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Hugo Chavez and Smartmatic accused of possible international conspiracy

Press Release from IVCD

08.04.06 | Irregularities identified in the electoral process in Venezuela reoccurred in the Chicago primary elections. Is this a coincidence? Chicago hired the same company responsible for the electoral fraud in the last four electoral processes in Venezuela. The company in question: Smartmatic-Sequoia, and according to Alderman Beaver “the company is associated with the corrupt policies of the government of Venezuela”. "We've stumbled across what could be the international conspiracy to subvert the electoral process in the United States of America ," said Alderman Ed Burke, Finance Committee Chairman.

This Friday April 6, the electronic voting company Smartmatic and Sequoia Voting Systems were questioned by the Financial Commission of the city of Chicago. Smartmatic’s president, Jack Blaine, answered multiple questions asked by Aldermen Edward M. Burke (Head of the Financial Commission), William Beavers (Head of the Budget and Government Operations Commission) and Richard Mell (Head of the Regulations and Ethics Committee). During the three hour session, five fundamental points came to light: (1) the jurisdiction and legality of Smartmatic and Sequoia Voting Systems, (2) foreign ownership, (3) presence of Venezuelan operators at the machines during voting, (4) effectiveness of the system, and (5) links of the company to the Chavez regime and Hugo Chavez’ intentions.

Ana Gil Garcia, IVCD y RECIVEX member, reports from City Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

As an opening statement, Mr. Mell told that three weeks after the primary elections held in Chicago, the company still had not provided the results. He added that the results of a mere 25 out of 65 precincts, have been reported. Alderman Beaver assured that this was the worst election of the past 32 years. He added that today, in a Pennsylvania newspaper reported that Smartmatic-Sequoia is also being investigated in that state and that the county affected had cancelled the contract with the voting company in question. Mr. Beaver mentioned that the company is associated with the corrupt policies of the government of Venezuela. He wondered about the consequences that could have generated had these been the official November elections. It was suggested that lack of training of the polling officers working in the precincts could have caused part of the chaos that took place. But Beaver insisted that the voting equipment presents serious faults and it failed to produce precise results on time.

According to Jack Blaine, who contradicted himself while answering, the contract came about in 2004 after two meetings with owner of Smartmatic, Antonio Múgica (the son). Múgica, who resides in Venezuela, was recently denied the US visa and is presently in France. The commission stated that it finds difficult to define and know who the true owners of the company are, since the company has been registered in Curacao, Amsterdam (Holland), Florida and Delaware. Blaine said he did not know how many employees work in the company, but mentioned 110 Venezuelans in Venezuela and about the same amount in the US working at Sequoia. He also stated that 15 Venezuelans came to work in the Chicago elections for Sequoia without a visa, which had not been required. He did not know how many Venezuelans work with Smartmatic in Illinois. The commission demanded a list of the names and professions of each one of the Venezuelans that came into the US, especially to Chicago to work with Smartmatic-Sequoia.

Blaine referred to the company as a family company, 90% owned by both Antonio Múgica (father and son), a cousin named Pedro Mugica who lives in Boca Raton, Florida and Roger Piñate, who is the director of Smartmatic, but was initially a founding member of the company in Curazao back in 2003. Blaine was named president of the company after working for three months as a consultant for Sequoia and after being interviewed twice by Múgica. He reports directly to Antonio Múgica and is conscious of the company’s nexus with Venezuela. He mentioned the company’s participation in the Venezuelan referendum after the Venezuelan government asked it to participate in February 2004.

Many contradictions were present when relating the registry and commercial history of Sequoia, which began as Smartmatic in Curacao, was then registered in Holland, then in Florida, and incorported in Delaware until it finally bought out Sequoia Voting Systems in March 2005 for US$20 million. Alderman Burke corrected Blaine saying that it had been for $60 million. Sequoia represented Smartmatic in the Chicago elections, after being selected among 20 other competitors and four finalists in collaboration with the electoral commission of Cook County, according to David Orr of the electoral committee of said county. Sequoia has 20 years of electoral experience

Mr. Burke interrogated Blaine about Smartmatic investors and assured that Hugo Chávez was one of the 20 proprietors. Blaine answered by saying that he ignored who the investors are. Consequently, Burke replied: ...”Then you are the president and you don’t know if there are foreign investors in the company?” Smartmatic Internacional, according to Blaine, is in four countries and two hemispheres. However, in a later question by Alderman Smith about other countries were the company conducts business, Blaine said: “only in the US”. The legality and ownership of the company should be reflected in Economic Disclosure Statement, yet Blaine ignored if the company had complied with that requisite.

