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Thu Oct 11, 2012, 11:08 PM

Investing in Democracy in Venezuela

October 11, 2012
Investing in Democracy in Venezuela

As part of an eight-member delegation from the National Lawyers Guild, we spent the week leading up to the October 7 Venezuelan presidential election in Caracas, learning about the electoral system that Jimmy Carter has called “the best in the world.” On the day of the election, we observed it in action all over the country as part of a group of more than 220 international parliamentarians, election officials, academics, journalists, and judges. As predicted by the vast majority of polling organizations, Hugo Chavez was re-elected by a double digit margin (55.11% to 44.27%) with an unprecedented turnout of 80.9%.

Free and fair elections are only one feature of a democracy, but in Venezuela, elections have become something more—a national project which knows no party and constitutes a major investment.

What makes Venezuela’s electoral system stand out resides in a combination of factors. The Bolivarian project of “21st Century Socialism” and Latin American integration, initiated by Hugo Chavez and his supporters after his first election in 1998, is a fundamentally democratic project. Chavez has repeatedly emphasized that its legitimacy and viability lies in the will of the people as expressed in free and fair elections. The 1999 Bolivarian Constitution was itself drafted by an assembly of elected members with significant popular input and was adopted in a national referendum by a 72% popular vote. It provides for an independent National Electoral Council (CNE), chosen by the elected National Assembly (Congress), and with a constitutional status equal to the other four branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial, and Poder Ciudadano, “People’s Power,” which includes the Attorney General, Human Rights Defender, and Comptroller General). The Constitution provides for more than the election of political representatives – there are provisions for referenda to change the Constitution (used in 2007 and 2009), referenda to abrogate laws, and even for recall of the president (attempted in 2004).

As more and more elections are conducted under the CNE’s leadership (28 since the Bolivarian Constitution) and more electoral laws and regulations passed, the electoral system has become increasingly trusted and respected by the Venezuelan populace. The system has been used by unions to elect leadership and even by the opposition to elect its standard bearer in a primary last February (also witnessed by an NLG delegation).


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Reply Investing in Democracy in Venezuela (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 2012 OP
Peace Patriot Oct 2012 #1
sabrina 1 Oct 2012 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2012, 11:20 AM

1. OPEN source code in the voting machines! A whopping 55% audit!

Last edited Fri Oct 12, 2012, 12:14 PM - Edit history (1)

It drives me nuts how intelligent people don't seem to grasp how important it is that Venezuela uses OPEN SOURCE code--code that anyone may review--in its voting machines, and then conducts a 55% audit (comparison of ballots to electronic results)--more than five times the minimum needed to detect fraud in an electronic system.

Here, we not only use TRADE SECRET code--code that the public is forbidden to review--in all the voting machines in the U.S., but half the states do NO AUDIT AT ALL and the other half do a completely inadequate 1% audit.

Furthermore: The TRADE SECRET code in about 75% of the voting systems in the U.S. is owned and controlled by one, private, far rightwing connected corporation--ES&S, which bought out Diebold.

Democracy's most fundamental condition is vote counting in the PUBLIC venue!

Venezuela has it. We don't. That is the most important thing to know.

I applaud these lawyers and all the hundreds of election monitors, from various election monitoring groups, who go to Venezuela to observe and certify their election process, to help insure its fairness and to help counter the goddamn lies of the Corporate Press and the U.S. State Department that Venezuela is, somehow, a "dictatorship." It is a big undertaking to do this--requiring money, time, energy, travel, language skills and study. I have huge admiration for the groups and individuals who do this vital task. And I'm glad that this group--the National Lawyers Guild--has also gone to the trouble to write a report for the rest of us. But I am disappointed that the report doesn't mention this most fundamental fact about Venezuela's system--that, though they use electronic voting, like we do, it is verifiable electronic voting with publicly owned code and a more than adequate audit.

Perhaps people don't say this because it's so fundamental. But they need to say it, because WE don't have it here. Our system is extremely riggable, has been rigged and will continue to be rigged until we restore PUBLIC vote counting.

Here is what the Lawyers' Guild says about Venezuela's system:

"Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the Venezuelan electoral system is the technology used to record, verify, and transmit the votes. The technology provides for accessible electronic voting with a verifiable paper trail and instant transmission of vote counts from remote locations to CNE headquarters. CNE’s anti-hacking and multiple transparent audit and identity authentication systems have put to rest past opposition claims of fraud." --from the OP

While all this is true, it omits the most fundamental fact: OPEN SOURCE CODE. Publicly owned source code.

