Sly Dadaist Satire? Mind-Spinningly Hapless Propaganda? Sometimes, you can't actually tell.


If you’re looking for a cheap laugh and have ten minutes to kill, you could do worse than looking through the report that’s setting the chavista blogosphere on fire: the Calgary-based Foundation for Democratic Advancement’s yearly “Electoral Fairness Audit of Venezuela’s Federal Electoral System.”

It’s a piece of work, this one. The researchers will walk you through all the reasons why Venezuelan elections are precisely 44% fairer than Finland’s. Not 45% fairer, mind you, nor 43%. No. 44%.

And 59% fairer than Canada’s too!

Once you start reading, you realize the “audit” – and we use that word very loosely here – consists of reading a series of Venezuelan laws and regulations that have been run through GoogleTranslate and published before anybody took the trouble to proof-read them.

How can we be sure? Check out this extract, from page 14…

Research Excerpts:
The following excerpts were identified by the FDA researchers as relevant. The FDA researchers made some excerpts bold to emphasize high relevance:

Article 75. Do not be permitted electoral propaganda:
1.Se occurs outside the electoral campaign period established by the National Electoral Council.
2.Atente the honor, privacy, intimacy, self-image, confidence and reputation of individuals.
3.Promueva war, discrimination or intolerance.
4.Promueva disobedience to the law.
5.Omita data allowing identification of the sponsor or promoter of electoral propaganda and the Fiscal Information Registry (RIF).
6.The hired or performed by natural or legal persons other than authorized by the candidates and candidates.
7.Desestimule the right to vote…

See what happened there? In the original text’s formatting, there wasn’t a space between the period after each numeral and the first word of the subsection. That sent the TranslationBot for a loop, because the first word of each subsection didn’t get translated at all … and nobody at the Foundation for Democratic Advancement noticed that before they published it!

Of course, each copy-paste job from GoogleTranslate is followed by a short analytical section, each one a variation on the theme of how great the rules on our books are.

The audit makes no actual attempt to check for coherence between the rules on the books and reality on the ground, no specific reference to any given Venezuelan election, or complaint, or politician, or ongoing controversy.

You’ll search in vain for any mention of biometrics as a potential problem, for any indication that they’re aware that some people have concerns about the Electoral Registry, or even an inkling that perhaps official media may occasionally stray marginally from its mandate to cover the opposition fairly. Mario Silva is Edward R. Murrow as far as they can tell.

In fact, there’s no indication at all that the kids asked to write this spent more than a weekend on it. High.

You could just about dismiss the entire sorry exercise as so hapless it’s almost cruel to make fun of them, except Jesse Chacón’s appalling propaganda-polling (propapolling?) outfit GIS XXI is actually touting this piling mountain of dog shit as legitimate research! 

To tell you the truth, as I read the semi-literate discursive patadas de ahogados these kids are calling an audit, in between bouts of convulsive laughter, I kind of felt for the Wilperts and the Weisbrots of this world.

You gotta give those guys credit: Wilpert, Weisbrot & Co. at least took it seriously. They put in the hours. They worked hard to find new angles for how they could sell chavismo to influential people abroad, at least on the left.

They grasped that propaganda is really about elite opinion formation: about influencing the guys who write the Op-Eds, the talking heads on TV, the gals who do the big Think Tank reports and are respected by colleagues in academia, in business, in the embassies and on Capitol or Parliament Hill.

They may not always have been very successful at it, but they knew what the game was about, and they played the losing hands that chavismo kept dealing them with some determination, even gusto.

I wonder how guys like them feel reading something like this audit. On some level, Wilpert and Weisbrot must realize that running with an audit like this is a kind of discursive white flag. When this is what passes for propaganda, Chavismo’s thrown in the elite opinion formation towel altogether here.

Or, at the very least, chavismo’s propaganda budget has shrunk to the point where what they can afford is the Foundation for Democratic Advancement, not the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Because make no mistake: from the Bigwood-era Venezuela Information Office to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement, the chasm in ambition, in sophistication, in effectiveness, in professionalism, and in just-generally-taking-the-work-seriously is gaping. Abysmal.

