Archive for August, 2004

Big mouth Chacon

August 31, 2004

I wonder how many countries the Minister of the Interior and Justice Jesse Chacon insulted with this beauty:


“We are in the midst of the XXIst. Century. No country that respects itself votes manually”


 


This not only show ignorance, not that many countries actually use electronic voting, but fails to understand that the cost of electronic vote is quite significant and not that many countries can afford to have it. Venezuela, a poor country, has had the luxury of purchasing two distinct electronic voting systems and a useless fingerprint capture system in less than eight years. Despite this, Venezuelans spent in the last election more than five hours on the average voting and there is no confidence on the system used. This simply shows that how you implement systems is as important as the systems itself.


 


The US$ 400 million spent on these systems would have allowed the Government to purchase a cheap PC for almost every student in the Venezuelan school system. Not that I am advocating this necessarily, just putting it into perspective what the amount means and how these big mouth public officers are so arrogant they don’t even think about what they say.

Potpurri of topics in the news

August 31, 2004

This is sort of a mailbag, review of many things that have been happening but I have not been able to comment on, in no particular order:


 -To the surprise of many, Chávez invited historian Margarita Lopez to speak at the ratification of his mandate in the National Assembly. Lopez is not a member of any party as far as I know and is unusual for an event like this to have the speech be given by someone from outside. Deputy Tarek William Saab was supposed to give the speech but was surprisingly removed at the last minute. (he claims he learned about I from TV). The speech was weird in that the Deputies did not know whether to applaud her or not. She was critical of the opposition and intellectuals, but was also critical of the Government. She asked for long termed thinking, conciliation and dialogue on the part of the Government and said the Government had to lead this process. She called for respect of human rights, suggesting they were not being respected. She closed by calling for avoiding totalitarian and despotic temptations and told Chávez he had to find the path to a dialogue. The Deputies of the National assembly were mostly lukewarm towards Ms. Lopez’ speech, only when Chávez applauded her at the end strongly did they follow their leader. Definitively courageous of Ms. López to be so critical of the Government in such a scenario. -Nicolas Maduro proposed extending Chavez term by three years. Well, clearly if Chávez wants to do it, the MVR controlled Assembly will do it for him, but responding to Maduro immediately is the type of thing the opposition has to avoid. Curiously, even some members of Chavez’ party also reacted to Maduro’s proposal which may have been made simply to gain points with the big boss.


 -Chávez has called for his supporters not to step out of the party line. He said he would not accept multiple candidacies and told his supporters to work to that end. Obviously, he ahs a right to do this, the problem is what will be the mechanism used to choose the candidates. Some supporters will be left behind in the process. Curiously, for a Government that claims not to believe in polls, Diosdado Cabello said all candidates would be selected strictly on the basis of who is leading the polls.


 -New Ministries. What else is new? When Chávez first got to power the first thing he did was to reduce the number of Ministries. Since then he has been expanding them. A Minister for Feeding sounds like formalizing Mercal, which distributes food. But Mercal’s basic activity is importing food for distribution under a very obscure cost structure. (The Government pays no import duty, makes no profit, but Mercal’s prices are roughly 10% below market prices, so somebody is making a nice piece of change) The Minister of Housing makes more sense. There are three or four institutions (Fondur, Inavi, Fundabarrios) with overlapping responsibilities for housing and organizing in a single entity makes a lot of sense.


-Land Bill, Land expropriation and the like. To me this is almost a non-issue, I will try to write a long post on this, but I think Chávez is talking about this to pressure the Land Institute into doing something and because the issue is popular with his constituency.

Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi

August 29, 2004

Alberto Quiros Corradi was one of the negotitors between the CD and the CNE on the conditions for the recall vote to take place. He wrote this long letter to Jimmy Carter in today’s El Nacional (by subscription only). I thought it was worth translating because few people like him to tell what exactly was agreed on or not.


Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi


 


Respected President Carter:


 


I would like to begin by thanking you and your team, in and outside Venezuela for the effort made to achieve for our country a Constitutional, peaceful, democratic and electoral solution to the political crisis. In fact, the Carter Center and yourself have contributed with your effort, accompanied by representatives of the OAS, that the signature ratification process (Reafirmazo) would not turn, by the tricks of the Electoral Board (CNE) into a wasted process. That the results favorable to the opposition were respected during the Reafirmazo, allowed for the call for a recall referendum (RR) of President Chávez.


 


Having said that, it is my duty to question the decision of the OAS and the Carter Center to validate the official results given out by the CNE on the RR.


