By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Venezuela's opposition made the right move when it decided not to vote in the presidential election on May 20.
Allowing the government to drag the opposition again to the slaughterhouse would have been foolish. With that National Electoral Council (or CNE, its acronym in Spanish), with that electoral register and without guarantees of fair play, it was impossible to participate. The opposition could not engage with that filth not even for one more minute.
President Nicolás Maduro says that more than six million Venezuelans voted for him, although the streets and polling stations were almost empty. According to the most trustworthy estimates, only 3.5 million citizens voted, and Maduro must have received a little more than 2.4 million votes. The CNE claims that 46% of the electors went to vote. Actually, only around 17.5% showed up.
The official percentage tried to approach the mythical 50% and, in any case, the 48% who voted in the Chilean elections. If that presence at the polls made Sebastián Piñera’s victory legitimate, why wouldn’t it be the same with Maduro? With 17.5%, the results could be arguable. But with 46%, the triumph was undeniable.
The first time that Hugo Chávez committed a huge electoral fraud was in the recall election of 2004. He was losing 60-40 at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, when the polling stations were supposed to close.
Dr. Jorge Rodriguez -- then President of the supposedly impartial CNE and now the regime's Minister of Information -- suspiciously announced that he was going to sleep, admitting with his body language that he knew what would happen: in the early morning, when the nation dreamed of a better destiny, he announced that Chávez had won 59-41. Magically the results had been reversed. Jimmy Carter endorsed the fraud. I don’t know if he did it because he was naive, because they deceived him, out of interest or to avoid an armed confrontation.
How did they do it this time? As they have been doing it since then, when they find it necessary. I used to think it was a complex operation involving the hairy Cuban hand from a sinister computer center installed on the island, but the matter was simpler and closer to home, with good Venezuelan technicians in charge of the dirty business.
Once the voting was officially completed, the Smartmatic company, the electronic organizer of the elections, financed by the Chávez regime, obtained the real sum and calculated the size of the fraud necessary to “win”. At that time virtual votes were made, dispersed along the electoral geography and added to the final account. If the opposition demanded a manual recount, it was indefinitely postponed or denied, as happened to Henrique Capriles in 2013.
This was known with total certainty in August 2017, when Antonio Mugica, president of Smartmatic, today a serious company based in London, with hundreds of employees and multiple clients, that tries to move away from its compromising Chavista past, revealed that the elections for choosing the illegal National Constitutional Assembly had been fueled by a million false virtual votes. On May 20, they simply multiplied the fraud by three.
From a moral viewpoint, the trick does not mean anything to the Chavistas. It is only a revolutionary mean. If in 1992 they tried to topple the government through a military coup, why would they refrain from altering a ridiculous “bourgeois” election that is just a procedure to stay in power? Jorge Rodríguez, Tibisay Lucena -- that lady with the face of a kind and harmless grandmother -- and the entire CNE, can sleep soundly. They only give the results. The votes are there, tangible and ready, placed by the electronic arm of the Chavista revolution.
But probably this time the fraud was useless. Eighty percent of the truly democratic nations will not recognize Maduro’s government and are demanding free elections, supervised by a neutral entity. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio promise that their country will apply a financial harassment against Maduro’s dictatorship and a systematic persecution against the legion of corrupt Chavistas.
The United States is the only nation on the planet that can financially destroy any enemy country. It can punish China, Russia and Iran for helping Maduro’s government. It can threaten Cuba with the elimination of the exiles’ remittances to their relatives on the island or with the full application of the Helms-Burton Law, instead of suspending certain parts of the law every six months, which means that no foreign company could operate in the U.S. or with the U.S. if Cuba keeps its control over the Venezuelan armed forces.
The United States, of course, has the stick. But we don’t know if it’s able to use it. Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.