Let’s be fair: Weisbrot did research. Shoddy, propagandistic research, yes, but real research nonetheless. It’s not just that the guys running with his baton skip the research, it’s that they skip the proof-reading of the GoogleTranslate dregs they’re trying to pass off as research.

It’s sad, really…

[Hat tip: Judi Lynn]

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  1. Let’s see – Venezuela 85% & Canada 26%.

    Well, that sounds logical.
    As a Canadian I did not know that our election process had fallen so low.
    Wow. They must hide the rule breaking pretty well.

    What a pile of horse s..t!

  2. Francisco,
    Ask Daniel Duquenal. He has kept a very extensive email conversation with the one guy who manages this organisation.
    I checked out the Alexa stats about the site, it is really irrelevant.
    If Jesse Chacón’s brother has to mention this Vancouver “institute”, Chavismo is really having a much harder time these days in finding useful idiots.
    Really: even the left side of the Linke party in Germany would not dare to publish such a stupid “study”

    • I can just picture the inputting of * data* in the appropriate soft, in order to produce the exaggerated top of an inverted triangle.

      Debbi Lee: so what country do we enter to create the apex?
      Fulanito: Hmmm. How about the Weimar Republic? No, wait a minute. That’s old hat. Let me think about it. (Hours elapse.) I got it: Egypt. But make sure you specify that it’s the Egypt under Mubarak. Meaning, zero percent.
      Debbi Lee: You’re brilliant. (sigh)
      Fulanito: I know.

    • It’s all headline and nothing else. The chavista blogosphere is hoping that people just look at the headline and don’t really think about what fairness (or lack thereof) in Venezuela really entails. It reminds me of the think tank I worked at when they would parrot Chavez’s line about reducing extreme poverty to 9% without actually wondering why there were still ranchos all over the place or what the government’s definition of extreme poverty even was. The worst part is that the idiots whose first introduction to Venezuela is South of the Border or the Revolution Will Not Be Televised actually swallow this garbage and defend this idiotic narco-government to the death.

  3. I think it’s a budget problem.

    When you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend you can afford a Porsche 911 GT2. When you have tens of thousands you can buy a Mercedes. When you have thousands you can buy a second hand Mazda. And when you have hundreds you can afford a rusted out 1982 chevy Malibu that’s been getting raided for parts at a junk yard for years.

    VIO was that Porsche.

    The Foundation for Democratic Advancement is that chevy.

      • ¿Y ésta? “No me puedo encargar de todos los problemas del país.”

        Pre-cancer Chávez would have fried post-cancer Chávez’s balls in hot oil…

      • ¡Coño! After a career as an army officer and 12 years as president of a significant size country, he is only just now learning how to delegate???!!!

    • He also says they cut out a tumor the size of a baseball. From what I’ve read that could not have been in the prostrate – probably was the colon.

      He also says that the story of the Cuban surgeon f..king up & the Spanish doctor correcting everything is not true.

    • There are more people physically at the meeting than there are views of it on YouTube!

      Too bad it looks like the Venezuela Audit Video isn’t on there.

  4. “The audit makes no actual attempt to check for coherence between the rules on the books and reality on the ground, no specific reference to any given Venezuelan election, or complaint, or politician, or ongoing controversy.”

    In all fairness, the guys make it clear in page 3:

    “The FDA acknowledges that electoral laws and regulations may not necessarily correspond to the implementation of those laws and regulations or the public’s response to them. The implementation and response could be positive or negative, in terms of electoral fairness.”

    However, I wonder if these guys considered the use of morochas and all the gerrymandering that took place just before the las election. I guess the answer to that would be no.

    I wonder where these guys come from…

  5. Quico,

    You mentioned in this post that “some people have concerns about the Electoral Registry”

    (I posted this before but the thread was already dead so I am repeating it here.)

    It would be interesting your views on this:

    Published July 11, 2011

    Toby Bottome’s Veneconomy editorial:

    ¡Hablen del elefante!

