May 2013        


Venezuela: Electoral challenge a coup attempt

A couple of important points are to be noted about the recent presidential election in Venezuela. The first and most important, which is being ignored by practically all—if not all—of the mainstream media is that it was also an attempted coup by right-wing forces, together with their allies in the United States.
     Before this election and the previous one the opposition threatened not to accept the result—unless, of course, it showed that their candidate had won. They promised street violence and civil disturbances, with the expectation that people might get killed in the ensuing confrontations. This would provide an excuse for intervention by the United States—exactly the kind of scenario that led to the previous attempted coup in 2002.
     The gap of a million votes between the right-wing candidate, Capriles, and the late President Chávez in the election of October 2012 was too great for any doubt to be inferred by the losing side; but they felt emboldened by the narrower margin of victory in this month’s election, although that gap was still more than a quarter of a million votes.
     The second point to be noted is that the opposition is not democratic. There are democrats among them; but essentially the bulk of them are democrats only when it suits them.
     For instance, in their own election to choose their candidate for the presidential election they were quite happy to use the National Electoral Council (CNE), which they now attack. They then broke the rules by not carrying out an audit of the results, as required by the electoral laws. The back-up voting papers were then destroyed before this could be done. There is no way of proving that Capriles was even the chosen candidate.
     This is the same opposition that now accuses the CNE of dishonesty, demanded a 100 per cent audit, and laid siege to CNE offices and to the home of its director.
     One of the major acts of the Chávez government was to add millions of people to the electoral register. Before he came to power half the Venezuelan population were not even registered in any national statistics, and as far as previous governments were concerned these people did not even exist. There was no demand from the opposition for the democratic right of this section of the population to be recognised.
     Remember that when the same opposition grabbed power, briefly, during the failed coup in 2002, the first thing they did was to overthrow the constitution of the country and to sack democratically elected officials.
     The third and last point is that the Venezuelan election system is one of the best and most secure in the world. The checks and safeguards against fraud are robust. An article in the American business magazine Forbes even suggested that the United States could learn a lot about how to conduct elections from Venezuela. Near the beginning of President Chávez’s time in office the government decided that this had to be the case, as any perceived flaw would be quickly seized upon.
     To vote, one must produce a cedula or national identity card, which every Venezuelan carries. This is checked against the national register of the electorate. The voter is then fingerprinted and the result is fed into a national computer system to check that the person has not voted already or does not try to vote again.
     The voting is done at an electronic machine, which then prints a paper version of the vote, which the voter verifies. If they are satisfied, they place this in the ballot box. The voter is then required to to dip their finger in an indelible dye, a further security against repeat voting.
     When voting is completed at a polling station, the paper votes are verified against the electronic tally, which means that a full paper trail is available.
     The extreme and extraordinary demands of the opposition forces can be seen in a banner that one of their supporters held in a recent demonstration at the Venezuelan embassy in London. In the small crowd, which harassed the staff of the embassy and tried to prevent them entering or leaving the building, one of their banners asked for England to invade Venezuela and help to restore what is, to the opposition, the natural order.
     This demand must have gone down a treat with other Latin American countries, especially Argentina. Well, now, if only Maggie was still around!

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