August 19, 2004

Comrade Chavez "Owns" Venezuela

Comrade Hugo Chavez and his gun-toting goons think if they win an election it's okay to murder the opposition. Those comparing him to Chile's Salvador Allende, stop. The number of people killed by Allende's government reached a grand total of zero. (Not that such a statistic absolves Allende from any other criticism, but this difference is a rather critical one.)

When Comrade Chavez says he is running Venezuela on the Cuban model and not the Chilean, he's serious.

Here is Thor L. Halvorssen in the WSJ's Opinion Journal today.

CARACAS, Venezuela--On Monday afternoon, dozens of people assembled in the Altamira Plaza, a public square in a residential neighborhood here that has come to symbolize nonviolent dissent in Venezuela. The crowd was there to question the accuracy of the results that announced a triumph for President Hugo Chávez in Sunday's recall referendum.

Within one hour of the gathering, just over 100 of Lt. Col. Chávez's supporters, many of them brandishing his trademark army parachutist beret, began moving down the main avenue towards the crowd in the square. Encouraged by their leader's victory, this bully-boy group had been marching through opposition neighborhoods all day. They were led by men on motorcycles with two-way radios. From afar they began to taunt the crowd in the square, chanting, "We own this country now," and ordering the people in the opposition crowd to return to their homes. All of this was transmitted live by the local news station. The Chávez group threw bottles and rocks at the crowd. Moments later a young woman in the square screamed for the crowd to get down as three of the men with walkie-talkies, wearing red T-shirts with the insignia of the government-funded "Bolivarian Circle," revealed their firearms. They began shooting indiscriminately into the multitude.

A 61-year-old grandmother was shot in the back as she ran for cover. The bullet ripped through her aorta, kidney and stomach. She later bled to death in the emergency room. An opposition congressman was shot in the shoulder and remains in critical care. Eight others suffered severe gunshot wounds. Hilda Mendoza Denham, a British subject visiting Caracas for her mother's 80th birthday, was shot at close range with hollow-point bullets from a high-caliber pistol. She now lies sedated in a hospital bed after a long and complicated operation. She is my mother.

In a jarringly similar attack that took place three years ago, the killers were caught on tape and identified as government officials and employees. They were briefly detained--only to be released and later praised by Col. Chávez in his weekly radio show. Their identities are no secret and they walk the streets as free men, despite having shot unarmed civilian demonstrators in cold blood.

There's plenty more where that came from. Follow the link. I don't have much more to say about this because I've been saying it for the past week.

(Hat tip: Fellow Portland blogger Mellow-Drama.)

UPDATE: Another fellow Portland blogger Sean LaFreniere found some evidence of vote fraud in Venezuela, and the International Herald Tribune found plenty more, too. Please read and follow the links before saying "Jimmy Carter said everything was fine" and thinking that should be the end of the story.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 11:05 AM

...but, but, but... mr. totten! haven't you read mr. ebert's observation that "Chavez and his cabinet have open, friendly faces, quick to smile, and that the faces of his opponents are closed, shifty, hardened"?

Posted by: harm d. at August 19, 2004 11:25 AM

With just a little bit of searching I think that I have found the source/method of Hugo's election fraud. Read this and keep in mind that the referendum was a a simple yes/no vote and the opposition and human rights groups noted that electronic voting was not necessary in such a case, but Hugo's government insisted. And no manual recount or verification was/has been alowed.

Posted by: sean at August 19, 2004 11:59 AM

Sean -- I condemm what his thugs did as described in the WSJ article. But contrary to your claim, there is no evidence of voter fraud. From today's NY Times:

Officials of both the Carter Center and the Organization of American States said the audit was an infallible method of detecting irregularities. They also said that the voting machines had worked flawlessly on Sunday and that there was no evidence of tampering...

The opposition's claims are based largely on surveys of voters by members of Súmate, an antigovernment group that received $53,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy, a United States government organization whose stated mission is to promote democracy around the world.

Sumate also conducted a quick count sampling of votes similar to that conducted by the Carter Center and the O.A.S. that also showed the government had won. But opposition leaders seized instead on the surveys to support their case.

