Category Archives: Analysis

Facts, background, research

A Basic Requirement for Elections

A basic requirement is that the result reflects the intent of the voter. That is to say, the vote cast should not change between the moment it is cast, and the moment it is counted. From it leaves the control of the voter, to it arrives to the persons checking the result, it should remain constant. This rather self-evident requirement is apparently too self-evident to be considered in most analyses I have read. What happens if we apply it to electronic voting?

Let’s start with ceramic chips, bone fragments, twigs, and regular paper ballots with the name written on it. You write the candidate’s name (or whatever the election is for) on a physical object, and put it in the recipient of the votes, which is constructed so that nobody can remove or add votes without being detected. Due to the Laws of Nature, the physical object containing the vote will remain the same until the moment it is counted. Not so with electronic voting, however.

Electronic votes are stored in computer memory. These are read/write devices, i.e., they can be changed. A bit can be set or reset without anybody noticing. The vote is not stored as a physical object, but as the state of some atom or molecule, or group thereof. It is a fundamental difference which ought to disqualify all those machines.

Is there a way to create a reliable electronic voting system? Maybe. First off we need to use a storage device that cannot be altered. We need a PROM, a programmable read only memory. Assume that we have a memory that starts from only zeroes, and that can be changed to 1 but never back to 0. We then assign a block of memory for each candidate, and add a logical “1” for each vote cast for each candidate. A vote cast can never be subtracted. If someone adds votes in an attempt at fraud, the total votes will not match the number of voters on the voting roll. To sum up the machine would just need to sum up the number of 1’s for each candidate. By standardizing the addresses where the votes are stored, a PROM chip could be inserted in any machine for independent verification. The PROM could either be stored and replaced in the next election, or one could use an erasable kind of PROM, specifically a UVPROM which requires long exposure to strong UV light to reset. The other kind, EEPROM, can be reset invisibly with electricity, and that is not what we want. Personally I’d prefer the PROM that cannot be reset, and that they be stored as part of the national archives after the election. To implement this kind of electronic voting basically requires standardizing the format in which data is stored on the PROM. All other hardware would preferably be open-source and ideally NOT contain any programmable device, only electric hardware.

This machine would behave like having separate ballots for each race, and it would be impossible to see how individual voters voted in different elections. This is a democratic advantage compared to having a single ballot for all race.

Risk for Caribbean War

The Cold War never ended. The collapse of communism in Europe was widely seen as the end of the Cold War between the USSR and the USA. However, Cuba did not surrender. Castro stayed in there, found a new ally in China, shifted strategy, and together they quietly started conquering Latin America. With the death of Hugo Chávez on December 30, 2012, they have now reached the end of the road for that strategy. They are left with only two options: Hot war, or retreat.

If you haven’t heard about this yet it is because they have a very efficient propaganda apparatus. This is a fourth generation war, it is a cold war fought in media. They know that Western diplomats, starved of money for their intelligence services, rely on media reports to figure out what is happening. It is therefore a simple question of getting the media to write what they want, and media are all too easy to manipulate nowadays. Sorry media guys, but it’s true; you are very gullible.

The Castro brothers have tried to take control over Venezuela since they came to power. Guerilla war, invasion, incitement to rebellion, military coup, and finally going to elections. The fifth time was the charm. It turns out that presidential republics (like USA, Mexico, and so on all the way to Argentina and Chile) are very easy to take control over. All it takes is some money for bribes, along with an intelligence service that digs up dirt that can be used for blackmailing, and a propaganda apparatus that makes sure that the rest of the world hears what they want to hear.

In 1999, the Castro man took office in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. The same guy who had been their front man in the failed 1992 military coups. He suffered from megalomania, which made him easy to manipulate for the Cubans. With him in Miraflores (the presidential palace in Caracas) the Castros could start milking the cow. Oil prices soaring, Cuba is now stealing about $1B per year from Venezuela. A lot of the loot is used to bribe other nations, turning them into collaborators. In this way a majority has been achieved in the OAS, and also other international organizations have been castrated, by joining forces with other authoritarian regimes around the world. The democracies are now the minority, just as was the case before the outset of WWII.

In Latin America, Ecuador and Bolivia are completely in Cuba’s corner and under Cuban control. Nicaragua is also in Cuba’s corner, although Ortega is more of his own man. In contrast, Evo Morales in Bolivia seems clueless. He just the other day went to Venezuela and asked to meet with Hugo Chávez, which contributed to exposing the lie to the world. He obviously does not know or understand that Chávez is dead, and that the impostor Nicolás Maduro is lying through his teeth when he says that Chávez is “recovering”. It would seem the native american president is another victim of the Cuban imperialism. Rafael Correa in Ecuador, on the other hand, appears to be more of a willing co-conspirator.

What’s Next?

With the lie in Venezuela about to explode, there is no telling what will happen. The chavista die-hards don’t yet know that Maduro is lying to them, and that Chávez died last year. They only accept Maduro as acting vice president as long as they believe that the orders really come from Hugo Chávez. To understand what this means one has to look at where the real power lies in Venezuela – i.e., who has the guns.

First we have the military. They do not have full access to guns, because the Cubans don’t trust them. They have repeatedly tried to overthrow the Chávez regime, knowing full well that it has only been holding on to power through widespread election fraud ever since the early days of the regime. Therefore the Cubans have taken over the intelligence apparatus in Venezuela. There are rumors of Cuban officers in the armed forces, which I have not been able to confirm. However, in the Navy I have been able to get confirmation that at least some units are not infiltrated, and the same goes for the National Guard.

There is also the militia, thugs who have been armed by the regime. Gun shops have been closed, not even ammunition is available to law-abiding citizens. The only place to buy ammo is in the slum where these thugs control access, the so-called “colectivos”. They have been equipped with motorbikes and AK47 or similar. These milicias are fanatical chavistas, and that poses a problem for Maduro and his Cuban masters. When they find out how they have been lied to, they are likely to turn their guns against the regime, and not against the opposition as was the original idea.