They do mention other important, fundamental democratic requirements, and the contrast with our system screams at you, on the following:

--the high level of public participation in the voting itself (80%!)
--the huge and successful efforts to register people to vote, especially the poor (registered voters nearly doubled)
--the big and expanding number of polling places (nearly doubled)
--the big and expanding number of poll workers, election system workers and observers (hundreds of thousands).

Our system discourages public participation, allows purges of large groups of voters, especially the poor, has drastically reduced the number of polling places and has almost eliminated poll workers.

Our system, of course, is rigged against "the people" before we ever get to the polling place--with the infusion of billions and billions of dollars, much of it secret money, literally buying candidates and office holders, and dumbing down political discussion with short attention span TV ads. But the key to how such terrible things can happen lay in this new and final blockade to reform: 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting.

The vote counting system itself has adopted the corporate culture of secrecy and we can't get information about it, including the most important information--the code. Secretary of states offices and county registrar's offices have become hostile to the public--little fiefdoms, with moats around them, bristling with the weapons of exclusion: including so-called 'expertise' ('you, Joe Public, can't understand this system'), bureaucracy (obstruction of inquiry, withholding information) and actual guns (guards, police, who will impede, arrest and imprison you if you get too nosey). All of these evils are related to the basic one: 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting.

Venezuela has a down-the-line PUBLIC system all the way to the OPEN SOURCE code, with massive public participation in elections, politics and government.

Our people feel disempowered, discouraged and depressed about politics and government. When it comes to voting, too many of them say, "why bother?" The corporate efforts to produce this kind of listless, non-active, incurious citizenry have been vicious and relentless, since at least the Reagan era--and never more so than today, and never more so than with the 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting system.

The contrast with Venezuela is stunning. On every element of democracy, Venezuela succeeds and we fail. And yet the corporate/war profiteer servants who end up in public office here, or in secret agencies funded by you and me, dare to call Venezuela a "dictatorship", dare to imply that Venezuelan voters are stupid peasants who don't know what they're doing, and most certainly imply, in every way they can, that Hugo Chavez elects himself! It is simply mind-boggling how total this "Big Lie" is.

The Lawyer's Guild, the Carter Center, the EU, the OAS, the Unasur and all the other elections groups involved in Latin America are doing a vital job, getting information to the public, here and there. But the way to counter a "Big Lie" is to stress the simplest truths, over and over and over again. Stats on public participation or poll workers or background on the Venezuelan Constitution (approved by the people, with 72% of the vote) (thank you, Lawyers' Guild!), are important and indicative of a good system, but still don't get down to this simplest truth: OPEN SOURCE code there, TRADE SECRET code here. 55% audit there; 0% to 1% audit here. PUBLIC vote counting there; PRIVATE vote counting here.

If only our people could grasp this--could be informed about this--it would not only expose the "Big Lie" about Venezuela, it might give us a chance for fundamental reform HERE. Reform here has to start with evicting private corporations from our vote counting system and restoring it to the PUBLIC venue.

The "Big Lie" starts here, and needs to be ended here. If the "Big Lie" could be ended here, then all this tremendous effort to verify Venezuela's elections would be unnecessary. Venezuela's election system is honest and transparent on the face of the facts. Their system is open, public and verifiable. Ours is not. And, believe me, the lack of transparency in our system is how the "Big Lie" gets produced--about Venezuela and everything else. PRIVATE vote counting means PRIVATE control of the levers of government, PRIVATE control of its propaganda agencies, PRIVATE control of its secret agencies, and collusion and conspiracy between government and Corporate Media, and between government and transglobal corporations, banksters, war profiteers and the uber-rich. They all hate Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, with a seething hatred, and THAT is where the "Big Lie" comes from.


Thus OP's url, for journal purposes: http://www.democraticunderground.com/11086277#post1

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Oct 13, 2012, 04:48 AM

2. The National Lawyers Guild are an incredible group of people. They do so much good work to uphold

democratic principles. They have been with OWS from the beginning, making sure that their rights are protected.

What makes Venezuela’s electoral system stand out resides in a combination of factors. The Bolivarian project of “21st Century Socialism” and Latin American integration, initiated by Hugo Chavez and his supporters after his first election in 1998, is a fundamentally democratic project. Chavez has repeatedly emphasized that its legitimacy and viability lies in the will of the people as expressed in free and fair elections.

This country needs to stop pointing fingers at Venezuela and maybe invite Chavez to come here and teach us how to act like a democracy, how to conduct fair elections.

I hope that between FAIR reporting on the media bias towards Venezuela and the indisputable fact that Venezuela is a true democracy, we won't be hearing any more of the propaganda that Chavez is a dictator, one of the most ridiculous claims ever. And what a shame to see it here on a democratic forum.

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