September 17, 2004

¿Y entonces?

Carter Center Report on an Analysis of the Representativeness of the Second Audit Sample, and the Correlation between Petition Signers and the Yes Vote in the Aug. 15, 2004 Presidential Recall Referendum in Venezuela

This study was conducted by The Carter Center and confirmed by the OAS in response to a written request from Sumate presented to The Carter Center Sept. 7, 2004. Sumate asked that The Carter Center evaluate a study performed by Professors Ricardo Hausmann and Roberto Rigobon.

The Hausmann/Rigobon study states the second audit conducted Aug. 18-20 and observed by The Carter Center and the OAS was based on a sample that was not random and representative of the universe of all voting centers using voting machines in the Aug. 15, 2004, recall referendum. 1 The study further indicates that the correlation coefficient (elasticity) for the correlation between the signers and the YES votes for the sample was 10 percent higher than that for the universe. The Hausmann/Rigobon study came to these conclusions through an analysis of the exit poll data, petition signers data, and electoral results data provided by Sumate.

1 Objectives of the Carter Center Study
1. Determine the correlation between the number of signers of the presidential recall petition and the electoral results of the Aug. 15 recall referendum.
2. Compare the characteristics of the universe of voting machine results with those of the sample for the 2nd audit performed Aug. 18.
3. Determine the universe from which the sample generation program used Aug. 18 was drawn.


5 Conclusions

The sample drawing program used Aug. 18 to generate the 2nd audit sample generated a random sample from the universe of all mesas (voting stations) with automated voting machines. The sample was not drawn from a group of pre-selected mesas. This sample accurately represents different properties of the universe, including the accuracy of the machines, the total YES and NO votes and the correlation between the YES votes and signer turnout.

There is a high correlation between the number of YES votes per voting center and the number of signers of the presidential recall request per voting center; the places where more signatures were collected also are the places where more YES votes were cast. There is no anomaly in the characteristics of the YES votes when compared to the presumed intention of the signers to recall the president.

The second audit showed a high accuracy of the voting machines with discrepancies of less than 0.1 percent. The sample was analyzed, and it does not have different properties than the universe. The sample generation program was analyzed as part of the 2nd audit process and again in this study. Both studies showed that the sample does not operate on a subset of the universe, thus hiding or masquerading some of the properties of the universe. Consequently the results of the 2nd audit accurately confirm the electoral results of Aug. 15.

Download a PDF of the full report

September 14, 2004

Things that make you go "hmmmm"...

From today's Por Mi Madre, the daily political gossip page in TalCual,

Final poll
The final tracking poll for Consultores 21, carried out on August 13th in the nine largest cities in the country [but which could not be published due to CNE restrictions on late poll announcements -ft], showed the NO side leading the SI by 52.9% to 47.1% - a lead of 5.8 points. Official CNE returns for those same nine cities show NO leading by 53.1% vs. 46.9% for the SI. The official NO lead of 6.2% is very close to the Consultores 21 measure, and corroborates how closely matched the sides are in urban centers.

Join a moderated debate on this post.

Magna Carta and the Subtle Art of Chavista Budgeting

In Spanish the phrase "Carta Magna" is just a synonym for "constitution," so most Venezuelans probably don't know that if you dig a bit into the etymology of the term, you find that it comes from Magna Carta, which was a specific historical document, a kind of XIII century "Pacto de Punto Fijo" between King John and the English aristocracy.

Magna Carta for the first time limited the rights of the monarch, established trial by jury, the beginnings of habeas corpus, and the principle of parliamentary control over state spending - the power of the purse-strings. 600 years ahead of the pack, the brits started to move away from the principle of absolute monarchy, and towards a system where the executive power was accountable to a body other than itself.

Probably the most radical departure in Magna Carta was this idea - revolutionary for medieval Europe - that the King needed to get permission from another body in order to levy taxes and spend state money. By starting the long process it took to shift the "power of the purse strings" from monarch to parliament, Magna Carta radically altered the notion of state power. Kings could no longer spend autonomously - spenditure had to be justified, argued over, haggled over and agreed with an assembly the King could not always control. It was this reform, arguably more than any other, that started the long process of declawing the British monarchy. You can't have absolutism if you don't control your checkbook.

Slowly but surely the principle of parliamentary control over state spending spread throughout the world, first establishing itself in the U.S. constitution, and from there, to the rest of the world. Today, every democracy in the world works on the basis of a State Budget Law, approved like any other law by the legislative branch. The haggling process it takes to approve budget laws is a key check against the accumulation of undue power in a single set of hands.

Alas, 800 years of British common sense and the worldwide trend in its direction are just two of the victims of the chavista revolution. In Venezuela, parliamentary control over state spending is a dead letter - just another of the many articles written into the constitution and swiftly forgotten - and exhibit A in the case for those who argue Chavez is an autocrat.

