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.