Furthermore there are the terrorists, who control parts of the country. Apart from the cocaine-smuggling FARC and ELN, there are imported terrorists: ETA, Hezbollah, and others. There are also a significant number of Iranians in Venezuela, who just loaf around, claiming to have come to work but who do little more than drink bear and hang out. They are likely sleeping cells of terrorists. Venezuela used to be a close ally to Gaddafi’s Libya, and still is a close ally to Assad’s Syria. The Venezuelan puppet regime of Havana is assisting the Syrian dictator with oil and propaganda, and perhaps also arms.

Cuban Military Forces in Venezuela

There are overwhelming reasons to believe that the tens of thousands of Cubans who have been sent for years to Venezuela as “doctors”, “teachers”, and “trainers”, in reality are sleeping cells of military. After Chávez’s death they were all given uniforms, Venezuelan army uniforms. They were subsequently stationed on Venezuelan military bases, in units that are completely composed of Cubans in Venezuelan uniforms. Estimates say that there may be 20 to 30 thousand Cuban troops in Venezuela, in Venezuelan uniforms, with weapons and ammo. There are also about 300 Cuban officers in leading positions in the army, according to reports that date from 2010.

Possible Development

At some point the lie will become unsustainable. There are essentially two different scenarios. Either the chavista supporters get fed up with Cuba and Maduro, and take to the streets, with or without militia violence. This would be an internal falling apart of the chavista unity. Or else, the patriots from both sides unite against the traitors, and try to throw out the Cubans and their puppet regime. This second option would clearly be better for the nation, and in my opinion is the more likely scenario.

As you will have realized, the Cuban preparation for this battle has been to station troops and material in Venezuela, so that they can fight the war appearing to be the Venezuelan army. Their hope is that it will enable them to claim that it is a civil war, and make believe that Havana has nothing to do with it. They will say that the Venezuelans are “American insurgents”, and that the Cubans are “Venezuelans defending their country”.

The Venezuelans may be left with no other choice than to fight as irregular forces, in a liberation army, although parts of the regular Venezuelan military may be available to them as well. The crucial issue is how big part of the armed forces will believe in the Cuban propaganda and side with the enemy, and how big part will understand the true nature of the conflict and fight with the patriots.

As for reinforcements, Cuba has no close ally that borders with Venezuela. Ecuador is on the other side of Colombia. The route over the Caribbean Sea is visible to US Navy and Air Force. However, the Cubans will claim that their “ally” needs and deserves help, and the Russian fleet may back them up, and along with China veto any effort to block transports to Venezuela.

What this means is that the Venezuelan people have to take an active part in this, to bring about a swift and decisive victory, because if they don’t, Cuba, China, and Russia will soon make sure that Venezuelan sovereignty becomes a thing of the past.

Venezuela now a Cuban colony

On January 10, the previous presidential period ended, and the new started. However, no president was sworn in. The previous president, Hugo Chávez, who is also the president-elect, went to Cuba for surgery on December 10, and has not been heard from since. The Cuban regime claims that he is alive but in such a condition as to be unable to communicate or receive visitors (not even family; most of them are not even given entry permits to the country). However, the former vice president, Nicolas Maduro, claims to be getting instructions from him. Although the time period expired and the Constitution calls for a new president to be sworn in on January 10, that was not done. The Supreme Court issued a ridiculous verdict in which the key argument was based not on an existing paragraph, but on the fact that two paragraphs from the previous constitution no longer exist in the present one. Using this flawed argument, the error of the excluded third, they ruled that the previous president can continue in office for an undetermined time until he can be sworn in again as the new president. The truth is probably that he is dead, though.

Since Venezuela no longer has a head of State, it has in effect ceased to exist as a sovereign nation. Furthermore, since the orders come from Cuba, and there is no way of verifying if they come from a still living Hugo Chávez, or from the Cuban regime, one has to conclude that Venezuela now is ruled from Cuba. Public statements by a Cuban military in Venezuela on Jan 10 confirms this; he said basically that if you try to rebel we will beat you down. The opposition presidential candidate in the Oct 7 sham elections, Capriles, made an incoherent statement which could be interpreted any way you want, in his usual style.

Students have gone out in hunger strikes all over the country. Other forms of protests have been beaten down, the country being totally militarized. A Facebook page called Operacion Libertad Venezuela reported that their activists had only managed to make one graffiti in the first night, and even that was interrupted by military although it was in a remote mountain village(!). The opposition are talking about doing the traditional march on January 23rd, in celebration of the fall of the last dictator in 1958 as a result of popular protests. The regime always arranges a counter-march, ordering state employees out, paying the poor to come, and bussing in tens of thousand from other parts of the country.

It should be noted that there is a significant part of the population that fervently believe that Chávez is still alive, and that he will come back. Their behavior and belief system is consistent with that of members of a religious sect. Personally I have come to the conclusion that chavismo must be regarded as a sect, a communist religious fundamentalist sect. Their behavior is totally illogical for non-members, and they are not receptive to arguments based on facts. This brings in another factor into the equation, so that there are two things that differ from the Arap Spring uprisings: The foreign occupation, and the sect nature of the followers. Given that these fanatical followers have been heavily armed by the regime with automatic assault weapons and motorcycles for mobility, there is a real and present danger for a violent confrontation. However, the hard core may not be that big, and they don’t stand a chance in an open battle with a trained military. Therefore the glimmer of hope that exists for Venezuela is that the military will obey their oath to defend the Fatherland, and the Constitution is on their side.

The president in Venezuela is the commander in chief, and that task cannot be delegated. Thus, orders that come from anybody else than the president are invalid, and they have no obligation to follow it. Since Venezuela today does not have a Constitutional president (the Supreme Court ruling being unconstitutional and invalid; it should be mentioned that all 8 justices who are in charge of rulings of constitutionality recently were replaced), the military does not have a commander in chief. They must therefore adhere to Article 333 in the Constitution, which says that it is every citizens duty to restore the constitutional order if it is violated. This means that the military has a duty to act against the Cuban invader. Of course, the leadership of the military is part of the treason, but the vast majority of the armed forces resent the acts of the (narco) leadership.

