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Venezuelan Electoral Council Pulls Ads For and Against Constitutional Reform

Caracas, November 19, 2007 ( - The Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE), has suspended a number of campaign advertisements, both for and against the proposed constitutional reform of the Venezuelan President and the National Assembly, in the lead up to the reform referendum on December 2, saying that they violate electoral regulations.

CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced that a television advertisement against the reform, which depicts a government functionary walking into a shop and telling the proprietor that his shop is now the property the state, was withdrawn after complaints that the add lies and generates fear about the reform. A television ad in support of the reform, which used backing music from opposition TV channel Globovision, was suspended last week after Globovision complained. A newspaper ad in support of the reforms was also suspended over the weekend for using an image of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan independence fighter who liberated much of Latin America from Spanish colonialism, whose image is prohibited in all Venezuelan election campaigns.

However, CNE board member Vicente Diaz, who has openly identified with the opposition, said that in his view the TV ad against the reforms does not violate electoral regulations. However, he was outvoted by the other four CNE board members. Diaz has now called on Venezuelans to email complaints about the decision to the CNE.

Lucena also stressed that the media should comply immediately with the resolutions of the electoral body about advertising material produced for and against the reforms.

"This weekend we suspended an advertisement that violates the norms of publicity and election advertising, however they did not suspend their transmissions until late into the night. Once the CNE has decided in favor of suspension the ads should be taken off air immediately."

Lucena confirmed that the CNE referendum regulations had been distributed to all political organizations and the media, "that is to say, political organizations and the media know what is permitted and what is prohibited. If they fail to recognize the law, we will not exempt them of their offence and they should accept the consequences."

In order to campaign in the referendum, all political parties and organizations were required to register with the CNE and group themselves into either a ‘Yes' bloc in favor of the reforms or a ‘No' bloc against the reforms. For this reason, Lucena also announced an investigation into the illegal advertising campaign against the reforms by the state government of Zulia, headed by ex-presidential candidate Manuel Rosales because, she explained, the state government of Zulia is not registered as a participant of either of the blocs.

Opposition political and business groups have also participated in illegal anonymous advertising campaigns, circulating false information about the reforms, including claims that the government would take people's children away from them. Lucena stressed that all anonymous advertising campaigns were illegal and made particular reference to an anonymous advertising campaign against the reforms funded by the state of Carabobo Chamber of Industry, which was published in numerous national newspapers last week.

The Carabobo Chamber of Industry ad, which looks remarkably similar to the format used by the CNE to disseminate the content of the reforms, is presented simply as information about the reforms, but contains a long diatribe against the reforms including the false claims that people's houses, personal property and children will be taken away from them.

Lucena announced that the CNE would assess further complaints by both sides, including a complaint about the use of images by the No bloc, of Simon Bolivar.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Venezuelan Vice president Jorge Rodriguez accused the opposition of running a campaign of distortion and misinformation about the reforms, which he says is aimed at a refusal to recognize the results of the referendum.

"The strategy of the opposition is not democratic. It is to block out the truth to replace it with lies; to carry out a campaign of fabrication, supported by the media, with advertising strategies, ruled from the North, in order to foment abstention and finally to say that the crushing results in favor of the reforms are false," he said.

The distribution of fake examples of the constitutional reform with falsified articles by some opposition sectors is aimed at generating fear in the population, Rodriguez said.

A key strategy of the opposition, Rodriguez argued, is to instigate a "war of opinion polls" to create a false public opinion that supposedly shows that a majority of Venezuelans are opposed to the reforms. In particular he accused Globovision of manipulating a poll by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD) to show that the majority of Venezuelan's reject the constitutional reforms.

On Friday, December 16, Globovision used the incomplete results of a poll, (based on the results of only 600 of a total 1,200 people polled) by IVAD, to argue that support for the reforms was declining and that they would be defeated in referendum. However the full results of the poll carried out over October 15-28 indicate that the reforms will be approved by 60.2%, similar to Chavez's electoral victory in December 2006 where he won 61.8% of the vote. The same poll shows Chavez's overall approval rating at 70%.

Finally, Rodriguez called on the CNE to "make sure that everyone complies with the regulations for election campaigns and to guarantee balanced information about the referendum process."

Published on Nov 20th 2007 at 6.11pm