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A team of experts has "clearly identified" the commission of a manual fraud

Opposition to challenge referendum based on manipulation of the electoral registry

Tulio Alvarez, a lawyer, who headed a 40-people team collecting evidence on a vote fraud in the presidential referendum, Wednesday presented a preliminary report, and said the opposition has enough evidence to challenge the results of the August 15 election and file legal actions against the SBC consortium, in charge of the computerized election system. Alvarez said the final results would be disclosed within 30 days

ELVIA GOMEZ

EL UNIVERSAL

Lawyer Tulio Alvarez presented on Wednesday a preliminary report on an investigation the opposition Democratic Coordinator has launched to find evidence that a vote fraud was committed on the August 15 recall referendum on President Hugo Chávez.

Even though the 40-people team Alvarez leads has not established the way the election results were electronically manipulated, he announced that they did "perfectly detect" the way manual fraud was committed.

They are to argue that irregularities were committed during a mass campaign (known as Misión Identidad) the government launched a few days before the referendum to grant Venezuelan identity cards. Alvarez explained that some 1.8 million people registered with the Electoral Registry (RE) well into the deadline for such purpose. He said in Venezuela the RE regularly increases by 253,000 people a year, but this time it jumped by 1.5 million people.

According to Alvarez, that is enough to challenge the referendum results. Under article 216, number 2, of the Venezuelan electoral law, "the manipulation of the RE renders null the (electoral) process."

The report did not determine whether the Yes choice (to oust Chávez) or the No choice won the election. According to Alvarez the goal is to prove that a "qualitative, continued, selective and mass fraud" was planned. He claimed that such fraud demonstrates the "putrefaction of the political system and the corruption of the electoral system."

Alvarez recommended the Democratic Coordinator to challenge both the Electoral Registry and the results of the referendum. He also warned that participation in future elections should be conditioned on the change of "core elements in the electoral system."

The team suggested questioning the electoral computerized system implemented with the technology provided by the SBC Consortium (comprising U.S. Smartmatic Corp., Venezuela Bizta Software, and Venezuela Cantv), calling for an internationally endorsed audit to the national identification system, and trying to enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at the country where both Smartmatic and Cantv's major shareholder have their business offices.

Alvarez said the party that committed the fraud has lost legitimacy by violating the terms and conditions of an agreement both the government and the opposition signed on May 2003 with representatives of the U.S. Carter Center and the Organization of American States (OAS) to find a peaceful, democratic, and constitutional solution to the Venezuelan crisis. He added that the team's final report would be disclosed within 30 days.

Alvarez described as unusual the fact that, according to the RE, the Venezuelan population has grown by 7 million people in only three years. Besides, from January and July, the proportion of Venezuelans turning 18 years -the legal age to vote- went from a traditional 48 percent to 54 percent.

One of the most outstanding irregularities was found in some 100 localities nationwide, where the number of registered voters exceeded the number of inhabitants. Historically, voters amount to 48 percent of the total population.

Some examples Alvarez presented showed that voters amounted to 80.5 percent of inhabitants and even to 137 percent of inhabitants in some cases.

According to the report, out of 1.8 million people who were granted their Venezuelan identity card under the government Misión Identidad, some "800,000 people came from nowhere, they have no domicile," and "there are 300,000 ghosts" who are bearing duplicated identity cards with the real data (picture and fingerprint) of other citizens. All of them were recorded to vote in electoral centers where the election took place manually, in order to alter the historical electoral behavior in a way to match the electronic fraud pattern and make it believable.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez


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