Mr. Carter has dismissed such voter surveys as inaccurate and has said that the quick count, which has a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point and is used in elections worldwide, is a much more accurate measure.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 19, 2004 12:45 PM

Markus, you're probably right. But, well, let's just say I'm not at all surprised to see Jimmy Carter defending this guy.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 01:00 PM

But, well, let's just say I'm not at all surprised to see Jimmy Carter defending this guy.

He's not "defending this guy", he's presenting an informed opinion on the validity of the vote. Surely that's relevant?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 19, 2004 01:22 PM

Grant -- as I recall, Carter's monitoring groups helped to establish that the 1989 Panamanian election was fraudulant, and that the 1990 Nicaraguan election, which ended the Sandinistas' rule, was legit. So he's not reflecively anti-US or anti-Republican.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 19, 2004 01:33 PM


From the WSJ Article:

"Later that morning the most important observer, former President Jimmy Carter, declared that he was shown the computer tally by government supporters and that everything seemed in order. Mr. Carter then left Venezuela, and the opposition groups that had put their faith in him to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Mr. Carter, who was vociferous and insistent about patience, transparency and hand-tallies during the Florida recount, left Venezuela to attend Mrs. Carter's birthday party."

I just don't get a good feeling about Carter being competent, never have ... wasn't he the guy the NOKs, etal. hoodwinked?

Posted by: jdwill at August 19, 2004 01:35 PM

I know, I know partisan yadda-yadda, but James Taranto was dead-on and justifiably cruel today when laying into that bit of fascist-defending drivel from the NYT editorial board today:

Yesterday Gail Collins's New York Times editorial board declared not only that Chávez was the legitimate winner but that it will brook no dissent on the question:

"It is time for President Hugo Chávez's opponents to stop pretending that they speak for most Venezuelans. They do not, as the failure of a recall referendum, promoted by the opposition, decisively demonstrated on Sunday. . . . The opposition . . . needs to stop shouting foul."

This editorial ran three days after the Venezuela vote. Meanwhile, after more than three years, the Times is still shouting foul over America's 2000 election. Today, 1,381 days after George W. Bush's victory, the Times begins its lead editorial this way:

"One of the scandals of the last presidential election was the large number of voters who were denied the right to vote because of foul-ups in the election system, like errors in the voting rolls or problems in directing voters to their correct polling places."

And as jdwill pointed out above, it seems Carter accepted the government reports at face value and then split as fast as he could.

Taranto also links to this story from the international herald tribune by a Venezuelan lawyer and political activist:

It says that there is evidence of massive fraud involving the touch-screen voting machines.

But if Jimmy Carter says it's okay it must be okay, right?

I particularly love this sentence from the NYT:

The opposition's claims are based largely on surveys of voters by members of Súmate, an antigovernment group that received $53,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy, a United States government organization whose stated mission is to promote democracy around the world.

There you have it. They've tied the opposition to an organization that wants to "promote democracy around the world." My God, how sinister. That's enough to discredit them right here.

What is wrong with these people?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 19, 2004 02:00 PM

Markus, did you read the link or follow the trail from my site? Or did you just rappid fire type a rebuttal? Really?

Yes, yes, I know that Jimmy said it was all good. But my information is that Jimmy only was allowed to review a sampling chosen by Chavez' election guys, printed out from voting machines that were built by his election guys. That Carter could be so easily hoodwinked should be a warning to all those who think that simply bringing in the UN or a Nobel laureate will fix everything and anything.

The surveys done by the opposition mirrored those done by other groups, including leftist EU newspapers. And as I pointed out in another MJT thread... they only needed a vew more votes that what Hugo required them to get on their original petition. It struck me as very odd that the opposition appeared not to have even got that many votes.

When I looked into the whole electronic voting record for Venezuela it began to make more sense. Hugo bought a quarter steak in a voting machine company, put his old science minister and previous campaign add on the board (as chair) and then gave this company the bid for this week's elections. So, now it doesnt strike me as suprising at at that Hugo suddenly pulled ahead in last minute polling.

Marcus... this seems to be a common illness for lefties. Can I ask why you are so quick to defend the man? Or Saddam? Why does the left defend dictators, any dictators, so long as they oppose Bush? Does the left have ANY principles left other than opposition to Bush?