Blaine’s argument for the failure was the lack of training, which translated into human errors while operating the machines. He mentioned that just one day of training was not enough to become familiar with three different systems. The city of Chicago owes $16 million to date, without including the cost of equipment. According to investigations, Sequoia subcontracted for $3 million another company called “Elections Works”, managed by a Sandra Hed. Blaine committed to verify said information.

Of a total of 1761 machines, only 1054 worked properly and 707 did not. Machine components were: 5500 optic scanners and 1900 screens. Alderman Aristón referred to those numbers saying that in effect, the machines do not work properly. Blaine defended himself saying that those were the components the city had bought, while the Head of the Financial Commission, Mr. Burke, argued that the documentation states exactly the opposite.

Mr. Blaine provided the names of several intermediaries, lawyers and others linked to the computerization and the contract entered in Chicago. In his opinion, the company must fix the technical problems that arise. At the end, Mr. Burke asked Blaine if he was aware of the Venezuelan-American relations. He reminded him that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld considers Chavez an enemy of the United States of America, and that Condoleezza Rice had called him a threat to the US and other countries. He added that Smartmatic-Sequoia’s intervention could be interpreted as conspiracy of the Venezuelan government and a clear meddling with the American electoral system.

Democrat Alderman Burke said in all night news (English and Spanish) that 15 illegal Venezuelans had entered the US through Sequoia to carry out an international conspiracy with the purpose of destabilizing the US electoral system. The pro-Chavez Venezuelans came to operate the Chicago electoral system, and had already plotted in other states. He referred to the rescission of a contract in Pennsylvania.

Before leaving, Mr. Burke asked if Blaine knew if any of the Venezuelan engineers could have maliciously altered the system. Mr. Blaine did not provide an answer. Blaine was asked to hand in a list of Venezuelans working for Sequoia in the US, what type of access they may have to the voting system, their legal status in this country and if they have returned to Venezuela upon completion of their work here. A detailed explanation of the software, and the type of access the Venezuelan engineers have to the software was also requested. Mr. Burke referred to the 26 pages of evidence of failures in the computerized Smartmatic-Sequoia Voting System the commission has.

During the last part of the interrogation to Smartmatic-Sequoia, once its representative had left, the commission deliberated and questioned in turn the Chicago electoral commission, who participated in the selection of the company. Sequoia is legally obscure and seems to present results according to wishes. “ If that happens again should the company participate in the November elections, then we should return to the manual system or the previously used punched cards,” said Mr. Beavers, Head of the Budget and Government Operations Committee. He asked to terminate the contract to avoid the same problems, which could increase in the coming November elections.

See news report of the hearing published by ABC local in Chicago.

Many of the mentioned irregularities identified in the Chicago primary elections were found in the past four electoral processes held by Smartmatic in Venezuela. Aleksander Boyd of VCrisis and Orlando Ochoa Terán of Inteligencia Corporativa, have investigated, documented and denounced the electoral fraud in Venezuela and continue to investigate the performance of the Smartmatic Voting Machines.

Contact:

Cristal Montañéz, +1 713 483 4990, President IVCD, International Coordinator RECIVEX

Silvia Puky +1 303 776 7356, Public Affairs IVCD, RECIVEX Colorado

Ana Gil Garcia, RECIVEX Chicago, +1 773 822 1071

IVCD, +1 800 291 2093 International Venezuelan Council for Democracy (IVCD) is a non-profit organization comprised by Coordinators of multiple Venezuelan organizations around the world, working to strengthen Venezuelan Democracy in defense of human, political, and civil rights, committed to safeguard democratic values and institutions, promoting citizen participation, openness and accountability in government in accordance to the principles established and agreed upon in the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS). IVCD is a civil and independent organization with no affiliation to political parties. P.O.Box 24 Erie, CO 80516 . Phone 1-888-291-2093



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