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Venezuela's recall: An e-conversation with Jennifer McCoy, part II

By Aleksander Boyd

London 04 Oct. 04 - A knee jerk reaction, caused by the views of Jimmy Carter vis-à-vis the coming vote in the USA and the electoral conditions in Florida, prompted me to send an email to Dr. Jennifer McCoy. I considered fitting to do so given the sheer negligence that characterised the recent electoral observation mission of the Carter Centre in Venezuela. Carter’s allegations such as “It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation” had a devastating effect; what’s more it signified the demise of whatever credibility his persona had left after his quick endorsement of the electoral fiasco in Venezuela, event which -need to be stressed- was conducted under the most grotesquely fraudulent conditions, as admitted in the latest report released by the Carter Centre. Fortunately Dr. McCoy replied to my communication and yet again I must express my sincerest gratitude to her for engaging in this e-conversation. Now I shall demand some serious explanations from members of the opposition although I do not set my hopes very high in that regard [see last sentence of the exchange].

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 30/09/2004 13:44
Subject: The legacy to your children...

Dear Dr McCoy,

Your silence is deafening. I have left messages for you both at the university and in the Carter centre, yet you do not want to reply, I guess I can accept that. However the recent statement of your boss regarding electoral conditions in Florida shocked me. I know that you have two children, mind you what sort of legacy do you envision for them? Do you wish for them a world where double standards are imposed over moral principles or is it one in which whomever $peaks louder reigns?

Can you be at peace with yourself as a mother, knowing that all Venezuelan children will suffer greatly due to your actions? I am a father myself and the legacy I want to create is an environment whereby respect to others regardless of race, religion and political stance is upheld; a world without distinctions; a humanity at peace that will guarantee the development of its individuals. It's an extremely challenging task, but I work very hard to its attainment. It saddens me that my children and yours will bear the consequences of actions such as yours and those of Jimmy Carter for they deserve better.

These days will pass, however your amoral stance won't be forgotten. Two separate contemporary histories of Venezuela are developing and your lenient attitude is favoured by none. You are a mother, act as such.

Cordially, A. Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 03/10/2004 06:15
Subject: Re: The legacy to your children...

I didn't respond because I was not giving interviews before our report was issued (Sept 30); and since you had published what I thought was a private email exchange on your website, I imagined that any further contact with you would be akin to an interview.

You can see the executive summary of our comprehensive report of the activities of the past year on the Carter Center webpage: www.cartercenter.org.

J. McCoy

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 03/10/2004 11:17
Subject: Re: The legacy to your children...

Dear Dr McCoy,

Many thanks for your response. I took the liberty of posting our exchange for I do not consider that having done so was going to have a negative impact on any of the parties involved. On the contrary, I would very much like to promote dialogue of the kind and showing very many people that read my site that it is possible and convenient to have civilized and respectful discussions about our issues. Furthermore I think it's necessary to do our utmost to continue for it may help dissipate the mountains of doubts that me and many of my fellow countrymen have in regards to the actions of the CC in the recall process.

I am well aware of the new report released by the CC and I am also aware of your recent statements in Miami where you shared a panel with Maria Corina Machado. As you may know already, she is being prosecuted by the Venezuelan government along with other directors of Sumate. Imagine George Bush sending the hounds after you for your electoral work... Anyway going back to the issue that occupies us and in light of the content of the report I shall say that I agree with 99.9% of it. However I still believe that the second audit was far from transparent for as you know only too well, every single element involved in it was under the absolute control of the CNE. As you rightly pointed out in the report you did not find one single instance in which a split decision of the board favouring the opposition occurred. Thus under no circumstance can we feel that the results are representative of the electorate's will for the CNE keeps illegally encroaching upon our right to scrutinize the ballots as advocated by Jimmy Carter in Florida in 2000. That dear Dr McCoy is the whole issue. The presidential vote between Gore and Bush in 2000 was very close in Florida. What happened then? "Every vote has to be counted" wasn't that the motto of Mr Carter and the CC?