There is a saying in Venezuela, “hay que ponerse las alpargatas ya que lo que viene es joropo.” That is what is being done now, preparing for a major battle.

The Electoral Dictatorship of Venezuela is Failing

A recently published book is focusing on an important subject. In ”The Dictator’s Learning Curve – inside the global battle for democracy,” William Dobson writes about the Arab Spring, but also about Venezuela, Russia, Iran and others. We have got used to dictatorships being totalitarian, controlling the inhabitants through brutality. The standard image of a dictator is a military coupster with epaulets on his shoulders. But the last 20 years that type of dictator has been in the minority.

Most authoritarian countries today celebrate elections, and make an effort to appear democratic. This is in and of itself nothing new; ”Tiden” (a Swedish social-democratic political magazine) wrote about these electoral dictatorships already in the 1930’s. Back then they existed in Europe, including the Baltic states, and the model was Nazi Germany, a country that aspired to appear to follow the constitution.

A contemporary case that is given a lot of attention in the book is socialist Venezuela and the “Bolivarian revolution,” the term Hugo Chávez uses for the project to unite Latin America under socialism. Already 1999, the same year he took office as a democratically elected president, he convened a Constituting Constitutional Assembly. The assembly consisted of 125 “chaviztas” and 6 others, elected in a rapid election where the distribution of mandates was far from proportional. All the powers were gathered in this assembly, which was not sanctioned by the constitution, and the whole process was legitimized by referenda before and after.

But were those polls free and fair? The days after June 28, 2009, when Zelaya’s attempt to hold an illegal referendum about convening a constituting constitutional assembly in Honduras had been stopped, the Attorney General found electoral material where the result of the referendum already was tabulated: A huge victory for “yes”. The ballots and the tabulation sheets came from Venezuela. What is the term to use when the tools of democracy are used to overthrow the constitution? And with support from a foreign power? There is no doubt that the procedure in Venezuela in 1999 was unconstitutional. It was a coup d’état sanctioned by the Supreme Court.

Early in 2002 Chávez announced changes in the popular state-owned oil company PDVSA. It provoked a strike, which got popular support. On April 11 a million-strong demonstration marched to the presidential palace, where they were being shot at. Both sides accused the other. The end result was that Chávez was forced to resign, but General Baduel had him reinstated after 3 days.

The shooting of the unarmed demonstrators became a water divide. In 2003, democratic organizations gathered 3.2 million signatures demanding a referendum for recalling Chávez. After many obstructions the regime was finally forced to hold a recall referendum on August 15, 2004.

Based on opinion polls and exit polls it was universally expected that ”yes” would prevail, but the election authority unexpectedly announced that ”no” had won, and Chávez could remain in office. Seven peer-reviewed articles about the referendum have since been written in two scientific journals (International Statistical Review, and Statistical Science), and the conclusion is clear: Chávez’s presidency would have been revoked if it hadn’t been for fraud in the vote-counting from the electronic voting machines, which were used for the first time on that occasion.

One of the article authors, Guillermo Salas, describes how an electoral dictatorship has to succeed with four things in order to achieve democratic legitimacy:

  1. create an electoral system that allows for fraud,
  2. create faith in this system,
  3. create an expectation that the regimen candidate will win, and
  4. get a ”seal of quality” on the result.

According to Salas the strategy has been implemented in the following way:

  1. electronic voting has been introduced,
  2. the opposition assures that the process is transparent,
  3. opinion polls show that the regime will win, and
  4. either the opposition accepts defeat, or an international election observer approves the result.

A complementing strategy is to occasionally allow the opposition to win, but only in cases where it doesn’t matter, such as governors and parliaments without power.

On October 7 the next presidential election will be held. The opposition has united behind Henrique Capriles, a 40-year old bachelor and governor for the second most populous state. While Chávez is suffering from cancer and moves with difficulty, Capriles is radiating health and youth. As a way of compensating for the total domination of the media on the part of the regime, Capriles has travelled around the country holding election meetings, in spite of assassination attempts. Politically he is close to social democracy, just like Carlos Andrés Pérez, called CAP, the president that Chávez tried to overthrow in a military coup in February of 1992.

The election campaign of Chávez is predominantly negative. He calls Chávez an “adulating wretch,” and has threatened with civil war “if the opposition wins.” Venezuela’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, said in an interview September 7 that Chávez’s words about “civil war” in effect was a veiled threat to carry out a massacre, since only one side in the conflict is armed. This is the first time in Latin America that the executive has threatened the citizens, he said, and compared it with Hitler’s threatening of the Jews, Milosevic’s of the Muslims, and Kaddafi’s of the opposition. (Arria was a witness against Milosevic in the war crime tribunal, and chairman of the UN Security Council when it condemned Libya for the bombing over Lockerbie; Chávez would refer to Kaddafi as his “brother.”)

Chávez accuses the opposition of being “ultra-right”. When Chávez calls the social democrat CAP “ultra-right” it says more about how far left he himself is ideologically. Although he, during the election campaign in 1998, replied “no” on the question whether he was a socialist, in 2007 he stated that he is a Trotskist, and Fidel Castro has said that Chávez politics “of course” is communist.

As it turns out, Fidel Castro of Cuba is namely behind Chávez’s power grab in Venezuela, according to a new book by General Carlos Peñaloza, former head of the army in Venezuela. Already in 1984 he identified Chávez as an infiltrator in the army, and in December of 1989 he had Chávez (who by then was serving in the presidential palace) arrested on suspicion of planning to murder the president. However, the president (CAP) didn’t believe the accusations, and allowed Chávez to continue to serve. The rest is history.

Peñaloza’s book is called “El Imperio de Fidel” and deals with Fidel up to 1967. The follow-up will deal with Chávez’s role as Fidel’s “successor”. One could also call Chávez Castro’s quisling, considering how the Cubans have plundered Venezuela since 1999: a large part of Cuba’s revenues come from Venezuela. Venezuela is also the bridgehead of influence in Latin America for the Cuban dictatorship. There is therefore very much at stake for the Castro brothers on October 7.

