Archive for March 3rd, 2004

Merida Militarized

March 3, 2004


 


That bastion of left wing student activism. The city of the young and restless, Merida, a student town, whose mainstay and lifeline is the University of Los Andes, has just been militarized. The same city where five years ago the Student Council election was won by the pro-Chavez candidates, who were unable to get more than 30% of the votes in the most recent election, has tonight been taken over street by street, block by block by the military and the National Guard.


 


That’s the paradox of the Chavez “revolution”, the left and the young are not supporting it. Neither are the left-wing young. Explain that to a European leftist!

Massive Human Rights violations taking place

March 3, 2004

 


At this point, I am more concerned about Human Rights than about referenda or ratifying signatures. What is going on in Venezuela does not and should not take place in any civilized country. There are right currently at least 380  people who have been jailed illegally. I have seen videos of military and National Guardsmen kicking people, without mercy and with hate as they lie on the floor. In one video six guards kick a kid on the floor, over and over. In the other the throw another guy against a car, punching him, the body bouncing back with incredible force.


 


A TV channel shows a man with a vest that says DISIP (military police) at the entrance of a barrio, his face covered and with an assault rifle shooting at all cars that go by. Pictures of people with severe injuries from plastic bullets are a dime a dozen. Today, a kid’s foot was blown away with a bullet shot from an assault rifle that came from a building (Torre Britanica) that has been occupied by the National Guard for three days. Everyday and additional person dies. Some are simply missing!


 


There are reports of torture, with the Coordinadora Democrática denouncing massive violations of human rights and citing the names of specific people being tortured. Karla Melo, the daughter of Bandera Roja leader Carlos Melo, says her father is a political prisoner and bravely vows to fight the Government if pushed. A mother describes how her teenage son and friends were arrested, placed in a military prisoner truck with open sides and then repeatedly gassed inside the truck by the National Guard.


 


Like in some sort of autistic Opera, the Vice-President comes on TV and accuses the opposition of not wanting to go to the confirmation process because of massive fraud, ignoring the OAS/Carter Center statements. The Minister of Infrastructure quantifies the damage done by the protesters, which is less than what the Chavez administration n spends on the mobilization of their people for a march, but fails to tells us how much was spent on tear gas canisters to repress the population or in the new Robocop outfits that the Nazi Onal Guards inaugurated with festive repression last Friday.


 


And while people are repressed, tortured, disappeared and assassinated, the two men responsible for guaranteeing the respect for the law and the Constitution (Art.285) and Human Rights (Art. 280) are nowhere to be seen. One, the Attorney General/Prosecutor (“Fiscal”) has said nothing since he warned Mayors and Governors to maintain order in their respective areas, while the other, the pitiful People’s Ombudsman, goes to the Supreme Court to ask for an injunction against one Governor and three Majors of the opposition for their omission in guaranteeing the right to safety of the population.


 


Torture and kill a few so that the majority can be safe? No, they are simply acting as lackeys of Hugo Chavez, and as they leave any sense of morality, if they ever had any, behind, with every additional crime and human rights violation committed, the sink deeper in their complicity with the cesspool of the Chavez revolution.

Massive Human Rights violations taking place

March 3, 2004

 


At this point, I am more concerned about Human Rights than about referenda or ratifying signatures. What is going on in Venezuela does not and should not take place in any civilized country. There are right currently at least 380  people who have been jailed illegally. I have seen videos of military and National Guardsmen kicking people, without mercy and with hate as they lie on the floor. In one video six guards kick a kid on the floor, over and over. In the other the throw another guy against a car, punching him, the body bouncing back with incredible force.


 


A TV channel shows a man with a vest that says DISIP (military police) at the entrance of a barrio, his face covered and with an assault rifle shooting at all cars that go by. Pictures of people with severe injuries from plastic bullets are a dime a dozen. Today, a kid’s foot was blown away with a bullet shot from an assault rifle that came from a building (Torre Britanica) that has been occupied by the National Guard for three days. Everyday and additional person dies. Some are simply missing!


 


There are reports of torture, with the Coordinadora Democrática denouncing massive violations of human rights and citing the names of specific people being tortured. Karla Melo, the daughter of Bandera Roja leader Carlos Melo, says her father is a political prisoner and bravely vows to fight the Government if pushed. A mother describes how her teenage son and friends were arrested, placed in a military prisoner truck with open sides and then repeatedly gassed inside the truck by the National Guard.


 


Like in some sort of autistic Opera, the Vice-President comes on TV and accuses the opposition of not wanting to go to the confirmation process because of massive fraud, ignoring the OAS/Carter Center statements. The Minister of Infrastructure quantifies the damage done by the protesters, which is less than what the Chavez administration n spends on the mobilization of their people for a march, but fails to tells us how much was spent on tear gas canisters to repress the population or in the new Robocop outfits that the Nazi Onal Guards inaugurated with festive repression last Friday.