    En la múltiple contienda electoral que protagonizará Venezuela en 2012,hay un pesado elefante del que nadie quiere hablar. Este elefante, es la amenaza latente de un nuevo intento del régimen chavista usar la vía de la manipulación del voto y el fraude de los resultados electorales.
    Todo el mundo ve el riesgo, menos los miembros de la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). Por lo menos eso es lo que se percibe si se parte de la insistente mudez, o el rechazo a la posibilidad de trácalas, que asumen sus representantes cada vez que surge el tema.
    La misma oposición ha creado su propia trampa jaula en este proceso: Si debate sobre la posibilidad del fraude, los votantes se abstienen, lo cual favorecería al Gobierno de Chávez. Si no se debate ose niega de antemano el riesgo de que se ponga en marcha la maquinaria del fraude y manipulación del voto, se daría una patente de corso al Gobierno para ejecutarlo. Ése es el dilema que la MUD y sus voceros deben resolver rápidamente.
    Este es un debate que no puede evadirse. Es un hecho comprobable que en el pasado el Gobierno recurrió a falsear los resultados electorales. Allí está para confirmarlo el estudió estadístico de María Mercedes Febres Cordero y Bernardo Márquez, publicado en The International Statistic Review, que sostiene que en el Referendo Revocatorio de 2004 los resultados verdaderos fueron 56,4% para el Sí y 41,4% para el No, con lo cual el mandato presidencial sí habría sido revocado por una mayoría electoral. Otros analistas también dan indicios de las manipulaciones del Consejo Nacional Electoral en la sala de transmisión en 2006, que permitieron anunciar la reelección de Hugo Chávez por amplia mayoría, cuando en realidad había un empate técnico con Manuel Rosales, candidato de la Coordinadora Democrática.
    Ahora, sin quedarse en el pasado, la MUD debe afrontar los riesgos de fraude en 2012, sin tapujos y de frente. Debe rechazar un Registro Electoral Permanente viciado, un Sistema de Autenticación Integral de Votación (SAI), percibido por muchos ciudadanos como la vía para eliminar el secreto al voto,un sistema de auditoría deficiente que no permite la verificación de resultados a posteriori y una cadena de custodia de los instrumentos y resultados electorales parcializada groseramente con una de las partes.
    La MUD debe enfrentar el reto, manteniendo informada a la población sobre los verdaderos desafíos que se avecinan, así como trabajando arduamente en la búsqueda y exigencia de resultados al respecto.

  6. You can see where they are going to when you see the description for the 2012 project for venezuela:

    2012 FDA Venezuela Project Information
    Project Summary:
    The most disruptive force in Venezuela is political polarization whereby Chavez, representing generally lower income Venezuelans, is at political war with opposition groups who are supported by foreign countries. The FDA’s role is to cut through the political deadlock through conducting a national electoral audit, which through non-partisanship and objectivity will forge a unity of Venezuelans. The unity will be based on an informed, united public, and their support for whoever representatives they choose in 2012.

    Now I am willing to bet my house that I can guess who is the first organization to be invited to overview next years elections and just prove how fair they were.

    • HAHAHA. These stooges go from “opposition groups who are supported by foreign countries” to “non-partisanship and objectivity” audit in less than 20 words! Is this actually a joke from el chigüire?

  7. FT, loved this post, well done. Jesse’s polls and this new joint make the NAOR thugs look like the professionals. I disagree with your analogy though. VIO was never a Porsche. Ever. They didn’t do this type of silly mistakes to be fair, but remember Google translate is a rather new invention. The stuff they put out though, for years, was of such appalling quality, that only true believers were taking it. For people knowledgeable in the subject, in DC and everywhere else, it was a matter of minutes to debunk their crap.

    As per Weisbrot, Wilpert, Golinger, etc., again, their stuff, cloaked in semi-academic jargon, was nothing but singing for the gallery really, in the real world, no one took them seriously. It was all a huge waste of Venezuelan taxpayer’s money. Hence why VIO was wrapped up, and turned into some LatAm propaganda vehicle, now with some Colombian and Bolivian seed money apparently. The unemployed VIO staff were absorbed by, you guessed it right, Mark Weisbrot’s little think tank, which has effectively become the propaganda voice of Chavez in DC and source of scripts for nauseating docudramas, a la TRWNBT.

    REP doubts are shared by the ESDATA folks, so I’m not alone on that.

