August 19, 2004
1-It would take a miracle of public relations management for the opposition to win the international public opinion battle around the referendum. As far as 99% of foreigners are concerned, what Carter says, goes. The opposition has never demonstrated any particular gift for public relations abroad - quite the opposite - so one thing is clear: Five years of efforts by the opposition to explain to the world just how brutally nasty, deceitful and dangerous Hugo Chavez is were comprehensively undone on Monday. This is a battle we will not win.
2-Working on the assumption that there was a Si-cap fraud (i.e. the machines were programmed to cap the number of Si votes they would register) - the fraud will only be understandable by people with a solid background in university level statistics. Chavez is a genius at this sort of thing - most of the outrages he commits are so complicated, they're impossible to explain succinctly and clearly. Just as there's no 30-second soundbyte explanation possible for the Montesinos Affair, the looting of FIEM, the April 11th massacre, the purge of PDVSA, the burning of the Fuerte Mara soldiers, or any of 5 dozen other outrages, there'll never be an understandable 30-second retelling of the Si-cap fraud. However, statistically speaking, it may well be possible to demonstrate a fraud even without looking at a single ballot paper. A statistician can easily work out the probability that the statistical "fluke" that's turning up in the data is merely a coincidence. If, as seems likely, that probability is vanishingly small, I'll have to think there was fraud, whatever the audits say.
3-CNE claimed that the reason for refusing an Auditoria en Caliente is that it would have taken too long - the automated tallying system would have had to be stopped while paper ballots were counted, generating mistrust and confusion. If the purpose of refusing the Auditoria en Caliente was to bolster the credibility of the eventual results, the least one can say is that it was not a very effective strategy. Throughout, CNE acted as though holding an auditoria en caliente would be a punishingly slow task, or one of herculean complexity. This is not so, as the good burghers of Valle de la Pascua demonstrate. According to this International Herald Tribune piece, "In the town of Valle de la Pascua, where papers were counted at the initiative of those manning the voting center, the Yes vote had been cut by more than 75 percent, and the entire voting material was seized by the national guard shortly after the difference was established."
4-Holding an Auditoria en Frio on a sample of Voting Centers selected unilaterally by CNE 12 hours earlier is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle. It stands to reason that if 40% (or is it 60%?) of the country is convinced you're crooked enough to cheat them out of their votes, they're not going to trust you to choose the sample and procedures meant to demonstrate that you didn't.
5-As Daniel explains in his blog, a random selection of voting tables may not be a particularly sensible response to the specific fraud allegations being made. The Coordinadora Democratica is alleging quite specific irregularities in a specified set of voting centers. CNE - which was so adamant in checking every single signature con lupa - refuses to open up the ballot boxes in the specific places where the CD alleges fraud. Why? El que no la debe no la teme. Once again, CNE acts in a way that is at least consistent with a cover-up - and certain to be interpreted as such by doubters.
6-If Chavez won cleanly, CNE's refusal to conduct a hot-audit has robbed him of the possibility of convincing the entire country that he won cleanly. The country is back to square one in terms of collective schizophrenia. 60% of us live one reality, 40% live another reality. Perversely, each side is convinced that it is the 60% and the other side is the 40%. Each side is convinced the other is engaged in a mind-blowingly complex, dark, evil conspiracy to usurp power. The governability crisis continues. The epistemic gulf drags on. The only thing that's changed is that Chavez will now enjoy much greater international credibility. Fronteras adentro, nothing has changed.