Caracas, September 27, 2004—Ezequiel Zamora, Vice-President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), declared his ‘irrevocable’ resignation today, citing unsurpassable differences of opinion with the council’s majority. Citing various reasons for his decision, Zamora declared that the CNE should have accepted the Venezuelan opposition’s challenge to the results of last August’s referendum.
Last month the CNE ruled that Chávez won a controversial referendum by a margin of 59% to 41%. The CNE’s results were later corroborated by both the Atlanta-based Carter Center headed by former-US President Jimmy Carter, and the Organization of American States (OAS) headed by former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria.
Despite both the Carter Center and the OAS’ repeated statements corroborating the results of the CNE, including the results of an audit conducted three days following the referendum, the Democratic Coordinator has maintained their accusations of fraud. Earlier this month they presented a 70-page report to the CNE outlining the basis of their claims of fraud.
On Thursday, September 23rd, President of the National Electoral Directorate (an arm of the National Electoral Council), Jorge Rodriguez, responded to the arguments presented by the Democratic Coordinator. According to Rodriquez, the CD’s report “did not contain one single concrete proof that certified the accusation that they have made.”
In response to the CNE’s rejection of the Democratic Coordinator’s report, opposition lawyer Tulio Alvarez declared that the electoral institution no longer had any credibility. In a public statement made on Saturday, September 25, Alvarez called on Zamora and Sobello Mejías (both identified as opposition-sympathizers) to resign in protest.
In his statement of resignation, Zamora noted that he strongly disagreed with what he described as the “celebration of the fact that Venezuelans had to wait in line for 13 hours just to vote,” and reaffirmed earlier statements criticizing the CNE, the Carter Center, and the OAS for only conducting the audit on the referendum results in a small statistical selection of voting centres, instead of in all of them.
Zamora further criticized the divisions within the CNE that have resulted in a regular 3-2 split, with CNE President Francisco Carrasquero, and Directors Jorge Rodriguez and Oscar Battaglini opposing Zamora and Sobella Mejías. The consistency of split has led many to characterize Carrasquero, Rodríguez, and Battaglini as pro-government, and Zamora and Mejías as pro-opposition.
Shortly after Ezequiel Zamora’s resignation, Sobella Mejías made a public statement lamenting Zamora’s decision, but affirmed her determination to remain a board member of the organization, saying “we will not give up ground.”
Zamora is expected to be replaced by his primary substitute Miriam Kornblith. Her appointment to the CNE would likely maintain the current balance of forces, since Kornblith is a member of an advisory committee organized by Venezuelan opposition group Súmate, that is funded through grants from the US Agency for International Development and the US-government funded National Endowment for Democracy.
According to documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), at the request of the US-based Venezuela Solidarity Committee (www.VenezuelaFOIA.info), the NED provided a grant to Súmate, part of which was used to establish an advisory committee on election matters. According to Eva Golinger of VenezuelaFOIA, Miriam Kornblith’s presence on this committee “clearly represents a conflict of interest,” since the CNE is an “official government body and its members should not receive funding from foreign governments.” In public statements to the press she has supported the opposition’s fraud hypothesis with regard to the presidential recall referendum.