 


The first thing to consider, given the history of the process, is that the opposition has more than sufficient reasons for not trusting the objectivity and impartiality of the CNE. This has been recognized by the Secretary General of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria and, I am sure, by yourself. The CNE showed, time and time again, a clear inclination towards the official position, represented this by the presence, in a Board of five people, of three Directors among which its President, who was supposed to be the decisive vote when there were differences within that body, using a well thought out analysis and clean criteria, never, listen carefully, never accompanied with his vote the two Directors who favor the oppositions side. With that legal advantage of three votes against two, the CNE, among other actions decided:


 


-That the RR vote be electronic


 


-To buy electronic voting machines without an open bidding process, without them having ever been tested in any election. (The machines were purchased originally to cover the regional elections but had to be reprogrammed to adapt them to the requirements of the RR)


 


-During the route to the signature ratification process a number of irregularities were committed  …The most visible one was that of the so called signatures with the same calligraphy, openly criticized by the Carter Center itself.


 


-In preparation for the RR, after we had won, despite the official abuse, the CNE took, among others, the following decisions with a clear official bias:


 


It selectively manipulated the Electoral Registry (REP), moving citizens from their voting center to other regions, including in some cases, to cities abroad. It eliminated persons legally registered to vote. It allowed, without protest, that the Government give ID cards and the Venezuelan nationality to people who were then registered to vote in the REP, without proving their identity or origin.


 


Days before the process it substituted members of the opposition at the electoral polls. It fired many workers of the Electoral Office of recognized professional competence. It substituted electoral officers in the regions and municipalities. All of them were replaced by people that are loyal to the Government.


 


It surprisingly acquired, without the knowledge of the two opposition directors, machines popularly called “fingerprint grabbers” with the supposed objective of preventing any voter from voting twice. Despite the numerous warnings that the opposition made to the Board about their uselessness, lack of functionality and slowness, the official faction in the Board of the CNE insisted in using it only to suspend its use in the middle of the referendum vote due to the delays it caused, which resulted in a great majority of cases that voters had to wait up to ten hours at the voting center in order to cast their vote.


 


Given the above and much more, a minority within the opposition was of the thesis that under such disadvantageous circumstances we should not go to the RR vote. Nevertheless, the majority decided to go to the RR vote for two fundamental reasons: 1) the conviction that the opposition had the majority and would win in the absence of fraud. 2) That to avoid electronic fraud in an untested process, some precaution needed to be taken that would have to be included as obligatory regulations in the process. There were three of them:


 


1)      To avoid electronic fraud in the transmission of the data, each machine would print a record of the vote with the number of Si and No votes. (The only two variables in the process). From that record certified copies would be obtained by the witnesses at each polling station and one of them had to belong to the opposition. If the electronic total of such a record made in Caracas gave a total different that what the opposition had with the records it had, it would be clear that there had been a fraud that could easily be proven.


2)      To avoid electronic fraud in the printing of the record, that is, if the record did not faithfully reflect, by alteration of the program, each machine would produce a receipt with the word Si or No printed on it. Once the voter confirmed that the receipt reflected his/her vote intention, it would be deposited in a closed electoral box placed near the voting machine. To insure the validity of the machine total record it would be sufficient then, to open the electoral box, count the Si and No votes in the receipts and compare it to the record printed by the voting machine. (We had long debates about the convenience that, once the recall vote was completed, all of the boxes be opened, all receipts be counted and the comparison be made between the physical vote and the electronic record. Since there were more than 19 thousand machines, to reduce the possibility that, once opened, one of the parts commit acts of sabotage with this evidence, it was agreed to take a random and representative sample of the universe of all the machines. According to our studies, the selected sample of 1%, that is 199 machines, was sufficiently representative to accept the results)


3)      That the random sample be that-precisely that-a sample without manipulation whose regulation would be agreed with the opposition and made in its presence.


 


Here I allow myself a pause to reiterate that the opposition accepted going to the RR with a verification process shielded against fraud. There could not be alteration, without the fraud being detected of the computerized totals, nor could the records be changed of the total votes deposited in the boxes without the fraud being discovered during the act of manual counting.


 


Well, the CNE violated the rules of the game. It did not allow for the audit of the 199 boxes selected. Only 27 could be audited (an insignificant sample). There was no transparency in the random selection, which may create suspicions that in the selection those machine sand boxes in which electronic fraud was committed were not included (a change in the electronic record). That is why, Mr. Carter, this election should have been declared vitiated the morning of August 16th. 2004. Not only because the opposition alleged that their votes were stolen but because the CNE, the arbiter, violated its own rules and the conditions to go and vote in the RR. I believe that it is a universally accepted rule that in all competitions, if the rules o the game that guarantee and validate its purity are violated, the process is disqualified and its results are unacceptable for the parts that ahs seen its interest affected. This principle applies not only to elections, but to any event, be it political, civil or sports. If in an sports event an athlete is proven to have taken an expressively prohibited drug, he is disqualified and any medal he may have “won” is withdrawn. But if he refuses to submit to the obligatory antidoping tests, he is also disqualified. The CNE, after having agreed to it, refused to submit to the only definitive test about the validity of the electronic mechanism. The manual count, at the site, of the votes and its comparison with the electronic results. If the CNE had complied with the established rules and 199 boxes had been selected and audited and if the random sample had been obtained in a transparent way, the recall process would not be questioned and I would not have written this letter.


