Cablegate: Signature Appeals Update: May 29

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) The second day of the signature appeals in the
presidential referendum process began slowly with low
turnout, picking up by mid-morning. There were multiple
reports of violence at appeals centers, including two
assaults against journalists. National identity cards
continued to be controversial, as unclear rules from the
national Electoral Council (CNE) caused some people to be
denied entrance to appeals centers. The GOV launched
allegations of fraud over the discovery of allegedly
falsified identity cards. Former President Carter arrived
and began visiting appeals centers. End summary.

Slow Start...

2. (U) Appeals centers opened May 28 for a second day of
signature appeals in the recall process against President
Hugo Chavez. Observers reported low turnout at the opening,
but picking up by 10:00 a.m. Most centers did not have lines
but maintained a steady stream of participants. Observers
reported anecdotally that many centers had received more than
half of the possible appeals.

But Things Heat Up

3. (U) By 1:00 p.m., reports of violence came from several
states. Groups of anti- and pro-Chavez supporters surrounded
appeals centers, occasionally resulting in scrapes. One
observer in Zulia reported having seen 15 fights, one of
which resulted in nine people being hospitalized. One person
was lightly wounded when a Plan Republica soldier fired his
shotgun at the ground to disperse the group. Two reporters,
in Caracas and Carabobo, were assaulted by Chavez
sympathizers. There were multiple reports of attacks against
opposition political party offices serving as information
centers for the opposition. GOV security forces also
reportedly raided several information centers. Private media
showed images of a center in Caracas that had been closed
amidst harassment by Chavez supporters, some on motorcycles
bearing shotguns. Despite these incidents, observers
reported calm and normal operations at most appeals centers.

4. (U) Plan Republica units, according to some reports,
impeded entry to appeals centers over technicalities. There
were reports and images of Plan Republica forces standing by
while government sympathizers harassed appeals centers.
There were also reports of the military closing centers for
long periods over procedural disputes.

Identity Cards A Dilemma

5. (U) Controversy over vague and contradictory rules
regarding national identity cards slowed the process. The
ambiguity allowed workers to reject appeals based on the
perceived authenticity of the cards. The CNE reportedly sent
an instruction to appeals centers on May 27 when the
controversy erupted, but there was confusion over whether the
instruction held precedent over the appeals norms approved by
the CNE board. Three directors put forth personal (and
varying) interpretations of the rules, as did two
pro-government politicians. Contradictions were also present
between the appeals registers (caudernos), computer database,
and pre-printed lists of appeals posted outside the centers,
which caused several people trying to make appeals to be
turned away.

6. (U) At 6:15 p.m., the pro-GOV Comando Ayacucho announced

the opposition had engaged in systematic fraud nationwide,
falsifying identity cards. At 3:00 p.m. the secret police
(DISIP) allegedly captured a man in Caracas with more than
400 falsified identity cards. The DISIP said also they had
evidence of falsified cards in other parts of Caracas.
Libertador Municipality Mayor Freddy Bernal claimed the
person was also engaged in falsifying police credentials,
alleging it was part of the "Plan B" by the opposition to
rebel against Chavez. The mayor of Puerto Cabello reported a
man had been detained by security forces with 179 identity

Jimmy Carter Arrives; Gaviria at CNE

7. (U) Former President Carter arrived at mid-day. Carter
visited four appeals centers later in the day. He told
reporters he was observing and would make press comments at a
later time. OAS SYG Gaviria met with CNE officials late in
the day. More than 100 international observers are present
throughout Venezuela. Other international observers invited
by the CNE have also been seen meeting with GOV and
opposition officials. Among them are international
journalists, human rights advocates, electoral officials, and
members of the Socialist International.



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