Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Chávez and the media

I have no time right now for blogging, but for Dutch speakers and for those who want to try Google's translation tools, you can take a look at this


  1. Kep,

    There's no need to translate it: It's an FT piece! (THEY translated it into Dutch...)


  2. Slightly off-topic, but I promised to post it:

    Just FYI, here the EU replica to the Sunday Times article:


    Dear Sir:

    The article (10th February), signed by Mark Guthrie, relating the experiences by Mr. Tom de Castella as European Union election observer, contains several allegations that require a clarification to your readers.

    Contrary to the idea conveyed by the article, EU Election Observation Missions (EU – EOMs) are a professional and highly respected instrument for the promotion of democratic values in the world. Every year the European Commission receives more invitations from countries to monitor their elections that we can actually do. These countries are looking at such an election observation mission in order to receive an assessment of their electoral framework in light of the international standards and best practices, in order to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of their democratic processes. For the very same reasons other countries, probably less inclined to favor change, carefully avoid inviting the EU to observe their elections. Reports are objective, and highly technical: when serious deficiencies appear, EU – EOMs are not shy in denouncing the lack of credibility of a given election, and some recent examples prove it (e.g. Nigeria, Kenya).

    Let me just explain a few basic facts about EU – EOM: These missions have to follow a precise methodology, covering all aspects of an election. This requires the presence of observers well in advance of election day, and the assessment of many aspects like for example tone and nature of the electoral campaign, use and misuse of public funds in the campaign, coverage by the public and private media or respect of appeals procedures.

    Traditional observation of the voting operations remains important but even more important is the observation of the subsequent operations of counting and tabulation. It is exactly the kind of anomalies described in the article, that an observer has the obligation to report. If for whatever reason he fails to do it, the problem should not be attributed to a general deficiency of the mission.

    With regard to the behaviour of members of the EU EOM let me point out that there is an ethical code of rules that have to be respected by all participants, observers or EU staff: observers are not tourists. They are bound to respect the laws and the cultural habits prevailing in the country. It might be interesting to know that the performance of all observers is assessed at the end of the mission: observers having under-performed or having violated the ethical or security rules are not recruited again. At the same time, observers have the possibility to assess the mission and convey their remarks.

    Concerning the selection of observers, the European Commission is certainly not rubber stamping the selection made by individual Member States of the EU. The purpose is to build up a team of observers with complementary profiles, experiences, nationalities, representing the EU diversity, and gender - balance. Given the importance of sufficient knowledge of the local language, the Commission has recently requested national administrations to be more rigorous when assessing the knowledge of languages of a given applicant. Beyond this the Commission as well as the Member States are actively training election observers to ensure the high standards of our observation missions.


    Rolf Timans, Brussels, February 22, 2008

    Acting Director – Human Rights and Democratisation

    Directorate General External Relations

    European Commission

  3. Thanks very much, Sire.
    All in all, I think that article did well. Next time the EU will (so I hope) do a better job.

  4. I agree Kepler. However, overall the article (or op-ed rather) was too negative.

  5. Kepler, Elections are rigged before they even get to election day.Look at Belarus:Opposition cannot flourish,Alcohol is served on voting day, and numerous other factors.While I understand the importance of objective observers, I do not understand it as having the importance some give to it, due to the above.In Venezuela rigging takes on slightly different tactics, but it is without a doubt rigging .Can it be proven to you the rigging in Belarus? No.Still the entire country knows they are victims of it.

    "Traditional observation of the voting operations remains important but even more important is the observation of the subsequent operations of counting and tabulation. It is exactly the kind of anomalies described in the article, that an observer has the obligation to report. If for whatever reason he fails to do it, the problem should not be attributed to a general deficiency of the mission."

    What do you think of this?????


  6. Firepig, I know.
    I have several friends from Belarus and I am very much into "Russian" (as in Rosijanski) things. Things there are not quite the same as in Venezuela.
    My friends from Belarus are very much against Luka and still they think that bloke might still have the majority. Why? Many pensioners to lose their rent and stuff like that. Most people in Belarus speak Russian only, they have hardly any access to outside news, there is a lot of pressure from the State, it has complete control of media etc etc.

    It is difficult to compare. In both Venezuela and Belarus there is autoritarianism, despotism.
    In both there is a lot of coercion.
    Still, things are different.
    In Belarus you simply have no other media, people get in prison very fast for protesting.
    In Venezuela the State uses often illegal methods against us (one example was the Tascon list, but there are many others) and yet
    BECAUSE we had already a democracy before, they have not been able to silence us completely (unlike in Belarus).
    Most of the media is in the hands of the State, but we still have a little bit of a voice, even if much less than two years ago (when the observations took place, remember the EU has hardened its stance since RCTV's license was revoked)
    So when some naive observers go to a hotel in Venezuela and watch Globovisión, they think everything is OK as sometimes in Globovisión people can insult the government as you cannot hear even in the States or Europe...but that is only an appearance and we know it. When Globovision or others have denounced concrete things, they have been threatened and the international press has hardly been there.
    In reality, in Venezuela the measures by the regime are much more complex and refined than most of what Europeans or US citizens have seen.

    Technically speaking and only from the hardware part, it is easier to cheat in the US and in many places in Europe than in Venezuela, but only from the point of view of digital data...what foreign observers have failed to see is that a software system and the hardware are worth nothing, absolutely nothing if the people in charge (the electoral system and so on) are a bunch of crooks and the soldiers are just protecting Chavez, not democracy and observers, Venezuelan observers, are threatened and voters fear for their jobs and so on.
    We know that.
    In Germany and Holland, IT experts have protested because the systems are easily to fool. In Holland they have suspended the digital systems until further review, even if no one thinks there was fraud. It is simply the possibility. In Germany the government has not stopped the automatization yet because they say that even if it is possible technically speaking, people using those things are not crook. Even there I would not be sure, but basically they depart from the good faith of the people.
    So: in the States and in Europe we have flawed digital systems, but still people are mostly OK
    and they do check each other. In Venezuela the digital systems are a bit better than in some other places but 1) as any IT person knows, they are nothing without the people, a binary file is a blackbox) 2) there is a lot of corruption and no real transparent system of witnesses and 3) cheating happens before election time by means of threats and coercion.

    So, what I think is we do need observers, but we should not let them do the stupid thing the Carter centre did. We should have them
    check things like the use by officialdom of state resources, we should let them see the threats, talk to the people.
    The part of the counting is a minor thing.

    I believe Venezuela's problems need to be solved by Venezuelans. We cannot count on observers for that (see Carter centre). But what we can do is use those observers to make unfair use of campaigning (which is easier to see) more difficult.


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