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Caracas, Monday September 06 , 2004  
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A report prepared by independent experts showed inconsistencies
Súmate: There is a 99% probability of fraud in referendum
Ricardo Hausmann (center) -accompanied by NGO's officials María Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz- explained the results of a preliminary investigation (Photo: Enio Perdomo)
The opposition civil association claimed that a sample of voting stations utilized in the August 15 recall vote on President Hugo Chávez the National Electoral Council (CNE) audited on August 18 was not representative



Opposition non-governmental organization Súmate Sunday disclosed a report prepared by independent experts Ricardo Hausmann, a Harvard University teacher, and Roberto Rigobon, a teacher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showing that there is a 99 percent of probabilities that a fraud was committed on the August 15 recall referendum on President Hugo Chávez.

The findings have reinforced Súmate's doubts about the transparency of the election results.

Hausmann explained that the study compared the results the National Electoral Council (CNE) published for 340 electoral centers with the number of signatures the opposition collected in November-December last year to demand a revoking referendum against Chávez, and with the exit polls both Súmate and the opposition Primero Justicia party conducted on August 15 at said electoral centers.

"We tried to find systematic inconsistencies in the parameters we used for comparison (namely, number of signatures and exit polls results). In other words, we tried to determine if there were ballots missing, basing on the number of signatures collected and the results of the exit polls," he said.

Hausmann admitted that both the number of signatures collected to demand the referendum and the results of the exit polls are "imprecise" parameters, and therefore the possibility that the ballots were manipulated should be discarded. Nevertheless, the experts did not rule out said possibility.

"In our test of fraud we used imperfect indicators of the voting intentions. As the indicators are imperfect, they make it more difficult for us to have positive results (showing that a fraud was committed)," he said.

Besides, Hausmann, who is a teacher of Economics at the Harvard University, ensured that on August 18 the CNE conducted an audit on a sample of voting stations that was neither representative nor randomly selected. According to Hausmann, the CNE chose the voting stations in advance, from the electoral centers that were not manipulated, in order to prevent irregularities from being detected.

Hausmann ruled out the possibility that some balloting machines were programmed to accept a predetermined number of Yes ballots (the electoral choice for ousting Chávez). On the contrary, he indicated that all of the computerized voting machines in a number of electoral centers were altered in a similar way, and that such modification surfaced heterogeneously in different electoral centers.

Meanwhile, María Corina Machado, a director of Súmate, claimed the NGO accepted the offering Smartmatic- the IT firm in charge of the computerized election system implemented for the referendum- has made to allow the different political players to check the voting machines in order to find any weak spots in the hardware and software of the devices.

She also insisted in asking the CNE to count all of the paper ballots cast in the August 15 election. Machado added this is necessary to restore the confidence of both Venezuelans and Latin Americans in democracy. "What has happened in Venezuela is taking its toll in the reliability of electoral processes, particularly the computerized electoral systems."

Alejandro, Plaz, president of Súmate, informed that the NGO is sharing the findings with a special team the opposition alliance Democratic Coordinator has designated to collect evidence of a vote fraud.

He said four teams have been created to "find the truth" of what happened in the referendum. Plaz explained that the first group has already submitted a report to the Organization of American States (OAS), while a second team is trying to detect inconsistencies in the official electoral results. The third team is trying to find the weaknesses of the computerized electoral system, and the fourth group is to analyze the regulations governing the revoking referendum.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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