US embassy cable - 04CARACAS173


Identifier: 04CARACAS173
Wikileaks: View 04CARACAS173 at
Origin: Embassy Caracas
Created: 2004-01-16 17:47:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L  CARACAS 000173 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2014 
Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor, 
 for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
1. (C) The National Electoral Council (CNE) officially began 
the verification process for the three signature drives to 
recall President Hugo Chavez and numerous National Assembly 
deputies January 13.  The CNE's announcement that 
gubernatorial and mayoral elections will take place as 
scheduled in July/August, however, stirred up tensions among 
opposition political parties over which electoral process 
will be the priority for the opposition.  Traditional parties 
(AD, COPEI, MAS) perceive an opportunity to defeat Chavez at 
the state and local level, while other parties (Primero 
Justicia, Proyecto Venezuela, Causa R) worry that a divided 
opposition will fumble the presidential referendum process. 
Frustrated by the slow pace of the CNE, the opposition has 
fallen into the trap of attacking each other.  End Summary. 
--------------------------------------------- - 
CNE Begins Physical Check of Chavez Signatures 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. (C) On January 14, the National Electoral Council (CNE) 
began the physical verification -- the first step in the 
verification process -- of the signatures collected in 
support of the presidential referendum.  On January 13, 
National Electoral Council (CNE) directors Jorge Rodriguez 
and Ezequiel Zamora declared publicly that the verification 
process had begun.  The CNE board reportedly increased the 
number of lawyers on the committee examining the 
certifications ("actas") from 40 to 70 to speed up that stage 
of the verification process.  Rodriguez added that the CNE 
plans to work separately on the three signature drives, 1) 
against opposition deputies, 2) against President Hugo 
Chavez, and 3) against GOV-allied deputies.  An OAS observer 
told poloff January 13 that the CNE is planning to create a 
single report to announce the results of the three drives. 
(Note:  The rules permit 30 days to complete the verification 
process and two days for the CNE board to approve the 
results.) He doubted the CNE could finish the job in the 
legally prescribed 30 days, but expressed confidence that 
work would proceed expeditiously. 
Regional Elections Cloud Picture 
3. (C) The CNE's announcement that elections for governors 
and mayors would proceed on schedule at the end of July (or 
beginning of August) stirred up concern among opposition 
parties over the fate of the recall referendum against 
Chavez.  Primero Justicia (PJ), Proyecto Venezuela (PV), and 
Causa R denounced AD, COPEI, MAS, Solidaridad, and Union for 
allegedly giving priority to the regional elections instead 
of the presidential recall vote.  PJ Secretary General Jose 
Luis Mejias told poloffs January 14 that a meeting at the 
Democratic Coordinating Committee (DCC) on January 10 
revealed strong disagreement between parties on how to 
proceed.  Mejias claimed that state and local elections will 
distract from the referendum, citing an example of a rural PJ 
candidate who asked party leadership not to criticize Chavez 
because he was supported by an important group of Chavez 
supporters in his town.  Mejias said PJ has proposed a 
unified campaign committee to coordinate candidate selection 
among the parties, basing the decision on who is most likely 
to defeat the Chavez-backed candidate.  Regarding PJ Deputy 
Gerardo Blyde's request to the Supreme Court to postpone the 
regional elections until December, Mejias thought the Court 
would reject the request, but added that at least PJ would 
make its point. 
4. (C) Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) President Felipe 
Mujica dispelled PJ's criticisms in a conversation with 
poloffs January 15.  Mujica said PJ has "votes but not 
candidates" and is less prepared for the regional elections. 
The dispute between parties is natural competition, he said, 
and for a party to ignore an election would be like trying to 
ignore the reality of one's own birthday.  The CNE calendar, 
he said, would require parties to name state and local 
candidates o/a March 20.  He noted that if the CNE announces 
at the beginning of February that there will be a referendum 
in May/June, then Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza, a 
potential candidate for president, would have to choose 
between the two.  The opposition, he said, is facing either 
"a great opportunity" or a "big disaster," depending on 
whether they can coordinate on the various electoral events. 
5. (C) A representative of the DCC told PolOff that the 
January 10 meeting produced a deadlock among parties and NGOs 
over the question of regional elections.  The representative 
said he thought it unlikely there would be agreement on 
unified candidates for governors and mayors, but that as the 
elections approached, trailing candidates would throw their 
support to the leading opposition candidate.  The 
representative suspects the CNE will ultimately combine the 
regional elections with either the referendum against Chavez 
or the subsequent presidential election. 
6. (C) For months we have heard from GOV allies their 
strategy to divide the opposition over the regional 
elections.  The opposition fell into the trap and turned on 
themselves by taking it public.  It should not be surprising 
that those political parties with strong chances of winning 
at the state and local levels are not willing to pass up the 
opportunity.  They hope to remove Chavez now via referendum, 
but think it foolish not to try to deal him a blow by 
defeating him in the regional elections.  We suspect the 
opposition's divisions over regional elections can be 
reconciled in time, though it will be a messy process. 

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