(I dont like Bush either, but I want my opposition to have a clue too)


Posted by: sean at August 19, 2004 02:30 PM


Markus doesn't defend Saddam. He supported the ouster. (Not that everyone who didn't support regime-change is a Saddam-defender, mind you.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 02:36 PM

MJT writes: Please read and follow the links before saying "Jimmy Carter said everything was fine" and thinking that should be the end of the story.

Expect to hear from Randy Paul about your vicious smearing of Jimmy Carter.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 19, 2004 02:38 PM


Randy isn't exactly enthusiastic about Comrade Hugo, either.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 02:44 PM


That may very well be true, but he was not at all happy on the earlier Chavez thread that anyone would dare harbor any skepticism of Carter's electoral monitoring track record, which is clearly mixed.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 19, 2004 02:56 PM

This makes me physically ill.

And I wish douchebags like Roger Ebert, Ted Turner and other cheerleaders for murderous thugs had to go live under them.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at August 19, 2004 02:59 PM

OK, in the spirit of the Olympic games, I hereby retract my snide comments about Randy (who hasn't even commented on this thread yet) & Pres. Carter.

That was pretty childish, especially in light of the fact that there are serious problems in Venezuela regardles off the actual outcome of the election.

But this is the blogosphere, and I certainly am not immune to occasional bouts of childishness.

Sorry, Randy.


Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 19, 2004 03:21 PM

What's more irritating is how the Florida problem was, in part, "blamed' on the lack of such modern technologies like the touch screens and the use of such stone age punch balots machines.

Now we see, if we accept the premise of the IHT article, that these expensive quick-fixes can be... ahem... "fixed" quickly and their validation scrubed using the same good old fashioned tactics as in the good old days.

Oh yeah... Boss Hogg & Roscoe's gonna have a fun election in Hazzard this election year, awright...

Posted by: Bill at August 19, 2004 03:35 PM


You hit on a crucial point. What if electronic voting machines with or without paper trails are shown to be gameable and destroy any remaining faith in elections?

I'm not even remotely educated about elections and polling, so maybe some can help me out with this.

I as I understand, Carter and the UN monitors tested the election by taking a quick/random sample of ballots (paper audits) of the electronic machines. IF the machine's vote AND its audit trail were programmed falsely, then wouldn't their technique - intended to catch mis-reported vote tallies - fail?

If the machine is gamed, then only polls of people leaving the voting stalls would help, but these are questionable as the factions conducting these were partisan.

It seems some safeguards are needed, like a paper receipt for the voter that is copied, collected and sampled later to validate the election.

Posted by: jdwill at August 19, 2004 03:43 PM

According to the academic blog Cliopatria, Hugo's victory is a "triumph" for the "politics of color"! So everything's going to be all right. Better than ever in fact.

"My fellow Hugo may be bombastic; he may have an unpleasantly authoritarian streak, but he has done more for the mostly dark, mostly poor masses of Venezuala than any other leader in that country's history. Latin America has never had a more successful "dark" leader; even Castro himself is quite "white" by the standards of mixed-race Cuba! Thus today I rejoice in Chavez's clear and convincing referendum victory; I celebrate both for the obvious political reasons, but also for the less-obvious cultural reasons revolving around color and class."

Posted by: V. Hugo at August 19, 2004 03:52 PM


I as I understand, Carter and the UN monitors tested the election by taking a quick/random sample of ballots (paper audits) of the electronic machines. IF the machine's vote AND its audit trail were programmed falsely, then wouldn't their technique - intended to catch mis-reported vote tallies - fail?

I don't think it'd work that way. From what I gathered, the machine produces a voter-verifiable "receipt" that is then deposited like you would a traditional ballot, thus the voter himself checks to see if his vote indeed says No when he votes No. (I'm not sure if that's how it really works since we do the optical color-in-the-circle jobbies here.)

As far as being worried about 2004 voter fraud, though I'm no more worried about the electronic machines than with any other method, though. What irked me is how everyone puts faith in the newfangled stuff as the solution to the old fashioned punch cards. The moral of the lesson, as I said above, there ain't no unfixable quick fix.

