Caracas, October 20, 2004—In a press conference yesterday Francisco Carrasquero, President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), accused co-member of the CNE Sobella Mejías of subordinating her public charge to political interests. Mejías “has acted more like a political actor than an arbiter,” said Carrasquero. As a result, continued Carrasquero, “I have asked the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court to evaluate her behaviour and take whatever action they deem appropriate.”
For the past week, Mejías has been corroborating accusations made be a group of opposition mayors and governors that the electoral register for the upcoming regional elections include a large number of voters with no address. The group has claimed that almost two million registered voters have no address, and have demanded the CNE postpone regional elections scheduled to take place October 31st, 2004 in order to review the electoral register.
The opposition’s accusations are currently under review by a “Purification” Commission. Mejías’ involvement in these accusations, before the Commission has completed its review, and her “distortion of the information”, caused Carrasquero to make the accusations against her.
Last week, opposition umbrella-group the Democratic Coordinator (CD) held a march calling on the CNE to revise the electoral register. Several opposition parties left the CD in the wake of last August’s recall referendum, opposing the CD’s participation in the regional elections. These groups are abstaining on the grounds that Chávez won the recall referendum through fraud, and thus, the regional elections will also be manipulated. While maintaining their accusations of a fraudulent recall, the parties remaining in the CD are participating in the regionals.
Mejías is widely considered to be sympathetic to the opposition, as was the vice president of the CNE Ezequiel Zamora before he resigned late last month. The other three members are considered to be pro-government.
Carrasquero dismissed the opposition’s numbers, noting that after investigating the claims the CNE had determined that only 40,283 registered voters are apparently “homeless,” not two million as the opposition claims.The voting registry has been the subject of heated debate before. In last spring’s signature drive to force a referendum on Chávez’ mandate as President, the roles were reversed, with the government accusing the opposition of manipulating the electoral register. And the two traditional political parties, Democratic Action (AD) and Copei, who shared power for the forty years prior to Chávez’s 1998 election were accused of keeping dead people on the register to use as “free votes.”