Let us move now to Venezuela where a healthy 20% difference by no means can be considered close. What's the reason of the CNE's over jealousy in opening up to scrutiny? Why do they continue to ignore the legal plights of the opposition to allow for a revision of actas and urnas of national scope? Don't you see the conflict of interests here, or is it just me? Going back to the report, it states that the majority of the board kept favouring the government in the most controversial issues. Don't you reckon that this is a controversial enough issue? As I have already mention to you in a previous message, I am willing to accept the results but what I do not accept is the illegal stance of the CNE board, that ever so invariably leads me to the question, why the official fear to open up to scrutiny and secrecy with such a huge margin of votes favouring their side? Others that pop to mind are, why were you not allowed in the totalizing room? Why was your software utilized not, as agreed, in the generation of the samples of the second audit? Why no one to date has been able to debunk the hypothesis proposed by Hausmann and Rigobon? Why the rush on your part to endorse results on Monday 16th without admittedly having conducted proper audits according to international standards?

I feel obliged to tell you that I read law in the University of London. I have been fortunate enough to live (apart from Venezuela) in Spain, the UK, Canada and the USA; in sum I know how it is like to vote in advanced societies and I know for a fact that behaviour as the one exhibited by the crooks running my country would not be permitted for one day in any of the aforesaid nations. Why should it be permitted and applauded in Venezuela? In what moment in time do things you consider unacceptable in your country become "a reflection of the electorate's will" in mine?

Please answer these questions with open heart & mind and I beg you to consider me a confused student that needs much explaining. Said student may well be your compatriot, not some 'latino or indio' who can not tell apart the wood from the tree.

Kind regards, A. Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 03/10/2004 13:53
Subject: Re: The legacy to your children...

** High Priority **

Dear Mr. Boyd,

Many of your questions are already addressed in our reports. Let me address a few of them here.

1. Regards U.S. and Florida -- there should not be different standards. What happened in Florida in 2000? Some citizens were denied the vote; the official in charge of the elections in Florida also openly held an important position in the campaign of one of the parties; there was NOT a total recount; the difference in the votes was only 536 votes; the Supreme Court decided the election in a 5-4 vote which many Americans viewed as a partisan and political decision; and then the losing candidate and party and many Americans accepted that decision and moved on to try to improve conditions for the next election. Many Americans view that election as having had extremely serious consequences not only for the U.S. but for the world.

In Venezuela, despite a pattern of 3:2 votes in the CNE, sufficient signatures were validated to hold a recall referendum. The spread was 19%, or 1.8 million votes. There were many issues that needed significant improvement before the next election, including greater openness and more extensive audits to reassure voters about the performance of new technology that would not have been necessary had they been done the first time the machines were used. The Carter Center and the OAS made recommendations to improve the process the next time around. Neither organization found any evidence that would have overturned the results.

2. With regard to the audit: as we have reported, the OAS and Carter Center statisticians and computer engineers from Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Germany tested the sample program before and after the sample drawings on both August 15 and August 18. Extensive tests demonstrate it was indeed random. You are right these audits were both under the control of the CNE. In fact, the international observers did not plan to observe that audit to any significant degree because, as we have explained, we focused our efforts on a different sample -- to collect our quick count results. WE viewed the presence of the parties as sufficient for the "auditoria en caliente."

It is precisely because that first audit on the night of August 15 was not completed that we began to propose the second audit late on Monday as soon as we had information that the first audit was not completed and the beginnings of concerns from the Coordinadora about the machines. Prior to the recall, almost all of the concerns were focused on the transmission and tabulation, not the performance of the machines, and the former is what our quick count and other tests we ran focused on.

The second audit was also an exercise of the CNE, but this time observed very carefully by the international observers. We did originally propose to use an Excel program, and discussed that with the Coordinadora and Sumate. However, by the time we reached the final detailed discussion with the CNE about the procedures, the Coordinadora had already rejected the audit and declined to participate. At that point, the CNE technicians discussed with the OAS/Carter Center technicians which program to use, the OAS/Carter Center technicians assured me it did not make a difference, the programs were of equal merit, and we accepted the CNE decision to use the Pascal program, which we previously had a copy of and had already tested (We also ran additional tests immediately before the drawing of the sample on the CNE computers.)

In retrospect, I wish we would have insisted on the Excel program, not because I doubt the randomness of the Pascal program, but because of the perception problem and the greater confidence it would have given. I also wish we had insisted on more direct negotiations between the CNE and the Coordinadora on the conditions of the second audit. We believed at the time that it was important to hold the second audit as soon as possible to address the Coordinadora's expressed concerns that the boxes not be tampered with in the interim and to provide a fuller answer to the country.

