"Only crazy people would think International Elections Observers are biased..."

If I had a dime for every time a chavista just plain laughed at the opposition for refusing to accept International Elections Monitors’ opinions about Venezuelan elections, I’d have…well, I’d have a lot of dimes.

But, of course, rhetorical opportunism is free, and now that the shoe is on the other foot…well, you get the idea. Suddenly, Jorge Valero, Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, rants that the recommendations made by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission last December are part of an gringo smear campaign.

Now, it may well be that the widespread lack of confidence in CNE is unjustified. Opinions will and do differ. Personally I think it’s partly justified but overstated, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that you can be agnostic about that question – as, indeed, the OAS and EU observer missions were – and still reach the obvious conclusion that large sections of society don’t trust the system.

And, indeed, that’s just what the foreign observer missions said last December. They didn’t say that the opposition was right to be skeptical. They broadly hinted they thought the opposition was wrong to be skeptical, but they didn’t quite say that either. In fact, they didn’t take a position one way or another. They didn’t have to.

And why didn’t they have to? Because widespread skepticism about the electoral system, in itself, is corrosive to democracy.

And the fact of the matter is that, like it or not, fair or unfair, there is widespread skepticism about CNE. The turnout figures show that, the observer missions saw that, everyone knows that. Polls show that even many chavistas harbor doubt about CNE, so this is not even a strictly partisan question. To say it out loud is not to attack CNE – much less the country’s sovereignty as some of the more excitable commentary would have it – it’s merely to recognize reality.

Now, having concluded that such skepticism exists – and I can’t imagine how anyone could deny that – the OAS and EU missions noted that such a state of affairs is not healthy for democracy – not exactly going out on a limb there either – and drew the logical conclusion that certain changes ought to be made with a view to reducing the level of skepticism.

Nothing more. That’s all they did.

It’s for taking that mild, timid, factually unobjectionable stance that they’re now being decried as imperial lackeys.

Honestly, I never thought I’d long for the days when chavistas said only crazy people would question the impartiality of international election observers.

ps: what’s really bizarre about this is that the anti-OAS offensive comes at the same time as the National Assembly is vowing to select a new CNE.