Archive for March 2nd, 2004

Confrontations still going on

March 2, 2004

There is violence going on, this time it seems the Government wants to provoke it. There are fewer people than last night in both Altaira and Caurimare, but things are much more violent. The Governor of Carabobo state just came on TV and said that a protest in the Naguanagua section of Valencia is being repressed by the joint action of the military, the National Guard, the political police DISIP and the pro-Chavez civilian Bolivarian Circles.


Separately, lots of people continue to be jailed although a judge freed a bunch here in Caracas. Seems like now the Government wants the conflict, but the people are staying home more today trying to digest the news.

Looking at the numbers

March 2, 2004

 


I like numbers, so let’s look at the ones announced by Carrasquero and analyze them. Sumate says they handed in 3,467,050, but right off the bat the CNE says only 3,060,013 were “accepted” so that 407,037 were rejected even before the process began based not on the signatures, not on the data, but on the fact that the cover sheet did not agree with the totals. These people can not go and complain, their signatures are disqualified. There were 39,060 forms which had this problem.


 


Of the 3,060,013 admitted by the CNE 1,832,433 were admitted as valid. Of these 143,930 were rejected because their data did not agree with the Electoral Registry. These people have no recourse, even if the error is in the registry which is known to have many errors in birthdates. This leaves 1,227,580 signatures set aside. Of these, 876,017 were declared under observation which means people have to go and say they did sign, and another 233,573 have “other reasons”. Only these 233,573 plus the 876,017 can be ratified giving a total of 1,109,590. Thus, the opposition needs 54.4% of those that signed but their signature was placed under observation to show up and ratify that they did sign.


 


This is not insurmountable. Besides being unfair and not part of the rules, the other limitations are that the old and the sick will not be able to participate as there will not be itinerant signature collectors this time around.


 


In terms of collection centers, there will the same 2,700 centers to collect 1,1019,590 signatures which if everyone shows up implies that 205 signatures have to be collected per day in two days, per center or 25 per hour. This is also doable, except one PC per Center seems a little stingy. I don’t quite understand either how come they can talk about only two days to present the complaint as the regulations explicitly say in Article 31 that you will have five days to do it.


 


Finally, the CNE says that it will publish a “booklet” with the National ID number of each person that participated and the status of their signature. Have they thought about this? I just took the Caracas phone book. It has 975 numbers per column, 5 columns per page. A newspaper page is twice as tall, 50% wider and if you only print ID numbers and status you might be able to squeeze in ten columns. This yields 1772 pages, almost twice the thickness of the current Caracas phonebook! In the interest of fairness they need to make 7,000,000 copies. How much does this cost? 

For lighter moment, Venezuelan protesters on MSN Messenger

March 2, 2004


 

Opposition takes cagey position

March 2, 2004

 


Opposition says that they do not agree with the process for confirmation or ratification process and that they ask the OAS and the Carter Center to work with the CNE to establish fair rules to the process which follow the law and put faith on the people’s vote. They say Carter’s advice of giving the voter the benefit of the doubt to the voter should be implemented. This implies that those that think they should not be there are the ones that should go to the CNE to say they did not participate.


 


Opposition also says how come they handed in over 200,000 more signatures than the CNE says they received. Where are they?


 


Thus, the official position is let’s change the way it was done and have the OAS and the Carter Center negotiate it. Julio Borges said the signatures are non-negotiable and if the methodology is not changed, the opposition will not tell the people to go an ratify their signatures.

Carter Center and OAS say there were enough signatures for recall vote

March 2, 2004

 


Carter Center and the OAS said that they had participated in the process and check if it was transparent and followed the norms. They said the process had sufficient controls and checks, witnesses and observers. They disagree with the criteria of not including those forms which have the same handwriting but not the same signature. They said that they saw that in the signing process when the signatures were being collected, people at the poll booths aided those signing, filling the data and that they believed the CNE should have given the benefit of the doubt to the people.


 


Usually, the OAS and the Carter Center are fairly diplomatic, this is very strong  criticism of the CNE and the process by two institutions that participated and observed the process and are both saying that the signatures are there and the CNE was not transparent. If you add the forms with the same handwriting the total exceeds the signatures needed by three hundred thousand. I would like anyone to defend this as being a “fair” process.