  8. Yeah, right…

    I wonder what Roy Chaderton would think of this… He is after all a very competent diplomat, and (like a good lawyer) did his job admirably. But to see all his efforts blown up to hell by the incompetence of his successors…

    • Brief biography of Stephen Garvey

      Stephen Garvey has a BA in Political Science from The University of British Columbia, and a MA in Environment and Development from The University of Cambridge. Also, he is the founder of Inexpressible Publications and the Challenge the Philosophy Competitions.
      He is author of the following books: I Am Existence, The Anti-self, The Inexpressible and the Unknown, Why I Am Right: A Philosophical Investigation of Consciousness, The Superman Philosophy, The Critique of Reasonableness: A Method to End Partiality, Evaluative Democracy: A Shift to Democracy, The Political Evaluator, and Anti-Election.

      • “Why I Am Right: A Philosophical Investigation of Consciousness”

        Seems to take one-up Descartes – “I think, therefore I am right.”

        “The Critique of Reasonableness: A Method to End Partiality”

        Since he isn’t a fan of reasonableness, that helps explain why he can’t recognize his own partiality.

        “Evaluative Democracy: A Shift to Democracy”

        One word: “Huh?!?!?”

        “he is the founder of Inexpressible Publications”

        He should have kept that publication inexpressed. Especially since (see A. Barreda’s comment) they don’t address implementation, yet the chart says Venezuela leads in “cumplimiento.” Niiiiiiiiice……….

  9. But, at the end of the day, the question is: is it worked? People who read that [call it as you want] will remember that venezuelan elections are fairest that those of Canada. That’s all.

      • Maracaiburgh,

        How do you write a “law regarding journalistic responsibility”? I know it is tempting, especially with all the recent scandals and this sort of crap, but as soon as you regulate press “responsibility”, you will have censorship. I would rather see a law that regulates reader responsibility to ignore BS (just kidding).

        However, the entire journalism profession should take a long hard look at itself and create some internal reforms that require them to put their sources in some sort of context so the reader is better able to judge the validity of the “news”.

        • Again, it was a joke regarding the same law the government approved.

          The law states that if media presents a certain news item as a fact that is later proven as misinformation, the same media has the responsibility to dedicate the same air time to correcting the mistake. As far as I remember, of course. I think the US has something similar anyway, but as FOX News clearly proves, it is not really enforced.

          But again, it was a joke about how our government ignores its own laws when convenient.

          • No Roy,

            Sarcarsm is not automatically perceived without voice input.There are even entire cultures who do not use sarcasm.But without tone, there is no certainty.Thus,It is up to the wirte to provide the appropriate emoticon .If one were to presume sarcasm without tone, then presumption could lead to gross misunderstanding in many cases.

          • Maybe Maracucho sarcasm doesn’t translate well into English.
            Vai’ pues! Comes across as Vai as! and Vergacion! Comes across as Vergation!

            Hmmm, there’s a Maracucho for Dummies book in there somewhere!

        • I would rather NOT legislate anything regarding speech, belief and conscience.

          Just as I would purposely NOT legislate, so as to keep the Weapons of Mass Oppression out of infantile minds. Specially those that believe that you can legislate any problem away and in fairy tales.

    • Thanks for the link to the debate Amieres. This Garvey character is a true believer, Golinger would be proud of his sticking to ‘revolutionary facts’, you know US backed coup, US backed Globovision, and all that. One has to feel for chavismo though, they’ve lost Chomsky and they’ve gained Garvey, another ‘towering’ intellectual, just like Socrates.

      • He followed Eva before he even followed his own organization. He may be the “brains” behind FDA but surely FDA is Eva’s brainchild. I’m guessing she was feeling nostalgic about her VIO days.

        • What do you know? He fixed it already.
          But he forgot a couple of entries:

          14. Sea funded from abroad.
          15. Sea privately funded not declared to the National Electoral Council and the National
          Integrated Customs and Tax Administration (SENIAT).

          The “sea” cannot be funded from abroad. That’s a shallow sea.

          • These guys are ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE…

            Look at how they “fixed” aparte #2. It used to read:

            “Do not be permitted electoral propaganda:

            2.Atente the honor, privacy, intimacy, self-image, confidence and reputation of individuals.”

