Now it seems that it really is all over, save for some possibly tragic and desperate acts by the opposition. At a 1:30pm press conference at the Gran Melia hotel, Carter and Gaviria both affirmed that their analysis and results confirmed the preliminary results of the National Electoral Council.
No Evidence, No Evidence, No Evidence
Specifically, Carter said: “After a long process of analysis, we conclude that our results are in agreement with the preliminary results of the Electoral Council.” Gaviria, who very obviously wanted there to be evidence of fraud, seemed full of regret when he said: “We have not encountered any evidence of fraud. If there are any specific claims, we are ready to investigate them… that is why we are here… we are ready to work with the opposition if there is any concrete information. But until now, we have no evidence of any specific cases of fraud.”
Both tried to clear up the difference between fraud and protest. Carter said: “I know that the Coordinadora Democratica is calling for demonstrations, and that is their right in a free society.” Gaviria said: “It is one thing to give your opinion or express doubts, but fraud is another thing.”
It actually gets worse for the opposition. Recall that at 5:30am this morning (the 16th), the opposition announced their own “results” of the referendum: 59% SI, 40% NO, and 8 million votes. Well, it turns out that BEFORE that announcement, according to Carter, and after Carter and Gaviria had seen the preliminary CNE results, Carter, Gaviria, and all five directors of the CNE — including the two, Zamora and Mejia, whose statements the opposition has been using to claim fraud. Everyone agreed that there had been no fraud. Everyone there agreed that the CNE results agreed with their own, including Sumate´s (the opposition electoral organ, whose mission was setting up the referendum) own information which stated that 55% had voted NO. So, after agreeing in a meeting as to the results, they came out publicly to dispute what they had already agreed to. Carter expressed confusion about it all.
This announcement is much more unequivocal than could have been expected. I thought there would be more “doubts” expressed, more talk of “possibilities” of “irregularities”, that kind of thing. But, no. The words “no evidence” came up over and over, not least because of the technical aspects of the system itself. Gaviria said “the system is designed in such a way that it is almost impossible to fake final results.”
Outside the Melia hotel, a small group of a few dozen very unhappy opposition people were demonstrating. I asked them what they thought of Carter`s declaration. They said “Carter has never defended us”, “it was a fraud, they keep saying it was not a fraud but they have to show us the proof that it was not a fraud”, and other arguments of equal quality.
So, now that two has-been presidents, one a repressive war criminal president of Colombia (see 1990-1994), and the other a war criminal president of the US (see East Timor, Afghanistan, etc.) have made their declarations, Venezuelans now know that they can keep their president. It is not that bad, actually — Chavez made it clear that the CNE was the final arbiter all along. But it is equally clear that Carter and the OAS have played a role out of all proportion to the role they should have played. The very fact that we were all waiting for their declaration before relaxing shows that.
Notes on the Final Results, from Jorge Rodriguez of the CNE
And now, the final results are coming in as well, from the CNE. A press conference given by the CNE, shown on VTV, at 3:40pm. Jorge Rodriguez of the CNE mentioned various aspects, with some good quotes. First, the registered voters grew to some 14 million, and more voting stations are clearly needed, and closer to the people, to avoid lineups. The fingerprinting machines did cause delays: but for the most part, yesterday, congestion was similar in parts with fingerprinting machines as those without.
“Never before in Venezuelan history have so many voted. Never before. And certainly not with absolute peace, without any violence.” There were some “dangerous periods”. First, in the morning, the media mentioned that the machines were giving wrong results. “We believe this was a deliberate attempt to delegitimate the process. When we investigated, we found nothing — every time. It is technically impossible.”
Also, it is very dangerous to create matrices of opinion outside of the CNE. Websites started publishing results before Venezuelans had voted. The partisan sites started to declare their triumph – “this is not just dangerous, it is disrespectful to those still voting. Politicians have much to learn from the Venezuelans who voted. We never heard of any NOs attacking YESes in line. Not one.”
“If laws exist, they have to be respected. If not, can create a very dangerous situation. CNE ready to do whatever CD or Maisanta wanted. But only if it is going to calm the country. Not for another excuse.”
The best criticism of the opposition was this: “To say that there was fraud is to say that the CD was complicit in the fraud — it approved of the machines and was present through every part of the process. It is to say that CANTV was complicit in the software….”
“Carter has spoken. OAS has spoken. All have spoken to the transparency of the process. It is barbaric to ask for a recount after their prenouncements. How many meters do we have to go to please opposition, to get the same results?” Answering the claim that the CNE should not have published preliminary results: “how many times did the opposition complain that they wanted rapid results, threatening that they would publish their own results if we did not?”
NO seems to have won in every single state, with some states incredibly close. Even Zulia, the stronghold of the opposition, had NO winning by a slight margin.