According to political consultant and analyst Eric Ekvall, who for 30 years has been based in Venezuela, Capriles now has an advantage of 15 points after correction for a systematic error in all opinion polls (due to fear of being registered as having anti-regime opinions). Fearing a huge electoral loss the regime has taken new illegal actions. The electronic voting machine is now equipped with a fingerprint scanner. The same system first checks the voter’s identity using the social security number; then decides whether the person should be allowed to vote; and finally records his or her vote. The regime is in total control. There is no possibility for the opposition to manually verify if it’s the right person who is voting, or if the same physical person is voting multiple times. The fingerprint is in effect not used, but the scanner has a psychological effect. According to a poll commissioned by the opposition, 63% of voters do not trust that the vote is secret.

Scientific research has shown that electoral dictatorships can survive only because the opposition has more to win from losing than from winning. The iron grip of the regime can only be broken if there is a strong third force. Nobody can know today how strong the popular resistance is in Venezuela. Unless the election is canceled, the regime will probably declare itself the winner, the people will take to the streets, and then we’ll find out how the militias and the military will react.

Propaganda dissected

When following the ongoing presidential election in Venezuela, one comes across so many layers of propaganda that I feel obligated to start structuring it a bit. The traditional division is between white, grey, and black propaganda, but there seems to be some confusion in Wikipedia about how to define them: Sometimes the source is referred to, sometimes the purpose. I have therefore made a two-dimensional classification, adding the colors yellow and blue in the second dimension.

White, grey and black propaganda has here been sub-divided based on target audience, with yellow for self and blue for enemy.

Propaganda can be aimed at giving the enemy the “blues”, why the color for that is blue. The opposite to blue is yellow, boosting morale among the own population or followers. Of course, many messages may reach both groups, and so the impact on both must be considered. The yellow and blue are therefore just pastels over the white, grey, or black. Still, introducing yellow and blue pastels can avoid confusion when the purpose is to refer to the target rather than to the source.

Let me provide an example from Venezuela. An e-mail has been circulating lately claiming that 36 Cuban military personnel are in custody with the immigration authorities in Miami, after escaping from their barracks in Fuerte Tiuna in Caracas, Venezuela, where they were serving in the Cuban Occupation Army. The e-mail goes on to tell about their daily life in Venezuela, and includes much information about how superior the Cuban military is to the Venezuelan, and how Cubans are training Venezuelans in using top-modern Russian military fighter planes.

This is an example of grey-blue or black-blue propaganda. The person talking in the first person singular in the message is not named, which of course is for alleged security reasons, but it is clearly intended to be understood that he is against the regime in Venezuela. However, a closer scrutiny of the content of the message shows that the person who wrote it is not well familiar neither with the immigration centers in Miami (where he alleges that he interviewed the persons), nor with the military situation in Venezuela. The bias is such that one has to conclude that the e-mail was written on Cuba. From this follows that it most likely was written by the Cuban secret security apparatus, G2. It was clearly intended to demoralize the opposition to Chávez (blue propaganda), while not being believed by the supporters of Chávez, the “chaviztas”; or else they figured that they wouldn’t mind so much if they by chance would believe in it.

The last years there have been ample information circulating about Cuban military occupation of Venezuela. In fact, there is a photo of a military base displaying both the Cuban and Venezuelan flags, with the Cuban flag in the honor position. Is it real or photoshopped? Who knows. Perhaps it is real but staged. There are also many photos of the militia with AK47, and they have been seen in parades. But does that mean that they are a functional fighting force? Not necessarily. It may be white-blue propaganda.

There is also a third dimension to propaganda: If the message is true or not. It can be true, it can be an outright lie, or it can be something more or less unknown that is presented with more certainty than it deserves. We could use green for true and red for false, and thus get the whole spectrum, e.g. cyan for truths intended to demoralize the enemy, and purple for falsehoods with the same purpose. In this scheme, lies created to boost the morale of the own population but alleged to come from the enemy will have a combination of black, yellow, and red. What color does that create? You guessed it: Brown. Brown propaganda is very widely used on Cuba by G2.

White, grey and black propaganda has here been sub-divided based on truthfulness, with green for true and red for false.

Can electronic voting work?

Many attempts have been made to “fix the problems” with electronic voting, but rather than trying to go through issue after issue, I’ll try to address it from the other end: Is it logically possible to make it work? To answer that question one has to boil down the essential requirements first, and then see how they can be implemented.

The essential requirements are:

  1. There shall be one person – one vote (no unauthorized voting)
  2. The vote shall be secret (the fact that a person cast a vote shall be public for the election observers, since this is used to count the votes cast, but what that vote was shall remain secret and it shall be impossible to find out)
  3. It shall be impossible to manipulate the vote once cast (except optionally for the one casting it under certain circumstances)
  4. Once the election is over, the number of votes for the different alternatives shall be publicly visible (i.e. possible to verify without relying on any device, the inner workings of which not are not publicly known and verifiable)

To accomplish this, the vote must be represented by some physical property that is effectively indestructible in the timeframe of the election (absent force majeur). This is where electronic voting gets into trouble. An electronic vote is represented in memory as a physical state, not a physical property. We are talking about the energy state of electrons and things like that. One can liken it to a ball that can be in either of two cups, inside a box which nobody can peek into until it is time to count the vote. There are many ways to move the ball inside the box after the vote is cast – for instance by shaking the box. Similarly there are ways to change the memory state after the vote is cast, but before it is counted.

The key here is that the position of the ball is a state, not an inherent property. And since the vote has to be secret, by definition we can not guard it against manipulation by observing it. Thus we have to conclude that the vote has to be represented by such a physical property that cannot be manipulated out of view. Hence, electronic voting is not acceptable, unless – that is – the vote is recorded on an indestructible memory. There is such a memory. It is called PROM, programmable read-only memory. Will that work?

