Let Venezuela Live!

Dan Kovalik, an US human rights and labor lawyer who officially observed Venezuelan regional elections last Sunday, writes that opposition allegations of fraud are "groundless" and aimed at effecting regime change in the Latin American country. 

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As the U.S. government callously watches its own citizens die in Puerto Rico – a territory which has sent a disproportionately high number of U.S citizens to die in our unending wars – the U.S. government and press fixate on Venezuela’s gubernatorial elections which took place on October 15. As one of my friends in Venezuela said to me with much emotion, “why do they care so much about regional elections in Venezuela? How could this be so important to them? What other country’s regional elections get so much attention?” Of course, these were rhetorical questions, for we both know full well the answer – because the U.S. government wants to destroy Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, and it is looking for any pretext to do so.

The U.S Congress has even asked the U.S. State Department to draw up plans for a military attack against Venezuela, a country which has never done us or anyone else any harm. To the contrary, Venezuela, suffering from its own economic woes and travails, has been generous in helping other countries with their natural disasters, and, along with Cuba, has helped hundreds of thousands of people recover their sight through Operation Miracle.

But, instead of telling us of such feats of kindness, the U.S. State Department and compliant media tell us only of Venezuela’s shortcomings, whether real, fake or imagined, while ignoring, for example, the police massacre of peacefully-demonstrating civilians in next-door Colombia on October 5 and the subsequent police attack on the international humanitarian mission sent to investigate this massacre on October 8.

One thing I can tell you is that, contrary to the incessant claims of the mainstream media, Venezuela does NOT have a democracy deficit, especially when compared to the U.S. itself. Jimmy Carter famously dubbed Venezuela’s election system “the best in the world.”

This system, run by its own separate branch of the government – the National Election Council (CNE) – is the very system he was referencing and it is headed today by the very same person – Tibisay Lucena — running it at the time he made that statement. Ms. Lucena herself was elected to the position of CNE President.

Still, the mainstream press, U.S. State Department and Organization of American States (OAS) were calling the vote fraudulent even before it had taken place on October 15. Of course, the U.S. and the [Organization of American States] OAS, openly working for regime change in Venezuela, are already in the process of helping to set up a government “in exile” in Washington, D.C.

The claims of fraud are groundless, and largely petty. I know this because I was one of nearly 70 election observers from all of the world in Venezuela for the October 15 elections, and our group reached very different conclusions about these elections than those being widely peddled. Thus, we witnessed numerous polling stations throughout Venezuela in which long lines of voters were able to cast their ballot freely, without coercion and in an atmosphere of calm. A number of voters approached us, and myself personally, to tell us with great emotion how proud they are of their democratic system and how much they want the world to see their democracy in action. These voices are rarely if ever heard in the mainstream press of the U.S.

And, we witnessed what impressed Jimmy Carter so much – a uniform, electronic voting system which guarantees one person, one vote through a biometric authentication tool which only allows the system to be activated by a voter’s unique fingerprint and ID number. This system also includes a paper receipt back-up for the electronic vote. The voting machines are even fitted with a car battery as backup in the case of an electrical outage.

In many ways, this system is much more reliable and verifiable than the different systems used in the various U.S. states. Indeed, as to the issue of verification, if the opposition is unhappy with the results of the elections, it is free to call for an audit of the votes as it has done on other occasions.

In addition, while it is true, as some critics have noted, that 201 polling stations were moved, they were moved ahead of the elections due to the very real threat of violence – violence which was manifested in the prior, July election and which claimed at least 10 lives. Moreover, these stations only accounted for 1.48% of the 13,559 polling stations throughout the country, were moved no more than 2,158 meters from their original location, and their new location was easily found on the CNE website. Furthermore, while critics have raised objections to the fact that some candidates on the ballot were not the nominees of their party, this was due to the fact that the parties simply did not ask for a change or substitution within the specified time limit for doing so. Meanwhile, the CNE did successfully make 233 candidate substitutions which were requested within the time limit.

And, while critics also have pointed to some polling places being opened in an untimely fashion, such instances were very limited and due to error rather than intention. Again, it defies reason that the international community could be focused on such trivialities, but there are sinister intentions behind such focus – namely, the desire for a regime change like the short-lived coup which ousted President Hugo Chavez in 2002 – a coup involving the kidnapping of Chavez which the U.S. helped instigate and then quickly blessed as legitimate.

The 2002 coup is indeed instructive. First, it shows the true undemocratic intentions of both the U.S. and key sectors of the opposition forces which were behind that coup. In addition, the forces which forced the restoration of Chavez to office – the poor who live in the barrios of Caracas and beyond – are the same forces who support the ruling PSUV Party now. It is the fact that the poor, through the PSUV, are governing Venezuela which is the real issue galling both the U.S. and the opposition. The U.S. and opposition would prefer what they view as the natural state of things in which — as in the current U.S. oligarchical system and as in Venezuela prior to the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999 — the few rich govern the masses of poor and working people. Venezuela has a very different notion of what democracy should look like – one which is actually more authentically democratic — and that is why that country and its people are being put under a microscope, criticized and punished.