For the electronic machines the "receipt validation" method would be no less fool proof than the punch card. When I lived in states with punch cards I made damn sure that I voted correctly by confirming the numbered holes on the card by eyeball against the flip book just as the Floridiots should have. If they ain't gonna look at the ballot, I am not so sure they'll look at the receipt.

Posted by: Bill at August 19, 2004 04:14 PM

So we know that Chavez is a thug and he needs to go. So what can be done about it? If Jimmy Carter's credibility had not already hit a low point, this little episode should have caused it to happen.

Jimmy Carter seems to have never met a third world dictator that he didn't like. It seems really bizarre, for someone like him who is a committed progressive, to aid and abet this guy.

Michael, I'm glad to see that you are firmly in favor of freedom, which I already knew. I wish we had some answer for Chavez.


Jim Bender

Posted by: Jim Bender at August 19, 2004 04:52 PM


Very interesting site with a detailed theory on how the election may have been rigged. I have no idea if this is a reliable source,

But, this IHT article
seems to mention the same method ...

" ... A cause for even greater concern is the fact that the papers the new machines produced confirming the voter's choice - which the voter had to verify and then drop into a closed box - were not added up and compared with the final numbers these machines produce at the end of the voting process, as the voting-machine manufacturer had suggested.
Evidence of foul play has surfaced. In the town of Valle de la Pascua, where papers were counted at the initiative of those manning the voting center, the Yes vote had been cut by more than 75 percent, and the entire voting material was seized by the national guard shortly after the difference was established.
Three machines in a voting center in the state of Bolivar that has generally voted against Chávez all showed the same 133 votes for the Yes option, and higher numbers for the No option. Two other machines registered 126 Yes votes and much higher votes for the No. The opposition alleges that these machines, which can both send and receive information, were reprogrammed to start adjudicating all votes to the No option after a given number of Yes votes has been registered.

What the blogger Daniel is saying is that the riggers expected a certain SI/NO ration for certain districts and set the machines to cap the SI vote at a certain level to give themselves and edge - what made the fraud apparent was that their projections were off and the machine induced cap was too dramatic.

Posted by: jdwill at August 19, 2004 04:59 PM

The USA should,

1) Raise our immagration numbers for Venezualans escaping Chavez's regime. Venezuelans should be given safe harbor here (BTW, let's do the same for Cubans ok?); and

2) Pray for the people who remain behind;

I'm stealing an idea from someone else, but it seems to me Jimmy carter is hotrodding on the highway to hell with the top down.

Posted by: spc67 at August 19, 2004 05:15 PM


I don't think Venezuelans are so badly off they all need blanket asylum. I can think of plenty of people in other countries who need it more. Haiti, for instance. We already have such a program for Cuba.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 05:33 PM


Not blanket, but an expanded program. Immagration is GOOD for us. When we can take those who have the most to lose from totalitarian gov't (tends to be the most gifted) we win in two ways, by strengthening ourselves and weakening the bad guys. I'm happy to take Hatians too (though I wish they had a higher literacy rate).

Posted by: spc67 at August 19, 2004 05:37 PM

I would not say Venezuela is totalitarian. But it is authoritarian. They still have opposition parties, opposition media, etc.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 05:42 PM

And I agree immigration is good for us. My great-great-grandparents were immigrants.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 05:43 PM


How do you square 'authoritarian' with "Comrade Hugo Chavez and his gun-toting goons think if they win an election it's okay to murder the opposition."?

Maybe its my reading of the the word, but authoritarian would mean things like jailing opposition occasionally, not firing into crowds.

Posted by: jdwill at August 19, 2004 05:50 PM


The difference between "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" is huge. A totalitarian regime wages total control over everything. See Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, North Korea, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

An authoritarian government is undemocratic and illiberal to one extent or another, but it does not actually control every aspect of society.

Christopher Hitchens described North Korea as a place where "everything that is not absolutely prohibited is absolutely compulsory." That's a great definition of totalitarianism. Venezuela is nowhere near that oppressive.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 06:00 PM

The difference between authoritarian and totalitarian, as per Jeane Kirkpatrick: in authoritarian regimes there is some hope of reform. The very fact that an election was held, even if it was crooked, demonstrates that there was at least the possibility of Chavez losing.