The memory must be able to record at least 4 conditions per race: Not voted, voted for alternative 1, voted for alternative 2, or a vote for neither (null, blank). The memory bits start out as either a 0 or a 1, and can only be changed once to the other state. This means that one bit is needed for each alternative, and if more than one is marked, it will be a null vote (similar to hole punching in paper). However, existing PROM memories typically don’t allow manipulation of bits or bytes, but only of whole pages at once, and that means that each voter would have to use up an entire page for his vote. Such an election would consume a lot of PROM chips. In fact, it would probably be much cheaper to vote manually using paper ballots inside envelopes stuffed in a transparent box, the good old-fashioned way.

The conclusion is thus that with existing memory technologies electronic voting does not live up to the requirements. They key would be to develop PROM memories with small page sizes, perhaps in the form factor of memory cards. But how to make sure there is no fraud with the physical cards being exchanged? There is one obvious way: That each voter uses a single memory card and deposits it in a box. Kind of like manual voting with paper ballots, isn’t it? Or else the PROM memory has to be semi-permanent inside the machine, exchanged only between elections. It could work.

There is one other way to assure that the memory state is not altered, and that is to control all methods by which it can be altered. In practice this means having complete control over the code of the computers involved. This is not the case in any system today, but it is theoretically possible, if both hardware and software are open source. However, that in turn requires a public development, and that is something that the private players who are in the field today vehemently would object to. So much so, that they might even be tempted to steal the election for the candidate who promises to protect their voting machine business.

Combining PROM memories with small page sizes, locked inside the machine for the duration of an election, with open-source software, electronic voting may be acceptable from a democratic point of view. But today we are a long way from that goal.

PS. Considering how fast and secure manual voting can be (e.g. in Sweden, where results are available sooner than in some countries with electronic voting, such as Venezuela), it just doesn’t seem very worthwhile to go electronic.

Laddat läge i Venezuela

Den 10 juni har oppositionen organiserat en marsch från ett flertal punkter i Caracas till den plats där oppositionens kandidat till att efterträda Hugo Chávez, guvernör Henrique Capriles Radonski, officiellt skall skriva in sin kandidatur. Huvudstadens uppslutning kompletteras enligt min källa med 100.000 som bussas in från andra delstater, och bland dessa återfinns 30.000 indianer. Marschen förväntas bli stor, kanske rekordstor. Samma källa, en person som arbetar med fattiga på landsbygden, säger att folket är ursinnigt på regimen, och att de inte är beredda att låta sig stoppas.

För 10 år sedan tågade en annan rekordstor demonstration genom Caracas. Det var uppåt en miljon människor som gick ungefär en mil, från den plats där demonstrationen hade tillstånd att vara, till presidentpalatset. Nästan framme möttes de av krypskyttar på taken av skyskraporna, och pistolbeväpnade civila medlemmar av regimens innersta cirkel, som från en bro över gatan sköt vilt mot de fredliga och obeväpnade demonstranterna. Nitton människor satte livet till. Poliser som ingrep för att rädda liv dömdes senare som ansvariga för massakern, och sitter nu i fängelse på 30 år som politiska fångar. Att de är politiska fångar har den högste ansvarige domaren i landets högsta domstol, Eliado Aponte Aponte, själv sagt i en TV-intervju. Här finns en dokumentär (spanska med engelsk text) om händelsen och lögnerna som spreds över världen, lögner som fick omvärlden att karaktärisera massdemonstrationen som en “militärkupp”(!).

Regimen gör nu allt den kan för att vinna valet, utan att helt förlora intrycket av att det råder demokrati. Man måste dock ha skygglappar på för att kunna karaktärisera tillståndet som demokrati, vilket Carter-centret felaktigt gjorde år 2004 då regimen använde omfattande valfusk för att hindra att Chávez avsattes i en folkomröstning. Förutom detta rena fusk, använder de en uppsjö av andra odemokratiska knep:

-Konsulatet i Miami stängdes i år, och igår meddelades att de 23.000 registrerade väljarna i Miami, liksom de i resten av Florida och Georgia, får åka till New Orleans om de vill rösta. I avstånd och antal är det som om alla i Lappland skulle hänvisas till en vallokal i Smygehuk – och en enda vallokal, att delas med lokalbefolkningen. Konsulatet i Miami var den enskilt största vallokalen för venezolaner, både inom och utom landet, och givetvis röstar så gott som alla här mot regimen, eftersom de flesta är flyktingar från den regimen.

-Medan oppositionen bedriver sin valrörelse med privata bidrag använder regimen statens medel. Regimen tvingar privata TV-kanaler att visa timslånga utläggningar av Chávez, i vilka han grovt förolämpar oppositionskandidaten (till exempel kallas Henrique Capriles Radonski aldrig “herr” Capriles, utan “fröken” Capriles). En insatt bedömare har sagt mig att regimen varje dag spenderar lika mycket på propaganda som oppositionens hela kampanj kostar. Samtidigt konfiskeras privata företag för att de inte skall ha pengar att donera till oppositionen. Donationer från utlandet, till exempel Miami, har också förbjudits.

-Alla som skrev under på att kräva en folkomröstning om Chávez avsättande 2004 registrerades i en lista (kallad “lista Tascón”), och regimen beordrade att de alla skulle avskedas om de arbetade inom offentliga sektorn, men även på universitet och liknande (se brevet nedan). De har även diskriminerats när det gäller tillstånd, bidrag, utbildning, och så vidare. För att påminna väljarna om detta har regimen beslutat sätta en apparat för att kontrollera väljarens fingeravtryck bredvid den dator som används för att rösta (se fotot nedan). Det underförstådda budskapet är givetvis att “storebror staten ser allt du gör, och om du inte röstar för regimen så kommer det att gå dig illa”.

Scannat brev.
Brev från vicepresidenten i vilket han beordrar ett universitet att avskeda alla som skrev under kravet att hålla en folkomröstning om avsättande av president Chávez.