 


Frankly I don’t know if the opposition will manage, now, “to prove” its case. My position is that there is nothing to “prove”. The only proof that we need at this stage is to decide is the dispositions and regulations for the process were violated, without which their strict compliance the results are not valid…and that is more than proven.


 


Given the above, I just confess, with all due respect, that it surprised me and still surprises me the diligence with which you rushed to give your very important approval to the process. You thought that an audit post facto, after the evidence had been perturbed (the boxes had been moved from their original location) was sufficient to validate what had already been invalidated. The Carter Center and the OAS have rushed to declare that “the result presented by the CNE is compatible with our controls”. In other words, your “controls” did not include the review of the strict compliance with the rules of the game, nor was it considered important that that it was not validated in situ the electronic process by the only infallible method: To manually count the physical votes and compare them to the electronic results. Would you have similarly guaranteed the results if copies had not been made of the electronic record because the CNE refused to it? The two controls (copy of the record and manual count) were indispensable to be able to declare the process transparent and the results validated.


 


Before I conclude I would like to make some comments about the audit made on August 18yh. And 19th. by agreement between the Carter Center and the OAS.


 


1)      The CNE refused to receive the representatives from the opposition to discuss an audit that would satisfy its concerns about the results.


2)      The Carter Center did not discuss with the opposition the conditions under which the audit was performed. I think that the role of the Carter Center was to facilitate a meeting between the CNE and the opposition to achieve and agreement for the revision and validation of the process, in the same manner in which it was done in the negotiations that took as to the process of the signature ratification.  If the intention was to ‘save” the RR, a new methodology to validate the results could not be “approved: without the approval of the opposition. The Carter Center was a facilitator but not the representative of the Coordinadora Democrática with the CNE.


3)      The Coordinadora Democrática sent an official letter dated Aug. 17th. 2004 in which it delineated the conditions under which it would accept an audit of the process. The CNE to this date, has not answered it.


4)      Once again much like in the process for the RR, the sample that was taken for the second audit, did not fulfill the conditions of transparency that the opposition considered indispensable. Moreover, an outrageous fact took place in that to obtain the random sample the same CNE program that was used to make the RR sample was used, which had already been questioned by the opposition for its lack of transparency.


 


Given this situation, the opposition abstained from being present in an act that it played no role in organizing and the results of which it could not trust. These events will stain forever the results validated by the CNE, the Carter Center and the OASS. There will be no way or manner of convincing the citizens that there was no fraud. The CNE staged a coup d’ etat, when it announced the results without reviewing the process and insure that all regulations had been followed. An impartial referee does not do that, but it must be demanded by an observer if it aspires for the loser to respect the results.


 


It is a shame that the citizens that oppose the regime of Chavez and went to the RR, have remained with the frustration of feeling betrayed and the dangerous conviction that to go to elections and respecting democratic processes, as mechanisms to obtain political change in Venezuela, are useless gestures because the owner of the force will always steal the results


 


I pray to God to it will not be like that.

Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi

August 29, 2004

Alberto Quiros Corradi was one of the negotitors between the CD and the CNE on the conditions for the recall vote to take place. He wrote this long letter to Jimmy Carter in today’s El Nacional (by subscription only). I thought it was worth translating because few people like him to tell what exactly was agreed on or not.


Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi


 


Respected President Carter:


 


I would like to begin by thanking you and your team, in and outside Venezuela for the effort made to achieve for our country a Constitutional, peaceful, democratic and electoral solution to the political crisis. In fact, the Carter Center and yourself have contributed with your effort, accompanied by representatives of the OAS, that the signature ratification process (Reafirmazo) would not turn, by the tricks of the Electoral Board (CNE) into a wasted process. That the results favorable to the opposition were respected during the Reafirmazo, allowed for the call for a recall referendum (RR) of President Chávez.


 


Having said that, it is my duty to question the decision of the OAS and the Carter Center to validate the official results given out by the CNE on the RR.


 


The first thing to consider, given the history of the process, is that the opposition has more than sufficient reasons for not trusting the objectivity and impartiality of the CNE. This has been recognized by the Secretary General of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria and, I am sure, by yourself. The CNE showed, time and time again, a clear inclination towards the official position, represented this by the presence, in a Board of five people, of three Directors among which its President, who was supposed to be the decisive vote when there were differences within that body, using a well thought out analysis and clean criteria, never, listen carefully, never accompanied with his vote the two Directors who favor the oppositions side. With that legal advantage of three votes against two, the CNE, among other actions decided:


 


-That the RR vote be electronic


 


-To buy electronic voting machines without an open bidding process, without them having ever been tested in any election. (The machines were purchased originally to cover the regional elections but had to be reprogrammed to adapt them to the requirements of the RR)


 


-During the route to the signature ratification process a number of irregularities were committed  …The most visible one was that of the so called signatures with the same calligraphy, openly criticized by the Carter Center itself.


