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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04CARACAS3070 2004-09-30 12:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

VENEZUELA: CNE DISCARDS FRAUD CHALLENGES

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PHUM VE 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  CARACAS 003070 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2014
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA: CNE DISCARDS FRAUD CHALLENGES

REF: CARACAS 2840

Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor,
for Reasons 1.4(b).

-------
Summary
-------



1. (U) Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) found the
Coordinadora Democratica's challenge of the results of the
August 15 recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez
inadmissible on September 23 and said the matter should be
taken to the Supreme Court instead. CNE Director Jorge
Rodriguez nonetheless then attempted to refute the
opposition's case, point by point, in a national broadcast on
September 24. Rodriguez accused the opposition of trying to
discredit the CNE and warned that from now on accusers who
cannot present proof of CNE wrongdoing could face reprisal in
court. On September 27, pro-opposition CNE Vice President
Ezequiel Zamora resigned, citing differences of opinion with
the pro-Chavez majority on the board and noting especially
his disagreement with the handling of the recall referendum.
GOV supporters charged that Zamora's resignation is part of
an opposition plot to delay the October 31 regional
elections. Legal experts expect the Supreme Court to name a
replacement for Zamora, though for the time being the CNE can
continue to function with the four remaining members. End
Summary.



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Rodriguez Lashes Out


--------------------------





2. (U) Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) on
September 23 found inadmissible the Coordinadora
Democratica's administrative appeal to the results of the
August 15 presidential recall referendum. The Coordinadora
had challenged the results citing irregularities in the
electoral registry and fraud on election day (ref). Despite
refusing to admit the complaint, CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez
presented arguments against the Coordinadora's claims on
September 24 in a national broadcast carried obligatorily on
every television and radio station ("cadena"). The electoral
registry used for the recall was legal, Rodriguez asserted,
and claimed that the time to object to it was 30 days prior
to election day. Rodriguez also repudiated the opposition's
claims of GOV tampering with electoral software and data
transmission, claiming that Coordinadora representatives were
allowed to audit the voting machines beforehand. Rodriguez
argued that the statistical analysis presented by the NGO
Sumate used only exit polls that agreed with their premise
and not polls performed by other pollsters.



3. (U) Rodriguez said that the CNE had adequately addressed
the opposition's assertions. Rodriguez warned that from now
on anyone who makes allegations of impropriety against the
CNE not supported by solid evidence would be taken to
"national or international" court, if necessary. Rodriguez
specifically mentioned Sumate representative Maria Corina
Machado, the Coordindaora's fraud report author Tulio
Alvarez, and professors Ricardo Hausmann and Roberto Rigobon,
who performed the statistical analysis used by Sumate.
Rodrgiuez's broadcast used splashy production techniques and
tight close-ups during dramatic moments. His presentation of
the opposition's allegations tended to be incomplete. He
also referred at times to absurd rumors that were not alleged
in the Coordinadora's report, such as the use of Cuban
satellites to intercept electoral data transmissions.



--------------------------


Alvarez Fights Back


--------------------------





4. (U) Tulio Alvarez, who led the team of 44 people who
compiled the Coordinadora's appeal, told reporters on
September 25 that Rodriguez had not refuted any of the
opposition's charges. Alvarez said Rodriguez's broadcast, in
fact, confirmed two allegations: that some areas of
Venezuela have more registered voters than inhabitants and
that the voting machines are bi-directional. Alvarez said
the CNE board had not followed proper procedures by rejecting
the Coordinadora's appeal out-of-hand without formally
opening an investigation. Alvarez asserted this proved that

the CNE is subordinated to President Hugo Chavez. He called
on the two pro-opposition directors of the CNE, Ezequiel
Zamora and Sobella Mejias, to resign. Alvarez said he plans
to issue a final report of the Coordinadora's allegations on
October 15.



