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Caracas, Saturday July 16 , 2005  
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In doubt local election transparency

* In less than one month, elections of municipal councils and parish boards will be held. However, 45.6 percent of Venezuelans think of "some fraud."

* Based on Profile 21, a report prepared twice a year by pollster Consultores 21, only 39.7 percent think that upcoming local elections will be fair, and 14.7 percent do not have a conclusive opinion concerning transparency of the Venezuelan voting system.

* In the opinion of CEO Luis Christiansen, at this current time, the attention of the media and political parties should be focused on dependability of the National Electoral Council (CNE), instead of popularity and acceptance levels enjoyed by President Hugo Chávez.

* He stressed that much attention should be paid to the fact that over half of Venezuelans think that voting results may be altered.

* Only 43 percent "are convinced" of taking part in the elections of councilors and parish board members, as compared to 27 percent of people who stated openly that they would not vote next August 7th.

OAS mission
* The Organization of American States (OAS) briefed on a four-day visit to Caracas beginning Tuesday 12th in order to "delve into the need and conditions of potential observation during the upcoming elections in that nation.

* "The visit is at the invitation of Jorge Rodríguez Gómez, CNE president, to observe the elections for councilors and parish boards," a press release stated.

* OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza appointed Rubén Perina, the special advisor to the Department for Democratic and Political Affairs, to coordinate the effort. Perina was chief of OAS mission during the Venezuelan polls held in 2000.

* In a letter addressed to the CNE head, the Secretary-General noted that the organization "welcomes with much interest the invitation made" and thanked for "trust by the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela put in the work carried out by OAS to reinforce democracy in the hemisphere."

* The mission plans to meet with CNE and government authorities, NGO's representatives and members of foreign organizations to learn about existing conditions for observation of elections and the political context.

* Rubén Perina arrived in Venezuela following an invitation of the National Electoral Council board. Perina met this morning with CNE authorities about two hours to discuss OAS role as observer during elections next August 7th.

* As stated by the OAS delegate, the meeting was aimed at resuming cooperation efforts with CNE officers and expressing interest of OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza in Venezuelan democracy for a reliable voting environment.

* Perina recalled that he acted as observer during the 2000 polls, where he headed the OAS mission ensuring transparency of general voting in July 31st, that same year.

* Political experts view as mistaken a visit beginning Tuesday of a voting "exploratory" mission of the OAS in Venezuela, where local polls are one month away, DPA reported.

* "Such a choice at this time is sort of weird, because any election process starts many months earlier in advance" with the preparation of voters' rolls, audit of voting machines, civil registry, among others, NGO Súmate member Alejandro Plaz said.

* "If the OAS mission came just Tuesday to consider the possibility of coming to observe the polls of August 7th, then they would be missing all other dimensions that are an integral part of elections. It would be a poor observation for focusing only on the event instead of the whole process," he told Unión Radio.

* Súmate, a NGO that helped opposition to collect signatures for the recall referendum of August 2002, is a major critic of the National Electoral Council (CNE), calling it "illegal" for taking sides with the government.

* Rubén Perina met Wednesday with Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel as part of a number of meetings on potential observation during the polls next August 7th.

* Delegates conveyed the compliments of OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza and wishes for reinforced democracy. VP Rangel offered to "discuss with the opposition as appropriate," Perina said.

* As stated by Perina, the OAS delegation visited Venezuela to learn about the conditions, needs and political background of upcoming elections. Therefore, several meetings have been held with the parties involved, including National Electoral Council board.

* The OAS representative expressed interest in acting as observer during the election for deputies next December.

* Representatives of opposition political parties met Wednesday with the OAS mission visiting Venezuela. During the meeting, opposition leaders expressed reservations and objections to the elections of councilors and parish boards next August 7th.

* As reported by Antonio Ledezma, the head of Alianza Bravo Pueblo, they told OAS representatives that their move was "belated" and the Venezuelan people had been left alone.

* "It would have been healthy, appropriate, advisable for the involvement of an OAS representation weeks ago to take care of all the troubles found by us," the leader claimed.

* MAS representative Leonardo Padilla regretted also the mission untimely visit. However, he expected the organization to ensure favorable conditions for democracy.

* On behalf of Primero Justicia, Juan Carlos Caldera, declared that the OAS has the chance of regaining confidence of million Venezuelans, who felt that the organization was committed to diplomacy instead of democracy.

* Venezuelan civil association Súmate Thursday reiterated its concerns over the lack of guarantee by CNE to create the appropriate conditions for the August 7th election for councilmen and parish board members to be transparent.

* In a press conference, Súmate disclosed a document called "There will not be a transparent vote on August 7th," in which the Venezuelan NGO says the top electoral body would be responsible if Venezuelans cannot elect council and parish board authorities in a transparent way.

* "CNE directors have degraded Venezuela's electoral institution by depriving Venezuelan citizens of democracy's fundamental right: the right to popular sovereignty practice," reads the document.

* In this connection, Súmate is demanding (that CNE) respect people's vote and guarantee its secrecy.

* Súmate does not think that local elections for 5,654 seats at town councils and parish boards, to be held next August 7th, will be transparent, fair and in accordance with the law.
* According to Súmate national speaker Alejandro Plaz, the ballots are only 17 days away. Time is not enough for troubleshooting. Electoral registry is unreliable; no audits, as established in voting laws, have been conducted; there are no assurances on secret vote; there will be no manual count of all ballots, as set forth in the law; and there will be no qualified foreign observers on proper conditions.
* "For the first time in Venezuelan democratic history, rather than indifference or apathy, abstention will be related to distrust and political fear," Plaz reasserted, who blamed the National Electoral Council for such issues.

CNE office under attack
* A hand grenade was propelled Friday morning towards the local chapter of the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Valencia, the capital city of central Carabobo state, as reported by CNE director Jorge Rodríguez.

* Rodríguez told official TV channel Venezolana de Televisión that such violent actions would not intimidate voting authorities.

* National Assembly (AN) president Nicolás Maduro (ruling party MVR) disavowed the grenade attack and accused "terrorist groups funded by the US government" of the move. "No doubt, the US government encourages terrorism inside Venezuela," he reasserted.

* According to Maduro, such actions are intended to "produce anarchy in the nation to justify widespread, escalating violence."

* The AN president acknowledged the existance of "a democratic sector in the opposition" and urged them to move away from violent groups "that simply work for a foreign government, in order to shatter our institutions and hand over our assets to foreign parties."

* CNE authorities Friday deplored the attack. In this regard, they claimed that such violent actions would not intimidate them in their goal to assure the August 7th election for councilmen and parish board members.

* CNE's Rodríguez  told official TV channel Venezolana de Televisión that this kind of actions, against which he had previously warned, are attributable to "antidemocratic and terrorist sectors who are foes of the political and electoral systems and the Constitution."

*"We have no doubt that they are trying to create a (violence) rise that prevents (Venezuelan people) from exercising their right to vote, but we will not allow such actions to hinder the practice of this fundamental right. CNE campaign against abstention has worried and frightened those antidemocratic sectors," Rodríguez said.

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