 


-In preparation for the RR, after we had won, despite the official abuse, the CNE took, among others, the following decisions with a clear official bias:


 


It selectively manipulated the Electoral Registry (REP), moving citizens from their voting center to other regions, including in some cases, to cities abroad. It eliminated persons legally registered to vote. It allowed, without protest, that the Government give ID cards and the Venezuelan nationality to people who were then registered to vote in the REP, without proving their identity or origin.


 


Days before the process it substituted members of the opposition at the electoral polls. It fired many workers of the Electoral Office of recognized professional competence. It substituted electoral officers in the regions and municipalities. All of them were replaced by people that are loyal to the Government.


 


It surprisingly acquired, without the knowledge of the two opposition directors, machines popularly called “fingerprint grabbers” with the supposed objective of preventing any voter from voting twice. Despite the numerous warnings that the opposition made to the Board about their uselessness, lack of functionality and slowness, the official faction in the Board of the CNE insisted in using it only to suspend its use in the middle of the referendum vote due to the delays it caused, which resulted in a great majority of cases that voters had to wait up to ten hours at the voting center in order to cast their vote.


 


Given the above and much more, a minority within the opposition was of the thesis that under such disadvantageous circumstances we should not go to the RR vote. Nevertheless, the majority decided to go to the RR vote for two fundamental reasons: 1) the conviction that the opposition had the majority and would win in the absence of fraud. 2) That to avoid electronic fraud in an untested process, some precaution needed to be taken that would have to be included as obligatory regulations in the process. There were three of them:


 


1)      To avoid electronic fraud in the transmission of the data, each machine would print a record of the vote with the number of Si and No votes. (The only two variables in the process). From that record certified copies would be obtained by the witnesses at each polling station and one of them had to belong to the opposition. If the electronic total of such a record made in Caracas gave a total different that what the opposition had with the records it had, it would be clear that there had been a fraud that could easily be proven.


2)      To avoid electronic fraud in the printing of the record, that is, if the record did not faithfully reflect, by alteration of the program, each machine would produce a receipt with the word Si or No printed on it. Once the voter confirmed that the receipt reflected his/her vote intention, it would be deposited in a closed electoral box placed near the voting machine. To insure the validity of the machine total record it would be sufficient then, to open the electoral box, count the Si and No votes in the receipts and compare it to the record printed by the voting machine. (We had long debates about the convenience that, once the recall vote was completed, all of the boxes be opened, all receipts be counted and the comparison be made between the physical vote and the electronic record. Since there were more than 19 thousand machines, to reduce the possibility that, once opened, one of the parts commit acts of sabotage with this evidence, it was agreed to take a random and representative sample of the universe of all the machines. According to our studies, the selected sample of 1%, that is 199 machines, was sufficiently representative to accept the results)


3)      That the random sample be that-precisely that-a sample without manipulation whose regulation would be agreed with the opposition and made in its presence.


 


Here I allow myself a pause to reiterate that the opposition accepted going to the RR with a verification process shielded against fraud. There could not be alteration, without the fraud being detected of the computerized totals, nor could the records be changed of the total votes deposited in the boxes without the fraud being discovered during the act of manual counting.


 


Well, the CNE violated the rules of the game. It did not allow for the audit of the 199 boxes selected. Only 27 could be audited (an insignificant sample). There was no transparency in the random selection, which may create suspicions that in the selection those machine sand boxes in which electronic fraud was committed were not included (a change in the electronic record). That is why, Mr. Carter, this election should have been declared vitiated the morning of August 16th. 2004. Not only because the opposition alleged that their votes were stolen but because the CNE, the arbiter, violated its own rules and the conditions to go and vote in the RR. I believe that it is a universally accepted rule that in all competitions, if the rules o the game that guarantee and validate its purity are violated, the process is disqualified and its results are unacceptable for the parts that ahs seen its interest affected. This principle applies not only to elections, but to any event, be it political, civil or sports. If in an sports event an athlete is proven to have taken an expressively prohibited drug, he is disqualified and any medal he may have “won” is withdrawn. But if he refuses to submit to the obligatory antidoping tests, he is also disqualified. The CNE, after having agreed to it, refused to submit to the only definitive test about the validity of the electronic mechanism. The manual count, at the site, of the votes and its comparison with the electronic results. If the CNE had complied with the established rules and 199 boxes had been selected and audited and if the random sample had been obtained in a transparent way, the recall process would not be questioned and I would not have written this letter.


