Supporters of Venezuelan president and ardent socialist Hugo Chavez point to his past two elections, one of which was a recall effort, as measures of his popularity. However, a group of analysts in Caracas contend that Chavez rigged both elections by making wholesale changes to the voter rolls:
Hugo Chavez may have lost both the recall referendum in 2004 and the December 2006 presidential election, according to studies conducted by a distinguished multidisciplinary team in Caracas, Venezuela. The team includes the rector of Universidad Simon Bolivar, Frederick Malpica, and a former rector of the National Electoral Council, Alfredo Weil.
Astonishing as it may seem to Americans who believe the contention by Mr. Chavez that he won both elections by a landslide — 58% to 42% in the recall and 61% to 39% in the presidential election — the studies show that since 2003, Mr. Chavez has added 4.4 million favorable names to the voter list and "migrated" 2.6 million unfavorable voters to places where it was difficult or impossible for them to vote.
None of these additions or migrations to the voter-register has been independently audited in Venezuela. Instead, the votes have been electronically counted by Chavez cronies. So when Mr. Chavez announces a landslide, there has been no way to prove otherwise, even though exit polls and other data have consistently shown that half the voters of Venezuela or more oppose Mr. Chavez.
It's worth noting that Jimmy Carter vouched for the results of both elections. Michael Rowan and Doug Schoen want an accounting of his methodology. More importantly, they want an accounting of the favorable treatment Chavez gets from the Left, as well as from 17 Congressmen who have oil subsidized by Chavez delivered to their districts.
Chavez is another banana-republic ruler whose threats to nationalize industry and impose socialism by imperial diktat would (rightfully) raise screams if they happened in Zimbabwe or Russia. Why is Venezuela different?