When I read Quico’s Washington Post piece about the non-fraud fraud, I remembered my experience during the  signature drive for the 2016 recall referendum that didn’t happen.

I did not sign. The first time I went, they told me that I shouldn’t even try, that my turn wouldn’t come before 4:30 p.m. I went the next day and stood in line for two hours, until a guy came outside and started assigning numbers to everyone there. He got to 100 and the rest of us, the ones after that number, weren’t going to make it. The next day I stood in line for eight hours but didn’t make it, either. End result: I did not sign.

Does that count as abstaining?

I vote in Libertador, so this past Sunday I didn’t have to choose a governor. A friend went to his voting station around 3:00 p.m. and voted without a problem, the place was empty. They told him his station had opened at 1:00 p.m. —after a broken voting machine was finally replaced— and many people left. It took another friend of mine 12 hours to vote, because there was no power in her voting station (and well, who cares if those machines have backup batteries). Another friend had bruises all over her arms, because she was caught in a beating.

For the record,  I haven’t talked to that many people, but here’s a cold hard fact: one of the main issues reported last Sunday through MUD’s hotlines was broken machines. Most of these broken machines just happened to be located in heavy opposition urban centers such as Baruta and Sucre in Miranda State, Naguanagua in Carabobo, Caroní in Bolivar. What are the odds?

A person who waited for three hours, but couldn’t or didn’t want to wait for eight hours for a machine to work, abstained? A person who saw colectivos outside her voting station and was scared to go in, abstained? An 80 year-old man that got moved to another center at the very last minute, who couldn’t find how to get there by himself, abstained? Maybe in a way, they did. But in other ways, those people got screwed, like I got screwed on the recolección de firmas.

The abuse was brand new in magnitude. And the thing is it was new to the whole process, not just for the actual day of the election.

It’s true, we got screwed in the most predictable way possible. It was obvious that this kind of abuse was going to happen. But that doesn’t make the abuse a constant. Let’s say abuse is a vector: it has direction and magnitude. The direction, we knew of, but not the magnitude. There were reasons why we didn’t turn out. But there were also reasons why we couldn’t turn out.

This election wasn’t like the one in 2015 or the one in 2013 or like any other before that, because the abuse was brand new in magnitude and sophistication. And the thing is it was new to the whole process, not just for the actual day of the election. Maybe some candidates would have had a better chance of winning if they hadn’t been forced into exile or barred from running for public office. Maybe some campaigns could have been better if they hadn’t rushed through the whole schedule. Maybe several voting stations would have gotten better results, let’s say less rojos, if there had been witnesses (I mean witnesses who were actually able to get in touch with campaign HQ’s and report issues, without “random signal loss” on their cell phones, and who weren’t removed by force from the stations or coerced into leaving). When have they ever changed voting centers the same week of the election?

The whole process was much worse from the beginning and that’s the only thing that kind of process can yield: worse results. Yes, it has been a bad process many times before, but it had never been this bad.

We should have been able to accurately foresee the magnitude of the abuse.
Especially after the great clue we had with the “8 million” votes in the Constituyente. But we didn’t. Big mistake. A mistake that is a distant relative of the mistake that is taking a call on your cellphone on the street in Caracas: you are gonna get robbed and you know it. When they take your phone you are going to feel guilty, but you shouldn’t forget that the crime was theirs, not yours.

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Economist and Consultant in Economics and Public Policy at ODH Grupo Consultor in Caracas. Barbara is the co-author, with Richard Obuchi and Anabella Abadi, of “Gestión en Rojo” published by IESA. She loves everything related to oil and energy (except for corruption, pollution and inefficiency). Fan of Fargo, GoT and House of Cards.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Exactly. And when you have your cell phone taken from you by force, you are not the ally of the person robbing you because you exercise your right to carry a cell phone outside.

  2. I also think it is worth noting that people who campaigned, and people who voted, put themselves at risk in various forms and degrees: sometimes considerable risk.

    Not only are some people blaming the victims, but they are at the same time blaming people and denigrating the motives of people who have acted admirably, and lumping those people with the perpetrators.

    • Seriously, man, I wonder what will it take for people like you to realize that you are being cheated. I mean, all the evidence that is needed to come to the conclusion that you are being screwed by your leaders is right in front of your nose. Wake up. We are not in 2005 or in 2011.

      There is absolutely no way to beat them the way you are trying to. No way, In a million years. It is simply too sad to see.

      There are other ways, just as legitimate.