 


And while people are repressed, tortured, disappeared and assassinated, the two men responsible for guaranteeing the respect for the law and the Constitution (Art.285) and Human Rights (Art. 280) are nowhere to be seen. One, the Attorney General/Prosecutor (“Fiscal”) has said nothing since he warned Mayors and Governors to maintain order in their respective areas, while the other, the pitiful People’s Ombudsman, goes to the Supreme Court to ask for an injunction against one Governor and three Majors of the opposition for their omission in guaranteeing the right to safety of the population.


 


Torture and kill a few so that the majority can be safe? No, they are simply acting as lackeys of Hugo Chavez, and as they leave any sense of morality, if they ever had any, behind, with every additional crime and human rights violation committed, the sink deeper in their complicity with the cesspool of the Chavez revolution.

CNE Director Rodiguez says negotiations are ongoing

March 3, 2004

CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez gave a surprise press conference today to say that there are ongoing negotiations between the CNE and the opposition to negotiate the terms of the process for citizens to ratify their signatures. He gave few details but said the OAS and the Carter Center were mediating the conversations. He suggested there may be an announcement sometime Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Statement by the Carter Center and the OAS

March 3, 2004

 


Here is the joint declaration by the OAS and the Carter Center given yesterday, posted today. Some highlights, the bold is mine:


 


In this process, in particular, we find sufficient controls, including security paper for the petitions, full identification of the citizen with signature and thumbprint, summary forms (actas) listing the petition (planillas) serial numbers during the collection process, party witnesses, personnel trained and designated by the CNE, verification of each petition form and a cross-check with the summary forms, a cross-check of the names with the voters list, and a mechanism for appeal and correction.


We have had some discrepancies with the CNE over the verification criteria. In the case of the petition forms in which the basic data of several signers, but not the signatures themselves, appear to have been filled in by one person, we do not share the criterion of the CNE to separate these signatures, sending them to the appeals process in order to be rectified by the citizens. These occur in such large numbers that they could have an impact on the outcome of the process.


We recognize that in any such process there can be attempts to manipulate the will of the citizens, but it is necessary to evaluate the magnitude of the impact that these attempts could have on the total universe. We understand the concerns of the CNE, but the evaluation should start from the presumption of the good faith of the citizen as a universal principle. During the signature collection process, we observed that some collection agents assisted signers in good faith by filling in their basic data.


Those citizens who are erroneously or fraudulently included on the list (planillas) should be given the opportunity to remove their names during the appeals and correction period. In addition, the signatures themselves that appear to have a similar handwriting, which have also been found, should be carefully reviewed in order to reject those that are not genuine.


The appeals and correction period was included in the process to provide, in cases of doubt, an opportunity for citizens to reaffirm their signatures, or to disavow their signatures in cases where their data has been used against their will. The CNE has accepted some of our recommendations in designing this appeals process. We support the efforts of the CNE and of the promoters to work together to establish the guarantees necessary to ensure that all of the citizens who wish to take advantage of this resource may do so. We urge them to continue in this direction.

Statement by the Carter Center and the OAS

March 3, 2004

 


Here is the joint declaration by the OAS and the Carter Center given yesterday, posted today. Some highlights, the bold is mine:


 


In this process, in particular, we find sufficient controls, including security paper for the petitions, full identification of the citizen with signature and thumbprint, summary forms (actas) listing the petition (planillas) serial numbers during the collection process, party witnesses, personnel trained and designated by the CNE, verification of each petition form and a cross-check with the summary forms, a cross-check of the names with the voters list, and a mechanism for appeal and correction.


We have had some discrepancies with the CNE over the verification criteria. In the case of the petition forms in which the basic data of several signers, but not the signatures themselves, appear to have been filled in by one person, we do not share the criterion of the CNE to separate these signatures, sending them to the appeals process in order to be rectified by the citizens. These occur in such large numbers that they could have an impact on the outcome of the process.


We recognize that in any such process there can be attempts to manipulate the will of the citizens, but it is necessary to evaluate the magnitude of the impact that these attempts could have on the total universe. We understand the concerns of the CNE, but the evaluation should start from the presumption of the good faith of the citizen as a universal principle. During the signature collection process, we observed that some collection agents assisted signers in good faith by filling in their basic data.


Those citizens who are erroneously or fraudulently included on the list (planillas) should be given the opportunity to remove their names during the appeals and correction period. In addition, the signatures themselves that appear to have a similar handwriting, which have also been found, should be carefully reviewed in order to reject those that are not genuine.


The appeals and correction period was included in the process to provide, in cases of doubt, an opportunity for citizens to reaffirm their signatures, or to disavow their signatures in cases where their data has been used against their will. The CNE has accepted some of our recommendations in designing this appeals process. We support the efforts of the CNE and of the promoters to work together to establish the guarantees necessary to ensure that all of the citizens who wish to take advantage of this resource may do so. We urge them to continue in this direction.

Terrorist being taken away by National Guard

March 3, 2004

Protests still strong a 2 AM.

