Everyone knew what happened that day: as images of empty voting centers made the rounds on social media, Tibisay Lucena was busy assuring the world they were on course for a mathematically unlikely turnout of 99% mid-morning. As CNE skipped checks and audits left and right, doing away with systems meant to protect against double-voting, their intention to bulk up the voting tallies was plain. Setting up last-minute “contigency” voting centers with lax checkpoints and no oversight of voter rolls furthered suspicion about shady mobilization efforts and possible usurpation of identities.

But Christmas came early this year for a demoralized opposition frustrated by the most in-your-face fraud to have ever been perpetrated in the era of chavismo: in the form of confirmation.

First,on the night of the announcement, the usual 5-person board of the CNE was missing a member. CNE Board member friendly to the opposition, L.E. Rondón, did not show up, in protest. 

Later in the week, he said he couldn’t vouch for the results Tibisay Lucena read out on Sunday. That had never happened before.

Then, this morning, a brutal one-two: first, BBC broke the news that Smartmatic, the company that makes the actual machines used to vote in Venezuela, said turnout numbers had been bulked up by at least one million votes. We thought the Venezuelan electoral authorities were not going to like what we had to say [about the results],” a company spokesman said. Quite.

Finally Reuters’ Girish Gupta, on the basis of internal CNE documents, found that just 3,720,465 people had voted by 5.30 p.m. — meaning that unless turnout doubled in the last 90 minutes of voting (it didn’t) the figure Tibisay Lucena read out was pure fiction.

Now the people whose say-so the government always relied on to bolster their claims to credibility are openly questioning CNE’s veracity. Jennifer McCoy, the former head of observation missions to Venezuela for the Atlanta-based Carter Center, said that “although it’s possible to have a late push at the end of the day, and the Socialist Party has tried to do that in the past, to double the vote in the last hour and a half would be without precedent.”

Significantly, CNE has still not published detailed, center-by-center election results on its website, they only go down to the municipality level, which makes it impossible to check their numbers against local tallies produced by each voting machine. This, again, is a first — and makes it impossible to check the overall tally.

CNE’s credibility lies in absolute tatters now: two decades of work designed to guarantee that, if nothing else, their vote tallies are reliable have been jettisoned in a few days.

To think that the most joy the Venezuelan opposition has been treated to this week comes from CNE itself. It’s as shocking as it is priceless.

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