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Cablegate: Electoral Council Rector On 2010 Elections, The

VZCZCXRO0435
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHCV #1419/01 3092009
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 052009Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3939
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 001419

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2029
TAGS: PGOV KDEM VE
SUBJECT: ELECTORAL COUNCIL RECTOR ON 2010 ELECTIONS, THE
OPPOSITION, AND VOTER FRAUD

REF: CARACAS 1330
CARACAS 00001419 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBIN D. MEYER,
FOR REASON 1.4(D)

1. (C) Summary: The sole non-Chavista rector of the
National Electoral Council (CNE), Vicente Diaz, told Poloffs
on October 22 that the CNE would announce the election
timetables, implementing electoral regulations, and any
changes to the voting districts by December. Diaz dismissed
opposition allegations about inaccuracies within the
electoral registry (REP) and resulting electoral fraud. He
said while elections might be "transparent," however, they
were not "fair" because of the media advantage enjoyed by
Chavista candidates. Diaz also predicted that the two CNE
rectors whose terms expired at the end of October would be
replaced, in part due to Chavez ally Diosdado Cabello's
efforts to assert his influence within the CNE. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The CNE announced November 4 that AN elections
would be held on September 26, 2010, although the Deputies
would not take office until January 5, 2011. Party primaries
would be held sometime in April or May 2010. Several
political observers have told Poloffs that they expect local
elections will be postponed until 2011. The CNE said they
would consider holding the remaining miscellaneous elections
-- including for the Mayor of Maracaibo and Governor of
Amazonas State -- in early December 2010.

-------------------------------------------
ELECTION DETAILS TO BE UNVEILED BY DECEMBER
-------------------------------------------

3. (C) Diaz pledged that the 2010 election timetables, the
implementing electoral regulations, and any changes to the
voting districts would be unveiled by December 2009. While
Diaz asserted that the dates would not be altered after the
official CNE announcement, he admitted the possibility they
could be changed if Chavez saw political benefit from doing
so. Diaz lamented that the new electoral regulations would
probably not contain some measures that could build voter
confidence, such as a prohibition on public officials'
involvement in political campaigns, which would have affected
President Chavez. The CNE would also not likely approve
regulations that ran counter to Chavez' interests, such as
ruling that he could not hold mandatory "cadena" broadcasts
in support of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)
candidates during the campaign season.

--------------------------------------------- ----
VENEZUELAN ELECTIONS: "TRANSPARENT, BUT NOT FAIR"
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (C) Diaz characterized his informal role within the CNE
since the current leadership's 2006 election as largely
technical: identifying flaws within the electoral process
and the means to rectify them. He said the CNE had
instituted 47 "countermeasures" to address past or potential
compromises of the electoral system, which had helped build
voter confidence in the system's integrity. He highlighted
one of these mechanisms in the context of electronic voting:
on election day the voting machines themselves remained
disconnected from the CNE's vote-counting headquarters until
after the polls were closed. Even after the machines were
"plugged in" to the CNE's network, the data was encrypted
before being sent, and could only be received and tabulated
at CNE headquarters upon input of the appropriate decryption
passwords. Regarding activities at the voting centers
themselves, Diaz noted that, technically speaking, it was
nearly impossible to influence or change votes if there were
witnesses from a mix of political parties and civil society
present at the voting table. He did acknowledge, however,
that at voting centers where such witnesses were not present,
vote manipulation was possible, albeit unlikely in his
opinion.

5. (C) While Diaz argued that the CNE's technical and
organizational competence had significantly improved the
credibility of Venezuelan elections, he acknowledged that
recent voting had taken place in a climate of intimidation
and inequality: "Elections in Venezuela are transparent, but
they are not carried out on a fair playing field." He
criticized the Venezuelan government's (GBRV) manipulation of
state resources on behalf of the PSUV, specifically Chavez's
use of mandatory broadcasts ("cadenas") on behalf of Chavista
candidates. He claimed that, since the 2007 closure of Radio
Caracas TV (RCTV), nominally independent media outlets such
as Venevision hd been intimidated into favoring Chavista
candidtes with their programming. Diaz asserted that the
imbalance in free media air time between the GBRV and the
opposition and self-censorship and partisanship by the media
were the biggest obstaces to establishing a fair electoral
playing fiel.