            Now it reads

            “Do not be permitted electoral propaganda:

            2. The honor, privacy, intimacy, self-image, confidence and reputation of individuals.”

            But that doesn’t make even a little bit of sense!!!

            I’m totally fascinated by this Garvey fellow now. It’s just breath-taking.

          • But that doesn’t make even a little bit of sense!!!

            Quico, this video on the rating given to Argentina is revealing, insofar as work methodology at FDA: .

            Garvey appears to have limited skills in mining information and in handling political statistics. He also pretty much acts alone, with a young Ed McMahon as his sounding board, and 3 females as silent partners. They add “peso” to the videotaped *work sessions*.

            So, Garvey attempts to rate Argentina on its electoral fairness. In the process, he mentions Venezuela, as a favourable comparison, regarding laws that separate the media and government.

            Garvey notes that there are $18 million in public funds, given to Argentine political parties for electoral purposes. (Hello-o-o-o, guess where a good chunk, if not all that money is coming from?) And Garvey says, “that’s what I need to find out. It’s a hell of a lot of money ..” Does he investigate before rating the country? No-o-o-o. Instead, he encourages the others to chime in to determine the FDA rating on Argentina.

            “Do you think we should go with 20%?” Garvey asks his sounding board. “It’s not like Syria. We’re going to come to Syria.”
            “(mumble, mumble, compared to … mumble, mumble),” says the sounding board.
            “So do you think 20%?” Garvey asks him.
            “Yeah, I would say so.”
            “So what’s 20%?” Garvey asks.

            And that’s pretty much how that *work session* ends. The others are pretty similar, to the point that you wonder, how much of all this is make believe? How much of all this really makes any sense?

        • well that explains why Venezuela rates highly in the electoral fairness sweepstakes. Eva needs supporting data to ensure that her book(s) sell. Garvey is Eva’s stooge,

  10. From it 2012 Venezuela Project…

    “The most disruptive force in Venezuela is political polarization whereby Chavez, representing generally lower income Venezuelans, is at political war with opposition groups who are supported by foreign countries” (Yes, foreign countries)

    “The electoral audit will encompass all regions of Venezuela and be premised on the FDA’s cooperation with Venezuelan civil society and government…entail participation by many Venezuelan volunteers, numerous public information sessions, and a survey of Venezuelans from all 10 regions” (Yes, all 10 Regions)

    • Oh wow. What regions would those be? Could it be the regions that were rejected in the 2007 Constitutional Referendum? Or are they referring to the ten original provinces of the Capitania General de Venezuela. Wait, weren’t those eight, hence the number of stars on the flag?

      Me so confused…

  11. I just conducted an “audit” with my drunk friend at the pub, an enthusiastic left-leaning high school student and a couple of homeless drug addicts and we’ve determined, based on the methodology used by the Foundatiom for Democratic Advancement, that the DPRK (North Korea) scores the highest on electoral fairness. We’re launching our foundation tonight. I’ve got a call in to Eva to secure funding for our foundation, the Center for the Advancement of Men Who Still Live in Their Parent’s Basement.

  12. The amazing thing is that after I picked them up on it, they went back and “corrected” page 14…but the “correction” somehow makes even less sense than the original!

  13. A bit OT. Just a little something to get Alek Boyd screaming “fraud” like a banshee, and have Quico permaban me from this place (if he could).

    I just downloaded the rep from the cne website ( ). I didn’t even know it was there. I started some analysis of birth dates and found something “peculiar”. I mean, besides the fact that there are over 10 thousand people born before 1900 (one born in 1835) still on the REP. What I did was to count the amount of people on the REP born in a given year, and compared that with the population growth stats from the website ( ), and I got this: (the first number is the total of people in the REP born that year, of course)

