update on situation in Venezuela

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon May 31 2004 - 17:14:01 EDT

Following is some of the recent news from venezuela (from both an 
opposition and chavist source). Note the reference to the Coca-Cola 
workers: I was watching a broadcast on Globovision from the Electoral 
Council, and the young reporter on hand suddenly began to interview a group 
of these workers who were there to protest. I thought-- how strange, what's 
going on with Globovision? No fear, within 30 seconds, they cut back to the 
studio to a visibly pained anchorman who changed the subject and ran an old 
tape. End of story.
PS. Rakesh's new champion Heinz Sonntag is one of those Venezuelan experts 
who doesn't think there was a coup in April 2002--- just a power vacuum 
because Chavez resigned (and conveniently dismissed the vp and cabinet so 
Carmona the Brief could come in and throw out the Constitution, National 
Assembly, etc). Ha ha, excrement indeed.

Latest News from el-universal (opposition)

Venezuelan police, intelligence and military authorities searched houses, 
offices of political parties, signers' information centers and neighbors' 
associations and detained a number of people in several points of Venezuela 
during the third day of the signature ratification process for the 
presidential recall process, last weekend.

In Caracas, several persons were arrested with bags of forged 
identification documents, although in some cases, the police was unable to 
say where it had caught them or even their names.

In Zulia state, General Wilfredo Silva, commander of the western garrison, 
said that 14 people had been arrested and 10 locations searched. Meanwhile, 
in a procedure transmitted live by television reporters, the intelligence 
force Disip in Barcelona, Anzoátegui state, confiscated a computer and some 
documents found in an information center run by the opposition alliance 
Democratic Coordinator.

Members of the pro-government group Comando Ayacucho requested the National 
Electoral Council (CNE) to perform a revision on the signature ratification 
books and compare these data with those of the allegedly forged 
identification cards confiscated during the weekend by the police.

The first reports about forged identification cards were made by Freddy 
Bernal, Mayor of Libertador, Caracas, and Deputy Juan Barreto, both of the 
ruling party MVR, on May 28, the first day of the signature ratification 
process. Without giving more information, they said that three persons had 
been arrested with 140 forged cards in Caracas.

The group also asked the CNE to declare the 5,382 valid signatures 
associated to the deceased persons null for the presidential recall petition.

Earlier News

Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza, spokesman of the opposition 
umbrella organization Democratic Coordinator, congratulated the Venezuelan 
people for the attitude kept during the signature ratification process for 
the presidential recall petition and expressed his satisfaction for the 

"We can announce to the country without any doubt that we did it!," Mendoza 
vociferated to a crowd outside the headquarter of the opposition alliance.

Mendoza also congratulated the volunteers that worked in the process in the 
entire country and condemned the wave of searching operations by the 
security forces in the last few hours of Sunday afternoon. He accused them 
of illicitly introducing forged identification cards in the opposition's 
centers nationwide.
NEWS from venezuelanalysis (pro-chavista)

Caracas, May 31, 2004 
(<http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/>Venezuelanalysis.com) ­At the end of the 
third day in which Venezuelans who want a recall referendum against 
President Chavez could re-certify invalidated signatures, both the 
opposition and pro-government sectors claimed success.

While no major incident interfered with the process, police forces arrested 
several individuals and carried
Opposition supporters accused government supporters of harassing people who 
were waiting in line to re-certify or “repair” their signatures. The 
international observer missions of the Organization of American States 
(OAS) and of the Carter Center said that aside from isolated complaints on 
both sides, the three days of the process had gone smoothly.

Opposition leader Enrique Mendoza claimed victory and said that “Today we 
can say that the will of more than 700,000 has been ratified and we are 
going to the referendum.” However, the official results will not be 
presented for at least another three days. 1.2 million invalidated 
signatures were subject to repair.

The pro-government campaign team, Commando Ayacucho, also claimed success, 
and pro-Chavez demostrators took the streets of Caracas to celebrate. They 
said they had reasons to celebrate because the process ended successfully, 
and because the recall referenda process it is one of the progressive 
pieces of legislation proposed by pro-Chavez sectors when the Constitution 
was redrafted in 1,999.

"They had to collect 500,000 signatures, but what happened, happened, but 
we have to wait for the CNE to say it officially," said Education Minister 
Aristobulo Isturiz visibly happy, meaning that the opposition failed to 
repair enough signatures. Isturiz's words reminded many when his victory in 
the elections to be mayor of Caracas in the early 90's was almost stolen 
through fraud by the two dominant political parties at the time.

