Not if you-know-who can help it. Yes, folks, it’s Chavecito time again!
First, a nasty little hit-piece from the Miami Herald (you know–BushCo’s Latin American propaganda arm?):
Federal officials are investigating whether Smartmatic, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to two people familiar with the probe.
In July, a Treasury Department spokeswoman disclosed that a Treasury-led panel had contacted Smartmatic, and a company representative said his firm was ”in discussions” with the panel. At the time, those discussions were informal. The government has now upgraded to a formal investigation, the two sources said.
Sequoia’s electronic voting machines operate in 17 states. In Florida, the machines are used in four counties: Palm Beach, Indian River, Pinellas and Hillsborough.
Miami-Dade and Broward use other technology.
Concerns about Smartmatic are keen on the eve of the Nov. 7 election, given fears that someone with unauthorized access to the electronic system could create electoral chaos. Some critics believe that if the Venezuelan government is involved, Smartmatic could be a ”Trojan horse” designed to advance Chavez’s anti-American agenda.
Note the familiar rhetoric that’s oh-so-casually slipped in there: “Chavez’s anti-American agenda”. Uh, what anti-American agenda? There isn’t any! Repeatedly it’s been emphasized, both by Chavez and other representatives of Venezuela, that he has no quarrel with the people of the United States, but rather with their government. And seeing as that government has repeatedly tried to dislodge him from his duly elected post, it’s not hard to see where that quarrel comes from!
Of course, any charges that Chavecito could be meddling in the Florida elections, either directly or by proxy, are false. But you have to read further down to see that:
The probe stems from a May 4 letter to the Treasury Department by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., raising concerns about Smartmatic’s purchase of Sequoia last year. Maloney said she was disturbed by a 2004 article in The Miami Herald revealing that the Venezuelan government owned 28 percent of Bizta — a company operated by two of the same people who own Smartmatic. Bizta bought back those shares after the article appeared, and Smartmatic now characterizes the deal as a loan.
Bizta and Smartmatic had partnered with Venezuelan telephone giant CANTV to win a $91 million contract to supply electronic voting machines for Venezuelan elections, including the controversial 2004 referendum Chávez won.
Smartmatic categorically denies any link to the Chávez regime. ”Smartmatic is a privately held corporation, and no foreign government or entity — including Venezuela — has ever held an ownership stake in the company,” Mitch Stoller, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.
Again, though, note the dodgy language: “controversial 2004 referendum”. As if Chavez’s victory were anything other than what it was: freely and cleanly achieved, approved by former US president Jimmy Carter and other outside observers. Whatever “controversy” there was around it was sown by a discredited, US-financed opposition group called Sumate, which did everything it could to rig the results–from signing up deceased persons on the recall petition (the “signers”, however, were too dumb to attempt forging the signatures in a handwriting other than their own, so whole pages were full of different names in the same hand) to ginning up poll results that mysteriously flip-flopped the actual figures so that Chavez’s numbers magically appeared under the other side’s tally, and vice versa. But the Herald won’t go into that (it is, after all, squarely in the State Dept’s pockets, as Cuba has so recently and embarrassingly shown), so I’ve helpfully included some interesting links for you to peruse at your leisure and learn the real story.
I’ll spare you quotations from the rest of the Herald’s lengthy and ultimately meaningless screed (go to the link and read it, if you’re of a mind to have your eyeballs glazed), but I will summarize by saying that in all the dreckery lies not one nugget of proof that the Venezuelan government is in any way involved with Smartmatic. Who is involved? Uh, a couple of very wealthy Venezuelans–the demographic most likely to hate Chavez’s guts–with, quel surprise, strong anti-Chavez connections.
So sorry! No story. But the alarm and hysteria cranked up by this piece will no doubt resonate with the Miami Mafia, who are always eager to believe the worst about Chavez, even when there’s nothing behind it.
Meanwhile, with no evidence of Venezuelan governmental interference in US elections, guess what’s happening in Venezuela? If you said US governmental interference in Venezuelan elections, pass Go and collect $200!
In 2004, President Bush tried to impress likely voters who frowned on his long vacations by insisting that he was “working hard.” Since then, it has become perfectly obvious that his work ethic has fallen short on key issues from relief after Hurricane Katrina and producing desired results in the “war on terror,” to putting forward viable solutions to the US health care crisis or boosting the stagnating economy.
There has been one issue, however, on which the Bush administration has worked diligently: a long and expensive effort to unseat democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. As the December 3rd Venezuelan national elections approach, in which President Chávez is standing for reelection, the Bush administration, in violation of US and Venezuelan law, is providing financial, diplomatic, and strategic support for Chávez’s opponents.
Yes, it’s hard work, all right. Throwing money at a bottomless pit takes one helluva pitching arm. It also takes one helluva spin machine to characterize all this as “promoting democracy”:
Top secret US government documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests show that the administration’s anti-Chávez operations may even pre-date the September 11th terrorist attacks and the launch of the “war on terror.” According to human rights and international law expert writer Eva Golinger, leaders of the infamous April 2002 coup met with top Bush administration officials at least six months prior.
Golinger, who spoke with Political Affairs from Caracas by telephone, authored the 2005 book The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela. Translated into several languages and sold all over the world, The Chávez Code comprehensively revealed the role of the US government, through its military entities, diplomatic channels, and through funding agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in helping to plan and execute the coup. Through its role in meeting with coup leader Pedro Carmona, provision of military equipment, and diplomatic pressure on regional governments to accept the coup as legitimate, the Bush administration played a decisive, multifaceted role in those illegal activities.
Documents Golinger unearthed during the investigation for her book showed that the CIA knew the exact details of the coup plan: stage a mass demonstration of political opponents of the administration, use sections of the Caracas police loyal to the opposi
tion to provoke violence by shooting at the crowds, blame President Chávez for the violence, have military detachments with ties to the US military kidnap him, and then claim he had resigned. US government documents show, Golinger points out, that “part of the conspiracy was convincing the public, the media, and other governments that Chávez was responsible and therefore the coup was justified.”
Once this plan was implemented, Carmona seized dictatorial power and by decree dissolved all of Venezuela’s democratic institutions.
Emphasis added, in case those crucial bits didn’t leap out at you all by themselves.
Golinger’s book is an eye-popper, and I strongly suggest you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already. The labyrinth of US interference in Venezuela is far larger than the not-so-complex money trail that the Miami Herald has traced around Smartmatic.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to say that all this jiggery-pokery will end up coming to naught, as it did in all previous attempts to re-rig Caracas to Washington’s liking:
Though diplomatically this campaign has failed, Golinger regards it as another level of interference in Venezuela’s election. Bush and Rumsfeld’s accusations, as unmerited as they may be, are repeated throughout the US and Venezuelan media. The point of the Bush administration’s accusations is not to prove necessarily that Venezuela poses a real danger, says Golinger, but to convince portions of the Venezuelan population that maybe they would be better off with a president that does not provoke such responses from the US government. Indeed, statements from the US government have been carefully coordinated with opposition political campaigns, which have consistently played on fears of the people Venezuela about these issues.
Despite this level of interference, President Chávez maintains a wide lead in public opinion polls (+/- 25 points) and his supporters expect to turn out voters in record numbers again.
For BushCo and the opposition, that’s an Ouch.
For the rest of the world, though, it’s a Woo-hoo!