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Venezuela: Long and positive day at the "Remate" (final push)

By Miguel Octavio

It has been a long day. I worked for a few hours as a volunteer at the Sumate center in Caracas transcribing the information coming from all parts of the country. What Sumate organized was a simulation of the ratification process that will take place at the end of the month under the umbrella name o the "Remate" (Final Push). People could go to the same center that will be in place during those three days and find out what happened to their signature so they can be ready.

While this was going on, Sumate was gathering attendance figures by calling the centers and learning how many people had shown up to inquire about their status and how many of those had valid signatures, how many were rejected and how many will have to go at the end of the month to fix theirs.

By now, Sumate has a very complete database of those that are willing to go vote, work and do whatever is necessary to oust Chavez. They know who signed the petition for the consultative referendum that never took place. They know who signed the second one to request Chavez recall, which was not accepted. They know who signed the third one during the Reafirmazo last November. And they know who went today to learn about their signature. They can actually look at the overlap of this database and today people were asked if they wanted to volunteer even more information about themselves. I will stop at that and let Sumate tell you what they are doing and plan to do in the next few days.

For now, Enrique Mendoza announced that before all of the numbers were in, a total of 950,000 people had shown up today to check on the status of their signature. This is an impressive number when you consider the many ways available to check that status of your signature via the Internet, cellphones (Venezuela has a high penetration of cellphones of 8 million users in a population of 24 million. You can actually send an SMS message with your ID number, send it and in minutes get back your status) as well as going to CNE and Sumate centers or simply calling on the phone. This number which will certainly exceed one million should worry the Chavistas.

After spending the day transcribing the information, I saw the fraud committed by the CNE firsthand. I saw many things but let me give you a couple of examples. I saw at least three polling centers with over 500 total signatures where ALL the signatures were disqualified. Please understand, they are not subject to ratification, they are not under observation, they do not count at all and those that signed have no way of defending their rights.

Now, if you really believe that the CNE’s objective is to promote democracy and participation, under what criteria, technical, statistical or political can you really convince yourself that a process you set up is fair if ALL signatures were eliminated at one place? Not one person in those neighborhoods had their signature count. Some democracy, no? It reminds of the old question: If a Professor gives out an exam and everyone flunks, are the students bad or is the teacher to blame?

I also saw centers (usually rural) where 90% of the signatures were placed under observation. Obviously those manning the polls filled in the data.

To close on a positive note, since I am wiped out by now after spending hours sitting in front of a terminal transcribing data and making sure I did it right, I saw many centers where today, 60-70% of those that participated in the Reafirmazo showed up. These are, in my opinion fantastic numbers, given the fact that only those that have problems had the motivation to go.

Thus, the only question is at this time where the final trick against us is going to come from. At least I know they are going to have to work very hard to be successful at it!



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