By Alejandro Pena Esclusa
In the Presidential Elections of 2006, a massive fraud was committed. But this fraud began years ago when Chavez launched his Presidential campagin in 1998 promising change; he also vowed to end corruption and to solve the problems of the Venezuelan people and the country gave him a chance.
But instead of doing what he promised, he devoted himself to the promotion of the Castro-Communist model, persecution of the opposition, and exporting a model that contradicted Venezuela’s national identity throughout Latin America which greatly diminished his popularity.In fact, the fraud of 2006 began with the Constituent Assembly of 1999. The real objective of this body was not to draft a new Constitution but to put an end to the independent governmental institutions, replacing the leadership with sympathizers of the “Revolution.”
This is how Chavez took control over everything; with a tight grip on the legislature, he in essence, enacted laws that restricted liberty, freedom of speech, economic freedom, and the right to protest.
At the same time, the government created armed paramilitary groups that were protected by the administration to intimidate the opposition (there is an image of Lina Ron, a political activist member of the Bolivarian Circles) and even attack them with weapons, if necessary. As a result, an environment was created where democracy, liberty and freedom of expression began to fall apart.
Control over PDVSA (the national oil company) gave the regime an inexhaustible blank check not only to finance Chavez’s international projects but also to promote his personal objectives at home. Control over the national Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral or CNE) allowed the administration to impose a huge amount of unacceptable prerequisites to discourage possible candidates, that would eventually invalidate any election. An inflated electoral register; unreliable voting machines that can be easily tampered with; an unverifiable ballot counting system; machines to match fingerprints that eliminate vote secrecy, in sum, they arranged everything so that the outcome would be favorable to the regime. To prove that the CNE was never impartial and was always subordinate to the government, the former President of that institution today is Vice-President of Venezuela, Mr. Jorge Rodríguez Pérez.
*The following is an analysis of Mr. Genaro Mosquera, former Vice-President of “Universidad Central de Venezuela,” dated November 2006.
“The group of investigators of the ‘Central University of Venezuela’ began to investigate, in particular, the deficiencies of the electoral register. Actually, we determined that the register had substantial irregularities, especially, from the moment that it went from 11 million people on 2003 to 16 million in 2006. The listing had a series of problems that were reported to the authorities publicly, especially with regards to voters with two, three and even four identity documents, nationalization of foreigners that did not comply with the law, difficulty with the identification of voters, problems with their physical location and trouble with dates of birth that appeared many times. In addition, there were huge numbers of people that lived at the same address.
It has been reported that 1,300,000 people did not have an address and now it is difficult to understand how they were allowed on the electoral registers, and where they were supposed to vote. Furthermore, no one has explained why so many people had several identity documents and how they were able to nationalize so many foreigners.
There is a very important factor: one-third of the municipalities of the country have more voters than population, which means that there is substantial migration of voters. It was established that 1,565,000 people migrated (their residential addresses were changed). As a consequence of an “audit” carried out by the CNE, 1,339,123 people appear as new voters that were automatically registered when they obtained their identity documents from January to November. These votes were distributed in the states of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Bolívar, Carabobo, Capital Miranda region, Táchira and Zulia.
Also, it is worth noting that 1,270,000 people’s information was changed without obtaining a permit from the government (altered without their authorization). The names, addresses, last names, and even the dates of birth were changed. We could verify by the official figures of the CNE that the dates of birth of 178,000 people were altered. This was done to demonstrate that they took the accusations seriously and that the people that appeared with the same date of birth, in the same state, and with the same name, were eliminated. Actually, when we examined the data, we figured out that the information had, in fact, been corrected. However, they forgot to remove from the register, 1,336,000 people that were born the same day, at the same time, and in October. When we take a look at the numbers in the actual data, we can clearly observe that October has many more voters so it is evident that the irregularities of the electoral system persist.
The same problem exists with regards to people that are very old who were never removed from the electoral register. In the same data, we can observe that there are people that were born in 1790, and 1850; so that means that from the 39,000 people that are 100 years old or older only a few were eliminated, but many still remain in the electoral register and that means that the system still suffers from the same problems. In addition, when we examined the electoral register that is “up to date,” and we compare it with the mandatory Social Security, we can observe that from the 16,000,000 voters, 3,000,000 have Social Security, from which 90% are public employees who are forced to vote for the regime.
4,700,000 people exist that do not pay taxes and that are not currently employed; there are 8,000,000 people whose information does not appear anywhere and whose average age is 40 years old and if we subtract the students, we are left with 5,000,000 that presumably could be virtual voters.
If we take a look at the structure of the voting locations, it has been argued that there are more people close to the government that preside at the polling places. We also investigated this issue and from the 590,000 people that are residents of these locations, 322,000 have sympathy for the regime while 124,000 belong to the opposition, so the proportion is 3 to 1. This is very dangerous since when the sample boxes are selected to be counted, it is very likely that people close to the regime will be the ones that will choose the boxes that will be taken into account and with one phone call, they can inform the voting centers which ones they can get rid of and which ones should be counted.”
Looking at this context, there is a scenario of illegality that would annul any election. The electoral process is an expression of the will of the people. But if this will is coerced, if the population is intimidated with violence, if public employees are threatened with losing their jobs, then there is no freedom; then the will of the people is not expressed adequately.
Fraud is in the context, in the big picture. An election where there is intimidation, pressure, paramilitary groups, threats against people and where the institutions are completely controlled by the administration, cannot be considered free and fair.The problem is that the opposition leaders, instead of denouncing the serious irregularities, participated in an election where the conditions did not exist for a democratic outcome; they did not condemn the wrongdoings and so, they legitimized the government’s pretensions, making it appear that Chavez had the support of the majority of the population. Where is that majority? During the 2006 Presidential campaign, we did not observe that majority anywhere. The regime had to rent buses to transport people from one city to another so that it would appear that Chavez had popular support while the demonstrations of the opposition were massive.If Chavez really had the majority, wouldn’t he be the one most interested in opening the ballot boxes and counting the votes manually, so that the world could see that he actually did have the support of the majority? Instead of doing this, he oppressed the opposition and incarcerated dissidents. He appears to be afraid that the truth will come out and that people around the world will know that Venezuelans do not support this type of Castro-Communist dictatorship.
Alejandro Pena Esclusa is a leader of the Venezuelan Opposition and founder of the organization, Fuerza Solidaria. He ran against Hugo Chavez in the 1998 presidential elections and lectures widely throughout Latin America.