Archive for May 9th, 2006

New pro-Government CNE members send wrong signals in their first interviews to the press

May 9, 2006

In the
last few days, there have been a number of interviews in the press with one of
the new members of the Electoral Board. In them, some of them, while attempting
to sound impartial, send a terrible signal, in my personal opinion, as to the
future of their decisions.

There were
four interviews in the press, one with Janeth Hernandez (Tal Cual, page 6, May
8th. 2006
), Sandra Oblitas (in charge of the all important electoral
registry, El Nacional, Monday May 8th. page A4)), German Yepez (El
Nacional, May 7th. 2006, page A4
), Janeth Hernandez (El Nacional,
May 6th. 2006, page A4
) and Vicente Diaz (El Nacional, May 5th.
2006, page A4
). All of these are by subscription only and only one member is missing, Tibisay Lucena, the current Electoral Board President, who was part of the previous one and thus, well known in that she supported Jorge Rodriguez at every step and breath.

First of
all, the three members of the Board who are considered pro-Chavez, claim independence,
impartiality and all of that. However, all of them say that they consider the
auditing of any more than 5% of the votes ridiculous from a technical point of
view. They say this, even after accepting that the previous Board may have had
less credibility because of some of the decisions. They claim that this is a
technical problem and should be handled as such, but they fail to acknowledge
that none of the audits since the recall vote were actually completed as
promised and the audit performed in the December election was not a live or hot
audit, but instead was supposed to be completed in five weeks, which did not

tough on this issue was Board member Janeth Rodriguez, who in the Tal Cual
interview said that “the rules of the game are not negotiated” or “The old CNE
made too many concessions that I would not have accepted”. Curiously, while
defending technical issues, she admits that only 43% of Venezuelans trust the
electoral system, something which apparently she fails to take into account I
her “technical” decisions and considerations. She is actually quite strong
telling El Nacional that she disagrees with manually counting 100% of the
ballots. “Never that!” she said in that interview.

The next
issue in which they are all quite strong is the matter of using the fingerprint
capture machines. Two of the new Board members (Hernandez and Oblitas) think
they should be used in order to guarantee the one man, one vote precept; the
third one German Yepez says he is “open” but thinks the are an important
element to guarantee the one man, one vote concept. However, none of them
mention that it ahs always been shown that the number of people voting twice
was simply insignificant, while it is well known that the fingerprint machines
have been used both as an element of fear to suggest to voters that it may be
known how they vote, as well as the fact that by having access to the real time
data, the CNE can tell the Government how things are going in terms of
attendance and help them make decisions like keep polls open beyond the time
they are supposed to be opened as was done in three of the last four elections.
(In the fourth one, there were no machines so it could not be monitored)

Even more
laughable are Oblitas’ defense of the Capel audit of the voter registry. Capel
only audited up the year 2000, while the huge jump in new people registered and
irregularities in the registry took place in 2003 and 2004. Second, the
registry was never handed over to all political parties as stated by law, but
nevertheless turned over to the Government and its political hacks repeatedly
in 2004 and 2005 for political harassment and the violations of rights of
Venezuelans. Curiously, this is simply ignored by all of the new board members,
except, of course, the lonely so called voice of the opposition in that Board.

Even more
naïve is Oblitas’ statement that she has no basis to think that the electoral
registry may have irregularities. It is well known that both the identification
and registration processes in 2004 and 2005, did not follow the rules and
regulations in terms of checking identities, addresses and facts before the
issuing of ID cards, as required by law and that there are numerous
irregularities, such as 2,000 Gonzalez’s that were born on the same day, people
who are over 150 years old and the like.

Even more
laughable are the repeated statements that criteria should be technical and not
political. What is this? The return of Carlos Andres’ technocrats? The CNE is
in the end at the service of the voters, not the Government or technical
matters. It is supposed to guarantee the precision of the vote, but also to
develop the confidence of the voters in most of the electorate, something that
goes well beyond simple technical decisions. To say otherwise is to cynically
try to misrepresent or misinterpret the role of the Electoral Board in
Venezuelan political life. Even Yepez acknowledges this, saying that
“everything that generates more confidence is necessary”, but later he says
that auditing 3% of the ballots should be sufficient.

All in
all, too many inconsistencies in the statements by the new members of the CNE
to feel comfortable about it. Despite their many claims of impartiality and a “new”
CNE, they sound like the same old, same old Electoral Board. Fortunately or unfortunately
for us, the new CNE will have to define many of the matters within the next
month, so that the opposition will be able to judge whether the new Board
members truly want a transparent and simple system that can make everyone
comfortable with the results or whether the partisan acts, votes and secrecy of
the Jorge Rodriguez era are still there.

So far, it
does not sound very positive. I hope I am wrong, for the sake of democracy in Venezuela.