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Cablegate: Venezuela: Referendum Day, Noon, August 15

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

UNCLAS CARACAS 002615

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
HQ SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM VE OAS
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA: REFERENDUM DAY, NOON, AUGUST 15

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) Despite reported delays in the opening of voting
locations, long lines of people (between 400-1,000 people)
waited patiently to vote in the August 15 presidential recall
referendum. As of 10:30 am local, 99% of the voting centers
had opened, according to CNE director Jorge Rodriguez. CNE
President Francisco Carrasquero told reporters that the CNE
still plans to release preliminary results three hours after
polls close and dismissed reports that the voting machines
were emitting receipts indicating a voter voted "No" when the
voter pushed the "Si" button. During his meeting with former
President Jimmy Carter and Secretary General of the
Organization of American States (OAS) Cesar Gaviria,
President Hugo Chavez guaranteed that he would respect the
results of the August 15 referendum regardless who won. CNE
director Ezequiel Zamora announced the CNE's creation of a
special commission to resolve complaints or irregularities
with the accreditation process on August 14. End Summary.

----------------------------------------
Lines Are Long But People are Determined
----------------------------------------

2. (U) Despite reported delays in the opening of voting
locations, long lines of people (between 400-1,000 people)
waited patiently to vote in the August 15 presidential recall
referendum. Communications and Information Minister Jesse
Chacon predicted less than 30% of those registered would
abstain from voting. As of 10:30 am local, 99% of the voting
centers had opened, according to CNE director Jorge
Rodriguez. Several centers reported opening late (about 1
hour and a half delay) because of the lack of operators for
the fingerprinting machines at centers and other reasons.
CNE directors Ezequiel Zamora and Jorge Rodriguez announced
voting should commence with our without fingerprint machines.
As the morning progressed, reports of bottlenecks mostly
from fingerprint machine delays or problems were common, and
Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza urged the CNE to stop
using the machines if they continued to cause delays.
Rodriguez simultaneously told reporters that the CNE expected
to resolve the problems with the fingerprint machines "within
the hour."

3. (U) Former President Jimmy Carter said told reporters that
the voting centers he had visited that morning had opened on
time, and voting was orderly and progress was smooth. He
noted there were long lines of voters waiting patiently to
vote. Carter said it was important for people to comply with
the directives of the CNE and avoid early projections of the
results because that would only deter the process. OAS
Secretary General Cesar Gaviria also visited numerous voting

SIPDIS
places. As of 9:50 am local, news reports showed
international observers invited by the CNE still in lobby of
the Hilton Hotel in Caracas.

-------------------------------
Carrasquero Reassures Reporters
-------------------------------

4. (U) CNE President Francisco Carrasquero told reporters
that the CNE still plans to release preliminary results three
hours after polls closed and dismissed reports that the
voting machines were emitting receipts indicating a voter
voted "No" when the voter pushed the "Si" button. Carrasquero
said receiving the wrong vote from the automatic voting
machines was "impossible."

-----------------------------------
Chavez Reassures Carter and the OAS
-----------------------------------

5. (U) During his meeting with former President Jimmy Carter
and Secretary General of the Organization of American States
(OAS) Cesar Gaviria August 14, President Hugo Chavez
guaranteed he would respect the results of the August 15


referendum regardless who won. As he had done in his
marathon press conference two days earlier, Chavez told
reporters that he invited opposition leaders to a lunch at
the Presidential Palace on August 16 so that both sides could
recognize the results of the referendum. Chavez's message to
the people was to vote and vote early, avoid provocations to
violence, and rest assured that both sides would accept the
results of the referendum. Chavez also told Carter and
Gaviria he was concerned about opposition leaders announcing
preliminary results starting early on August 15. Carter and
Gaviria reassured him saying that opposition leaders promised
them to wait a reasonable amount of time (3 days) for the
National Electoral Council (CNE) to make an announcement
before they took it upon themselves.

---------------------------------
Special Commission for Complaints
---------------------------------

6. (U) CNE director Ezequiel Zamora announced the CNE's
creation of a special commission to resolve complaints or
irregularities with the accreditation process on August 14.
Zamora said the commission hoped to resolve all the
outstanding complaints before the voting centers opened
August 15. The commission was formed due to the large number
of complaints originating in 6 of Venezuela's states,
including the federal district.

------------------------------------
Salas Roemer Accuses CNE of "Abuses"
------------------------------------

7. (U) Jumping the queue to vote in his home state of
Carabobo, Project Venezuela leader and presidential hopeful
Henrique Salas Roemer said he was impressed with the "great
happiness" of the Venezuelan people who have come out to
vote. He said he has never seen such a turnout, but at the
same time, he has never seen such abuses committed by the
National Electoral Council (CNE) authorities. "The
Venezuelan people have the right to vote," he said, but the
CNE is trying to make it difficult. Referring to the many
people lined up at his voting center in Carabobo and chanting
"We want to vote," Salas Roemer asserted that the Venezuelan
people have decided affirmatively to change the direction of
the country and are ready to celebrate a victory.
Shapiro


NNNN
2004CARACA02615 - UNCLASSIFIED

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