The political takeover of PDVSA ought to be seen in this light. Under the old system, PDVSA would sell oil, take the earnings and transfer them over to the state through royalties, taxes and dividends. Once that money had come into state coffers, the government would spend them through its usual budgeting procedures - which would allow the formal parliamentary control of state spending. The new system, on the other hand, does an end run around normal budgeting procedures. In fact, standard procedure now is for PDVSA to sell oil, take its earnings and spend it directly, in accordance with the president's instructions, without ever going through state coffers or normal budgeting procedures. There is no chance for the people's elected representatives in the National Assembly to question the discretionary use of these monies. Behind the lofty rhetoric about the revolution's liberation of the oil company hides an assault against one of the most basic principles of democratic coexistence.

As Pompeyo described in the article I posted yesterday, this trend reaches its most grotesque extremes on "Alo Presidente", where Chavez tosses around state money like it's going out of style, without even a pretense, a fig-leaf of parliamentary control. It bears noting that this is openly illegal and unconstitutional - Article 162 of Chavez's beloved little blue book clearly establishes Parliamentary control over spending. Like many other similar, blatant violations of the constitution, this one does not prevent Chavez from using the little blue book propagandistically, as the rhetorical cornerstone of his entire governing project. It's pretty rhetoric, but it's also an unambiguous, bold-faced, zero-shame lie, with a cherry on top.

But do we hear any sign of dissent from the president's fans on this matter? Not a peep!

Join a moderated debate on this post.

September 13, 2004

Reminiscences of things present

Reposted from El Informador de Barquisimeto

A Militarist Vision
by Pompeyo Marquez, Sept. 3, 2004
Translated by FT

I have argued that we are facing an authoritarian and militarist autocracy. A chavista friend has told me that it's an exageration, so I want to expose my reasons.

First, the meaning of autocracy is all power concentrated in one man. If we examine the way the state works today, there is no denying the way Chavez interferes with every part of it, at times publicly and harshly. This fact is underlined by the virtual liquidation of the judicial branch with the approval of the amendments to the Framework Law of the Supreme Tribunal which, a chavista leader told me, doesn't worry them at all, since the Nominations' Committee will be headed by [chavista die-hard] Pedro Carreño, meaning that ultimately it'll be Chavez who chooses all 32 TSJ magistrates.

When I say the president's actions are "authoritarian", it's enough to watch his TV-show "Alo presidente" to find the most varied evidence of the way he leads the country in every field. He doesn't coordinate a team, he has underlings. A former minister tells me that, when he was in office, he could not control his own schedule, because the president could call him to Miraflores at any time and he might have to wait two or three hours for an audience, or he might call him at 5 a.m. to go on a trip that day, which would wreck his work plan. It's worth pointing out that he has no notion of laws such as the Budget, the Salvaguarda [anti-corruption] or Comptrollership laws. In a recent meeting broadcast nationally [cadena] with a group of entrepreneurs, you saw him turn to Merentes: "how much money do you have?" He replies, " Bs.1.3 billion." "Well, lets take 600 and give them to these people." Chavez really does act as though he owned the country and the national treasury.

On militarism, everyone can see the people he has chosen to stand for state governorship - 14 officers - leaving aside the civilian leadership in the government camp. All this does is generate anger in those states. I'll take two examples of the sorts of provocations these communities have been subjected to: in Carabobo, he has chosen "General Burp", Acosta Carles, and in Zulia, General Gutierrez, who barely knows the main avenues in Maracaibo. And lets not mention the numerous civilian posts held today by Armed Forces officers. Not even during the Perez Jimenez dictatorship had there been so many military men holding public office. And the latest stunt just tops it all off: the government has ordered the army to make a register of idle lands, since apparently the National Lands Institute and the Agriculture Ministry are entirely useless.

In 1956, I was in Russia when Kruschev published his report condemning Stalin's crimes and his cult of personality. Then and there, I swore that I would never participate in the cult of a strongman, which remains the explanation I give to chavistas for my position today. At the same time, I remind you that in 1998 I said electing Chavez was a jump in the dark.

Me? I learned to participate in democratic give-and-take, to understand pluralism and to oppose all enforced thought [pensamiento unico], all monolithic thinking, like the one Chavez wants to establish. I learned the value of tolerance, of respect for your adversaries and for divergent opinions, as I show daily. I learned that Venezuela needs its institutions to function democratically, and that democracy must have a social content for the majority.

And that's the struggle I'm in now, as more than half the country is victim of electoral fraud, of the insolent use of the resources of power in order to maintain that power. The struggle is ongoing until the objectives are met, and it should be carried out in every sphere, whether parliamentary, electoral, political, social or labor-related. We must not give up on any of the positions we've held to, quite the opposite: we must strengthen and broaden them. This is the course that experience recommends.

Join a moderated debate on this post.