MICHAEL ROWAN and DOUG SCHOEN
The New York Sun
February 21, 2007
Hugo Chavez may have lost both the recall referendum in 2004 and the December 2006 presidential election, according to studies conducted by a distinguished multidisciplinary team in Caracas, Venezuela. The team includes the rector of Universidad Simon Bolivar, Frederick Malpica, and a former rector of the National Electoral Council, Alfredo Weil.
Astonishing as it may seem to Americans who believe the contention by Mr. Chavez that he won both elections by a landslide - 58% to 42% in the recall and 61% to 39% in the presidential election - the studies show that since 2003, Mr. Chavez has added 4.4 million favorable names to the voter list and "migrated" 2.6 million unfavorable voters to places where it was difficult or impossible for them to vote.
None of these additions or migrations to the voter-register has been independently audited in Venezuela. Instead, the votes have been electronically counted by Chavez cronies. So when Mr. Chavez announces a landslide, there has been no way to prove otherwise, even though exit polls and other data have consistently shown that half the voters of Venezuela or more oppose Mr. Chavez.
On the basis of this fraudulent manipulation, Mr. Chavez has claimed a national mandate for all of the following, which we clarify for Americans as if President Bush had done so in America. He:
• won all 435 seats in the House and all 100 in the Senate, and packed the Supreme Court with nine sycophants that never ruled against him;
• asked his rubber-stamp Congress to let him legislate unilaterally including amending the Constitution, and 100% of the members of Congress voted for that;
• decreed under these powers that he can run for re-election to the presidency for life;
• plans to decree that cities and states will no longer be governed by elected mayors and governors, but by people's committees named by him;
• owned or controlled all but a few TV and radio stations that either cover his endless speeches averaging 40 hours a week or risk losing their broadcast licenses;
• created one political party and denied the rights of citizenship to recalcitrant members of opposition parties;
• took over the Federal Reserve and spent the national Treasury as if it were a personal checking account;
• funded his campaign with government money and publicly and repeatedly threatened government workers to vote for him or be fired;
• dictated wages, prices, interest rates, profits, and currency exchange rates under the economic theory that he knows best;
• created an army reserve commanded personally by him that was 10 times the size of the existing military;
• nationalized the telephone and electric utilities along with thousands of private enterprises on the theory that collectives are better than private enterprises;
• put military henchmen loyal only to him in charge of government and civil institutions that they have no qualifications to run;
• declared that schools would submit to a curriculum that rewrites national history as he sees it, and mandated military indoctrination for all children;
• dictated the purpose and occupancy for private homes, apartment houses, and properties under the threat of confiscation if owners did not comply;
• prosecuted human rights and voter-rights leaders for treason, which is punishable by 16 years in prison;
• jailed individuals for five years who voiced opinions on TV he disagreed with;
• looked the other way as thousands of his police and military worked the murder, kidnapping, theft, drug, and money-laundering trades with impunity;
• began considering declaring a national religion with him as its spiritual leader;
• changed the way unemployment and poverty are calculated when the international standards of measurement proved embarrassing to his false claims of having solved those problems;
• ran an off-budget slush fund that rivals the size of the official government budget;
• increased the size of a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy so grandly that he now has at least one employee in half the families of the country;
• traveled the world lavishly preaching about ending poverty, welfare, and theft - the three main characteristics of his government;
• advertised his model of government - with the highest inflation rate and highest murder rate in Latin America, and one of the worst human rights records - as the hope of the world.
We are not making this up. Mr. Chavez did - or is doing - all of that and more. But some have said that he is really a good guy who has been slandered and misunderstood. We need more dialogue with him, they say. He’s an elected president of a sovereign nation and we should respect that, they also say.
What is it about Mr. Chavez that they don't get? What does Mr. Chavez have to do to make them see him as he really is? If calling Mr. Bush "the Devil" and America "the Evil Empire" is all someone has to do to gain acceptance from those who oppose American policy, why didn't Pol Pot, Muammar Gadhafi, and Robert Mugabe qualify?
President Carter endorsed the Chavez counts without any verifiable paper ballot count or audit. Why? And why does he continue to support Mr. Chavez? Why do members of Congress from 17 states look the other way as Mr. Chavez delivers subsidized oil to households in their districts?
We believe Mr. Chavez is given a wide berth everywhere because he's got an oil supply second only to Saudi Arabia. He is using America's oil market - or lack of oil production - to get Americans to ignore what he’s up to.
Mr. Schoen is a former principal in Penn Schoen & Berland, which conducted exit polls in the 2004 recall referendum and in the 2006presidential election. Mr. Rowan is a free-lance columnist and the author of "Getting Over Chavez and Poverty."