Posted by: miklos rosza at August 19, 2004 06:08 PM

Ah, Michael, I didn't see your post before I sent. Oh well.

On the subject of Hugo Chavez being the first person of color to rule a Latin American country: Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s was widely considered to be black, and was supported by most blacks in Cuba for this reason. Until he was overthrown by Fidel.

Posted by: miklos rosza at August 19, 2004 06:14 PM

I am glad someone else linked Daniel's blog. He was one of my sources for my blog post as well. I don't know much about him, I only discovered him whilst looking into this election business.

I haven't found collaborating news sources on the national guard thing... but it sounds entirely plausible... as noted above... the machines DO spit out a paper trail... but that can be left out of the vote rigging method... all that they have to do is rig the final numbers and then hide all the receipts, which it sounds like they did. Maybe a running tally display would help? That way the person could see if the "yes" vote went up or not. Then again... if the government controls the machines and the election system then they can still lie to the people about the overall total. And I understand that the majority of election commissioners in Venzla were Chavez cronies and the opposition people were not even aloud into the counting room or allowed to check the paper trail.

I assume that in the US we still allow the opposition equal access to the voting machines and tabulation process... oh, right, Kathleen Whatshername from Florida blocked Dems from entering the election offices... never mind.

Posted by: Sean at August 19, 2004 08:36 PM

I agree that Christopher Hitchens is great and that his description of NOK is a great definition for totalitarianism.

I will have to mull over describing Venezuela as authoritarian - as opposed to Chavez himself. My take would be that either are neither. Something in my gut reacts strongly to Chavez - perhaps a picture I saw (can't find just now)of him smiling hugely like some shark while Carter grinned alongside him.

This clip from the Baltimore Sun article Sean linked to says something about where Chavez is headed, if he is not there already.

"When Chavez campaigned for president in 1998, he pledged that the poor would play a key role in his government.
After winning, Chavez consolidated his power by revising the Constitution to lengthen the president's term in office to six years from five, abolish one house of the legislature and alter the membership of Supreme Court. In 2000, he was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote.

Posted by: jdwill at August 20, 2004 03:50 AM

One thing is sure about Chavez: he is a populist. As such he has a lot of support: he is successful in reaching out to the poor and uneducated.
His support of course has grown immensely after the coup of April 2003. Strange that in the comments here this almost seems forgotten.
Given the fact that he is a highly egocentric and authoritarian person who seems blind to the possible 'unintended economical consequences' of his policy this is a terrible dilemma. It's the dilemma Fareed Zakaria so rightly addresses in his book on illiberal democracy at Home and Abroad. It has no use to suggest, or wishfully think that the support is not there.

"The president of the republic has betrayed the trust of his people. He’s massacring innocent people with snipers!” declared Vice Admiral Ramirez Perez, as horrific images of Chavez’s supporters firing on protestors were broadcast around the world. It was this event that directly led to the temporary overthrow of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His deposition initially appeared to be a spontaneous protest against a tyrannical leader. However, controversial new evidence suggests that the violence was orchestrated by Chavez’s opponents, with the support of the CIA, in an attempt to discredit him and legitimise their coup. Perez’s dramatic announcement was recorded several hours before the shootings began. The day before the protest was due to take place, CNN correspondent Otto Neustald was informed that the march would result in many deaths. He was also told that “20 high-ranking military officers will speak against Chavez and ask for his resignation.” When the inevitable fatalities occurred, news footage was heavily edited to make it appear as if Chavez’s supporters were firing on the crowd. In fact, eye witnesses agree that they only fired at police who were firing at them."

This quote I used in a comment I made on my own blog (US support for random murders? Please note the question mark)

When I wrote it I did not yet stress enough that I did not see Chavez as a blessing to the Venezuelan people.
There were two factors however why I tended to believe the version of Chavez' friends.
First: the fact that coup-leader Carmona after his “installation” as president immediately did not “just” dissolve parliament but declared to dismiss all judges too. After the failure of the coup he fled to Columbia (of all countries).
Second: the fact that leaders of several Latin-American countries did not recognize the self-acclaimed president. In awkward contrast with the administration of the US.

