As we say in Venezuela "La esposa del Cesar no solamente tiene que ser honrada, tiene que aparentarlo". (*)

The consequence was that you were forced you to write a rather weak explanation letter in the Economist. I suppose that you and your boss split chores: he does the Wall Street Journal and you do the foreign press. Both were equally weak. But I digress. What was most remarkable in your letter was the following:

The third puzzle was places with fewer Yes voters than signers of the recall petition. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people who were expected to vote Yes in fact voted No. Overall, more people (almost 4m) voted to recall the president than signed the petition last November (3.4m). But some of the signers might have supported a recall as a democratic right, while themselves not wanting to remove the president. Some may have changed their minds since November. And some may have decided that Chavismo in government was more likely to preserve the peace than Chavismo in opposition.

I have to confess that I thought you were politically savvier. "Anecdotal evidence"? You, of all people, have witnessed all the intimidation, the pressure, the menaces during the signature collection process. You of all people should have known much better than writing this. Perhaps you even subscribe to the new thesis of unlimited reelection for Chavez? That surely would preserve the peace!

But let me help you again. Do you think that people who know that their signature pretty much makes them an enemy of the "revolution" forever, will just casually switch to NO because, for example, they think that Chavez will preserve the peace? Who are you kidding? Why are you so minimizing the signature collection process? Is it because you feel so guilty about your role then that you try to sweep it under the rug?

I am sorry Jennifer, but your explanations just do not cut it out, at least not with us in the opposition that know better. It is a very sad mission ending for such an institution to come across as not only failing at bringing peace to us, but perhaps aggravating the situation altogether. Indeed, as I look back to the trip of President Carter in January 2003 this one allowed Chavez to extricate himself with a semi victorious perception from the strike. That visit indeed gave him a full year an a half to throw millions in public spending and buy an electorate back. In your article you actually naively acknowledged the boost your boss gave to Chavez:
delays in the collection and verification of signatures gave time for the economy to recover from the previous year's devastating strike. Mr. Chavez campaigned tirelessly and spent large sums from record oil revenues on social programmes [sic] for the poor. The government also naturalised [sic] long-waiting immigrants and registered up to 2m new voters. In contrast, the opposition ran a lacklustre [sic] campaign, did not present a clear alternative leader, and could not compete with the government's resources.

I am really sorry that you ended up writing such a lame defense and losing any credit that you had in Venezuela. Although I am a nobody allow me to give you a suggestion: declare that you are done with Venezuela and that you are not coming back anymore. Before the opposition gives you the ultimate humiliation by rejecting your bons offices. These seem to have limited themselves in helping Chavez ensure that he will have the upper hand when we come to blows. We will look elsewhere for help, thank you very much for nothing.

Daniel Duquenal

(*) The wife of Cesar not only has to be honorable, she has to appear honorable.

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