Esther pineda g – entrevista voting access & participation in venezuela's indigenous & afrodiasporic communities
Esther Pineda G – Entrevista Voting access & participation in Venezuelasindigenous & Afrodiasporic communities. IntLawGrrls: Voces en el derechointernacional, la política y la práctica, 8 de Diciembre 2012October 7, the general Election Day in Venezuela, falls on a Sunday. That day, in mycapacity as an international election accompañamiento, or “accompaniment,” I traveledto many sites in Venezuela. Specifically, I visited eleven precincts across the easternstate of Monagas, along with two domestic observers, a Swiss human rights advocate, aBrazilian professor of international law, and two journalists from Chile and Uruguay.When we arrived at the remote indigenous Warao community of Mosú at 8:40 in themorning, we observed that 60% of thepeople in the community had already exercisedtheir right to vote.Our delegation spoke with Santo Garcia, the elected administrator of the indigenousschool in the town of Mosú. Garcia stated:‘Every person who wants to exercise their vote has been able to do so…. As it says inthe Constitution approved in 1999, every indigenous community needs to elect theirrepresentatives.’
No outsiders – other than the staff of Consejo Nacional Electoral, also known as theNational Electoral Council or CNE, as well as officials, observers, and internationalaccompaniers – were allowed to enter the community, under the local regulationsregarding indigenous autonomy.CNE is an independent, fourth branch of government. It derives from the power of thepeople as set forth in Articles 136 and 296 of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, andworks affirmatively to create spaces for indigenous and afrodiasporic minority voters toexercise the franchise. (credit for photo by Uruguay Delegation, CNEAccompañamiento Internacional de las Elecciones del 7 de octubre, 2012, ComunidadIndigena Mosú, Caripito, Bolívar, Estado de Monagas, Venezuela)Professor Esther G. Pineda (left), a sociologist at the Universidad Central de Venezuela,writes:‘In creating new electoral centers in remote communities that historically had beenforgotten as afrodescendent and low-income communities, the initiatives of the ConsejoNacional Electoral (CNE) create a system that prioritizes security and confidence in thevoters, as a massive investment in the education and formation of voters who respect theprocedures to exercise the right to vote. This investment has clearly had a return, and asignificant impact on reducing the numbers of abstentions and null votes. In a highlypoliticized and polarized society such as Venezuelan society, in which the populationhas become a part of the political process every day – this has become an evolvingprocess in the participatory and active exercise of one’s citizenship.
‘As a result, there has been a major consolidation of spaces for debate in a society inwhich diverse opinions and thoughts were formerly silenced; now afrodescendent menand women have the opportunity to express themselves and reflect on their ownsituation and experiences, specifically those which have resulted in the massiveformulation of policy proposals and projects by and for diverse afrodescendent groupsand communities.’In my view, as an observer this autumn of both the U.S. and the Venezuelan elections,the clarity of the national standards, technical audits and accountability measures builtinto Venezuela’s electoral process stand in stark contrast to the lack of transparency andstruggles with voter ID requirements and other forms of suppression in the UnitedStates.Socorro HernándezCNE Director Socorro Hernández, herself elected by the Faculty of Law and PoliticalSciences from Venezuela’s National Universities, has reflected on the ownership thatcitizens in Venezuela maintain by participating directly in the auditing process throughthe “citizen’s audit,” or citizen vote verification process. After voting anonymously on
the electronic machines, citizens also receive a paper receipt which is then placed in aballot box.Once the elections have closed, the receipts are required by law to be counted by handby members of the local electoral mesas, witnessed by at least one representative fromtwo opposing political parties, open to the public, and compared to the electronic resultsin 54% of the polling stations nationwide. This is a mandatory post-election procedure,required by Venezuela’s 2009 Organic Law of Electoral Processes. By the end of thisOctober, over 99.89%or 15,160,289 out of 15,176,253 votes, were scrutinized, andsuccessfully passed the post-election vote verification and audit process.The number and location of voting centers, professionalism of electoral officials,accuracy of digital and manual vote calculation, as well as the success of the citizenvote verification process also known as the “citizen’s audit,” provide clear examples ofprogress on access and participation in Venezuela’s electoral process and offer somefood for thought as we continue to pursue our right to a universal, secret, and directvoting process here in the United States.