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October 2012, Week 2

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Mon, 8 Oct 2012 00:08:13 -0400
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(1)
Chavez Re-Election Continues Trend of Left Governments
Re-elected in South America
Economic Growth, Expansion of Welfare State Likely to
Continue for Many Years
Center for Economic and Policy Research
For Immediate Release: October 7, 2012
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/chavez-re-election-continues-trend-of-left-governments-re-elected-in-south-america

Washington, D.C.- Hugo Chávez' re-election to another 6-
year term shows that Venezuela, like the rest of South
America, prefers governments of the left that have
improved living standards and greatly reduced poverty
and inequality, said Mark Weisbrot [
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/biographies/mark-weisbrot/
], Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy
Research (CEPR) in Washington, D.C.

"Chávez is often portrayed as though he were from Mars,
but really the similarities between what he has done and
what his neighboring left governments have done are much
greater than the differences," said Weisbrot.

Contrary to many press reports, the vote was not close,
as CEPR had predicted it would not be. [
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/adjusting-for-polling-biases-in-venezuelas-2012-presidential-election
]

[moderator: per CEPR - Official results: With 81 percent
 voter participation, Chavez - 54.43 percent; Capriles -
 44.47 percent of the vote. (Remaining going to minor
 candidates.)]

Chávez' first election in 1998 was the first in a series
of elections that would bring left governments to the
vast majority of South America.  Weisbrot noted that
these left presidents and their parties have all been
re-elected, some of them more than once:  Rafael Correa,
re-elected President of Ecuador by a wide margin in
2009;  the enormously popular Lula da Silva of Brazil,
re-elected in 2006, and successfully campaigned for his
former Chief of Staff, now President Dilma Rousseff, in
2010;  Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president
in a majority indigenous country, re-elected in 2009;
José Mujica succeeded his predecessor from the same
political alliance - the Frente Amplio -- in 2009;
Cristina Fernández succeeded her husband, the late
Néstor Kirchner, winning the 2011 Argentine presidential
election by a solid margin.

Since the Chávez government got control of Venezuela's
national oil industry, poverty has declined by half and
extreme poverty by 70 percent.  Access to health care
and education have been increased substantially, with
college enrollment doubling.  Eligibility for public
pensions has quadrupled, and in 2011 the government
started a major housing program that has already seen
250,000 new homes built.

Other left governments, including Argentina, Brazil,
Ecuador, and Bolivia have also reduced poverty and
inequality and at the same time taken more control over
their energy resources.   Weisbrot noted that all of
these governments are closely aligned and have similar
goals for regional economic integration - Venezuela was
recently admitted to Mercosur at the first opportunity -
and all have become much more independent of the United
States.

"It's really not surprising that all of these
governments get re-elected, and generally despite most
of the media and the wealth and income of the country
being in the hands of the opposition," said Weisbrot.
"These governments have delivered on a number of their
promises."

Latin America suffered its worst long-term economic
growth failure from 1980-2000, with income per person
growing by less than 6 percent, as compared with 92
percent in the prior two decades. [
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/the-scorecard-on-development-1960-2010-closing-the-gap
]

Weisbrot noted that Henrique Capriles had done better
than previous opposition candidates partly because he
ran as a "center-left" candidate, pledging to preserve
some of the major social gains of the Chávez era.

Looking ahead, Weisbrot said he expected that "growth
will very likely continue and Venezuela will expand its
welfare state."  He noted that the economy has been
growing for two-and-a-half years, and inflation has been
falling even as growth has accelerated. ]
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/venezuelas-economic-recovery-is-it-sustainable
]  "With a sizeable trade surplus, relatively low levels
of public debt and debt service, and hardly anyone
projecting a long-term decline in oil prices,
Venezuela's economic growth can continue for years to
come."  Weisbrot noted that Venezuela is sitting on the
world's largest oil reserves, about 500 billion barrels,
and is currently using about one billion barrels per
year.

(2)
Carter Center Affirms a Clean Electoral Process and 
Secret Ballot in Venezuela; U.S. Media Offers a 
Contrasting View, Without Evidence
by Dan Beeton 
Center for Economic and Policy Research
October 6, 2012
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/carter-center-affirms-a-clean-electoral-process-and-secret-ballot-in-venezuela-us-media-offers-a-contrasting-view-without-evidence

The Carter Center released its pre-election report on
the Venezuelan electoral process yesterday. The response
from the U.S. media has, with the exception of a few
wire service articles, been silence. Instead, papers
such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and
Washington Times have, in recent days, raised the
specter of possible fraud, government recrimination
against opposition voters, and possible violence that
could result from people not accepting the election's
outcome. The Washington Times, for example, began an
article Thursday by reporting:

With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez facing the most
serious re-election challenge of his 14-year reign,
international observers are bracing for the possibility
of social unrest if the outcome is close when voters go
to the polls Sunday.

"I think the probability of upheaval and protests
increases the closer the vote gets," said Christopher
Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas
Society and the Council of the Americas in New York.

A close vote count between Mr. Chavez and his fresh-
faced challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski may trigger
a street-level clash between viscerally opposed
supporters of the two. "There are rumors that Chavista
armed organizations are ready to come down from the
hills should Capriles win," said Mr. Sabatini. "The
other side is that if Capriles loses in a squeaker, his
supporters have some pretty good basis to claim fraud."

The New York Times, as we noted yesterday, interviewed
an opposition voter who claimed to be afraid to vote for
Capriles since it might put her future career in
jeopardy - despite being perfectly willing to be cited
by name in the Times article, and despite making her
political inclinations very clear on social media.