-De mutar firmor som sysslar med opinionsundersökningar till att genomföra och publicera undersökningar med metoder som är medvetet konstruerade för att ge Chávez som vinnare. En viktig faktor är att inte låta den intervjuade vara anonym. Det finns empiriska data som visar att detta enda faktum fick pendeln att svänga 14% i Chávez favör för 6 år sedan, och denna så kallade “fear factor” är sannolikt ännu större år 2012. Den senaste realistiska opinionsundersökningen visade att Henrique Capriles leder med 8% över Chávez som ett medel över hela landet, och ännu mer gentemot vem det vara månde som ersätter Chávez efter dennes frånfälle.

Foto från vallokal.
Så här vill regimen i Venezuela att det skall se ut i vallokalen. Till höger en lista på kandidaterna, i mitten pekdatorn för röstning, och till vänster en apparat för att kontrollera väljarens fingeravtryck.

Trots att Hugo Chávez är döende i cancer och tros ha högst två månader kvar att leva så håller regimen nämligen fast vid att han är deras kandidat den 7 oktober. Militärerna har dock redan börjat damma av den vagn som används för att forsla kistan vid statsbegravningar, enligt vad militärer som är direkt inblandade lär ha sagt till sina familjer.

Imorgon kan bli en fredlig början på slutet av regimen. Men det kan också bli blodigt, ifall regimen kallar in sina miliser, vilka är tränade på Kuba och beväpnade med kalashnikov. Regimen har bara två kort kvar för att hålla sig kvar vid makten: Våld, och Militärkupp. Om de brukar våld i morgon, och då inte utfört av uniformerade utan av deras motsvarighet till Hitlers brunskjortor, så kommer endera av två saker att hända. Antingen flyr de obeväpnade demonstranterna och låter sig skrämmas till underkastelse, eller så gör de det inte. I 10 år har rädslan härskat, men jag tycker mig ana av vad jag hör och ser att något har förändrats. Min källa från den fattiga landsbygden sa det rakt ut igår: Folk är förbannade. Om regimen möter med våld så är risken överhängande att Venezuela går samma utveckling tillmötes som Libyen och Syrien.

The next military coup in Venezuela?

October 7, 2012, a presidential election will be held in Venezuela. Or will it? There is a lot that suggests that the process will be interrupted by a military coup. Hugo Chávez is dying in cancer (although he has claims to be recovering), and the politicians are preparing for what happens next.

The opposition in October is Henrique Capriles Radonski, from the unity group, MUD. A poll released the other day reports that Chávez will win by 53%, 19% more than Capriles Radonski. The regime portrays the opposition as desperate, and accuses the “USA-supported right” of planning to carry out a military coup d’état.

To prevent such a coup, an anti-coup command has now been created. It is under the command of the “chairman of PSUV”, which is kind of an interesting way to put it, since PSUV is a political party and not a branch of government. The chairman is Hugo Chávez, but since the anti-coup command is not expected to be called upon until after he dies, the person of interest is the vice chairman, Diosdado Cabello. He would be the one commanding the “anti-coup” forces of the party.

The foreign powers with most interest in Venezuela are Cuba, Iran, Russia, and China. Cuba cannot afford to lose the economic support from Venezuela, and has infiltrated all branches of government, including all parts of the military. They effectively control Venezuela. Iran to a lesser extent also depends on Venezuela for getting around the sanctions, while Russia and China mostly are interested in that the next regime honors the agreements (which are very favorable to those countries; basically Chávez sold Venezuelan resources on the cheap, in return for personal power).

Following the Cuban model, Chávez had already created militias heavily armed with automatic weapons. Their purpose is to “defend the revolution”, and one may presume that their one and only purpose is to render military coups impossible.

As for the poll cited earlier, Henrique Capriles feels confident that he will win, and says that he is “laughing” at the poll result. A campaign coordinator whom I interviewed said that “among the poor, Chávez is already losing”. Knowing that in Venezuela the justice sits in the sharp tip of the spear, the pollster was most likely given an offer he couldn’t refuse for publishing that result. It wouldn’t surprise me if all the figures are accurate, but that they have search-and-replaced Chávez with Capriles in the report, and vice versa. Doing it that way makes it much more difficult to discover the fraud, than if the figures had just been invented.

Planning for a Coup

There are only two handbooks available for how to plan and execute a military coup (“Coup d’État – a practical handbook” and “How to stage a military coup – from planning to execution”). I have read them both, with Venezuela in mind. Let me tell you, the conditions just aren’t there for staging a military coup in Venezuela in 2012. There are several reasons, the most important being that Cuba is effectively ruling Venezuela, meaning that the coup would have to be staged in Havana, Cuba, to be successful. Another deterrent are the militias, which undoubtedly would lead to a species of civil war if a coup was to be carried out.

So why did Diosdado Cabello create the anti-coup command?

To get an idea we have to look closer at the power structure of the regime. Diosdado Cabello is also the speaker of the parliament, and as a former military he was involved in Chávez’s 1992 military coup attempt. He has a lot of actual power, and can count on support by significant parts of the military. He has been rather credibly accused of being deeply involved in the drug-smuggling business, conducted by a number of leading militaries, including the minister of defense Rangel Silva (google Eliado Aponte Aponte and watch the interview, in Spanish of course).

The PSUV aristocracy has been said to also contain ideologues, who are more into socialism than cocaine. The leaders among those are allegedly the foreign minister Nicolás Maduro, and vice president Elias Jaua. Neither of these can count on support from the military, especially not Jaua, according to pundits.

The common wisdom is that the civilian/socialist, and military/narco branches of PSUV will fight for power once Chávez dies. The anti-coup command should probably be seen in this context, the internal power struggle. But how would Cabello benefit from it? Allow me to outline a possible scenario.

The Coup Scenario

Some time after midnight small groups of soldiers, who are part of the conspiracy, receive their “go ahead” order. Traveling in civilian cars they drive to their designated targets: Nicolas Maduro, Elías Jaua, and other key figures in the government and PSUV. One group is deployed to the residence of Diosdado Cabello, but he is not at home. They kidnap (“arrest” in their vocabulary) their targets and whisk them off to a secret location, where they are being held incommunicado for the duration of the active phase of the coup.