It is very very hard not to become cynical when at one hand you hear Republicans like Klayman scream about the fraud with electronic voting in Venezuela while a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush accused those seeking audits (of the voting machines integrity) of trying to "undermine voters' confidence" and declared, "The governor has every confidence in the Department of State and the Division of Elections."
{Get away with gross contempt}

No mistake: I do not defend the integrity of the Venezuelan referendum although I think it is utter nonsense to suggest that Carter is some kind of communist.
My point is: credibility is everything. Freedom and democracy loving people everywhere should make the first priority always to support free press and free organization (of opposition). (as opposed to supporting the ones in government or opposition who act in your best interests).

Posted by: Frans Groenendijk at August 20, 2004 06:43 AM

Frans... hang on one second... if Chavez' support is "up" since the April coup than why did he a) barely hold on to his job with a 58% approval rating or b) actually lose the election by more than 60% (if the vote caping scam is true)? For a guy with the oil reserves of Iraq and a sellers market (considering that Venz oil sales and profits are indeed through the roof this year) you would think that the "man of the people" and "defender of the poor" would have been able to buy himself more "grassroots" support that he seems to have received (at either 58% or 42%).

I agree that labeling Carter a communist is stupid. Carter has been a favorite wipping boy for the right since Reagan. The truth is that Carter was an ok president... he had all the dice loaded against him during his term and cannot be fairly blamed for the oil crisis, the failed hostage rescue, or the recession. Meanwhile he should get credit for Camp David and other efforts. Since his days in office he has led a "saintly" life, working for Habitat For Humanity (literaly housing the poor) and negotiating a plethora of peace deals. Still, the man, as an "arch-liberal" or "extreme Leftist" whatever, appears to have never met a "revolutionary" that he didnt like. And this has made him blind to the fact that most junta leaders (whether by hook or by crook, by coup or election) are real bastards who cant be trusted. His error in this situation appears to be too much faith in electronic balloting, the power of his own oversight, and the civility of Chavez. He got hoodwinked, plain and simple.

Posted by: Sean at August 20, 2004 08:20 AM

Magicians catch "psychics" and "mediums" becausa they know all the tricks. Ex-burglars and ex-police work with security firms.

What makes an ex-president qualified to catch voting fraud? Even assuming that their motives are pure, was the team qualified for this task?

Posted by: John Davies at August 20, 2004 09:00 AM

Sean, you are perhaps too generous to former president Carter. Surely he must bear great responsiblity for the subsequent history of Iran, based upon his actions in office.

Out of office he has hardly been "saintly", in fact he has behaved disgracefully on many occasions. Can you name any other former president in history who has so often spoken out in foreign lands against his successors, current American policy, and past policies? Usually in an intemporate manner, openly sympathizing with the most anti-American sentiments. He interfered several times with foreign policy, undercutting president Clinton on several free-lancing occasions. Could you imagine the reviled Hoover or even Nixon so behaving?

A less vain man who truly loved his country would have told the Nobel committee where they could shove their peace prize, given the attached comments that the prize was awarded specfically to rebuke current American policy.

Carter will not be well regarded by history for either his presidency or his post-presidency, Habitat for Humanity or not...

Posted by: Seppo at August 20, 2004 10:22 AM

@Sean: "if Chavez' support is "up" since the April..."

I admit that my phrase "His support of course has grown immensely after the coup of April" could be interpreted that way. What I should have written is that the support for Chavez (and anti-Amercanism btw!) have intensified.
I am a bit disappointed however that you start "calculating" how I am wrong. That is really too simplistic.
There is too much focus (imo) on the evil character of Chavez. There is no need trying to convince me that Chavez is a bad guy. I am already convinced but more importantly: what matters is what the Venezolean people think of him. It makes a difference if he is supported by 58 or by 40% of the population but even if it is 40% that is still a considerable support. Chavez is not the best president Venezuela can get () but there are lots of presidents and other rulers with much worse records. Chavez is not a Saddam or a Kim Il Jong or Saudi. In the long run he can become like a Castro or Mugabe. That is reason enough to worry but what is most important is that from outside we have to concentrate on the longer term. There we can make a difference.