--------------------------------------------- --
ELECTORAL REGISTRY FRAUD: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHNG
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (C) Diaz downplayed opposition complaint about
inaccuracies in the REP, which was only a good as the
information fed into it. He noted tat much of Venezuela's
poor majority -- as many s 1.6 million people, or abot ten
percent of the voting population -- do not have physical
addresses since they live in barrios that are not formally
zoned and registered. Additionally, many Venezuelans
registered prior to 1996, when legislation was passed that
required a physical address to register. Moreover, many
voters never submit updated name and address information to
the CNE, and deceased voters often remain on the REP due to
paperwork delays. Diaz rejected opposition claims that they
lacked the same level of access to the REP as the GBRV,
contending that an updated copy of the list was sent to each
political party every month and that all the information was
available online, except for voters' addresses, which the
Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ) had ruled were protected as
private information.

7. (C) Diaz dismissed the opposition's fraud conspiracies,
claiming that of thousands of investigations of alleged voter
fraud, the CNE had only established eighteen instances of a
person voting illegally, such as voting twice in the same
election. He speculated that some of the most sensational
allegations might have been generated by the PSUV's political
intelligence apparatus to discourage opposition voters, who
would feel that "it wasn't worth it to vote." Diaz argued
that the opposition's real challenge was to register the
approximately 1.3 million potential young voters. The CNE
had not issued any publicity surrounding its latest voter
registration drive, a fact Diaz saw as an intentional
decision by the CNE's Chavista majority to prevent the
registry of youths likely to support the opposition.

--------------------------------------------- --
OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SELECTION: NO EASY ANSWERS
--------------------------------------------- --

8. (C) Diaz lamented that there was no way for the CNE to
force the opposition parties to democratize. He observed
that the most "democratic" party in Venezuela, the PSUV, held
the most autocratic vision for Venezuela, while those parties
with the most progressive political agenda were the most
authoritarian in their internal affairs. He worried that
important leaders within the opposition who either did not
run in the 2008 state and local elections, or who were not
favored by their party leaders, would not be selected as
candidates in the 2010 elections.

9. (C) When asked about opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's
calls for nationwide opposition primaries to select
candidates for the 2010 elections (see septel), Diaz noted
Lopez's serious underestimate of the cost and questioned the
likelihood of the opposition agreeing to hold them. However,
Diaz said the electoral timeline would have a deadline,
probably May, to hold opposition primaries, and he suggested
the parties seek consensus until that date, and then hold
primaries for any remaining contested slots. Diaz said he
was looking for ways to minimize the cost of the primaries,
which the Constitution requires the CNE to charge
non-government entities, so that "cost" did not become an
excuse for not holding them. Since the election for AN
Deputies involves both a party slate of candidates and a list
of individual candidates ("nominales"), Diaz suggested that
the November 2008 state and local election results be used to
determine the relative weight of each opposition party in the
"opposition party slate," and that primaries be used to
select the slate of individual candidates.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
CNE Rectors: United on Political Issues, Divided by
Personalities
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

10. (C) Diaz described the four Chavista rectors as divided
into two camps that were not on speaking terms: President
Tibisay Lucena and Sandra Oblitas on one side, and Vice
President Yaneth Hernandez and German Yepez on the other.
PSUV Mayor of Libertador Jorge Rodriguez, Chavez's campaign
strategist and former CNE President, was closely aligned with
Lucena and Oblitas. However, on political issues, Dias said
the four Chavista rectors were united. On organizational and
technical issues, though, the two sides often split, leaving
Diaz, ironically, as the swing vote and the "bridge" between
them. Diaz said it served Chavez to keep his followers
divided, observing that Chavez "is El Comandante, surrounded
by lots of third officers, but no second officers. Chavez
never allows second officers."

11. (C) As a result of these internal CNE fissures, Diaz
speculated that Hernandez and Yepez would be replaced when
their terms expired at the end of October. According to
local press, Yepez is seeking reelection but the CNE voted
November 4 to allow Hernandez a "special retirement." (Note:
Candidates for CNE rectorships are nominated, ostensibly in
consultation with civil society, by AN members and then
elected by a vote of two-thirds of the full AN. The period
for nominations for candidates for the Hernandez and Yepez
positions closed on November 4. 32 nominations were made by
universities across the country, and 12 candidates were
presented by civil society, ("Poder Ciudadano"). The
Constitution does not set a timeline for when the rectors
must be selected, suggesting the vote could take place
anytime before the AN session closes on December 15. End
Note.) Diaz confirmed rumors that close Chavez ally and
Minister of Public Works Diosdado Cabello was trying to
assert his influence within the CNE, including by trying to
influence the selection of the new rectors.

-------
COMMENT
-------

12. (C) Diaz's conclusion that elections have been
"transparent but not fair" jibes with the observation of
pollsters (reftel) that electoral fraud does not occur in the
voting booths but in the electoral laws, regulations, and
campaign environment leading up to election day. These
experts express concern that a perception of electoral fraud
encourages abstentionism by the non-Chavista electorate.
CAULFIELD

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