 


Frankly I don’t know if the opposition will manage, now, “to prove” its case. My position is that there is nothing to “prove”. The only proof that we need at this stage is to decide is the dispositions and regulations for the process were violated, without which their strict compliance the results are not valid…and that is more than proven.


 


Given the above, I just confess, with all due respect, that it surprised me and still surprises me the diligence with which you rushed to give your very important approval to the process. You thought that an audit post facto, after the evidence had been perturbed (the boxes had been moved from their original location) was sufficient to validate what had already been invalidated. The Carter Center and the OAS have rushed to declare that “the result presented by the CNE is compatible with our controls”. In other words, your “controls” did not include the review of the strict compliance with the rules of the game, nor was it considered important that that it was not validated in situ the electronic process by the only infallible method: To manually count the physical votes and compare them to the electronic results. Would you have similarly guaranteed the results if copies had not been made of the electronic record because the CNE refused to it? The two controls (copy of the record and manual count) were indispensable to be able to declare the process transparent and the results validated.


 


Before I conclude I would like to make some comments about the audit made on August 18yh. And 19th. by agreement between the Carter Center and the OAS.


 


1)      The CNE refused to receive the representatives from the opposition to discuss an audit that would satisfy its concerns about the results.


2)      The Carter Center did not discuss with the opposition the conditions under which the audit was performed. I think that the role of the Carter Center was to facilitate a meeting between the CNE and the opposition to achieve and agreement for the revision and validation of the process, in the same manner in which it was done in the negotiations that took as to the process of the signature ratification.  If the intention was to ‘save” the RR, a new methodology to validate the results could not be “approved: without the approval of the opposition. The Carter Center was a facilitator but not the representative of the Coordinadora Democrática with the CNE.


3)      The Coordinadora Democrática sent an official letter dated Aug. 17th. 2004 in which it delineated the conditions under which it would accept an audit of the process. The CNE to this date, has not answered it.


4)      Once again much like in the process for the RR, the sample that was taken for the second audit, did not fulfill the conditions of transparency that the opposition considered indispensable. Moreover, an outrageous fact took place in that to obtain the random sample the same CNE program that was used to make the RR sample was used, which had already been questioned by the opposition for its lack of transparency.


 


Given this situation, the opposition abstained from being present in an act that it played no role in organizing and the results of which it could not trust. These events will stain forever the results validated by the CNE, the Carter Center and the OASS. There will be no way or manner of convincing the citizens that there was no fraud. The CNE staged a coup d’ etat, when it announced the results without reviewing the process and insure that all regulations had been followed. An impartial referee does not do that, but it must be demanded by an observer if it aspires for the loser to respect the results.


 


It is a shame that the citizens that oppose the regime of Chavez and went to the RR, have remained with the frustration of feeling betrayed and the dangerous conviction that to go to elections and respecting democratic processes, as mechanisms to obtain political change in Venezuela, are useless gestures because the owner of the force will always steal the results


 


I pray to God to it will not be like that.

Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi

August 29, 2004

Alberto Quiros Corradi was one of the negotitors between the CD and the CNE on the conditions for the recall vote to take place. He wrote this long letter to Jimmy Carter in today’s El Nacional (by subscription only). I thought it was worth translating because few people like him to tell what exactly was agreed on or not.


Letter to Jimmy Carter by Alberto Quiros Corradi


 


Respected President Carter:


 


I would like to begin by thanking you and your team, in and outside Venezuela for the effort made to achieve for our country a Constitutional, peaceful, democratic and electoral solution to the political crisis. In fact, the Carter Center and yourself have contributed with your effort, accompanied by representatives of the OAS, that the signature ratification process (Reafirmazo) would not turn, by the tricks of the Electoral Board (CNE) into a wasted process. That the results favorable to the opposition were respected during the Reafirmazo, allowed for the call for a recall referendum (RR) of President Chávez.


 


Having said that, it is my duty to question the decision of the OAS and the Carter Center to validate the official results given out by the CNE on the RR.


 


The first thing to consider, given the history of the process, is that the opposition has more than sufficient reasons for not trusting the objectivity and impartiality of the CNE. This has been recognized by the Secretary General of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria and, I am sure, by yourself. The CNE showed, time and time again, a clear inclination towards the official position, represented this by the presence, in a Board of five people, of three Directors among which its President, who was supposed to be the decisive vote when there were differences within that body, using a well thought out analysis and clean criteria, never, listen carefully, never accompanied with his vote the two Directors who favor the oppositions side. With that legal advantage of three votes against two, the CNE, among other actions decided:


 


-That the RR vote be electronic


 


-To buy electronic voting machines without an open bidding process, without them having ever been tested in any election. (The machines were purchased originally to cover the regional elections but had to be reprogrammed to adapt them to the requirements of the RR)


 


-During the route to the signature ratification process a number of irregularities were committed  …The most visible one was that of the so called signatures with the same calligraphy, openly criticized by the Carter Center itself.


