Nicanor Moscoso has been visiting Venezuela since 2004 to observe the electoral processes. On that occasion, they took him at 3 in the morning of August 14 to the hall of the National Electoral Council where its rectors would see the totalization of the scrutiny of that recall referendum when then-President Hugo Chávez was ratified.
"It was the moment of truth," Moscoso said to himself, having by his side at that moment the former presidents Jimmy Carter (United States) and César Gaviria (Colombia), who entered the final scrutiny room with the Power Board. Electoral presided over that year by Francisco Carrasquero. "I remember that when the machine threw 60-40 in favor of Chávez, Carter said: that's what the polls told me," Moscoso evoked in an interview for Últimas Noticias.
Moscoso, an Ecuadorian economist and politician, is currently presiding over the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (Ceela), an organization that is in Venezuela to observe the upcoming mega-elections. Ceela was founded by Moscoso as a result of the 1998 elections in Ecuador where Jamil Mahuad was proclaimed.
Moscoso said that in those elections they snatched the victory from Álvaro Noboa, the candidate of their formula and thus they denounced him before the Organization of American States, which had sent an observer mission to Ecuador. Noboa's supporters took to the streets demanding for a month what they considered a victory. "The OAS never said anything," he said. "That situation marked me," he said.
Four years after that episode, Moscoso found an OAS official who was attending an election in Mexico as an overseer, one of the 130 elections that Ceela has observed for 15 years. The official recognized Moscoso and they talked about those elections where Mahuad won. He confessed that he was in those elections as head of the technical mission of the OAS.
"I asked him why the OAS was silent in the face of these allegations of fraud," Moscoso said. “He answered me like this: 'There is Nicanor, we were not friends of yours, nor friends of Álvaro Noboa; why are we going to fight with our friends, over someone we did not know. Now we are friends, we are at your service! '”Said the interviewee. "I liked the answer because it was sincere, but I said to myself: 'this cannot be like that," reflected Nicanor Moscoso.
—After that experience, have there been changes in the Latin American electoral processes or do similar situations continue to occur?
—After the 1998 fraud in Ecuador, which was very notorious and an embarrassment for electoral bodies and a bell for Latin America, the OAS played a great role in providing the electoral powers of the region with computerized systems for tallying the tally sheets. . In other words, the scrutiny was no longer a simple machine strip or an excel sheet, but a program was introduced that guaranteed the entry of the records.
"That mechanism managed to avoid the traps?"
—There could no longer be a trap in the summation of the minutes; but it remains pending, and that continues until now, what is done at the tables, because there are human beings who can cheat throughout the day and at the time of preparing the minutes. But once the minutes are drawn up, practically all countries have systems that are safe, auditable, and easily comparable. And beware, all the large political parties also do their summation of minutes.
—Here sectors of the opposition always demand “free and fair elections”. Is such a motion right?
—In 2004 I had a life experience. At 3 in the morning, on August 14, they took us to the CNE's computer center, former President Jimmy Carter, César Gaviria, Secretary General of the OAS, and myself, who was in charge of the observation of the electoral bodies. of Latinamerica. The three of us went to the moment of truth when the rectors gave their keys and the program was opened that was already receiving information and could get the results. I was in that historical moment. The first result that came out was 60-40, with Chávez winning. And Carter immediately said, 'that's the information I have.' Because they (The Carter Center) had already done their surveys. Gaviria said: I don't have any results yet, I'm going to wait for them to give them to me. So, the problem of Venezuela is not a problem of the voting system. The problem in Venezuela is one of the political leaders and their actions. That has nothing to do with the voting system.
- So, is it a political problem, not of the assembly of the elections?
-Yes. That is related to the preambles for the elections and that is political. That cannot be fixed by anyone but the leaders of a country themselves. You have a very particular situation here, starting with the constitutionally compulsory electronic voting, starting with Chávez. He said: "we are going to do electronic voting because we have to know the truth."
- What repercussion did the idea of electronic voting established in Venezuela have in Latin America?
—A few years after that, we in Ecuador and in many Latin American countries wanted to install electronic voting. When I was president of the Electoral Tribunal of Ecuador, we did an electronic vote, with a sample of 5% of voters. That vote was perfect. A few days later we met in plenary session and I proposed that for the next elections electronic voting should be done not with 5% but with 60% of the tables. Some rectors stood up and told me: "Nicanor, no, the head of my party told me that no electronic vote." Nobody wanted electronic voting, because nobody wanted to let go of the control of the tables and the control of the votes. That is why there is no electronic vote. Not because technology is expensive. Imagine yourself, with the power of convocation and the political control that Chavismo has in society, if there were no electronic voting, they would run the tables at will. The blessing of this country, within all this, is having electronic voting.