      You are all just, I don’ t know how to say it, you are are just covering yourselves in shit and eventually you will drown.

      • I’m not saying Venezuelans were not cheated. You know it. You’d rather get jacked up on insulting “people like me” -or the opposition voters and their candidates i.e. the victims- than focus your thoughts and energies at a common foe.

        Campaigning or casting a vote against the regime is not covering oneself in shit. I’m sorry. It isn’t. You have the enemy confused with the honourable. People with honour and with dignity campaigned, and cast votes, against the regime. The shit covering is being done by the regime. You should get that straight or it will confuse whatever great strategy you have in mind.

        • MUD is obviously not to be trusted, and nothing is possible until we all agree on that.

          I don’ t mean to insult you, sorry if I offended you.

          I just genuinely wonder what it will take to make you people put two and two together.

          • No the pleasure is mine. I look forward to the perfect conditions under which your excellent plan will unfold.

  3. CC: Civil War!

    But seriously. We seem to be facing 2 scenarios. Either the MUD dies and the opposition coaliton gets reestructured and they prepare the people for street pressure with legitimacy and a clear end goal or they leave the rotten corpse of the coalition as is and we keep beating the electoral death horse and the dictatorship last until the end of times.

    Maria Corina`s position in her 1st speech was correct, same with Ledezma`s statement. There`s still hope even when it is against incredibly difficult obstacles , not only from chavismo but from adecos as well. And this is happening very late in the race, it needed to happen a few years ago actually. “La Salida” has been absolutely re vindicated as the right idea.

    Chavismo`s strategy all along has been rendering the political opposition efforts useless and destroying it from within controling it`s own pieces on the adversaries deck. Either the leadership that remains true to its purpose learns and acts based on that /and assume all the risk and responsability the context demands) or they can simply get erased from history while people turn to chaos, apathy or simply fleeing like they have been doing.

  4. I dont think it really matters if there is fraud or not.
    If there was fraud, it was the most predictable one in the world. So the “I told you” so gets its victory.
    If there wasn’t, the MUD is simply getting what it deserves after deciding they could shit over their most radical base believing they would support them unconditionally. So in a sense they failed to convince the “I told you so” crowd which retroactively made them right.

    In any case the only clear thing is that the MUD isn’t doing a good job at all, and they are going to have to do some very extreme things if they want anyone to vote for them again.
    I voted, but I also knew this was going to happen. I did it because I wanted the moral high ground, nothing else. I now have my cake and ate it. I am a ” I voted but I also called this hard”

  5. Yes, that’s true. And the Opposition should’ve gotten more votes. Despite that, 62% of the voters showed up and voted, or at least that was the story cne told us.

    Now the large FRAUD is in the other side. Psuv votes. Here the fraud is massive. Let me explain why:

    First, all the polls said that 50% of registered voters should’ve voted. So 50% and not 62%. Now as you explained in your article a lot of people did not vote but they were going to (BTW some of them for psuv). However, all those potential voters were shown in the polls (the 50% but not in the 62% because they could not vote).

    Second, when the polls made their studies about people intending to vote, they interviewed people inside the country. Considering 2-3 million people left the country and some other just passed away, the number of people registered to vote is way bigger than the real number of potential voters.

    As such, when the polls interviewed the people and found that 50% were intended to vote it means than less than 50% were intended to vote. For example let’s say there are 20 M people registered and 4 M left or passed, then there are only 16 M people available to vote. So the 50% should be applied to the 16 M and not to the 20 M, so instead of 10 M only 8 M are intended to vote or 40% of the total registered.

    In conclusion, the voters intending to vote were less than 50% by far. But amazingly, cne announced that there were 62% of votes. And notice that 10% means around 1.8 M votes, so the reduction of the abstention is really the votes added by the fraud machine cne (the same who invented more than 8 M votes in the constituyente).

    Third, did you notice that in Táchira and Zulia the abstention were higher (less votes) than in the rest of the country? And it was there were the psuv lost. As Jorge (cínico) Rodríguez stated “less abstention it’s better for us”.

    Fourth, the polls estimated (all of them) that around 25% of people were intended to vote for psuv. And more than double (at least 50%) were intended to vote against the gob-psuv. Remember we are in the middle of the worst catastrophe. So, how did the psuv pass 6 M votes out of 15 M (or less and remember municipio Libertador did not vote)?