At about the same time, saboteurs set out to take out all of the information infrastructure except the main opposition radio and TV stations in the capital. Among the targets is TeleSur, the international satellite TV channel that is controlled by the regime’s minister of information. They don’t destroy it permanently, they just cut some cables to keep it offline a couple of hours.

Other groups deploy in full military gear from Fuerte Tiuna, the military base in the capital, after first locking up all Cubans in their units. They spread out and set up road blocks to prevent enforcements from arriving, and they make sure no runway at the airport can be used. If they can’t take the airport due to heavy defenses, they just park some armored cars on the runway, and deploy some machine guns around to prevent the defenses from reaching the vehicles.

The largest unit moves to the presidential palace, “Miraflores”, with armored vehicles, but are met by a much larger force why they chose not to engage.

At this time the anti-coup command is deployed and moves to undo the damage caused by the saboteurs. Diosdado Cabello goes out on live radio and TV and explains that the “USA-supported right” has attempted to carry out a military coup during the night, but has failed. He declares a state of emergency and curfew, assumes all power since several key persons of the government are missing, cancels the October elections, and arrests all leading opposition persons accusing them of being behind the coup. Finally he explains their desperate act by the fact that they “knew” that they were going to lose the elections in a landslide, as evidenced by the opinion polls.

This is a conceivable scenario. It may well be that something like that will happen. However, it will only appear to happen that way. In reality, the “military coup” will most likely be a false flag operation, staged by Diosdado Cabello himself through trusted intermediaries. To cover his role he will be on the list of persons to arrest, but he will make sure to be in a safe place from which to lead the anti-coup command. This scheme has several nice benefits: He gets rid of the internal competition for power in PSUV, at the same time as he gets rid of the political opposition. He becomes a new Fidel in Latin America. Chess mate.

The future of USA

It is hard to predict, especially the future. Nevertheless, there are some developments that seem to follow a pattern, so when a significant part of the pattern has played out, it is possible to predict that the rest will follow. One such pattern is that empires that rise also will fall.

The only ones denying this are the “exceptionalists“, those who claim that USA is exceptional, that it does not follow the pattern because it is absolutely unique in the history of the world. Their assertion of US exceptionalism should be exposed for what it is: A primitive psychological knee-jerk reaction to the speaker’s own sense of inadequacy and insecurity.

If you don’t respect yourself, you cannot respect others. To respect yourself requires self-confidence, to be secure in yourself. I believe that USA as a country is short on self-confidence, and then notably the conservatives in the US. In what appears to be a psychological compensation mechanism, they therefore engage in a discourse of American exceptionalism, in over-the-top self-confidence. Needless to say this makes them look utterly ridiculous to outside observers, so it doesn’t contribute to solving the underlying condition of insecurity. For others to deal with Americans they have to understand that they aren’t so self-confident as they appear, that they actually are much more full of fears than most other nations.

In international relations this lack of balls is compensated by creating an empire, the ultimate phallic symbol.  USA is obsessed with being in control. The creation of the global empire, aimed at controlling every possible military adversary, compensates for the fundamental sense of insecurity. Once created, the empire has been used and abused also to control and manipulate other countries, which leads to resentment and undermines the goal of creating security.

Let me return to the issue and analyze what may happen at the fall of the US empire.

During the recent political turmoil in Washington about raising the debt ceiling, some called for cutting programs that benefit those of lower income, and others called for raising more taxes from the rich. But none of the major groups called for cutting the vast spending that goes for maintaining the Empire. That topic was apparently taboo.

The United States of America is a federal republic. However, the US of A is also an empire. It’s possible to be in favor of one and against the other.

USA has two faces overseas: The diplomatic force, and the military. The military is effectively acting as a parallel diplomatic mission in many countries. The military is spread out over much of the planet, with about 800 bases overseas, plus the navy with several fleets, each one a complete military force with navy, “air force” (aircraft carriers), and “army” (marines).

What typically happened to the predecessors in the role was that the expansion face was followed by a consolidation face, which turned out to be increasingly expensive and eventually drained the resources of the empire. The Roman Empire was ultimately defeated by some barbaric tribes, not by a larger empire, as its resources for defense were depleted. Which brings us back to the US’s debt crisis, and the fact that the Empire is off the table in the discussions.

A possible scenario is that the US economy deteriorates, perhaps by the Great Recession becoming a double-dipped recession and converting into the “Great Depression 2.0”, from the refusal to decrease the vast spending on the military that is required in order to maintain the Empire (about half the federal budget). Such a situation would force either a peaceful dismantling of the empire, by lowering the ambition level either in its geographical extent or in capabilities; or, it might trigger the use of the military in a new war in an effort to deflect attention from the real issue, and justify its existence.

If the enemies of the US build up their arsenals and create a convincing military threat, then a large war might result, which would save the empire for another few decades – provided of course that it wins the war and destroys the economies of its enemies more than it destroys its own economy. But isn’t the point of having an empire of this kind to avoid a war?

The only good way out of this situation seems to be to decrease the costs associated with the Empire. It requires some fundamental changes of attitude. USA must start dealing with other countries in such a way that shared security is created, and the empire becomes superfluous.

At the same time, other countries, including Latin America, should prepare for the new reality by treating the US as equal, and by contributing to changing the rhetoric. Responsible leaders of Latin America should maintain strict sovereignty visa-vi Washington, never falling on their knees no matter what is offered. How can Washington learn to treat Tegucigalpa as equal, if Tegucigalpa doesn’t treat Washington as equal? The responsibility for changing the nature of the relationship rests as heavily on the shoulders of Latin American leaders as it rests on US leaders. Needless to say, Latin American leaders should also steer well clear of Castro and Chávez, since they are populists and tyrants who only bring misery by trying to exploit the weakness of USA.