—Have the electoral systems in Latin America progressed, are they stagnant or have they regressed?
—Progress in electoral systems in Latin America is undeniable. All countries strive to have the best possible system. Each country tries to take care of the table and give support to the parties so that they have a table delegate. And the parties also take great pains to have computerized systems for the summation of minutes. There is a kind of transmission of experiences. There is a constant improvement.
What do 'fair and free' elections mean to you?
—The parameters that supposedly should exist for a fair and free election is that the leaders have a great democratic spirit. Second, they, the same political leaders who nominate candidates, must respect the laws, respect the rules. For example, when a candidate is not president of the republic and does not have any power, you will see that he demands the use of state money in electoral campaigns, that they use advertising strips, that they use government works to do political proselytism, They criticize the electoral body ... when they come to power, what they first capture is the electoral body and then they do the same: they use state funds. All the advantages are taken. They all demand fair elections, and when you feel them and ask them where the trap is, we are going to see it, they stop and do not go. It is a question of democratic spirit.
- How is this analysis reflected in the Venezuelan case?
-In your case, many years were spent criticizing the electoral system. Although I believe that in the last five years they no longer criticize him. I am referring to the vote counting system. I separate it: one is the election system and the other is the voting system, that is, on the day of the elections, which is obviously the result of long-term work. There are things here that even border on exaggeration, on audits. Because since they were born with mistrust, the electoral body has had to show everything and do all the audits to satisfy the candidates. That forced the system to be as excellent as possible.
- Which sections can be dispensed with in these audits?
—Here they get to the exaggeration, that at the end of the day, 55% of the tables, the papers are counted and a difference is never found with what the machine said. It has never been found. And you will never find it because this is the same as a supermarket cash register that bills and charges all day, then hits a button and adds up all the bills. There are two things: one, the voting system and two, the political system of elections, which is where the traps come with the issue of the distribution of seats in Congress, for example. When a party is in power and has a majority in Congress, it looks for some system of distribution of seats that favors them. In Ecuador we used the D'Hont method. A candidate who gets you 40% of the votes to distribute seats in Congress, that gave you 55-60% of seats.
—Here in the last parliamentary elections a system was applied to give minorities a chance to have representation in the National Assembly.
—But it turns out: many times the parties say "I do it that way because I have the votes for that system to favor me." But sometimes it doesn't work because the votes are not bought, you will have the votes in each election. For example, in 2015 when the opposition more than won the National Assembly, they always criticized the system of distribution of seats. And they said that Chavismo had created that system to favor itself and have more deputies. But that year the votes were held by the opposition and that same system served them well.
Is the Venezuelan system safe and transparent?
—The Venezuelan system is safe, transparent and is a blessing for this country, even more so in the circumstances it has experienced the last 15 years. It is the best thing that could have happened to this country, having this system and that electoral bodies have taken great pains to maintain and improve it in each election.
—We are heading to a mega-election where that voting system will be put to the test again. How do you perceive this process?
- Societies are adapted, they are trained. There are countries where the choice of everything is made. In November in Honduras they will elect all the positions of popular election. Dividing the elections into two stages is to avoid polarizing towards one candidate. For example, the fact that you have elections for governors and mayors helps, strengthens electoral control.
—The mega-elections are called and in the middle of their preparation, an opposition sector sits down with the Government to dialogue. How do you think of that circumstance?
—The Venezuelans are the only ones who can solve their problems. That they have not agreed in all these years is their fault. This is like clapping, it takes two hands. Because when a dialogue fails, it is not that one fails, both fail. They did not have the ability to convince the other. Something happened. But today we are very happy because we see that this dialogue (of Mexico) is opening up. First, the formation of the CNE is already a sign of confidence.
l ”Politics is a passion. I often compare politics to football. If your team is going to win the classic with a goal made by hand, you shout it out and it's a goal; and if the referee gave it a goal, it is a goal. So the passions that may exist at the end of the day at the polling stations, that is not controllable. Hence, the political party that wants to defend its votes has to have delegates at the tables ”.
l “Electronic voting is similar to an ATM. And the technological system of summation of the machine is the same as a supermarket register, which adds up all the sales of the day and in the end they crush a vote and there is the result of the sales of that machine. But why not install ?; because they do not have the democratic spirit to let go of their hands and control the vote ”.
l “One of the most controversial and toughest elections we have attended was those in Bolivia when they took away the victory from Evo Morales because of the OAS and then the coup d'état took place. That has been one of the most traumatic processes. And the other was the Constituent Assembly of 2017 here because it came as a result of all the protests and street violence ”.