|Venezuelan President Chavez during his weekly live TV show.|
“This can’t be valid,” said Chavez, showing a form where the same calligraphy and similar signatures were used to fill the ten slots available in each form. Only in cases where a person is missing their limbs, another person is allowed to enter their data and signature for them. Chavez showed several forms, out of a pack of 100 pages, which had similar irregularities. Weeks ago, the government obtained official copies of the forms from the CNE, and set up a team to review them.
Last Thursday, at a press conference, the President showed forms signed by minors, by deceased people, and with fingerprints made using only the tip of a finger. Venezuelans carry a unique ID number which makes it easy for state institutions to check their identity.
During Chavez’s Sunday TV show, a man complained that his deceased wife shows up as one of the people who signed the recall petition against the President. Chavez showed the form where the woman’s data appears. The calligraphy shows that the form was filled by the same person. The woman’s daughter, holding her late mother’s ID card, demanded that those responsible for using her mother’s data be brought to justice. Last November, supporters of the government accused the opposition of using the databases of clients from commercial banks to fill the forms.
|One of the petition forms shown by Chavez showing similar calligraphy. Chavez argues that petitions like this should not be accepted.|
Photo: Venezolana de Television
The President said the team set up by his party has already identified 60.000 forms filled individually by the same person. “There must be hundreds of thousands more,” added Chavez, who accused the opposition of setting up special labs with teams of people filling up the forms. After the official dates for the signature drive, the opposition held the signatures for two weeks before turning them over the electoral authorities.
Electoral authorities will consult with legal advisors on Monday to determine the criteria to be used when reviewing the forms filled with the same calligraphy.
|Signatures with similar strokes appear on many of the petition forms, prompting the government to claim that they were filled by the same person. Required fingerprints to the right of the signatures are almost invisible.|
Photo: Venezolana de Television
US support questioned
President Chavez questioned the support given by the US Department of State to groups seeking to oust him. Chavez held copies of declassified documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, which show monetary support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to groups such as SUMATE. The SUMATE organization provided logistical support for the recall drive last November, and they were criticized at the time by electoral authorities for illegally using portable computers with databases of voters at petition collection centers. “Now we know where they got the money to buy those portable computers,” said Chavez.
“Instead of using the American people’s money for schools, they are using it for this kind of things. The US Democratic party ought to get a hold of this information,” said the President.
The grant given to SUMATE by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), asks for an “Advisory Committee” to “ensure the effectiveness of the materials” produced with the NED’s funds. In charge of election matters at the Advisory Committee is Mrs. Miriam Kornblith, who is currently serving as an alternate member for the director of the National Elections Council.
During an interview with a local TV station, SUMATE president Maria Machado acknowledged her organization received the money from the NED, but argued that it was being used for “electoral education”. “We don´t have any ties to the CIA,” said Machado.
Chavez asked how the U.S. government would react if Venezuela financed efforts to oust U.S. President George Bush. “Suppose I create the Abraham Lincoln o the Thomas Jefferson Foundation -I’m a big admirer of Jefferson- for Democracy and then I send one million dollars to groups seeking to oust President Bush, ah?. When they do it to us it seems to be OK”.
The declassified documents can be downloaded from www.venezuelafoia.info
A final decision on the number of valid signatures demanding a recall referendum on Chavez’s mandate will be announced in March.