Thursday, March 16, 2006

The European Union electoral report, and how it is already playing

Today was another one of those exquisite days in the Bolibabana Republic of Venezuela. Though in fact what I will be writing about below is a compilation of different events that somehow magically came together today as yet another bad show.

The trigger of all of this, one could say, comes from the European Union observer mission whose final report was presented today (in Spanish here, PDF). I will discuss this as briefly as possible first and then address some other recent events such as the journalist prosecution that just started in Venezuela.

It is a tedious reading though fascinating. Thus for the busy readers of the blog I will focus only on some of the “recommendations” at the end of the report. Commented as I find them in chapter 13 (I love these numerical coincidences):

It starts like this:
The naming of a new board of the CNE comprising independent professional of diverse origin that benefit from the trust of all sectors of society is a fundamental step toward reconciliation.
Now, that is a smashing start. Rodriguez and co. are officially declared persona non grata by the international community. And are pointed out as being the main agents of the problem (the source is of course Chavez but there is no diplomatic way the EU can say that). The third sentence is even better:
We recommend that all the actors involved in naming the new CNE board make all possible efforts to include in the debate and the following selection process all the political forces not presently sitting in the National Assembly [NA].
Which is not happening of course as the NA has already managed a system that will name yet another pro Chavez CNE board. But the EU has emitted its warning from the start and consequences will follow at some point.

There follows some other recommendations of the kind and a clear allusion to the deleterious Maisanta program: a strong suggestion of a data safety law to protect people ID and political actions (read: people who do things such as the Tascon list must be punished severely, EU people do not like that at all).

But the opposition does not go unscathed: its lack of activism and its absence from trying to place their own observers did not escape the EU notice (read: the EU will not ensure by itself the safety of election, you must do something about it such as getting presence in EVERY SINGLE voting poll station). If the opposition gets away lightly in the recommendations at the end it does get more serious scolding inside the report. However, the EU acknowledges indirectly by the redaction of his chapter 13 that when all is said and done, 90% of the work for fair elections must come from those who control power.

But the EU goes way further. Considering probably that there is no way to force Chavez from not using the public monies they openly ask for a new electoral law where state should finance political parties and where the automatization at all costs sought by chavismo does not become the stumbling block it has become for fair election. This would also include the inescapable reality that the electoral registry is deficient and that it cannot be verified on the basis of the current ID registry: both need revamping if clean elections are to be held again.

As for he voting act itself, more and better audit system of the electronic voting must be set in place (considering that the "hot" audit of the CNE has just been released from the December elections, barely before the EU report, those are not idle words). There is even a diplomatic expression to get rid of the finger printing devices worth translating:
The use of fingerprinting devices as a mechanism to identify the voters at the voting stations and to bar double voting could be postponed until an ID program that is adequate and safe provides all citizens with new ID cards

Read: "forget about finger printing machines! we know you are never going to clean up the registry, or at least have the decency to get ID cards that are worth something for all and not these plastic bits that are issued at street corners by almost anyone to anyone, including Colombian guerillas and the 1000 + Gonzalez born on the same day in Zulia."

And finally the media functions were addressed with a specific request to limit the cadena advantage of Chavez and guarantee access for all to ALL media, that is, the opposition must be able to go with free adds to state media with no more advantages at election time than Chavez does to the free media (read: either pay for your cadenas or let the oppo have some air time in the state media).

Of course chavismo will not budge an iota on all of this as it constitutes its built in advantage at election time: money, lots of it, control of 90% of campaign air time, biased CNE, scare tactics to voters that are afraid of losing their job or government benefit as they think vote has lost its secrecy, no money for the opposition, no legal recourse against governmental abuses.

And this is the crux of the matter to explain what was going these days. A short list:

  • Rodriguez, the dysfunctional CNE head, totally upset on TV denouncing again a media campaign against him (the EU is part of a media campaign? what about opening your accounts and the ballot boxes to settle all the easy way if you have nothing to hide? How low do you plan to go Jorgito?)
  • The National Assembly has ensured that the constitutional requirement to name a new CNE board is violated again and that they will decide themselves alone who is going to seat at the CNE (NGO participation and individual nominations have been skillfully circumvented so the desk will barely receive scarce non chavista resumés).
  • The CNE refuses to yield its accounts, recognizes that half of the audited machines had some discrepancies, and that after three months of the election. Unbelievable!!!!!
  • Throwing to the wolves, clumsily and unconvincingly, some militaries for some corruption in Barinas. While all point out to this case as being only the tip of the corruption iceberg.
  • An increased activity of the press and Sumate resulting in finally the frontal attack to journalists that all were expected: Matos Azocar is in jail in Tachira; Ibeyise Pacheco received a sentence of house for jail today (in the picture as she courageously walked to the tribunal with enough supporters which might have swayed the judges for a less stringent action as 3 months of jail were originally planned); Patricia Poleo is on the run (while the Anderson case keeps crumbling in the hands of the Pinochio attorney general); Marianela Salazar is about to face the courts as well as Napoleon Bravo (and let’s not talk about the assassination attempts (Marta Colomina) or diverse violence (physical or verbal like Chavez yesterday against an RCVT woman journalist, Francia Marquez. All these trials are political trials, while Tascon roams around free and even stating that if he had to do it again he would.

Why would a government insist in public that it will get 10 million votes in December, up from the paltry 2.5 of last December while at the same time it is working hard at making the electoral system even more subservient to its aims and it starts a large scale intimidation campaign?

Because it is a government that now knows people are onto its dealings, people are onto its corruption, moral as much as material. And because it is a government that knows that if it does not clean up its electoral act there will be no candidates to oppose him, and no real observers to monitor the election. It is a government that knows it is about to lose its legitimacy because it is too rotten to start cleaning up from inside, and thus it has accepted that it must throw away its democratic thin veneer if it is to survive. It is a government that is getting ready to live as an illegitimate government, a pariah government, to preserve its hold on power.

It could work. It is still working after almost 50 years in Cuba, and these islanders did not even have the benefit of oil money.

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