Electoral Council Nullifies the 2001 Leadership Vote of Venezuela’s Union Federation

The Electoral Council (CNE) decided to nullify the 2001 vote for the leadership of one of the country's main union federations, the CTV. The CNE said that the CTV vote suffered from numerous irregularities and was unverifiable.

Caracas, January 13, 2005—Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) issued a ruling yesterday that nullified the 2001 election of the leadership of one of the country’s main union federations, the CTV. CTV president Manuel Cova responded to the ruling by saying that the CTV would not recognize the CNE ruling.

According to the CNE resolution, the elections for the CTV leadership, which took place on October 25, 2001, could not be verified because 52% of the voting records were never supplied to the CNE, as is required by Venezuelan law. Also, in various parts of the country there were many irregularities, including the disappearance of ballots and of voting records.

According to CTV officials, Carlos Ortega won the CTV presidency and Manuel Cova the vice-presidency. Carlos Ortega went on to become one of the most radicalized and outspoken critics of the Chavez government. He was later an instrumental player in the April 2002 coup attempt against Chavez and in the 2002/2003 oil industry shutdown. Following the shutdown, in early 2003, Venezuela’s Attorney General tried to prosecute Ortega for sabotaging the oil industry, but Ortega fled the country by seeking asylum in Costa Rica. Manuel Cova was then named CTV president.

The main candidate who ran against the old guard CTV leadership, with the support of President Chavez, was Aristobulo Isturiz, who is now Minister of Culture and Education. Isturiz had filed a complaint with the CNE against the CTV election in 2001, but due to the relative disorganization of the CNE at the time, no decision was ever made in the matter. The Chavez government argued, though, that as long as there was no CNE ratification of the CTV elections, it would not recognize the current CTV leadership as legitimate. This has brought the Chavez government complaints from the CTV and the International Labor Organization, for failing to respect the autonomy of the labor movement.

For the past year and a half a new union central has been organizing, the National Union of Venezuelan Workers (UNT), saying that the CTV is hopelessly corrupt and has sold out the interests of Venezuelan workers by participating in employer-sponsored “general strikes” against the Chavez government.

The CNE ruling, which was widely anticipated, was made on the last day of CNE president Francisco Carrasquero’s membership on the CNE board, before he accepts his new post as judge on Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

It was a three to one ruling, in which Francisco Carrasquero, Oscar Battaglini, and Jorge Rodriguez, who are all three considered sympathetic to the Chavez government, voted in favor of nullifying the CTV board elections. Sobeilla Mejias, who is considered to be close to the opposition and has ties to the opposition party Acción Democrática, voted against the ruling. The fifth member of the CNE, Ezequiel Zamora, had resigned from the CNE board several months ago.