Regarding why the CNE doesn't open up the machines now to a full recount: if they did, would anyone accept the results after having been under the custody of the Plan Republica for weeks, instead of 3 days, when the second audit was conducted and some still feared that the military could have changed the paper ballots?

I agree communication is important. Thanks for the opportunity.

Jennifer McCoy

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 03/10/2004 15:55
Subject: Re: The legacy to your children...

Dear Dr McCoy,

May my gratitude go to you for having sent such a detailed reply. It pleases to learn that we can have this exchanges that tremendously help in the understanding of the referendum. I shall try to respond punctually to your set of points.

Jennifer L. McCoy wrote:

** High Priority **

Dear Mr. Boyd,

Many of your questions are already addressed in our reports. Let me address a few of them here.

1. Regards U.S. and Florida -- there should not be different standards. What happened in Florida in 2000? Some citizens were denied the vote; the official in charge of the elections in Florida also openly held an important position in the campaign of one of the parties; there was NOT a total recount; the difference in the votes was only 536 votes; the Supreme Court decided the election in a 5-4 vote which many Americans viewed as a partisan and political decision; and then the losing candidate and party and many Americans accepted that decision and moved on to try to improve conditions for the next election. Many Americans view that election as having had extremely serious consequences not only for the U.S. but for the world.

Kudos for accepting that there shouldn't be different standards. You mentioned "Some citizens were denied the vote." I could argue that the illegal migration of voters right before voting date mounts to denial to vote. Although the officials in charge of the vote did not hold positions in the campaign of one of the parties, it is a know fact -acknowledged by you- that the majority of the board showed a clear partisan stance with respect to the government, i.e. one of the parties. Carrasquero, Rodriguez and Battaglini were seen prior to the vote as guests of honour in acts of protocol organized by the government. Did we ever witness such conduct on the part of Sobella Mejias and Ezequiel Zamora with the opposition? I think not, neither had we a total recount. Quite frankly I did not know that the difference in Florida was so small (pardon my ignorance), but in any case were those 536 votes for Bush? Should that have been the case why the involvement of the Supreme Court? Had Bush -the winning candidate in this case- ominous control of the Supreme Court Judges, as the one enjoyed by Chavez, that could have led to the belief held by many Americans that the 5-4 decision was a politicized partisan decision? I sincerely admire the reaction by the American people and its commitment to try to improve conditions for the next election. Venezuelans on the other hand are faced with the daunting prospect of having the recall referendum and the regional elections separated by 75 days as opposed to four years in the US. As you know election for governors / majors will be conducted by the very same officials we so deeply distrust. Furthermore they have shown extreme resilience to open up to scrutiny thus reinforcing the widely held apprehension towards the electoral entity as such. The recent resignation of Zamora and refusal by the board to accept Kornblith constitutes prime example of their dodgy attitude.

In Venezuela, despite a pattern of 3:2 votes in the CNE, sufficient signatures were validated to hold a recall referendum. The spread was 19%, or 1.8 million votes. There were many issues that needed significant improvement before the next election, including greater openness and more extensive audits to reassure voters about the performance of new technology that would not have been necessary had they been done the first time the machines were used. The Carter Center and the OAS made recommendations to improve the process the next time around. Neither organization found any evidence that would have overturned the results.

How would the Florida officials behaved in the presence of a spread of 1.8 million votes? And I keep questioning myself, how come a president religitimised with 1.8 million votes allows for the opposition to entertain the fraud claim without ordering the electoral council to open up all boxes to clear doubts once and for all? It could be that I'm plain thick... However I sincerely wish that the recommendations made will be taken on board.

2. With regard to the audit: as we have reported, the OAS and Carter Center statisticians and computer engineers from Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Germany tested the sample program before and after the sample drawings on both August 15 and August 18. Extensive tests demonstrate it was indeed random. You are right these audits were both under the control of the CNE. In fact, the international observers did not plan to observe that audit to any significant degree because, as we have explained, we focused our efforts on a different sample -- to collect our quick count results. WE viewed the presence of the parties as sufficient for the "auditoria en caliente."

It is precisely because that first audit on the night of August 15 was not completed that we began to propose the second audit late on Monday as soon as we had information that the first audit was not completed and the beginnings of concerns from the Coordinadora about the machines. Prior to the recall, almost all of the concerns were focused on the transmission and tabulation, not the performance of the machines, and the former is what our quick count and other tests we ran focused on.

