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Cablegate: Venezuelan Referendum Update: August 18

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

UNCLAS CARACAS 002655

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELAN REFERENDUM UPDATE: AUGUST 18


-------------------------------------
OAS and Carter Center Announce Audit
-------------------------------------

2. (U) OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and former
President Jimmy Carter announced August 17 that the National
Electoral Council (CNE) had agreed to conduct a second audit
of the voting results that would compare the paper ballots
with the actas (tally sheets) generated after the results
were transmitted to the CNE. While President Carter
reiterated that the Carter Center had no reason to doubt the
integrity of the electoral system or the accuracy of
preliminary the results he said he hoped the audit would
relieve opposition concerns that fraud occurred. The audit
would be based on the paper ballots from a random sample of
150 voting tables, and the actas from those machines.
According to the Carter Center, the voting tables to be
audited will be selected at 6 pm August 18 and the audit will
begin at 8 am August 19. All of the machines and
corresponding data would be pulled in the presence of the
international observers and government and opposition
representatives. Carter warned that it is possible that the
ballots may not match the number of votes recorded on the
actas since some people may not have deposited their receipts
as they were supposed to. He doubted, however, that a
sufficient number would be missing to dramatically change the
results.

3. (U) Gaviria noted that he was aware of the opposition's
allegations that the machines were programmed with a ceiling,
after which SI votes were converted to No votes once they
reached a certain level. Nevertheless, he described these
allegations as vague and suggested that the opposition be
more precise so the observers could better investigate the
claim. Both Gaviria nor Carter discounted the possibility
that the urns into which voter deposited their paper receipts
would be tampered with before the audit.

------------------------------
Opposition/Government Reaction
------------------------------

4. (U) The opposition reacted to the announcement with
concern that the terms of the audit would not allow observers
to detect the irregularities the opposition claims have
occurred (septel). Opposition spokesman Nelson Rampersad
called for a more intense audit that would allow the
machines, their memory and their software to be reviewed as
well. According to Rampersad, this request is based on
information he says proves that approximately 25 percent of
the machines (more than 5 thousand) were manipulated to
record a similar total of Si and No votes in several voting
centers. Sumate President Alejandro Plaz recommended
amplifying the sample to 200 machines to avoid finding a
result within the margin of error and allowing government and
opposition party representatives to choose the terms for
selecting the machines to be audited.

5. (U) Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Commando
Maisanta spokesperson Mari Pili Hernandez welcomed the audit
on behalf of the government. Rangel reiterated the
government's belief that the vote was legitimate and cited
the Carter Center and OAS' original endorsement of the
results. He told the opposition they could run all the
checks they wanted to, but that they would find nothing
wrong. Smartmatic, the company who provided the machines for
the vote, also welcomed the audit. Smartmatic President
Antonio Mujica told poloffs he considered an audit vital to
defend the reputation of his company.

-------------------------------------
OAS Reiterates Confidence in Results
-------------------------------------

6. (U) In response to the opposition's claims of
irregularities in the voting machines, the OAS released a
statement August 18 reiterating their confidence in the
results of the recall referendum as announced by CNE Director
Francisco Carrasquero on August 16. The OAS said the CNE
gave the organization necessary access to adequately monitor
the results and outlined the steps the OAS electoral mission
took to ensure that the voting machines were secure. The

statement also repeated the electoral mission's confidence in
the initial audit of the 192 machines conducted the day of
the vote and the voting process, saying that all who wanted
to participate could do so freely and without hindrance.
Shapiro


NNNN
2004CARACA02655 - UNCLASSIFIED

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