Archive for June 8th, 2006

Strong reaction to CNE decision on the audit of the Electoral Registry

June 8, 2006

As pro-Chavez groups threw tear gas at Teodoro Petkoff after his presentation at Universidad Central de Venezuela (Do I hear there is democracy here from any PSF reader?), opposition figures have begun to assume their positions on the issue of the REP audit. Petkoff himself in his Editorial in Tal Cual said “The decison by the Board of the CNE goes in the sense opposite to offering guarantees for electoral particiapation, which have been so severely damaged in the last few years, as evidenced by the election last December”. Later he said “It is unaceptable for them to propose such an audit of the registry which is nothing but a joke, not serious and which shows a lack of respect for Venezuelans. We should protest it with lots of energy”.

Meanwhile Zulia Governor Manuel Rosales said that his party Nuevo Tiempo will do an independent and parallel audit of the Electoral Registry (REP). Primero Justicia candidate Julio Borges called for the three universities excluded from the process to do their independent audit using the 2005 registry. COPEI’s candidate Sergio Omar Calderon said the decision is ” a blow to the trust of the voters and weakens even more the possibility of going to an electoral process which is transparent and can be trusted”.

Thus, there will be a battle. Once again, Rosales comes up with the most politically savy proposal, let’s do our own audit and we will see. That ought to worry the Chavista members of the CNE.

CNE blocks any serious attempt at auditing the Electoral Registry

June 8, 2006

What we feared became true last night: The CNE managed to make the audit
of the Electoral Registry (REP) appear to the world to be respectable, but all it is simply a charade
which will make the world believe there was truly an honest audit but in truth
is simply a grotesque and dishonest manipulation by our electoral authorities. Simply
one more fraud! 

As you recall, three universities, Universidad Central de Venezuela,
Universidad Simon Bolivar and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello had months ago
made a proposal to audit the registry. When the new CNE was named, some
universities questioned why only those three should be involved and the CNE
“invited” seven universities and a scientific research institute to participate
in the audit, in the interest of more democracy, participation and transparency.

For the last week, the three universities that originated the project
have been objecting to the fact that the committee became basically a political
committee in which the seven “new” institutions would vote as block drowning
the technical proposals of the original three and preempting them. In the end,
these three universities simply said that they strongly disagreed with what was
approved, in that the CNE was limiting the audit to the internal consistency of
the registry and a more thorough job had to be performed in the interest of transparency
and in order to have everyone trust the registry.  

Now, clearly this is a technical issue. You need experts in databases,
demographics, modeling, statisticians and the like. Therefore, the CNE should
ask academic institutions that have expertise in these fields to participate if
it wanted additional input or a wider range of experts. Let’s first find a way
to evaluate qualitatively the institutions involved on both sides. 

An easy way would be to look for the total number of publications from
each institution last year or in a longer period of time, but this may be too
stringent a requirement for some young universities. There is a simpler and
more self-consistent way, which is to look at the Program for the Promotion of
Research (PPI)
which is run by the Government itself via the Ministry of
Science. This program is a yearly evaluation of credentials for which Professors
need to show either that they are “active” via some form of publication in a
regular fashion or that they are at the beginning stages of a career in
research in either the social or the natural sciences, even if one has no
publications. This seems fair, since the technical requirements for the audit
fall in the general area of sociology, statistics, mathematics and computer
science. You would think that any well qualified Professor in the academic
world in these areas, would and should be part of such a system. Additionally
those that qualify get paid an additional amount of money every month, so it is
your own interest to qualify.

Well, there are 4432 Professors and/or researchers who are part of the
PPI. Of these, only 58 are from the six universities that the CNE requested
help from, while 1,215 are from the three original universities that submitted
the first proposal, UCV, USB and UCAB. Moreover, only one of the six
universities in the CNE group ranks in the top ten in the PPI among public
universities in Venezuela,
this is Universidad Simon Rodriguez which actually has 45 of the 58 Professors
that qualified for it from this group, leaving a scant 13 from the other five!
In fact, three of the six have zero Professors in the PPI, including the Maritime University whose technical connection
with the audit is tenous at best!

Curiously, the only one in the top ten, Universidad Simon Rodriguez, has
no technical careers, but it specializes in Education (including Natural
Sciences), business and food technology. Why did the CNE not invite the other
seven Universities in the top ten, the majority of which have Math, Computer
Science, sociology and engineering departments in favor of these obscure
institutions with little relation to the technical issues at hand and the
lowest academic levels in the country? I wonder if the CNE members would do the
same thing if they were looking for someone to operate on their brains, for

Additionally, the six universities that are participating fall under the
regime of experimental universities which have limited autonomy and in many
cases do not even elect the people that run them, but are directly named by the
Government, i.e. Chavez himself. This
has been covered quite well today here (In Spanish) in Cuentos Intrascendentes.

Case apart in the CNE group is the seventh member, the Venezuelan Institute
for Scientific Research (IVIC). This research institute does have 260
researchers who did qualify for the PPI. However, the CNE “invitation”
specified that no statisticians
should be in the group and that the committee from IVIC be composed of “more
than just the researchers”. Thus, IVIC’s representatives to the audit are a
sociologist who specializes in the History of Science, two researchers from
Anthropology, two technical people from Anthropology, two technical people from
Physics and the Head of the computer network. Curiously, no one from the math
department was involved. Additionally, recall that IVIC’s Director was named by
Chavez despite the fact that he lost the election by something like 60 to 17
within the community of researchers of the institution. So, he is clearly pro-Chavez
and willing to defend the revolution.  

Thus, the CNE has managed to do it again, manipulate the process in such
a way so as to make it a charade, but make it appear respectable on the surface
in the eyes of international opinion and even in the eyes of Venezuelans who
may think the Bolivarian University and the others in the group have any
semblance of academic excellence or technical expertise. All of this in the
name of democracy and transparency. But the truth is that this is one more fraudulent
process by the Chavez administration to control and cheat in any electoral
process that takes place in order to preserve Chavez and his revolution in
power and trampling over democratic principles and fair practices.

I can already see the President of
the CNE gloating after the audit that they the whole process was transparent
because these excellent group of institutions audited the questioned registry.

Clearly, there is a lot to hide in
Electoral Registry, but we already knew that!

Alek Boyd sues London Mayor for calling him a terrorist

June 8, 2006

Kudos to Alek Boyd for suing the Mayor of London for calling him a terrorist. Hope he wins! I buy the drinks if he does!