I'm not sure what's up with Venezuelanalysis.com's weasel tactic of not giving their write-ups by-lines. They just say "by Venezuelanalysis.com" and leave it at that. Hmmm...leaves me unsure who to yell at when they write things like this:
Government officials and political groups that support the Chavez administration have made numerous claims of alleged fraud committed by the opposition in the signature collection process to call for a recall referendum on President Chavez. 2.5 million valid signatures are required to trigger the recall. The opposition officially claims they collected 3.4 million. However, opposition political figures have privately commented that only 1.9 were collected.
Hmmm...ok, so if you're willing to use the illegally obtained, unconfirmed and unsubstantiated Escovar Salom 1.9 million figure, how is it that you're not citing the internal MVR report leaked to El Universal where they admit they think the opposition handed in just over 3 million signatures? The line between newswriting and propagandizing gets real thin on some of these things...
More importantly, why don't you guys spend some staff resources fleshing out exactly how the megafraude happened? As Cesar Miguel Rondon insightfully points out, the government's strategy in this regard seems to be mostly to scream itself hoarse repeating the word "megafraude! megafraude!" without ever giving a detailed explanation of the actual mechanics of the fraud, of how the megafraude actually happened. Who signed illegally? When, where and how? We want details, not slogans!
I understand MVR handed in a report on the matter to CNE, but I haven't seen any of the details yet. And many of the charges made in Tarek's little presentation make little sense: if foreigners, children, or dead people signed, or if people signed more than once, that'll be automatically weeded out by cross-checking the signatures against the Electoral Registry database anyway! So really, the question is what part of the megafraud was done in a way that it can't be caught by the checks already planned?
The only candidate I can think of is massive, gigantic scale identity fraud. The government would need to prove that between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people got fake cedulas to go sign. The only way to catch this would be through the fingerprint - basically, at least one in five signatures would have to be shown not to correspond to the fingerprint it sits next to.
Which brings us to this whole fingerprint hubbub. We really need to be clear about it: 40% of the fingerprints are uncheckable. They got smudged because CNE, under pressure from the government, chose to print the forms on Central Bank safety paper that was never designed to take fingerprints. Still, you can work with the other 60%, I suppose.
People in the council are talking about testing a "representative and exhaustive statistical sample" of fingerprints, which reads like a contradiction in terms to me: it's either representative or exhaustive. Still, if they get working on it now, I suppose you can do it. What kind of sample size would you need to get a sufficiently small margin of error, to determine conclusively whether 20% or more of the signatures are a result of identity theft? Couple of thousand? How long would that take to do? It does sound doable, at first blush.
But on this subject, at least, I do understand the opposition's skittishness. Who's to say the government won't lean on the "exhaustive" part more than on the "representative" part and say they test 150,000 fingerprints? Kooky, yes, but this is Venezuela we're talking about!
For my part, I still think we need to rally around CNE - no use poking holes in the only life-raft we've got. One thing I know for sure: Carter Center/OAS has much more access, expertise, and credibility than I do.
I am not prepared to write against CNE until they do.