March 3, 2004

Confrontations are still taking place in many places, they are very intense, but fewerr of them around the city. Caurimare seems to be where the toughest battle is going on. I don’t not quite understand why the Government is being so repressive. Many people have been jailed, opposition leader Carlos Melo is accused of having a cache of weapons when he was captured at a gas station, unfortunately, the video cameras at the gas station showed that he had no weapons when he was taken away. Two judges are removed for releasing some of those jailed, in clear a sign that the repression is both military and political.  Not as many news as last night. TV stations are being cautious.

A partial defeat, a significant victory

March 3, 2004

 


Sometimes it is difficult when emotions are involved to understand the true significance of events. It is easy to look back at history and interpret, it is more difficult to live it and understand. While the opposition did suffer a partial defeat in its efforts to hold a recall referendum against Hugo Chavez, the statement by the OAS and the Carter Center, basically saying that the signatures were there, will have an extremely significant impact in the future of Venezuela.


 


It is unusual for diplomats such as Francisco Jaramillo and Jennifer McCoy to be as undiplomatic as they were today. More so, when they plan to stay in the country mediating an already complex and potentially explosive situation.


 


After the unequivocal statement by these two institutions with a vast experience on electoral matters, the Venezuelan Government will have difficulties accusing the opposition of fraud or attempting to overthrow it. The OAS and the Carter Center said that the people of Venezuela did indeed gather the required signatures, because the process was tightly controlled, witnesses, observed and certified by all parties that participated in it.


 


The statement sends a very important and direct message to the international community as well as to the Chavez administration. One should remember that both the OAS and the Carter Center came to Venezuela invited by Chavez himself and not by the opposition, but today their message was one of absolute solidarity with the opposition’s position.


 


Nothing is improvised in diplomacy. Jaramillo and McCoy could have made the same statement from Washington, out of the fray of the conflict or the proximity of the Chavez Government. But their move is likely to be just one of a complex game of negotiation that is likely to be taking place as I write these words.


 


When one puts side by side the statements by the Diplomats and the opposition leaders, it is clear that something was left unsaid. That a negotiation is taking place or was left unfinished. That for some reason Carrasquero is not a central figure in the process. That various Governments are applying significant amounts of pressure to the Chávez administration and that our Secretary Sate will have a tough and busy day tomorrow. As Lula sides with Bush on Haiti and departed Caracas earlier than expected last week, Chavez is more isolated than he ever thought he would be.


 


If the mechanism for ratifying the signatures is improved and polished, it will be harder for the pro-Chavez forces to introduce new tricks in the process and the door will be open for Chavez’ recall. At this point, Chavez may choose the non-democratic path, but that will certainly lead to even an earlier departure of Hugo Chávez from the Venezuelan political scene.

A partial defeat, a significant victory

March 3, 2004

 


Sometimes it is difficult when emotions are involved to understand the true significance of events. It is easy to look back at history and interpret, it is more difficult to live it and understand. While the opposition did suffer a partial defeat in its efforts to hold a recall referendum against Hugo Chavez, the statement by the OAS and the Carter Center, basically saying that the signatures were there, will have an extremely significant impact in the future of Venezuela.


 


It is unusual for diplomats such as Francisco Jaramillo and Jennifer McCoy to be as undiplomatic as they were today. More so, when they plan to stay in the country mediating an already complex and potentially explosive situation.


 


After the unequivocal statement by these two institutions with a vast experience on electoral matters, the Venezuelan Government will have difficulties accusing the opposition of fraud or attempting to overthrow it. The OAS and the Carter Center said that the people of Venezuela did indeed gather the required signatures, because the process was tightly controlled, witnesses, observed and certified by all parties that participated in it.


 


The statement sends a very important and direct message to the international community as well as to the Chavez administration. One should remember that both the OAS and the Carter Center came to Venezuela invited by Chavez himself and not by the opposition, but today their message was one of absolute solidarity with the opposition’s position.


 


Nothing is improvised in diplomacy. Jaramillo and McCoy could have made the same statement from Washington, out of the fray of the conflict or the proximity of the Chavez Government. But their move is likely to be just one of a complex game of negotiation that is likely to be taking place as I write these words.


 


When one puts side by side the statements by the Diplomats and the opposition leaders, it is clear that something was left unsaid. That a negotiation is taking place or was left unfinished. That for some reason Carrasquero is not a central figure in the process. That various Governments are applying significant amounts of pressure to the Chávez administration and that our Secretary Sate will have a tough and busy day tomorrow. As Lula sides with Bush on Haiti and departed Caracas earlier than expected last week, Chavez is more isolated than he ever thought he would be.


 


If the mechanism for ratifying the signatures is improved and polished, it will be harder for the pro-Chavez forces to introduce new tricks in the process and the door will be open for Chavez’ recall. At this point, Chavez may choose the non-democratic path, but that will certainly lead to even an earlier departure of Hugo Chávez from the Venezuelan political scene.

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