National Electoral Council board member Jorge Rodriguez condemned all 
advance announcements of repair process results, saying that this was 
prohibited by the referendum rules in reference to some opposition 
politicians who gave out non official numbers in their favor through 
private commercial TV stations. Rodriguez also said, “everything took place 
in complete normalcy, peace, and democracy.”

Forged ID cards confiscated

The repair process was tarnished by the capture of several persons carrying 
forged identification cards (“cédulas”), and the discovery of ID card 
forging centers. The forged IDs belong to persons who died or who did not 
intend to sign. These cloned IDs could have been used by third persons to 
re-validated those signatures and add them to the anti-Chavez recall count.
At least 2.000 forged IDs were confiscated today in Caracas on Sunday, 
according to Mayor Freddy Bernal, Chavez ally. A computer, scanner, 
printer, repair forms, and forged IDs were found at the local headquarters 
of the opposition party Accion Democratica in El Valle, Caracas, where 
people who were being pursued by authorities sought refuge. Yesterday, a 
man carrying 140 ID cards was detained by the police. 600 ID cards were 
also found in the Accion Democratica headquarters in the Caracas district 
of El Paraiso.

On Saturday, a man was detained carrying 420 ID cards near a repair center 
at the Santa María University in El Paraiso, Caracas.
Yesterday and Friday, forged ID cards were also confiscated. 669 ID cards 
were returned to authorities in Carabobo state, by a state government 
official. The cards were to be used in the repair process, according to the 
whistleblower, who said he did not agree with such practices. The governor 
of Carabobo is a fierce opponent of President Chavez. The mayor of Puerto 
Cabello, Osmel Ramos, gave to electoral authorities the death certificates 
of 98 deceased persons in his city, who appear as having confirmed their 
signatures against Chavez.
In Barcelona, Anzoategui state, 180 cloned ID cards were found, and in El 
Tigre, 50 ID cards were found at the house of the house of the local Accion 
Democratica president.Pro-government officials estimate that according to 
projections, the number of repaired signatures using forged or cloned IDs 
could reach as high as 40,000 nationwide during the three days of the 
repair process.

The opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator, however, said that the 
forged ID cards were planted there by government representatives.

A patrol vehicle of the Municipal Police of Caracas' Libertador 
municipality was attacked with a grenade when two police officers parked it 
near a repair center in the middle-class neighborhood of Montalban, 
Caracas, when pursuing an individual who was believed to be carrying forged 
ID cards. Libertador municipality is headed by Mayor Freddy Bernal, a key 
Chavez ally.

Intimidation reports

According to union spokespersons, workers at a Coca-Cola plant in Antimano, 
Caracas, were fired from their jobs for refusing to go repair their 
signatures, which were included in the anti-Chavez signature drive without 
their authorization or under pressure. The workers introduced a formal 
complaint at the Ministry of Labor, and claimed that similar situations 
were experienced at Coca-Cola plants in the states of Carabobo, Lara, 
Bolivar, and Monagas. The Venezuelan subsidiary of Coca-Cola is owned by 
billionaire Gustavo Cisneros, who also owns Venzuela's biggest TV network, 
and who is believed to be the main economic supporter of the anti-Chavez 
movement in Venezuela.

Dario Ostos, a pro-Chavez repair center witness in the municipality of 
Libertador in Carabobo, was found dead Sunday morning. Pro-government 
sectors blame opposition militants for the death of Ostos, who was shot in 
the head.

Deceased appearing as signers

During the three days of the repair process, there have been numerous 
reports of deceased persons appearing as having repaired their signatures 
in several states.

According to the pro-government campaign team, Commando Ayacucho, an 
examination they conducted of the records to be repaired, 5,382 deceased 
persons were found in the records during the first two days. Spokesperson 
William Lara said that the Commando Ayachucho would formally request the 
CNE to remove these names from the registry.

According to Jimmy Carter, the incidents with the fake ID cards, and the 
deceased who appear as signers in the repair forms are "technical problems 
that will not delay the presentation of the final results."

Accusations of violence

Recall referendum coordinator Enrique Naim said on Saturday that National 
Guard troops and pro-Chavez groups in several locations throughout the 
country intimidated people who were standing in line to re-certify their 
signatures. William Lara, the spokesperson for the pro-government campaign 
team, denied this, speculating that the groups were probably agents 
provocateurs planted by the opposition to make the government look bad.
The recall referendum organizers needed to re-certify at least 525,000 out 
of 1.2 million invalidated signatures, so as to reach the 2.4 million 
signatures needed to convoke a recall referendum. 1.9 million signatures 
had already been declared valid, but signers were also allowed to remove 
their signatures during this process, if their names had been placed on the 
petition form against their will.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724


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