[News] Washington Seeks Observers That it Can Influence in Venezuela’s Election

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 25 18:01:19 EST 2015

  Washington Seeks Observers That it Can Influence in Venezuela’s Election

By Mark Weisbrot - The Huffington Post, November 25th 2015


In Washington it’s just seen as the way the world works.  Just as big 
fish eat little fish, and lions prey on antelope, so there is no moral 
shame in the U.S. government trying to undermine, destabilize, or get 
rid of democratically elected governments that it doesn’t like.

So it is no surprise that the multi-pronged effort to de-legitimize the 
elections for Venezuela’s National Assembly, scheduled for December 6, 
would be reported, and widely accepted here without question, as merely 
trying to insure “credible observation 
for the election.  The “credible observers,” who are being portrayed as 
the /sine qua non/ of a “credible result,” are the OAS (Organization of 
American States).

To see how absurd this assumption is, we need only look back a few 
years, when the OAS appointed an “Expert Verification Mission” to 
examine the presidential election in Haiti. This Mission did something 
outrageous, something that has never been done – before or since -- in 
the history of electoral monitoring: It reversed the result of the first 
round of voting, without 
<http://web.archive.org/web/20151022132732/http:/www.cepr.netwww.conservativenannystate.org/documents/publications/haiti-oas-2011-10.pdf> conducting 
a recount or even a statistical test.  Normally, when an election result 
is disputed, there is recount, or the result is accepted, or a new 
election can be held. Nowhere does an electoral monitoring team simply 
pick a new winner.

In February of 2011 I was on a panel with Fritz Scheuren, the lead 
statistician of the OAS Mission, which was carefully chosen so that six 
of seven members were from the U.S., Canada, and France (yes, France was 
included although geographers claim that it’s not part of the Western 
Hemisphere).  A former President of the American Statistical 
Association, he acknowledged 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20151022173535/http:/www.cepr.net/events-archive/the-elections-flawed-beyond-repair> that 
the OAS mission used no statistical inference to draw conclusions from 
the 8 percent of tally sheets that they examined. Statistical tests 
conducted by CEPR, including a comprehensive set of simulations for 
missing votes, confirmed 
<http://web.archive.org/web/20151022132732/http:/www.cepr.netwww.conservativenannystate.org/documents/publications/haiti-oas-2011-10.pdf> that 
there was no statistical basis for the Mission’s reversal of the voting 

The political reasons became more obvious when Haiti’s government, 
understandably, balked at accepting the OAS decision. With the country 
still devastated from the 2010 earthquake, U.S. Ambassador to the United 
Nations, Susan Rice, threatened 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20151022133406/http:/usun.state.gov/remarks/4959> Haiti 
with a cut-off of desperately-needed aid if they did not accept the OAS 
Mission’s reversal of election results. Michel Martelly, Washington’s 
preferred candidate, was then moved up and into the second round and 
became president, which he remains today.

It seems unlikely that the OAS could get away with something like this 
in Venezuela.  But they can contribute to destabilization efforts.  In 
2013, the Venezuelan opposition took to the streets with violent 
protests, claiming “fraud” in the presidential election. There was no 
<http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/2013510101743343447.html> for 
their claims of fraud:  A statistical test of the election audit showed 
that the probability of getting the official result if the election were 
in fact stolen through fraud was less than one in 25,000 trillion 

This high level of certainty was possible because of Venezuela’s dual 
voting system, where voters press a touch screen computer and then 
receive a printout of their vote. The voter then looks at the printout 
and deposits it in the ballot box. When the polls close, a random audit 
of 54 percent of the machines is conducted, in which the machine tally 
is compared with the paper ballots in the presence of witnesses from all 
parties. The microscopically small probability of fraud, despite the 
fact that in this case President Maduro won by a margin of 1.6 
percentage points, is a result of the enormous random sample size, as 
any student of introductory statistics can verify.

Yet there were three international voices in 2013 that joined with the 
opposition and refused to recognize the results, demanding a “full 
recount”:  the U.S. government, the right-wing government of Spain, and 
– tellingly -- the head of the OAS at that time, José Miguel Insulza. 
  Although the U.S. has suffered humiliating defeats 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20151022135034/http:/www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/20/venezuela-revolt-truth-not-terror-campaign> in 
trying to win votes against Venezuela at the OAS, Washington still 
contributes about 40 percent of the organization’s budget, and of course 
it has other levers of power against individual governments and their 
representatives. There are therefore many examples of its manipulating 
the OAS machinery. That is why the Latin American governments in 2010 
formed the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), 
which includes all governments in the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada.

For all of these reasons and many more, any government that has been a 
major U.S. target for regime change for more than a decade would have 
reason to be wary of OAS observers. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, 
the U.S. and Canada are among the countries that have not been 
interested in having the OAS observe their elections. Playing on the 
public’s lack of knowledge of recent history, almost every source for 
the major media is pretending that the OAS is just a neutral and 
necessary institutional guarantee against fraud.  The International 
Crisis Group 
Human Rights Watch 
and Brookings Institution 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20150905135325/http:/www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2015/07/29-venezuela-elections-zovatto> have 
all piled on. And why wouldn’t they? The pretense of disinterested 
observer, not beholden to the powers and dictates of empire, is the same 
on which their own identity is established. But many of these players 
have a particularly sketchy 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20151022140124/http:/www.commondreams.org/newswire/2008/12/17/more-100-latin-america-experts-question-human-rights-watchs-venezuela-report> track 
record on Venezuela over the past decade. The media, for its part, is 
reminiscent of the McCarthy era of the 1950s:  dissent is absent, even 
from reports that might normally include a contrarian opinion as a 
matter of journalistic balance.

The last decade in Venezuela has seen a series of failed efforts to 
negate election results there (a brief review of some of the more 
audacious scams, with links, can be found here 
They include bogus statistical studies by U.S. academics (2004), 
fabricated polls by prominent U.S. pollsters (2004 and 2006), a 2005 
opposition boycott of parliamentary elections, the 2013 efforts 
described above.  Not to mention attempted military coups. The 
opposition has never won a national election in Venezuela since Hugo 
Chavez was first elected in 1998. This time they think they might win, 
and they have polls to support that assertion. However, a lot depends on 
turnout, which has been their weakness in non-presidential elections; 
and there is a big political difference between getting, e.g. a simple 
majority or two-thirds of the assembly.  Hence the pre-emptive strike to 
discredit the elections: If they do worse than they expect to do, they 
will claim fraud. And the hardliners, at least, will continue on their 
extra-constitutional path towards regime change.  This has been – with 
U.S. support -- plan B (and sometimes plan A) for most of the past 16 
years, despite the fact that there has not been a shred of credible 
evidence of electoral fraud during that entire period.

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