    year 1960: 304285 – pop growth: 292217
    year 1961: 300898 – pop growth: 299523
    year 1962: 310978 – pop growth: 305000
    year 1963: 318614 – pop growth: 308079
    year 1964: 324683 – pop growth: 309843
    year 1965: 333571 – pop growth: 310699
    year 1966: 330013 – pop growth: 313201
    year 1967: 342707 – pop growth: 320120
    year 1968: 351460 – pop growth: 333062
    year 1969: 354846 – pop growth: 350438
    year 1970: 355880 – pop growth: 368287
    year 1971: 360501 – pop growth: 385009
    year 1972: 363744 – pop growth: 402402
    year 1973: 362798 – pop growth: 420160
    year 1974: 374996 – pop growth: 437394
    year 1975: 379966 – pop growth: 456154
    year 1976: 393444 – pop growth: 472922
    year 1977: 403729 – pop growth: 481310
    year 1978: 411156 – pop growth: 478536
    year 1979: 436705 – pop growth: 467962
    year 1980: 434312 – pop growth: 479000
    year 1981: 427660 – pop growth: 477432
    year 1982: 432498 – pop growth: 474528
    year 1983: 441994 – pop growth: 470896
    year 1984: 445200 – pop growth: 466922
    year 1985: 447254 – pop growth: 462990
    year 1986: 448635 – pop growth: 459488
    year 1987: 431566 – pop growth: 456800
    year 1988: 422503 – pop growth: 455312
    year 1989: 391559 – pop growth: 455410
    year 1990: 366837 – pop growth: 447000
    year 1991: 302187 – pop growth: 462000

    The population growth includes births plus immigration minus deaths and emigration, and even though it’s a calculated value (not actually based on head counting), it should give you a good indication for a maximum value of how many people were born on the country that year.

    Notice that the number of people in the REP born before 1970 is higher than the population growth of that year. Even if we assume a whole lot of immigration, there’s still the fact that people die, and a good proportion of the people born in Venezuela in 1965 should be dead by now, certainly more than whatever amount of immigrants have come into the country. Also notice how steady the REP numbers are from 1979 till 1989. And even if we ignore everything else, there’s still the fact that the number of people in the REP approaches or surpasses 100% of the people born on that year in Venezuela. That’s not normal, no matter how you look at it.

    I’m going to do now some analysis based on cédula numbers and names. And also compare this data with the Maisanta data (before the REP went into overdrive) to see how it matches. It’ll take a while though…

    • A short cedula analysis. I counted the number of cedulas that start in a particular millionth and this is what I found:

      cedula million: 0: REP count: 293591
      cedula million: 1: REP count: 426667
      cedula million: 2: REP count: 532573
      cedula million: 3: REP count: 759490
      cedula million: 4: REP count: 834212
      cedula million: 5: REP count: 843760
      cedula million: 6: REP count: 762064
      cedula million: 7: REP count: 846555
      cedula million: 8: REP count: 856857
      cedula million: 9: REP count: 872858
      cedula million: 10: REP count: 862636
      cedula million: 11: REP count: 844681
      cedula million: 12: REP count: 882834
      cedula million: 13: REP count: 860003
      cedula million: 14: REP count: 880464
      cedula million: 15: REP count: 876900
      cedula million: 16: REP count: 873914
      cedula million: 17: REP count: 879430
      cedula million: 18: REP count: 843921
      cedula million: 19: REP count: 758820
      cedula million: 20: REP count: 568209
      cedula million: 21: REP count: 231322
      cedula million: 22: REP count: 308924
      cedula million: 23: REP count: 166171
      cedula million: 24: REP count: 148444
      cedula million: 25: REP count: 122998
      cedula million: 26: REP count: 21290
      cedula million: 27: REP count: 2482

      This means that, out of the 1 million people whose cedula is in the 4.000.000-4.999.999 range, 834212 are registered to vote. That’s 83.4%. Remember that a whole lot of people have died since they started giving out the cedulas. And, of course, 29.3% of the people with cedulas under a million are still in the REP.

    • Welshie, thanks for this. In fact, Adolfo Fabregat did a few years ago an interesting study:

      If you want to see his original files, let me know. You can use what he did in 2006 as a reference. But you’ve already said it:

      And even if we ignore everything else, there’s still the fact that the number of people in the REP approaches or surpasses 100% of the people born on that year in Venezuela. That’s not normal, no matter how you look at it.

      Our host here would, matter of factly, say “I just don’t see it, it’s a well oiled registration drive, population ageing, none of this conspiracy fraud bullshit, you know what I mean?”

      • I guess you need to add in the wholesale giving of nationality to foreigners (Cuban, Colombian, Chinese, etc.) in exchange for voting for you know who……….


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