Carter Center and OAS say there were enough signatures for recall vote

March 2, 2004

 


Carter Center and the OAS said that they had participated in the process and check if it was transparent and followed the norms. They said the process had sufficient controls and checks, witnesses and observers. They disagree with the criteria of not including those forms which have the same handwriting but not the same signature. They said that they saw that in the signing process when the signatures were being collected, people at the poll booths aided those signing, filling the data and that they believed the CNE should have given the benefit of the doubt to the people.


 


Usually, the OAS and the Carter Center are fairly diplomatic, this is very strong  criticism of the CNE and the process by two institutions that participated and observed the process and are both saying that the signatures are there and the CNE was not transparent. If you add the forms with the same handwriting the total exceeds the signatures needed by three hundred thousand. I would like anyone to defend this as being a “fair” process.

Jorge Rodriguez CNE Director describes confirmation process

March 2, 2004

Very confusing now. Jorge Rodriguez, a pro-Chavez CNE Director comes on TV and says that the signatures that have criteria problems will also be included in the confirmation process. This would give a total of 1.109 million signatures for confirmation which would imply the number needed is less than 60%, but at the same time he says that there will be 2700 centers for two days rather than five days. This seems a little better and doable, except  that the process will be one PC per center, with one witness per side. It is not clear how you would check the number confirmed is correct.


There are three unfair things about this process:


-Close to 40,000 forms were rejected on technicalities. These people have no recourse.


-The CNE refused to have the old process be like what this confirmation process is going to be, there would have been no mistake about the “planas” that way. The reason was that it would be “just” like a vote. Well, this is just like a vote anyway. Moreover, this was not included in the regulations


-It is not clear how anyone could “prove” that the people went or not to confirm.


I think we should do it to show the world and the Chavistas, but I have no faith in these people. As Jimmy Carter said a process like this should have no tricks, there have been too many, I can not trust what is ahead.


Having troubles updating, too many people trying to visit the page. Wish it was because of my good writing!

Jorge Rodriguez CNE Director describes confirmation process

March 2, 2004

Very confusing now. Jorge Rodriguez, a pro-Chavez CNE Director comes on TV and says that the signatures that have criteria problems will also be included in the confirmation process. This would give a total of 1.109 million signatures for confirmation which would imply the number needed is less than 60%, but at the same time he says that there will be 2700 centers for two days rather than five days. This seems a little better and doable, except  that the process will be one PC per center, with one witness per side. It is not clear how you would check the number confirmed is correct.


There are three unfair things about this process:


-Close to 40,000 forms were rejected on technicalities. These people have no recourse.


-The CNE refused to have the old process be like what this confirmation process is going to be, there would have been no mistake about the “planas” that way. The reason was that it would be “just” like a vote. Well, this is just like a vote anyway. Moreover, this was not included in the regulations


-It is not clear how anyone could “prove” that the people went or not to confirm.


I think we should do it to show the world and the Chavistas, but I have no faith in these people. As Jimmy Carter said a process like this should have no tricks, there have been too many, I can not trust what is ahead.


Having troubles updating, too many people trying to visit the page. Wish it was because of my good writing!

Carrasquero on TV

March 2, 2004

 


Carrasquero just on TV. He said that the technical committees presented their reports to the Board of the CNE and that the criteria give out the following preliminary numbers and those affected can complain. On the President’s recall the results were: Total number of forms verified: 388,108. Empty forms or damaged forms 7,297. Invalid forms: 39,060. Signatures accepted 3,060,013 of which validated 1.832,433, rejected by electoral registry: 143,930, rejected by criteria 233,573, under observation 876,017.


 


The CNE will publish in the media all of the national ID numbers accepted or rejected or under observation.


 


This implies more than 80% of the people would have to confirm their signatures. This is a farse!

Referenda and the origin of this political crisis in Venezuela

March 2, 2004

 


Because many people who are somewhat removed from the Venezuelan crisis are visiting this page today, I thought I would make a brief history of the referenda requested by the opposition.


 


Hugo Chavez was elected in December 1998. One of the first things he did was to call for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. This was done through a referendum, a figure which appeared nowhere in the old Constitution. But through a popular petition, it was done.


 


The new Constitution, contemplated two types of referenda: Consultative referenda, where the people would vote on important issues and would require 10% of the registered voters to sign a petition and Recall Referenda, where people would be able to request for a recall referendum after the midpoint of the term of any elected official.