 


-In preparation for the RR, after we had won, despite the official abuse, the CNE took, among others, the following decisions with a clear official bias:


 


It selectively manipulated the Electoral Registry (REP), moving citizens from their voting center to other regions, including in some cases, to cities abroad. It eliminated persons legally registered to vote. It allowed, without protest, that the Government give ID cards and the Venezuelan nationality to people who were then registered to vote in the REP, without proving their identity or origin.


 


Days before the process it substituted members of the opposition at the electoral polls. It fired many workers of the Electoral Office of recognized professional competence. It substituted electoral officers in the regions and municipalities. All of them were replaced by people that are loyal to the Government.


 


It surprisingly acquired, without the knowledge of the two opposition directors, machines popularly called “fingerprint grabbers” with the supposed objective of preventing any voter from voting twice. Despite the numerous warnings that the opposition made to the Board about their uselessness, lack of functionality and slowness, the official faction in the Board of the CNE insisted in using it only to suspend its use in the middle of the referendum vote due to the delays it caused, which resulted in a great majority of cases that voters had to wait up to ten hours at the voting center in order to cast their vote.


 


Given the above and much more, a minority within the opposition was of the thesis that under such disadvantageous circumstances we should not go to the RR vote. Nevertheless, the majority decided to go to the RR vote for two fundamental reasons: 1) the conviction that the opposition had the majority and would win in the absence of fraud. 2) That to avoid electronic fraud in an untested process, some precaution needed to be taken that would have to be included as obligatory regulations in the process. There were three of them:


 


1)      To avoid electronic fraud in the transmission of the data, each machine would print a record of the vote with the number of Si and No votes. (The only two variables in the process). From that record certified copies would be obtained by the witnesses at each polling station and one of them had to belong to the opposition. If the electronic total of such a record made in Caracas gave a total different that what the opposition had with the records it had, it would be clear that there had been a fraud that could easily be proven.


2)      To avoid electronic fraud in the printing of the record, that is, if the record did not faithfully reflect, by alteration of the program, each machine would produce a receipt with the word Si or No printed on it. Once the voter confirmed that the receipt reflected his/her vote intention, it would be deposited in a closed electoral box placed near the voting machine. To insure the validity of the machine total record it would be sufficient then, to open the electoral box, count the Si and No votes in the receipts and compare it to the record printed by the voting machine. (We had long debates about the convenience that, once the recall vote was completed, all of the boxes be opened, all receipts be counted and the comparison be made between the physical vote and the electronic record. Since there were more than 19 thousand machines, to reduce the possibility that, once opened, one of the parts commit acts of sabotage with this evidence, it was agreed to take a random and representative sample of the universe of all the machines. According to our studies, the selected sample of 1%, that is 199 machines, was sufficiently representative to accept the results)


3)      That the random sample be that-precisely that-a sample without manipulation whose regulation would be agreed with the opposition and made in its presence.


 


Here I allow myself a pause to reiterate that the opposition accepted going to the RR with a verification process shielded against fraud. There could not be alteration, without the fraud being detected of the computerized totals, nor could the records be changed of the total votes deposited in the boxes without the fraud being discovered during the act of manual counting.


 


Well, the CNE violated the rules of the game. It did not allow for the audit of the 199 boxes selected. Only 27 could be audited (an insignificant sample). There was no transparency in the random selection, which may create suspicions that in the selection those machine sand boxes in which electronic fraud was committed were not included (a change in the electronic record). That is why, Mr. Carter, this election should have been declared vitiated the morning of August 16th. 2004. Not only because the opposition alleged that their votes were stolen but because the CNE, the arbiter, violated its own rules and the conditions to go and vote in the RR. I believe that it is a universally accepted rule that in all competitions, if the rules o the game that guarantee and validate its purity are violated, the process is disqualified and its results are unacceptable for the parts that ahs seen its interest affected. This principle applies not only to elections, but to any event, be it political, civil or sports. If in an sports event an athlete is proven to have taken an expressively prohibited drug, he is disqualified and any medal he may have “won” is withdrawn. But if he refuses to submit to the obligatory antidoping tests, he is also disqualified. The CNE, after having agreed to it, refused to submit to the only definitive test about the validity of the electronic mechanism. The manual count, at the site, of the votes and its comparison with the electronic results. If the CNE had complied with the established rules and 199 boxes had been selected and audited and if the random sample had been obtained in a transparent way, the recall process would not be questioned and I would not have written this letter.


