It's the very worst thing that could've happened. CNE head Francisco Carrasquero, by himself, announces a set of partial results that give the government a huge advantage. The opposition CNE members immediately say the announcement was made without following proper procedures. The opposition cries foul, and announces mirror-image results. The Carter Center/OAS mission is missing in action, at least at first.
A national disaster, in short. The referendum was meant to bring closure to the governance crisis in Venezuela. With results that fly in the face of exit-poll results announced on the basis of a fishy procedure, the referendum takes Venezuela further away from closure, not closer.
These are dangerous days for Venezuela, dangerous hours. The potential for violence is high. The opposition cannot, will not accept these results. And chavismo, surely enough, will not accept their reversal.
In other words, God only knows how the referendum will go down in history, but it will not go down as the peaceful, constitutional, electoral and democratic solution to the crisis that was the one chance the country had of avoiding both dictatorship and civil war.
There could, I suppose, still be a 13th hour surprise. But Jimmy Carter and Cesar Gaviria are diplomats, not miracle workers.
Pray for Venezuela, folks...it's going to get ugly.