Saturday, August 21, 2004

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY WRITES on Venezuela's recall referendum and the sorry role (to use a kind term) of Jimmy Carter and Cesar Gaviria, the figureheads of the team of international nearsighted, er, I mean, observers:
When Jimmy Carter went to Cuba in 2002, Fidel Castro reveled in the photo-ops with a former U.S. president. Mr. Carter seemed to think he was heroically "engaging" the Cuban despot. But in the documentary "Dissident," celluloid captures something most Americans didn't see: Castro giggling sardonically as Mr. Carter lectures the Cuban politburo on democracy. That foreshadowed what happened when the media splash ended and the former president went home: Dissidents he went to "help" today languish in gulag punishment cells.

I was reminded this week of how Castro so artfully used Mr. Carter when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez took a page from his Cuban mentor's playbook. On Monday, the Carter Center along with the head of the monumentally meaningless Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, endorsed Chávez's claims of victory in the Venezuelan recall referendum, rather too hastily it now seems.

The problem was that the "observers" hadn't actually observed the election results. Messrs. Carter and Gaviria were only allowed to make a "quick count"--that is, look at the tally sheets spat out by a sample of voting machines. They were not allowed to check this against ballots the machines issued to voters as confirmation that their votes were properly registered.

If there was fraud, as many Venezuelans now suspect, it could have been discovered if the ballots didn't match the computer tallies. The tallies alone were meaningless. The problem was clear by Tuesday but it didn't stop the State Department spokesman Adam Ereli from chiming in. "The people of Venezuela have spoken," he proclaimed.
She's not happy either about this last bit, and she's completely right.