Chávez is a Global Threat to Peace

The chavistas have claimed that it was a coup d’état in Honduras in 2009, and that the new elected president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, is a “golpista,” a coupster. However, a recent Venezuelan diplomatic cable reveals that the democrats in Honduras were right all along in being suspicious against Lobo, whose name means Wolf. It turns out he really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a communist elected president in the right-wing Nationalist Party. He has now entered a pact with Chávez to do exactly that for which Zelaya was deposed by the Congress and Supreme Court: Help Chávez add Honduras to his sphere of influence, and introduce “21st Century Socialism”, a euphemism for communism. See El Nuevo Herald and El Heraldo, the two newspapers who have a copy of the telegram. UPDATE: This blog now also has a copy, Acuerdo Lobo-Chávez.

It would be a full time job to maintain a blog record of all the violations of the Constitution, of Democracy, of Human Rights, and not at least of Decency, that Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chávez is doing nowadays. Yet, if it does not get documented, there are naïve people who will refuse to believe that he is a dictator, just because he was elected in a democracy. Never mind that it is far from the first time a democratically elected leader has made himself dictator.

Venezuela is already far away from democracy. The damage to the economy is already vast. It seems apparent that the regime has been lying about oil reserves in order to borrow money, and that the country is basically broke, having sold the skin (i.e., the oil) before the bear was shot (i.e., having proven that the oil reserves actually exist). It is a plundering of catastrophic proportions that Cuba has carried out in the South American nation, with Hugo Chávez as Fidel’s quisling.

In 2007, Chávez himself said that he is a Trotskyist, a follower of the strategy of Leon Trotsky. He was the chairman of the soviet in Saint Petersburg during the (failed) Russian Revolution of 1905. When the White in Finland, the democrats, got their demands satisfied and the old Swedish-era democratic Constitution was reinstated in Finland, the Red took out their revenge and murdered all the “capitalists”, e.g. white collar workers, they could lay their hands on. That included my grandfather’s house, but he survived through a miracle, saved by their own workers who stopped the communists. Make no mistake, Trotskyists are no less bloodthirsty than Leninists or Stalinists, they just have a different strategy: First take absolute power in all major countries (so that there is nobody left with the necessary power to stop them), and only thereafter put their plans for total communism into action. One part of the Trotsky strategy calls for entering other parties in order to gain power through deceit – exactly what Lobo has done.

When Chávez said he is a Trotskyist, he thus said, “I plan to take absolute power on a continental scale, and when nobody is left to stop me I will eliminate all capitalists and introduce pure communism.”

Communism is not defeated. It just changed plan. It seems like they realized that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” By making the West believe that communism was defeated in 1989, the guard was let down. But also in 1989 the first steps were taken by Fidel Castro to take over Venezuela through a fifth colon rather than by guerilla war. It resulted in the Caracazo, and then the failed military coup by Chávez in 1992. In 1998 they managed to get Chávez elected, and in 1999 he illegally changed the Constitution. From there it has been downhill for Venezuela. China went into business with USA and now owns a significant part of USA’s foreign debt. Russia allegedly went democratic but is now back to its old authoritarian ways.

The biggest change is, however, in Latin America. Armed struggle has been replaced by a strategy of taking over through the use of civil society groups, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, it is the preferred method in a democracy. The problem is, however, that these groups are being used, or rather misused, for the benefit of an anti-democratic force that is acting under false flag: 21st Century Socialism. Hugo Chávez for years argued that it was democratic, but a new kind of democracy, not liberal democracy with strong and independent institutions but popular democracy, direct democracy. Using another word it can be called “mob rule” and that would be closer to reality. His plan is nothing new; it has been used since antiquity. Already the old Greeks saw many examples of when a strong-man took power from the city council through the support of the masses, those who did not understand the machinations of democracy, the balance of power. They had a name for such a strong-man. They called him “Tyrant.”

Chávez has bought significant amounts of modern war material from Russia and others. Russians have re-created their Caribbean fleet, and are building a military base in Venezuela. USA is allied with and has access to military bases in Colombia to the west of Venezuela, and to a base in the Dutch-administered Curacao just off Venezuela’s north coast. To the south Venezuela has a friendly nation, Brazil, but her neighbor to the east is Guyana, a nation with which Venezuela has a non-resolved border dispute. Venezuela claims that about 2/3 of Guyana really is Venezuelan territory and that the arbitration settlement in 1899 is invalid due to Britain not having acted in good faith, etc. All Venezuelan maps since 1970 show the disputed territory as belonging to Venezuela. Guyana is part of the British Commonwealth. There is a potential conflict that at present is being handled by the Secretary General of the UN. Hopefully it will not become the “Sudetland” of Venezuela.

The financing for Chávez’s plans comes of course from the coffers of the Republic of Venezuela. As a Trotskyist, he prioritizes taking power in other countries to consolidating the revolution in his own. Therefore he is allowing Venezuela to decay, and she is. Widespread electricity outages, lack of food production, and so on. The country is in dire straits, but Chávez pushes forward with supporting Cuba and buying influence in other Latin American countries. Apparently he must count on the final victory being so close so as to be within reach before Venezuela collapses completely. It means that he must count on final victory within a few short years, because that is how close Venezuela is to economical collapse.

What we cannot rule out, however, is that civil war starts in Venezuela sooner than that. If so, his stint is over. He cannot continue to expand his empire while fighting a civil war at home. One way in which a civil war could start is through a popular revolt, in which the military eventually has to pick side, and different parts of the country take different sides. This is just what happened in Libya this year, and similar to what happened in Spain after Franco’s half-failed coup, or in Finland after the November revolution in 1917. Venezuela sees more support for Chávez in some parts of the country, and more opposition in others. The risk for civil war is therefore significant as a result of any kind of revolt, civilian or military. There is a big powder-barrel and the fuse is very short now.

The bottom line is that there is a big and growing threat against peace and security in Latin America, but the threat is not confined to that continent. Chávez sees the enemy as being USA, but also her allies such as Israel and the UK. At the same time he is allied with other enemies of USA and Israel, such as Iran, Syria, Gaddafi’s Libya, Bielarus, etc., and also with drug lords and cocaine smugglers. But USA is ignoring him, not seeing him as a real threat. Is this wise?