This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 002758
NSC FOR CBARTON USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2014 TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM VE SUBJECT: REGIONAL AND MAYORAL ELECTIONS
Classified By: A/DCM Abelardo A. Arias for Reason 1.4 (d)
------- Summary -------
1. (U) Venezuela's gubernatorial and mayoral elections are scheduled for September 26, but National Electoral Council (CNE) director Jorge Rodriguez told reporters on August 23 that the CNE is discussing changing the date of the regional elections for logistical reasons. President Hugo Chavez's Comando Maisanta representative and National Assembly deputy William Lara (MVR, Miranda) said a short delay for technical reasons was acceptable but insisted regional elections should take place as soon as possible. Many within the opposition are debating whether to participate in the regional and mayoral elections, and some are hinging their participation on changes to the electoral process. End Summary.
Election Day Delay
2. (U) Gubernatorial and mayoral elections are scheduled for September 26, but National Electoral Council (CNE) director Jorge Rodriguez told reporters on August 23 that the CNE is considering changing the date of the regional elections for logistical reasons. This would be the second postponement for the regional elections initially scheduled to occur on August 1 but delayed due to the August 15 presidential recall referendum. Rodriguez also told reporters on August 23 that the recall referendum for nine opposition legislative deputies might be scheduled on the same day as the regional and mayoral elections. Movimiento Quinta Republica (MVR) gubernatorial candidate Diosdado Cabello (Miranda State) opposed holding regional and recall elections together saying, "The priority is the regional election."
Challenges for Comando Maisanta
3. (U) President Hugo Chavez's Comando Maisanta representative and National Assembly deputy William Lara (MVR, Miranda) said a short delay for technical reasons was acceptable, but suggested that if the date were pushed back too far Comando Maisanta would appeal to the Supreme Court. Falcon State governor Jesus Montilla said CNE members do not have the constitutional right to extend the terms of governors and mayors, which in essence they would be doing by changing the date of the elections. The mayor of Caracas' Libertador municipality, Freddy Bernal, urged the CNE to preserve the September 26 date for regional elections. If a change of date were necessary for technical reasons, Bernal said, then the delay should be minimized because the Venezuelan people have been in "campaign mode" for too long. (Note: Comando Maisanta formally launched its regional and mayoral election campaign on August 20.) While opposed to delaying regional elections, Chavista leaders urged the CNE to increase the number of voting tables available at each voting center before the regional elections to reduce the amount of time voters spend in line.
4. (U) With multiple Chavista candidates in 12 of the 23 states, deciding how to choose one unified candidate is a dilemma for Comando Maisanta. The four propositions currently under discussion are: a political dialog among the parties, consulting the communities, conducting a poll and choosing the candidate with the most support, or holding primary elections. According to Comando Maisanta's William Izarra, Chavez will be the one to choose the method for unification. President Chavez, meanwhile, has reiterated his support for the candidates he has chosen, and on his August 29 "Alo, Presidente" program told his followers to stop bickering and unite behind the candidates.
Opposition Otherwise Occupied
5. (U) Chavez opponents continue to debate whether to participate in the gubernatorial and mayoral elections, and some are hinging their participation on changes to the electoral process. To increase transparency in the upcoming regional elections the opposition said they want a manual
rather than electronic vote. If the vote were electronic, they propose, then each table should also count the manual ballots emitted by the machines. Yaracuy State Governor Eduardo Lapi said, "If Chavez successfully discourages the opposition from voting in the regionals, then he will have obtained the largest victory in the history of democracy, so we (the opposition) have to participate in the regionals on the condition that the votes are counted manually."
6. (C) Bolivar State Governor Antonio Rojas Suarez said that unless changes were made, no one should participate in the regional elections. He said, "If we do not participate in the regionals, there will be an institutional crisis." One of Tachira State's gubernatorial candidates opposed to Chavez, Jose Luis Rincon, agreed with Rojas pointing out that if the referendum was a true reflection of the voter's will (which he vehemently denied), then Chavista governors will win in every state just as Chavez did, especially now that so many opposition voters feel robbed and will abstain from voting. If the vote was fraudulent, Rincon said, then using the same system will allow the GOV to "steal" the regional elections.
7. (C) Hoping to take advantage of the momentum from the August 15 referendum win, plus the opposition's confusion and internal arguments, Chavez supporters are pushing to hold regional elections on September 26 or soon thereafter. The opposition may benefit from the additional time, but it is most unlikely they will be successful in their push for a manual count. They may, however, come to agreement and make headway on unified candidates that can compete with candidates backed by the Chavez machine. McFarland