The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, reported yesterday:

For Capriles to win, many voters who lean in his
direction will have to overcome fear that they will lose
their jobs or benefits in the event of a government
change, that there will be an increase in political
violence if Chavez loses, or that the government somehow
will find out they voted for Capriles and take
retribution.

So what does the Carter Center say about the possibility
of fraud, and ballot secrecy?

Under the heading "Security of the voting machines,"
their report [PDF] states:

Political party and domestic observer technical experts
have participated in the 16 pre-election audits of the
entire automated system, including hardware and software
as well as the fingerprint databases, in the most open
process to date, according to opposition technical
experts. The MUD experts who have participated in the
audits have said they are confident in the security
mechanisms and the secrecy of the vote.

The report goes on to describe how an encryption key is
needed in order to tamper with the machines' software,
which is "created by contributions from the opposition,
government, and CNE."

The software on the machines cannot then be tampered
with unless all three parties join together to "open"
the machines and change the software. In addition, each
voting machine has its own individual digital signature
that detects if there is any modification to that
machine. If the vote count is somehow tampered with
despite these security mechanisms, it should be
detectable, according to all the experts who have
participated in the process, because of the various
manual verification mechanisms.

[moderator: the Carter Center report is found here -
http://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/peace_publications/election_reports/venezuela-pre-election-rpt-oct-2012.pdf
]

The report also notes:

Venezuela started creating a database of fingerprints of
voters eight years ago to be able to prevent multiple
voting by one person, or impersonation of voters. The
database is nearly complete. Only seven percent of
registered voters are not entered or have poor quality
prints. These voters can enter their fingerprints on
election day. (The MUD [opposition coalition backing
Henrique Capriles, the Democratic Unity Roundtable in
English] is satisfied with the data collection process.)
[Emphasis added.]

.

This system is intended to address one of the complaints
from both the government and the opposition in the past:
in places where party witnesses were not present, the
president of the voting table could "stuff the ballot
box electronically" by repeatedly activating the voting
machine him or herself.

The report also describes MUD satisfaction with other
key aspects of the process:

The coalition that supports the Capriles's candidacy
(Mesa de Unidad Democratica-MUD) reported that they have
monitored and tested the voters list continuously and
find it acceptable. A study they conducted of the
evolution of the list since 2010 concluded that the
growth was in line with demographic changes in the
country: population growth of citizens at least 18 years
of age was 4.3 percent, while the voters list grew 7.6
percent. The coverage of the list consequently rose
about 3 percent to 96.7 percent of the population.

.

the MUD investigated the "migration" of voters, or
change in voting location, and found that 97 percent of
voters relocated by the electoral body were aware of
their new voting place and satisfied with the change.

.

Pollworkers (miembros de mesa) are chosen by lottery
from the voters list and trained by the CNE. The
opposition MUD reported that it received the list in
July and that it has determined that there is no
partisan bias in the selection.

Contrary to U.S. press reports, the Carter Center is
describing ways in which the electoral system is
becoming more secure against fraud.

Regarding ballot secrecy, the report states:

The introduction of the SAI system for the 2012
elections has raised a concern among some voters that
their identity can be linked to their vote, thus
violating the secrecy of the vote, with the potential
for recrimination. This concern has no basis, however.
The software of the voting machines guarantees the
secrecy of the vote. The software instructs the machines
to scramble the order of the votes, scramble the order
of the voter identifications, and to keep these
scrambled files in two separate archives. It cannot be
modified without violating the digital signature of the
machines, which detect modifications, and without
knowing the three-party encryption key described above.
MUD technicians have therefore categorically concluded
there is no evidence whatsoever that it is possible to
connect or reconstruct the link between fingerprint/ID
number and the vote. [Emphasis added.]

At the end of the day, 53 percent of voting tables will
be audited, in a thorough process:

A comparison of a count of the paper receipts and the
electronic tally at the end of the voting day with the
presence of voters, political party witnesses, domestic
observers, and the general public is conducted in a
large sample of approximately 53 percent of the voting
tables, selected at random. Additionally, party
witnesses receive a printout of the electronic tally
from every machine. The CNE gives the party a CD with
the results of each machine and publishes them on the
website so that all of these results can be compared.

It is also notable that, regarding the supposed media
advantage of Chavez over Capriles, the Carter Center
reports echoes CEPR's findings on the actual audience
share of state versus private media:

the market share of the state-owned media, particularly
television, is quite small. According to media
consultants, Venezuelan state TV channels had just a 5.4
percent audience share; 61.4 percent were watching
privately owned television channels; and 33.1 percent
were watching paid TV). [Ultimas Noticias recently
reported a distinct media advantage for Capriles over
Chavez, in campaign coverage on the private media.]

In sum, the MUD opposition coalition is satisfied with
the integrity of Venezuela's electoral system; it is
Christopher Sabatini, the LA Times, New York Times, and
other U.S. voices that are not, along with some of the
more extreme members of Venezuela's opposition - and
perhaps Venezuelans who have been led to believe the
ballot isn't secret by a vociferous opposition media. It
should perhaps not be surprising to hear Sabatini raise
unfounded fears of fraud and violence - after all, he is
the former NED Director for Latin America and the
Caribbean (including during the NED-supported 2002 coup
d'etat against Chavez). But prominent U.S. newspapers
are at least supposed to have some objectivity in their
reporting.

___________________________________________

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