@John: "Even assuming that their motives are pure, was the team qualified for this task?"
An important question indeed. I always wonder how these teams can make the claims they make. With electronic voting things get much worse.
There are simply too much people thinking about the quality of computers instead of software.
Most people don't know what software is...

Posted by: Frans Groenendijk at August 20, 2004 01:47 PM
One thing is sure about Chavez: he is a populist.

Indeed. And that has certainly been used as one excuse for his "excesses." Yes, he's a populist. Along with a host of other modern dictators and wanabe-dictators. :-/ But being hip with one particular clique, doesn't make you a man of all the people.

Posted by: Bill at August 20, 2004 02:27 PM

I worry about electronic voting. It seems too easy to cheat (by rigging the machine) and potentially subject to problems such as power surges, etc.

The new federal statute, HAVA, requires electronic voting to be in place in all precincts by the 2006 election - despite the fact that much of the technology does not have an extensive track record. I work with a local Board of Elections. We have used mechanical voting machines for 30+ years and have never had a problem - nevertheless, we are under a mandate to convert to electronic voting because of FLA 2000 (where machines of the type we use were NOT used). The state I live in has not approved even ONE type of electronic voting machine.

The cost of conversion for my County will probably approach $1 million (for about 60,000 registered voters), and I fail to see the justification for it. It seems to me that this has more of a potential to create problems where none appear to exist. Any time a new technology is introduced, glitches are to be expected - if for no other reason than that the election workers are not trained in use of the equipment.

Posted by: Ben at August 20, 2004 04:13 PM

"Officials of both the Carter Center and the Organization of American States said the audit was an infallible method of detecting irregularities."

Either this is a bogus quote or both these organizations are full of shit. There's no such thing as an "infallible method of detecting irregularities".

On second thought, I'm pretty sure these organizations are full of shit regardless. I'm not sure why Carter still receives so much goodwill. Are we still in grade school and so still giving credit for effort and intentions?

Even now at best he's bumbling around the world full of himself.

At worst his interferences in Palestine, Cuba, North Korea, and with the UN security council (before the 1st Gulf War) have made the world a much more dangerous place.

Posted by: mj at August 21, 2004 01:56 AM

@Harm D

Your quote from Ebert suggests he is a moron. But what you quote is only a PS where (for a reason I can not understand) he tries to be funny.
Not a nice method to take that out of place remark instead of focusing on the core of what he has got to say.
This for example:
"Interestingly, there was relative civility on both sides. Chavez and his cabinet were arrested, but not harmed. After Chavez regained power, he said there would be no "witch hunt" of those who opposed him; although Carmona fled to Miami, several of the coup's military leaders (stripped of rank) remained in Venezuela and still continue as members of the opposition. This shows remarkable confidence on the part of Chavez, and a commitment to the democratic process.

It is of course impossible to prove that the coup was sponsored by the CIA or any other U.S. agency. But what was the White House thinking when it welcomed two anti-government leaders who soon after were instrumental in the coup? (my emphasis)

Posted by: Frans Groenendijk at August 21, 2004 04:34 AM

Sorry, the paragraph Is is of course...coup" is a quote too.

Posted by: Frans Groenendijk at August 21, 2004 04:36 AM


The cost of conversion for my County will probably approach $1 million (for about 60,000 registered voters), and I fail to see the justification for it. It seems to me that this has more of a potential to create problems where none appear to exist.

To pay for it, you can always argue that you'll have to reinstate the poll tax! :0) Seriously though I honestly can't see why people are so sure that any quick fix is going to prevent another Florida 2000. FLA2000's problem was dishonest legal hacks taking advantage of gulible and lazy voters (see my earlier comments on not manually checking your ballot). Using the prettier machine ain't gonna fix either problem.

Posted by: Bill at August 21, 2004 09:51 AM

Not to Carter-bash but--Agreed Framework, North Korea, continued nuclear programs, obtained nuclear weapons.

"Those comparing him to Chile's Salvador Allende, stop." Why do that? He is the left-wing Pinochet, no?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 23, 2004 03:24 PM
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