A few weeks ago at my church, I met a woman from Venezuela. She loves her country, but she doesn't believe that she'll ever be able to go back there, because Chavez is dangerous, and the destruction and chaos that he is creating will probably last for decades. I have to admit that I had a little trouble understanding her heavily-accented English, so I'm a little sketchy on all of the details, but apparently, she believes that the reason that Chavez is still in power is because he gives huge "donations" to Jimmy Carter's charity, which co-incidentally is also responsible for certifying the election results in Venezuela.
According to the Hugo Chavez article in Wikipedia, the Carter Center continues to validate all election results, despite recurring evidence of fraud:
- General elections were held on July 30, 2000. Chávez's coalition garnered two-thirds of seats in the National Assembly while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes. The Carter Center monitored the election; their report stated that, due to lack of transparency, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE; "National Electoral Council") partiality, and political pressure from the Chávez government that resulted in early elections, it was unable to validate the official CNE results. However, they concluded that the presidential election legitimately expressed the will of the people.
- Finally, after opposition leaders submitted to the CNE a valid petition with 2,436,830 signatures that requested a presidential recall referendum, a recall referendum was announced on June 8, 2004 by the CNE. Chávez and his political allies responded to this by mobilising supporters to encourage rejection of the recall with a "no" vote.
The recall vote itself was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59% "no" vote. The election was overseen by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, and was certified by them as fair and open. European Union observers did not attend, saying too many restrictions had been placed on their participation by the government.
Other critics, including economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT, called the results fraudulent, alleging there were "very clear trails of fraud in the statistical record" and alleged electronic voting machines had been reconfigured to allow results to be altered remotely. In response, the Carter Center consulted with Professor Jonathan Taylor, an independent statistician from Stanford University and Professor Aviel Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who both initially concluded that the actual results are within the predicted range and do not of themselves prove fraud. Subsequently, however, the Carter Center admitted Taylor had "found a mistake in one of the models of his analysis which lowered the predicted number of tied machines, but which still found the actual result to lie within statistical possibility."
The opposition also cited an exit poll which implied the actual results were the opposite of those reported. "Massive fraud" was alleged and the conclusions of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter were questioned.
- Chávez again won the OAS and Carter Center certification of the national election on December 3, 2006 with 63 percent of the vote, beating his closest challenger Manuel Rosales who conceded his loss on December 4, 2006. After his victory, Chávez promised a more radical turn towards socialism.
Here are some other interesting quotes from the Wikipedia article on the Carter Center, criticizing its involvement in the Venezuela elections:
- Carter's "continued international work certifying election results has provided essential political cover to anti-democratic forces in the region. Indeed, it might be said that over the past four years, Jimmy Carter has been the most visible and arguably most influential U.S. leader in Latin America."
- "The [Hugo Chávez] regime delayed and obstructed the recall referendum process at every turn. Once the regime was forced to submit to such a referendum, moreover, it used a fraud-filled voting process to ensure victory. The government did everything—including granting citizenship to half a million illegal aliens in a crude vote-buying scheme and 'migrating' existing voters away from their local election office—to fix the results in its favor. The outcome was then affirmed and legitimated by ex-President Jimmy Carter’s near-unconditional support."
- "Jimmy Carter ignored pleas from the opposition and publicly endorsed the results, despite the fact that the government reneged on its agreement to carry out an audit of the results. Carter’s actions not only gave the Venezuelan regime the legitimacy it craved, but also destroyed the public’s confidence in the voting process and in the effectiveness of international observers."
So I guess the reason why Chavez is still creating havoc in Venezuela all comes back home to roost. I'm not much into conspiracy theories, but I'm certainly not going to donate any more money to the Carter Center. It's a shame that a noble charity that could potentially help thousands (if not millions) of people from around the world would stoop to participating in such a blatent corruption.
(The woman from church also alleged that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton have accepted "campaign contributions" from Chavez, but I'm not sure how to determine if that's true or not. I wasn't planning to donate any money to them anyway!)