    Conclusion: had the election being with the same conditions of 2015, the abstention would’ve been around 50% or more (less than 50% of voters). In this scenario, the number of votes should’ve been around 9 M. And of those 9 M votes, 6 M against the govt-psuv and only around 3 M for the psuv.

    So the fraud was around 3 M votes (thanks cne, no tinta indeleble, carné de la patria and all kind of tricks that gave them this monstrosity).

  6. Excellent write up. The victims of this are powerless and blameless.

    I’m still in a bit a shock that knowing the 8 million vote bullshit, anyone gave this election any credence at all. I’m with Almagro on this one.

  7. I really appreciate a piece that is on the side of the people, specially when you see most Venezuelan journalism embedded with power these days telling the story from the politicians perspective. However: “Especially after the great clue we had with the “8 million” votes in the Constituyente. But we didn’t. Big mistake.” Big Mistake? A mistake is to put salt in your coffee, a mistake is to put your shirt backwards, or forgetting to turn your stove off before leaving home. But to go to an election weeks after this big fraud of the constituent assembly, the revelations of smarmatic, the torture of thousands, and the massacre of more than 150 Venezuelans, is not a mistake, it is a irresponsibility of criminal proportions. Are so numbed by this chaos, that we can’t see this? tell someone with fresh ears the story, and you will see..

    • participating in elections in order to undermine a dictatorship and achieve the opposite is indeed a big mistake (isn’t that the definition of putting your shirt backwards in politics?). It seems that they (and you) will never admit it. So be it.

    • You nailed it Gina! Playing a game you know is rigged against you is not a mistake. It is something worse. And convincing those who trust you to follow your lead is very close to criminal.

  8. People let’s get real here!

    I just get so frustrated by all the denial! Sometimes I wonder if this is the same crowd that thinks Obama was born in Kenya. I need to get it off my chest even though only a couple of people will ever read this.

    I get it! The State Machinery, played its usual dirty tricks and some new ones in order to make things difficult for the opposition. I get that! Believe me my family don’t shut up about it. Had it been fair there would have been far more MUD votes and possibly many more wins if not a majority.

    What upsets me the most is the 5,814,903 votes the PSUV party obtained. That’s 1,720,439 votes more than the regional elections in 2012. Are you kidding me!!! That screams to me that we the opposition are doing a GOD AWFUL job of persuading people just how incompetent the PSUV really is.

    So now I can already imagine hearing you all criticising me on how ballot boxes were somehow blatantly stuffed,through several mechanisms, such as PSUV voter with several IDs or some complex computer hacking, or ghost polling centers, etc. I simply don’t buy it.

    For PSUV voters with multiple ID’s to be influencing the elections there would need to be tens of thousands of such voters. You telling me that these tens of thousands of voters can keep it a secret without someone spilling the whole beans? Yeah right!

    Secondly if you are running for Governor and believe you can win than surely you should have no problem in being able to organize a handful of volunteers be present at every polling station as observers. If possible with mobiles that have cameras in order to document any issues such as voter intimidation, denial of entry into auditing the vote count, or even just simply proving proof of whether voter station exists. After elections if this documentation is compiled and shows systematic issues present than you will have an easy time, convincing anyone of widespread fraud. If this exists I have yet to see it for any election. Please provide link!

    At the end of the day I just don’t get how a Government that is too blatantly ignorant to understand basic economics 101 seem to know the smallest intricacies of how to stuff ballot boxes without it being blatantly obvious to average data scientists.

    So Please, let us be real!

    Let’s get out of the obvious bubble we live in and accept that we have to reach out to those who do vote for the PSUV. Let us educate them about Corruption and who it can be tackled by transparency. Let us educate them about inflation and how printing money like there is no tomorrow makes things worse not better. Let us educate the masses about the benefits of capitalism and how it doesn’t necessarily mean an end to government programs with social welfare at heart.

    Then maybe then it won’t matter what tricks Maduro and his cohorts pull, they simply won’t have the support of its people.

    • “I just get so frustrated by all the denial!”

      And yet your whole post is about denying the fraud and keeping with the fallacy that “we have to respect the chavista hearts with little ant’s work that will waste another 50 years”

    • I appreciate you are trying to make sense of things.

      We both can see that PSUV still has people.
      We also can see that PSUV stole the election, again.

      The question remains whether we will ever be able to stop them from stealing elections.
      You seem to believe the only way to do it is by making their popular support virtually zero.
      I tell you this will not happen. They will keep their die hard base.
      It’s up to us to realize they will not allow us to beat them.
      The election route will not work.

