While we all know that Hugo Chavez and his Government control all independent powers, they no longer even seem to care about appearances. While we know that the CNE is absolutely controlled by Hugo Chavez and they do whatever he pleases even if it in violation of the law and the Constitution, the recent actions of the CNE are absolutely ridiculous.
Yesterday El Nacional revealed that in December (Image above), the CNE ordered the printing of 295,000 instructional pamphlets for polling tables, and another 60,000 for the the members of electoral boards at a cost of Bs. 720,000 (US$ 334,000) and even if the National Assembly had not even yet considered the question or requested the upcoming illegal referendum, those pamphlets already included the date of the referendum as February 15th.
This shows that elections are no longer fair and the political rights of Venezuelans who do not support Hugo Chavez are routinely violated by the Venezuelan Government and its autocrat. Recall that it took the opposition eleven months between requesting the recall vote against Hugo Chavez in 2004 and the CNE found repeated excuses to delay and boycott the democratic rights of the opposition as well as the voters, forcing the petitioners to cross every t and dot every i at least twice.
This time around however, they have bent over backwards and satisfied Chavez’ illegal whim in record time, with five weeks between the time he first spoke about the possibility of a vote and the Electoral Board approving it. Moreover, the CNE says that they can hold the vote in four weeks. I am sure they can throw money at the problem and make it work, but there is a clear danger that not everything will be ready on time. (And Chavez will find a way to blame the opposition)
Because in the next for weeks the CNE has to reprogram all the voting machines, distribute them and have them checked. The logistics are not simple.
Chavez is so cynical that as four members of the Board of the CNE follow his every order, he accuses Board member Vicente Diaz of being a political actor of the opposition. All Diaz has done is ask that the law be followed. From not opening the Electoral registry, to allowing the question for the referendum, to not state explicitly what Chavez is asking for, to now violating the Electoral law by approving that polls stay open until 6 PM, the Electoral Board has simply become a joke.
Venezuelans have nobody to appeal to, the Supreme Court rules routinely on Chavez’ side even when the law and the Constitution are blatantly violated. You know something is fishy when the Venezuelan Supreme Court uses jurisprudence from Peruvian Dictator Alberto Fujimori’s Military Supreme Court, in order to argue that a ruling by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights is not valid. Funny how the military left and the military right always end up looking so much alike, no?
And you have to worry when the autocrat himself orders that student demonstrations be met with the “best” tear gas if they dare block the streets. I don’t know what “best” means in this case, but Chavez certainly sees to have a clear ides. “Best” to him must be the most aggressive and toxic one in another clear sign that Chavez cares little for the rights of others.
What Chavez is afraid of is that the students lead the battle against his illegal referendum, so he wants to intimidate them. He may be surprised.
The next fours weeks will be tricky and whether Chavez wins or loses they will get even trickier after that as the level of conflict in Venezuelan politics and society can only increase whatever the outcome may be.