 


Contrary to popular perception, it was not Chavez that introduced this concepts into the Constitution, they were introduced in the project to change the Venezuelan Constitution by the COPRE in the mid-90’s and it was lawyer Ricardo Combellas, who coincidentally no longer backs Chavez, who introduced their discussion in the Constituent Assembly.


 


In November 2002, before the strike, the opposition began gathering signatures for a Consultative referendum asking whether the people approved or not of the job President Hugo Chávez was doing. On January 23d. 2003, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that the referendum could not take place, not because the question was illegal, as the pro-Chávez forces requested, but because the Court said no elections or referenda could take place in Venezuela until a new Electoral Board (CNE) was elected by the National Assembly.


 


After many attempts of trying to choose an Electoral Board, the Supreme Court stepped in and said that since the Assembly had left a legal void by not naming the new CNE and thus it would name one which would be in place until the Assembly fulfilled its obligation. (It never did)


 


They day after the mid-term of President Hugo Chavez, the opposition submitted 3 million signatures collected in a petition drive which it submitted to the new CNE. One month later in mid-September, the new CNE said that the petition was unacceptable because there were no regulations on how to do it and it would issue the regulations soon.


 


The CNE in early October issue the regulations. They were absurd for a petition. Essentially, the CNE would issue forms printed on money paper. During four consecutive days, those that asked for the petition would set up booths, much like polling booths, in the presence of a CNE representative and many witnesses from the other side to gather signatures. The people would have to sign and leave their fingerprint on the form. Each form had ten lines and it contained the name, the birthdate and the National ID number of the person signing. There were very specific regulations as to how the fingerprint should be stamped, you should write clearly, don’t go over the boundary etc. But the regulations did not say anything about the person signing having to fill out their own personal data.


One troublesome aspect of the petition drive is that the results would be made public, putting pressure on Government employees and the military not to sign and those living abroad could not participate, despite the fact that the Constitution says they have a right to participate in electoral processes.


 


Despite the hurdles, the opposition gathered 3.6 million signatures of the 2.436 million needed and turned in 3.4 million to the CNE.


 


This was all handed in before Christmas and despite the fact that the law says the CNE has one month to say whether the signatures are there or not, it ahs been two and a half months and no answer has been given to the opposition petition (or that against Deputies on both sides)


 


Half way through the verification of the signatures, where just the data was being checked, it looked like clear sailing, rejection rates were running at 5-9% in the first 13 states verified. Suddenly, the CNE technicians decided to declare under observation all the forms in which the data was filled by the same person, i.e. had the same calligraphy the so called “planas”, but the signatures were different.  These occurred because in an effort to make sure the signatures would be validate, those collecting the signatures would fill out the data in some booths and simply have the person sign and stamp the signatures. This was done according to regulations that said only the signature needed to be by the person. Similarly no rule said this was a reason to eliminate a signature.


 


Reportedly, the CNE has certified valid 1.914 million signatures, has placed under observation 750,000 and ahs rejected 718,000 either because of data inconsistency or because the cover sheet that accompanies the form (the “acta”) had a number different than the total in the form.


 


What the CNE proposes is to have people go back and ratify or conform that they did sign only for the “planas” and those forms that had other errors, but not for the 714,000 to technical problems.


 


Thus in one word, the opposition would need (doable but difficult) that over 70% of the people that sign the “planas” go back and confirm they did.


 


The opposition has argued that the CNE is changing the burden of proof, presuming those signing are guilty without having any proof and says why not ratify ALL signatures, particularly those that have problems with the “Actas” and inconsistencies with the electoral registry.


 


In the end, this has been an obstacle course for the opposition which has complied with every step, despite the difficulties introduced. However, the pro-Chavez members dominate the Board of the CNE by a three to two margin. People feel cheated; think the system is unfair, that the rules should not be changed on the fly. Last Friday, during the G-15 summit in Caracas a huge opposition demonstration was met with excessive force, two people die and 40 were injured. Since then there have been continuous protests and clashes with the military police and the National Guard. Human Rights have not been respected and over one hundred people have been jailed, some without charges or due process. The CNE and the opposition negotiate at this time a possible compromise on the signatures.


 


But we did not have to get this far. This is only a petition to have a recall vote. Who is afraid of the actual recall vote? Not the opposition.

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