July 30, 2004

El 28, el 28, el 28...

The real threat to the integrity of the referendum is not the possibility of fraud. It's not ballot stuffing or triple voting or voting from beyond the grave. The real threat is that, like in May 2000, CNE just won't be ready to hold the vote in time.

2.5 weeks to go, and the voter registry has just now been finalized, including huge numbers of questionable address-changes and millions of somewhat mysterious new voters. The SBC people have still not been given the REP information they need to program the voting machines. The thumbprint readers may or may not be able to cope with the pressure put on them. Francisco Carrasquero rejects the possibility of manual voting if the automated systems fail.

Paranoia, as we all know, is free. But this type of strategy of systematic delay has become a bit of a trademark for this CNE. Ever since August 2003, every obstacle imaginable has been trotted out to delay the effective activation of people's rights under the constitution's Article 72. This is the CNE that turned a simple signature drive into a 8-month long telenovela, the same CNE that sat on the electoral registry for a year before suddenly "discovering" thousands of dead people on the rolls and stood by passively as dozens of reparos tables instituted an operacion morrocoy, that has never really tried to hide its disdain for the possibility of a presidential recall.

It escapes no one's attention that, if the election system fails catastrophically on Aug. 15th, Chavez will have to hold out less than a week before his grip on power is extended until 2006. It would be the mother of all political crises. But then, as you see Jorge Rodriguez's determination to deploy a fingerprint-logging system that CNE's own tests show will not work, it's impossible not to wonder about hidden agendas.