 


Frankly I don’t know if the opposition will manage, now, “to prove” its case. My position is that there is nothing to “prove”. The only proof that we need at this stage is to decide is the dispositions and regulations for the process were violated, without which their strict compliance the results are not valid…and that is more than proven.


 


Given the above, I just confess, with all due respect, that it surprised me and still surprises me the diligence with which you rushed to give your very important approval to the process. You thought that an audit post facto, after the evidence had been perturbed (the boxes had been moved from their original location) was sufficient to validate what had already been invalidated. The Carter Center and the OAS have rushed to declare that “the result presented by the CNE is compatible with our controls”. In other words, your “controls” did not include the review of the strict compliance with the rules of the game, nor was it considered important that that it was not validated in situ the electronic process by the only infallible method: To manually count the physical votes and compare them to the electronic results. Would you have similarly guaranteed the results if copies had not been made of the electronic record because the CNE refused to it? The two controls (copy of the record and manual count) were indispensable to be able to declare the process transparent and the results validated.


 


Before I conclude I would like to make some comments about the audit made on August 18yh. And 19th. by agreement between the Carter Center and the OAS.


 


1)      The CNE refused to receive the representatives from the opposition to discuss an audit that would satisfy its concerns about the results.


2)      The Carter Center did not discuss with the opposition the conditions under which the audit was performed. I think that the role of the Carter Center was to facilitate a meeting between the CNE and the opposition to achieve and agreement for the revision and validation of the process, in the same manner in which it was done in the negotiations that took as to the process of the signature ratification.  If the intention was to ‘save” the RR, a new methodology to validate the results could not be “approved: without the approval of the opposition. The Carter Center was a facilitator but not the representative of the Coordinadora Democrática with the CNE.


3)      The Coordinadora Democrática sent an official letter dated Aug. 17th. 2004 in which it delineated the conditions under which it would accept an audit of the process. The CNE to this date, has not answered it.


4)      Once again much like in the process for the RR, the sample that was taken for the second audit, did not fulfill the conditions of transparency that the opposition considered indispensable. Moreover, an outrageous fact took place in that to obtain the random sample the same CNE program that was used to make the RR sample was used, which had already been questioned by the opposition for its lack of transparency.


 


Given this situation, the opposition abstained from being present in an act that it played no role in organizing and the results of which it could not trust. These events will stain forever the results validated by the CNE, the Carter Center and the OASS. There will be no way or manner of convincing the citizens that there was no fraud. The CNE staged a coup d’ etat, when it announced the results without reviewing the process and insure that all regulations had been followed. An impartial referee does not do that, but it must be demanded by an observer if it aspires for the loser to respect the results.


 


It is a shame that the citizens that oppose the regime of Chavez and went to the RR, have remained with the frustration of feeling betrayed and the dangerous conviction that to go to elections and respecting democratic processes, as mechanisms to obtain political change in Venezuela, are useless gestures because the owner of the force will always steal the results


 


I pray to God to it will not be like that.

Why I affirm that abstention in the manual vote was abnormally low

August 29, 2004

Many people have questioned (one even called me a liar in the comments!) or simply asked why I say that the voting centers with manual count had a very low abstention, which in my opinion can not be explained. This is derived from noting that abstention went down from 39% to 32%, when the manual count was included in the totals and this represented less than 1.1 million additional votes. But let’s calculate it with more precision:


The CNE has not given a breakdown of the manual count, but my calculation is as follows, using numbers from memory:


 


The first day, the CNE announced the results of the electronic vote (with some manual centers) saying that the No had won with a number that I remember (it has been erased from the web site of the CNE) to be 4.9+ million votes with the SI getting 3.5+ million votes or so. Adding them gives a number of 8.5 million or so.


 


If my memory serves me right (It does not change the essence of the calculation) in this first report the CNE said abstention was very close to 39%. This means that the first report was 8.5 million out of a possible of 13.93 million votes


 


That left a possible 1.1 million additional voters, all of which came from centers with manual vote,  to reach the total number of 14.04 million. The CNE now reports that of those 1.1 million 1.05 million voted, and there are still some centers to be included, thus abstention was extremely low in the manual count, less than 4% and dropping as more “Actas” are taken into account.


 


This result simply does not make sense from many points of view, but that is what the CNE has published. It should also be investigated.

Why I affirm that abstention in the manual vote was abnormally low

August 29, 2004

Many people have questioned (one even called me a liar in the comments!) or simply asked why I say that the voting centers with manual count had a very low abstention, which in my opinion can not be explained. This is derived from noting that abstention went down from 39% to 32%, when the manual count was included in the totals and this represented less than 1.1 million additional votes. But let’s calculate it with more precision:


The CNE has not given a breakdown of the manual count, but my calculation is as follows, using numbers from memory:


 


The first day, the CNE announced the results of the electronic vote (with some manual centers) saying that the No had won with a number that I remember (it has been erased from the web site of the CNE) to be 4.9+ million votes with the SI getting 3.5+ million votes or so. Adding them gives a number of 8.5 million or so.


