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2004-08-03 18:40:00
Embassy Caracas
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  CARACAS 002466 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2014

Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor, for Reason 1.5 (


1. (C) Supporters of President Hugo Chavez and the National
Electoral Council (CNE) conducted separate voting simulations
August 1, while the opposition Coordinadora Democratica
rallied supporters to sign its Governance Accord and verify
electoral registry entries. Each side of the referendum
question remains convinced of its inevitable victory two
weeks prior to the August 15 Presidential recall referendum.
One prominent political analyst, however, told the Ambassador
August 1 that Chavez's poll upswings had peaked and the
opposition's standing was improving. End Summary.


Sunday Political Events


2. (U) The Coordinadora Democratica (CD) August 1 organized
8,500 booths close to voting centers throughout Venezuela
staffed by 50,000 volunteers. Voters verified the electoral
register to insure they were registered and whether the
location of the voting center to which they are assigned for
August 15 is correct. The opposition also collected
signatures in support for its "Governance Agreement",
unveiled July 25, which outlines the directives of a possible
transition government if Chavez is voted out of office.
Statements by various opposition leaders indicated that the
simulation went well.

3. (U) Supporters of President Hugo Chavez conducted a
referendum vote simulation August 1 to familiarize people
with the voting procedures and to check voters, electoral
register information. The Chavez supporters said the purpose
of the simulation was also to continue promoting the
achievements of the &Bolivarian revolution8, and to assess
the effectiveness of Comando Maisanta, the organization in
charge of Chavez's campaign. Regional organizers and National
Assembly representatives who support Chavez issued general
statements that they were pleased with the results.

4. (U) Also on August 1, the National Electoral Council (CNE)
held a logistical test to analyze the efficiency of material
distribution and reception, operations, technical support,
and transmission of results for the computerized electoral
machines. The trial included 8,000 voting machine operators
(out of 45,000), 1,000 technical supporters (out of 4,000),
300 supervisors and 50 control operators from CANTV, the
Venezuelan telephone company whose lines will be used to
transmit the electronic results of the Referendum. CNE
vice-president Ezequiel Zamora said that Organization of
American States (OAS) and Carter Center (CC) representatives
were present. Zamora qualified the tests as satisfactory and
told reporters that he did not foresee logistical problems

during the Referendum. Zamora told reporters that as a
result, he downgraded his level orange alert about possible
Referendum delays to yellow.


Win or Lose?


5. (C) Each side on the recall referendum continues to
believe it will win the vote August 15. Political analyst
and El Universal columnist Carlos Blanco told the Ambassador
August 1, however, that he believes the opposition would win
the recall referendum by 10%. Blanco said Chavez appears to
have peaked in July, and a poll conducted at the end of the
month by Felix Seijas coming out the first week of August
will show Chavez dropping. Blanco also noted there are
indications of Chavez supporters making plans to get their
families out of the country, signaling that Chavez supporters
are aware that their prospects are waning. Blanco argued
that Chavez cannot realistically expect to gain more votes
than those that brought him into office in 2000 -- 3.8

million votes, whereas the opposition had obtained 4.7
million signatures in its signature drives. If anything, he
said, the number of persons who would vote for Chavez has
diminished because of the President's failure to deliver.
Carter Center representative Francisco Diez told the
Ambassador that Chavez supporters believe they will win by
12-14%. Chavez opponents, using reasoning cited by Blanco,
believe they will win by 10%, according to Diez. The Carter
Center representative would not predict which side was
correct in its estimation.


CNE Contingency Planning


6. (U) The CNE failed to meet August 2 to begin evaluating
contingency plan proposals to be implemented if there are
voting machine failures on August 15. Three versions of
draft rules for resolving possible problems are under
consideration. CNE vice-president Zamora hopes that any
problems that arise and cannot be resolved within an hour
will lead to a manual vote. CNE Legal Counsel Andres Brito
proposes a 2-hour lapse time and a decision issued by the
National Electoral Board (JNE) to determine if a change to
manual voting should occur. CNE president Francisco
Carrasquero supports suspending the voting process at a
center if technical failures cannot be resolved within an
hour and resuming the voting there only if the votes in
question would have significant bearing on the election
results. CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez suggested July 30 that
if there are failures in 20% of the voting machines, the
referendum should be postponed. Coordinadora Democratica
representatives oppose Carrasquero's proposal and rejected
Rodriguez's suggestion as anti-democratic.


Opposition Leader Dies


7. (U) Opposition negotiator at the 2003 OAS talks and
National Assembly deputy Alejandro Armas died July 31. Armas
was a former Chavez supporter turned opposition leader in
early 2002. He led the Solidaridad political party. Armas
was also a possible candidate for the opposition's transition
government if Chavez were to loose the Referendum.