Cablegate: Referendum Update: August 19-20

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. (C) On August 17 political police service DISIP and local
police authorities arrested the three men suspected of
shooting on demonstrators in Altamira on August 16. On
August 18 and 19, the government heavily criticized the
opposition's latest claims of fraud and calls for public
protests and began its campaign for the regional elections.
According to the National Electoral Council (CNE)'s latest
tally of the recall results on August 18, the government has
received 5.5 million votes while the opposition has 3.8
million votes. On August 19, opposition-affiliated CNE
director Ezequiel Zamora denounced the ongoing audit.
Meanwhile, more details have surfaced about the role of
international observers on August 15 raising questions from
the opposition about the diligence of the observation effort.
End summary.

Altamira Perpetrators Captured

2. (U) Political police service (DISIP) and local police
authorities apprehended the three people photographed
shooting at demonstrators in Altamira on August 16. Johon
Carlos Jimenez_ and Henry Jose Parra were captured in Sucre
the morning of August 17 in front of an emergency room, while
Pedro Ramos Poche was captured near a bus terminal in Petare
that afternoon. The three have several charges pending
against them, including homicide, assault, and public
intimidation. According to the Sucre police commissioner,
Jimenez_ has intimidated Chavez opponents in the past. He was
involved in an assault on a group of Globovision and
Notitarde reporters during the opposition signature drive in
November. In July he was arrested along with nine others on
weapons charges, but was later released.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Government Reacts to Opposition's Fraud Charges
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (U) On August 18 Communications and Information Minister
Jesse Chacon, MVR Deputy William Lara, and Commando Maisanta
spokespersons Mari Pili Hernandez and Samuel Moncada lashed
out at opposition leaders during a press conference. Chacon
criticized the opposition's reliance on the polls, which he
said did not take into account all of Caracas. He accused
private media stations of trying to deceive the people and
called on the opposition supporters to reflect on what
Coordinadora Democratica leaders are really saying and what
he described as their Maquiavelian acts. Lara called the
opposition's latest accusations of fraud completely
irrational at this stage in the referendum process and said
their "anti-democratic nature was criminal" at such an
important point in the country's history. In response to
Miranda Governor Enrique Mendoza's call for supporters to
demonstrate next week, Hernandez described the call as
disrespectful and irresponsible, accused the opposition of
wanting to use the people for cannon fodder, and called for
peace. Moncada's remarks were more ominous, describing the
opposition as an oligarchy bent on insurrection, intent on
sabotaging the regional election and resorting to violence.
He also said the opposition posed a problem for public order.

Recall results revised

4. (U) On August 18, National lectoral Council Director
Jorge Rodriguez reportd that the latest vote count
indicates Chavez reeived more than 5.5 million votes
(roughly 59 prcent) compared to 3.8 million votes (or 40.9
pecent) for the opposition. According to this tally the
government has now won Tachira and Miranda tates giving it a
victory in all states. This laest count includes 96 percent
of the automated tlly sheets and a little more than half of
the 1. million manual votes cast. The government was
eading in the manual votes tally, 70.5 percent to 9.5
percent. The abstention rate is now lose 27 percent.
(Comment: These figures suggest that the opposition's total

vote yield will be over 4 million. End comment.)

CNE Director Zamora denounces audit

5. (U) On August 19, opposition-affiliated CNE Director
Ezequiel Zamora criticized the ongoing audit, saying that it
had not been approved by all CNE members. He also disagreed
with the fact the CNE as the audited party decided the terms
of the audit and contrasted its attitude toward the audit
with its reaction to Chavez's request that the CNE review
each of the signatures after the opposition's signature
drive. He said the audit went behind the back of the party
that requested it.

--------------------------------------------- ---
More stories surface around events of August 15
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (C) During this week more details have surfaced about
questionable events that occurred during and after the
referendum that have increased suspicion about international
observer diligence in monitoring the voting process:

-- On August 18, Carter Center observer Edgardo Mimica told
the Ambassador about an "unexplained event" that occurred
during the transmission of data from the voting machines to
the CNE's totalization center. According to Mimica, the
transmission lines went down from 8 to 8:15 pm and none of
the machines could send any data. He said Cantv officials
checked the lines, but could find nothing wrong.

-- On August 19, Carter Center representative Jennifer McCoy
admitted to the Ambassador that only 82 of the 192 mesas
examined during the audit were done correctly by checking the
paper ballots against the tally sheets from the machines. In
addition, international observers were only present for a
portion of the audits and were doing their quick count of the
tally sheets at the same time.

-- Daily newspaper El Nacional reported August 20 that
international observers were only present at 10 of the 82
audits that were conducted immediately after the polls closed
early August 16 and have yet to receive reports on the other
72 examinations. The article also says that only former
President Carter and outgoing OAS Secretary General Cesar
Gaviria were allowed in the CNE totalization room, a
restriction which was imposed on voting day. Moreover,
during the voting simulation conducted July 18 the article
claims that observers were only permitted to oversee testing
of 4 out of the 10 machines previously agreed to.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Commando Maisanta Announces Start of Regional Election
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

(U) Communications and Information Minister Jesse Chacon
announced that the government's campaign for the
gubernatorial, mayoral and local elections would begin August
20. He described the opposition's search for fraud as a
tactic to paralyze the CNE and avoid the regional election.
He then challenged the opposition to drop its search for
fraud and their prepare its campaign team. Nevertheless, he
warned that whether the opposition participated in the
election or not, they would still lose.



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