Let me assure you that it is not my concern the functionality of the machines but rather the impossibility to conduct the hot audit properly. As you know the night before the vote the CNE (Rodriguez) granted the audit of 192 boxes from a pool of centres selected exclusively by him or his team. Of the 192 stipulated only 76 audits were successfully completed. Of those 76 the opposition representatives witnessed 27 and in this 27 centres the SI option won with an almost identical figure to that attributed to the NO option in the final result. Quite odd. So my doubt in regards to the hot audit would be; why was this audit not concluded? Why only 76 centres of a universe of 192? Why was the presence of the opposition limited to 27 centres?

The second audit was also an exercise of the CNE, but this time observed very carefully by the international observers. We did originally propose to use an Excel program, and discussed that with the Coordinadora and Sumate. However, by the time we reached the final detailed discussion with the CNE about the procedures, the Coordinadora had already rejected the audit and declined to participate. At that point, the CNE technicians discussed with the OAS/Carter Center technicians which program to use, the OAS/Carter Center technicians assured me it did not make a difference, the programs were of equal merit, and we accepted the CNE decision to use the Pascal program, which we previously had a copy of and had already tested (We also ran additional tests immediately before the drawing of the sample on the CNE computers.

The CD maintains that it declined participation in the second audit owing to the failure by the international observation teams to 'convince' the CNE about the necessity of using solely an approved by all parties software, i.e. that proposed by you (as in CC and OAS). Since this requirement could not be met and the randomized selection of boxes was generated by the very same programme utilized for the choosing of the 192 centres to be scrutinized in the hot audit of August 15th, the CD deemed it a futile exercise for they perceived it as being a repetition of the first fiasco.

In retrospect, I wish we would have insisted on the Excel program, not because I doubt the randomness of the Pascal program, but because of the perception problem and the greater confidence it would have given. I also wish we had insisted on more direct negotiations between the CNE and the Coordinadora on the conditions of the second audit. We believed at the time that it was important to hold the second audit as soon as possible to address the Coordinadora's expressed concerns that the boxes not be tampered with in the interim and to provide a fuller answer to the country.

Indeed it is truly a shame that you did not use all your electoral and diplomatic expertise to make the CNE board comprehend the sheer importance of conducting the second audit under the most transparent of conditions. That would have arrested at once all the fraud claims that ensued and would have provided a mantle of legitimacy to the process. However I very much doubt that the CNE and the "Comando Maisanta" would have let the control of the audit slid over to you guys.

Regarding why the CNE doesn't open up the machines now to a full recount: if they did, would anyone accept the results after having been under the custody of the Plan Republica for weeks, instead of 3 days, when the second audit was conducted and some still feared that the military could have changed the paper ballots?

The damage is done and the results will not be changed. Nevertheless given the facts reported by you about partisanship of the electoral board; official intimidation of voters; violation to privacy of personal details; official embezzlement of funds for campaigning and so on, I believe we could expect from you to be quite vocal in denouncing these issues before the international community for such conditions evidence a different set of electoral standards that ought not be permitted in a democracy, as you rightly observed. Only constant pressure for electoral conditions' reform and firm engagement by the international community will make the regime of Hugo Chavez abide to certain standards. What's more, you seem to be repented for having allowed the CNE to take you for a ride with respect to the procedures of the second audit and in that light I feel urged to express that the main difference between great individuals and others lies within the capacity of accepting one's errs and the willingness to act on them for its resolutions.

I agree communication is important. Thanks for the opportunity. Jennifer McCoy

Quite frankly these exchanges make me feel extremely fortunate and I sincerely hope that we continue with them for the attainment of that goal of a world in which respect for one another is the norm rather than the exception.

Kind regards, A. Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 04/10/2004 03:51
Subject: Re: The legacy to your children...

Just two quick points: the 536 votes were in favor of Bush in Florida, giving him the electoral college votes to win the presidency, although Al Gore had more total (popular) votes. The Supreme Court stepped in to decide appeals about whether there should be recounts in Flordia and decided to deny a full recount. You'll have to read other histories about the whole hanging chad controversy.

The CD decided not to participate in the second audit BEFORE the decision on the sample program.



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