 


If my memory serves me right (It does not change the essence of the calculation) in this first report the CNE said abstention was very close to 39%. This means that the first report was 8.5 million out of a possible of 13.93 million votes


 


That left a possible 1.1 million additional voters, all of which came from centers with manual vote,  to reach the total number of 14.04 million. The CNE now reports that of those 1.1 million 1.05 million voted, and there are still some centers to be included, thus abstention was extremely low in the manual count, less than 4% and dropping as more “Actas” are taken into account.


 


This result simply does not make sense from many points of view, but that is what the CNE has published. It should also be investigated.

Chavez on Gaviria

August 28, 2004

I have to mention Chavez’ not so kind words on OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, because Gaviria said an institution like the CNE could not act in partisan fashion:


“How undignified of Doctor Gaviria to say this.How undignified! Complacent with the Empire, looking for approval. Who knows what calculations he is making towards the future? Nobody knows, because he belongs to that caste of ambitious people that is always calculating, let’s see, this door is now closed for me, which is the next one…Thanks God that he is leaving the OAS. It made me sad and gave me shame just to hear him…irresponsible of Dr. Gaviria to make those statements so far away from reality… don’t be a liar Dr. Gaviria!”

Today’s Zapatazo

August 28, 2004

Could not miss posting today’s”Zapatazo”from El Nacional (Thanks Ana I.):



The power of the process is made of the Devil’s Excrement

The Carter Center: With observers like these, who needs observers?

August 27, 2004

Reading the audit report by the Carter Center is painful. Painful because it is sloppy, painful because it leaves a lot of material out or says things without explaining that what was done went either against the rules of the audit, an audit or the agreements made. Finally the technical aspects described are so poor and unconvincing that it makes you wonder who wrote it and if anyone approved it before releasing it. It makes you wonder if the reason that it is only available in Spanish is so that many will have no critical access to it.


Let’s look at some details:


 


-The report does not say that the boxes with the ballots were not under the observation of the Carter Center for over 65 hours, but goes in painstaking detail about how there were two observers from the OAS and the Center per state after that “grace” period and the like.


 


-The report fails to mention that the opposition requested, but was denied the opportunity to choose 50 ballot boxes to audit. This is without doubt the biggest mystery in the whole process, why didn’t the CNE allow the opposition to pick some voting centers, forcing a random sample after denying any possibility of the random sample during the petition drive to have the recall? CNE Director said in that case, he did not trust a sample and the issue was too important. Talk about a double standard, or is it a single one?


 


-The report mentions that 50 extra boxes were picked in case there were problems, but fails to mention that indeed there were problems and some of the boxes were actually missing and were never found!


 


-Why did the Carter Center fail to follow the agreement with the opposition that the random number generator supplied would be that of the center and instead, the one from the CNE was used? Moreover, all sorts of technical detail is given, but no mention I made of how the seed was chosen. Indeed, it does mention it was the same generator used on Sunday, if it had the same seed; the sequence was exactly the same! Bruni in the comments section has been wondering about this point from day one and she was right to worry!


 


-The report says that ballot boxes were “in several garrisons” while the CNE assured everyone that they were in the Fuerte Tiuna military facility. The report also talks about two states where the material was still “disperse” three days after the vote!


 


-The other report by the Carter Center is the final report on the recall vote. It has similar problems as the audit report. It does note that on Aug. 15th, “hot audit” 192 ballot boxes were supposed to be audited, but only 82 were. Moreover, it fails to say that opposition representatives were only present in 27 of them and in those, the Si vote won 63% to 37%, despite the fact that these came from seven states in which the No had won in five. Moreover, these showed no discrepancies.


 


-The report fails to note that while abstention was 37% in the electronic vote, it was practically zero in the remote areas where the vote was manual, exactly the opposite of what has happened historically and what happened in this election in similar areas where machines were deployed! Any of my Chavista readers can give me a coherent and plausible explanation for this not so small anomaly?


 


-The report mentions in passing the problem with the total number of Si votes coinciding from center to center. However, the Carter Center continues to consider the coincidences at the level of the “mesas” (tables) and not at the center level. There is a factor of five increase in coincidences when the problem is considered at the center level. No detail was provided as to what exactly the two “foreign statisticians” looked at in their studies to say that it was a mathematical probability for this to happen.


 


-The report does not even get right the level of abstention, the number they give (73% of the people voting) has nothing to do with any of the numbers reported by the CNE in any of its reports.


 


Very sloppy reports on the part of an institution that should provide international and professional class work in a process in which attention to detail and critical analysis is crucial to the accomplishment of their goals. As the saying goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” or in its new version: “With observers like these, who needs observers?”

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