It has become hard to judge what exactly is happening inside of the CNE. Statements made by various Directors of the Electoral body are contradictory, some show bad faith, others give explanations that sound reasonable and plausible, but in the end it is hard to form an educated opinion of whatís going on.
This morning, CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez sounded quite reasonable, explaining that the reason that it was decided to go back and review the states whose names begin with the letters A-L was that the same criteria had to be applied to all of the forms reviewed and when these states were verified different criteria were used. However, this failed to explain why the CNE delayed making a decision as to whether the forms with a single handwriting were going to be validated or not. After all, if they are not going to be eliminated anyway, there is no point in going back to them.
The CNE has also failed to explain who and how changed the verification rules in the middle of the process which has been blamed on the CIO of the CNE, Mr. Hernandez. As Teodoro Petkoff reminds us in todayís Tal Cual Editorial, there are people at the lower echelons of the CNE that definitely act on their own and with bad faith.
One positive aspect is that by having equal criteria for all stages and all forms, then the possibility of an injunction in the Supreme Court for unequal treatment is eliminated. This would have been too obvious a reason to postpone the recall even further.
According to CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez, the forms questioned total 33,000 for the opposition recall of the President and 147,000 for the Chavista recall of the opposition Deputies. The difference arises because the pro-Chavze petition drive used the technique of having those at the booths fill out of the information as a general rule, while the opposition only used it for the itinerant forms and for those that asked for help. One measure of whether there is or not bad faith is that based on the last election, the 11 states yet to be revised represent 39.4% of the voting population, implying that no more than approximately 21,500 forms with single handwriting should be found in the revision.
If this estimate were to be correct, the total number of forms with single handwriting would be roughly 55,000 or 550,000 signatures which would still require the CNE to invalidate an additional 15.7% of the remaining signatures in order to block the recall referendum against President Chavez. Sumate, the OAS and the Carter Center had already presented statistical analysis suggesting that at most 5% of the submitted signatures can be disqualified using reasonable criteria.
On the negative side, tonight, opposition witnesses were denied the right to take notes while watching the verification of the forms and were saying that the criteria being used were tougher than before and the simple repetition of handwriting in two lines was now being used to set aside a form and declare it under observation, while the CNE had decided only those with the same handwriting for the full form should be considered.
On the positive side, CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez said that a decision will be made before February 29th. and that today the timetable for all recalls under consideration would be approved by the Board of the CNE.
On other news, the Carter Center expressed its concern about the pro-Chavez forces surrounding the CNE headquarters and Saturdayís march, but the opposition has decided to have the march go to the CNE to avoid violence (Canít find a link to that).
Meanwhile the Attorney General who is supposed to uphold and enforce the law, expressed his concern about the charges against the CNE by the opposition, but failed to say anything about the fact that the CNE was violating the law by not deciding by tomorrow.
To make things even more surreal, the Vice-President shows up on TV saying that there are no riots anywhere in Venezuela in protest and nothing that is being reported is happening. The US State Department warns its citizens that there may be violence in Venezuela and I guess these pictures from todayís TV broadcast of the riots and protests used well-known techniques by the Irish filmmakers of ďThe Revolution will not be televisedĒ to make the country think there were riots, using images from months past:
(Last picture was from tonight after the VP spoke)