      People that think like me simply will not vote anymore.

      If we want a way out of this we need to support Ledezma, MCM and the likes.

      Otherwise we will keep on playing this game for years to come with similar results (but changing twists) again and again.

  9. Mr Toro,
    I respect a lot of your views, but, in this instance, I think that your article is not just unhelpful, but actually irresponsible, given that it purports to be expert opinion directed towards an international audience.

    With respect to fraudulent vote addition, you make a classic error in logic by confusing the absence of evidence with the evidence of absence. Your first instinct was to cry fraud (without any evidence), and now you have flopped into a position (also without evidence) where you believe that the regime had a “real election win”, according to your own idiosyncratic definition. You predicate your view on the fact that you have not YET seen any convincing evidence of fraudulent vote addition.

    Need I remind you that there was the absence of evidence of fraud by vote manipulation in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 revocatorio, apart from a mismatch of exit poll and results. Indeed, the Carter Centre argued that there was proof of the absence of fraud by virtue of the fact that (a) they had verified that the new electronic system was foolproof, and (b) they could confirm this by the hot audit which showed a perfect match between ballot papers and electronic tally.

    We now know that the 2004 vote was “fraud on steroids”, but the CNE destroyed the paper ballots to ensure that no audit could reveal the fraud. It was not till 2007 that the Carter Centre quietly dropped their resistance to the overwhelming statistical arguments demonstrating electronic manipulation of the vote. Ironically, the 2004 vote is used today by academics as a benchmark test of new algorithms for the forensic detection of fraud in election results.

    Similarly, in 2013, there was plenty of evidence of electoral abuses, but no direct evidence of fraudulent vote addition. However, forensic statistical analysis, and specifically irregular voting patterns WITHIN multi-table voting centres, shows that the likelihood of those results occurring without such fraudulent addition is infinitesimally small. This result is both definitive and robust.

    Between 2004 and 2013, we were told repeatedly that the possibility of two-way communication with the voting machines which explained the 2004 fraud had been eliminated. The government audit allowed comparison of electronic vote with paper in this instance but refused any comparison with the cuadernos de votacion. So how were the votes added? I do not know. We have robust statistical evidence of the existence of vote-rigging but an ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE for the mechanism.

    I would suggest that, as yet, you have no evidence in the recent elections for the existence or non-existence of vote-rigging, yet your article suggests to the world at large that such vote-rigging did not occur. This opinion is offered as a fact, and unless you are privy to a forensic analysis which I have not seen, it is offered without the benefit of a credible statistical analysis of the results

    I have a second point to make about your article, which I will present in a separate comment.

  10. Mr Toro,
    My second point on your article relates to “talking into the audience”.

    Irrespective of whether there was or was not significant fraudulent vote addition, there is evidence of a number of other electoral abuses. There appears to be evidence of blatant modification of results reported in the actas de escrutinio – in Bolivar at least. There are numerous confirmed reports of actions by the government to dilute the opposition vote – late, badly communicated moves of polling stations, inclusion of non-participants in the voting lists, selective delays and breakdowns of voting machines, direct intimidation of voters and physical obstruction. And numerous reports of actions to boost the government vote – direct intimidation esp. of public employees and CLAP recipients, food-for-votes and “mobilisation” of late voters by colectivos. Additionally we have abuse of government funds, media control and the elimination/disabling of candidates by corrupt process and corrupt courts.

    We forget that, in most western democracies, any of the above abuses would on their own be sufficient to cause a massive scandal and a challenge to the legitimacy of the vote. Venezuela has become so desensitised to government abuse that it is easy to forget how important these things really are. Your article characterises these things as a sort of “business as usual”, kinda normal for Venezuela. You therefore underplay the fraud and tell an international readership that the government has just had “a real election win”, in an election that was “competitive” . These words will remain in readers’ minds long after your qualifications have been forgotten. Your main justification for this conclusion is that YOU have not yet seen any evidence of direct vote-rigging.

    I would ask you to consider very carefully what message you think you have left with those in the international community who genuinely wish to help restore democratic process to Venezuela. I suspect that your article will be referenced and used gleefully by supporters of the Maduro regime, and others who for whatever reason wish to forestall any international action.

  11. Barbara, on the sake of the analogy that you stated at the end: part of politics is damage control, politics is the art of getting the best for the worst conditions. If you know there are criminals out there the only thing you can control is taking the previsions and not pulling out your cell phone. The “boleteo” is very expensive and is the only thing the opposition had to control.

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