--------------------------

---
Pro-Opposition CNE Vice President Zamora Resigns


--------------------------

---



5. (U) On September 27, pro-opposition CNE Vice President
Ezequiel Zamora presented his resignation to Supreme Court
(TSJ) President Ivan Rincon. Zamora based his resignation on
the CNE's failure to carry out a transparent and efficient
electoral process on August 15. He said the process was
marred by excessive waits in line and inadequate auditing
practices. Zamora also decried the systematic replacement of
CNE technicians with political sympathizers of the
government, saying it had led to a loss of the CNE's
institutional integrity. Zamora noted growing differences of
opinion between him and the three pro-Chavez directors, who
he said had become inflexible. Zamora said he had not
resigned immediately after the referendum because he had no
proof of fraud. He said he also believed he could convince
the CNE board to revise the voting process for the October 31
regional elections, but he now discounts that possibility.
Separately, pro-opposition CNE Director Sobella Mejias
announced she would not resign so as not to "surrender space"
to the GOV.



--------------------------


Chavez Supporter Charge Conspiracy


--------------------------





6. (U) William Lara, a National Assembly Deputy and leader of
Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), called Zamora's
resignation part of an opposition plot to discredit the CNE
and delay the regional elections, which, Lara added, the
opposition is sure to lose. National Assembly Vice President
Ricardo Gutierrez (of the pro-Chavez Podemos party) defended
the CNE majority, which he said had acted democratically and
with moral authority. Minister of Interior and Justice Jesse
Chacon said Zamora's leaving was expected and quipped that
Zamora would probably end up as campaign manager of
Coordinadora leader Enrique Mendoza, who is running for
re-election as governor of Miranda State. CNE President
Francisco Carrasquero told reporters on September 28 that if
there were irregularities in the CNE, then Zamora was party
to them as he signed on to 90 percent, he claimed, of the
CNE's decisions.



--------------------------


Moving On


--------------------------





7. (U) According to the constitution, the CNE should have
been named by the National Assembly, but the latter
deadlocked on the issue in 2003. As a result, the TSJ's
constitutional chamber found the Assembly "in omission" and
proceeded to name the members. CNE legal advisor Andres
Brito recommended to the board that Zamora's replacement also
be named by the constitutional chamber rather than submit the
question to the National Assembly, according to press
reports. The law provides for the temporary incorporation of
one of Zamora's two alternates while awaiting TSJ action, but
pro-Chavez politicians have already scuttled the idea.
Zamora's two alternates, Miriam Kornblith and Carolina
Jaimes, are outspoken critics of the CNE's pro-GOV majority.
An effort to incorporate Kornblith several months ago when
Zamora became ill was similarly rejected.



8. (U) The CNE board minus Zamora proceeded on September 28
to approve the rules for tallying the results of the regional
elections (Mejias abstained). The rules reportedly maintain
the same procedure as that used in the recall referendum,
most notably, the transmission of voting machine results to
the CNE before the machines print the tally sheets. This was
perhaps the most criticized feature of the recall referendum
voting procedure, as the opposition alleges the voting
machines may be re-programmed by the CNE server during the
data transmission and thereby produce altered tally sheets.
The CNE also agreed to not/not count the paper receipts, as
the opposition has demanded.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





9. (C) Zamora's departure will not have much impact on the
CNE -- which needs only three directors for a quorum -- or on
the political scene. Zamora was the CNE's most experienced
director though it is debatable whether he had any influence
on the Chavista-dominated CNE. The TSJ's selection to
replace Zamora will probably tilt the CNE even further toward
the government. The CNE's summary dismissal of the
Coordinadora's appeal, finished off by an obstinate Rodriguez
on television, was probably designed to irritate opposition
groups and distract them from the regional elections. The
three pro-Chavez CNE directors seem determined to press in
spite of Zamora's departure, as demonstrated by its approval
of controversial rules for the regional elections.
Brownfield


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2004CARACA03070 - CONFIDENTIAL