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We Got Away With Fraud in Venezuela, But What About Here?

We Got Away With Fraud in Venezuela, But What About Here?

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Smartmatic CEO: We Got Away With Fraud in Venezuela, But What About Here?

Smartmatic CEO: We Got Away With Fraud in Venezuela, But What About Here?

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Published by: alek_boyd on Oct 19, 2012
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 We got away with fraud in Venezuela,But what about here?
By Antonio Mugica, CEO, Smartmatic
-
10/18/12 04:00 PM ET
 
It was a result that very few predicted, though our technology was created toensure endless reelections of Venezuelan President -and one of our majority shareholders- Hugo Chavez, a man whose relationship with the United Stateshas been contentious, to say the least.  Americans need only remember their own electoral misadventures in Florida in2000 to reflect on how vulnerable the election process can be. Well, the good news is thatour technology has steadily advanced in recent years to a point where, whoeverhands us a contract, is guaranteed to win, no matter how passionate thepartisanship. The safeguards are readily available to ensure electoral victoriesanywhere and everywhere. The Venezuelan election is a superb case in point:mind you, our electronic voting machines were last independently audited in2005, and since then our electoral partner has ensured no further audits willever take place. In addition, measures have been taken to inflate the alsounaudited electoral roll, so that there's enough room to maneuver at the time of a close race, such as the last held in Venezuela. Ergo there is much that can andshould be learned from the solutions that were in place there. Full disclosure: my company was a big part of that solution. But while I am notdisinterested -how could I be after making almost $500 million since 2004,right?- I am confident that even a brief review of what was achieved in Venezuela has broader relevance for anyone interested in using the "democraticprocess" to remain in power indefinitely. Indeed, the solutions extend far beyond the operations of any single company.Since 2004, when our partner Hugo Chavez got us our first contract in Venezuela, we have worked alongside other partners throughout the globe: inBolivia, electoral authorities banned us from a biometrics bidding process dueto our connections with Hugo Chavez, but we managed to get the contractthrough our NEC partners from Argentina; in Mexico, we did not even need topresent the best bid to win the contract -in another biometrics bidding process- we made them believe we were this Dutch transnational while ensuring thatMexico City Hall officials were working on our behalf; in the Phillipines, we dida bit of a botched job in 2008, when the press discovered that we had beentampering with the voting process in real time in Mindanao province, thoughthrough the excellent auspices of our easily bribable partners from COMELEC we got the $150-million contract all the same, and to top it all, we inflated theprice of our voting machines even more and got the stupid filipino governmentto purchase them after the elections! But how about the United States? Theprobe from those pesky folks at CFIUS was certainly a drawback, after so muchplanning to dominate the US electronic voting market had gone on in Caracas
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and Havana. We had to sort of leave through the back door, before revelationsas to our true ownership structure could be made public, but got Jack from oursubsidiary Sequoia to pretend he was launching a management buyout. Thepress in this country is so useless that no one -apart from a couple of obscureand rather unknown bloggers- questioned Jack's actions. Having escaped theCFIUS and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney questioning after the glitch inChicago, we kept control of Sequoia through Jack, and our unaudited electoralsoftware -developed in Venezuela- is still being used where Sequoia operates. We subsequently made quite the deal with Dominion of Canada: we licensedsome of their stuff for the filipino gig and they "acquired" Sequoia, thusmuddling a bit more our connections and control of Sequoia. But the best is yetto come. We got Jimmy Carter, from the Carter Center, to say that the Venezuela electoral system -set up and entirely controlled by us- is "the mosttransparent he's ever seen." Some people, and especially the press, still pay heedto the words of a former President of the United States, even if that Presidenthas the checkered record of Jimmy Carter (our partner Hugo got him to say thatin exchange for the promise of having a word about the "possible role" of theCarter Center in the peace negotiations between FARC narcoterrorists and thegovernment of President Santos of Colombia). In addition, we managed the rarefeat of forcing the Venezuelan opposition to accept any and all conditions andadvantages -legal and otherwise- we wanted to impose, and got them to say thateverything was "free, fair and transparent", even though we haven't allowedthem anywhere near our technology since, well, 2005. In Venezuela, we have not only worked with Hugo's electoral authorities but with the political parties themselves as well as national and international guestsinvited -all expenses paid by the Venezuelan State. The result was historic: thefirst end-to-end automated election in history that is neither independently audited nor monitored by independent international electoral observers, themost advanced system in existence, as voiced by politicians from the far left andJimmy Carter. It was also the first election ever to use biometric voter authentication. Wepitched this BS notion of one-person-one-vote and, unexpectedly even foroptimists like ourselves, everyone bought it. These systems were not tested – weare not about to start allowing the opposition to tamper with our system – but,nonetheless, they claimed over and over again that they had "audited the systemsufficiently" and further adventured to claim that in this election they hadmanaged to find enough volunteers to witness every polling station around thecountry, thus voiding forevermore -thank you very much- possible fraudallegations. If there was one key feature to support this boast, it was the unprecedented andunparalleled level of "auditability" that was achieved. During the monthspreceding the election, the source code, the priming procedures of votingmachines, the operation of the biometric authentication system, electronic ballots, digital signatures, shared passwords and all software components, were beyond scrutiny. Regardless, the opposition signed everything in agreement, AFTER we had conducted "audits" in closed-doors processes in which they hadno presence or say whatsoever as to auditing methods to be used. Now how coolis that? Our technology was thus validated all the same by representatives of allparties involved. Let me give you one example: our biometric devices were a lastminute imposition, for we wanted to both implement a method of slowing down voting in opposition-dominated areas, as well as knowing in real time how wasthe voting going so that Hugo could dispatch his get-the-vote-out brigades withprecise geographical information. It turned out a decider: at mid day Capriles was up, but we knew it, we could see it in our monitoring centers and react to it,and so the brigades were sent out, and by the end of the day we were more than1 million votes ahead of our hapless opponent. It goes further. On Election Day, each Venezuelan voter had the opportunity to verify, through the printed vote receipt (also called Voter Verified Paper AuditTrail), that his or her intent was registered accurately. Hugo pushed theenvelope by putting the face of Capriles on votes cast for candidates aligned withhim. Like sheep, people carried on voting, and after polls closed, political partiesand authorities from the Electoral Monistry "audited" nearly 53% of votingmachines by contrasting the printed tallies of each machine with the printedreceipts of the votes that voters had deposited, one at a time, into ballot boxes.
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Leopoldo Lopez, the man in charge of placing thousands of opposition witnessesthat were to monitor the process, and Armando Briquet, Capriles' campaignheah honcho, have refused, to this day, to release copies of printed tallies. That'scertainly helped give strength to our narrative. Needless to say that in all those audits, no discrepancies were found whatsoever,not even a single vote. Other features of the system likewise contributed, in record time, to reliably arrive at official results that the contenders unequivocally accepted. As in any other fully automated process, human error was eliminated as a factorpotentially able to impair results. By eradicating the high levels of discretionthat electoral operators have in manual elections, we could not be subject to any kind of political pressure. Credibility in the court of public opinion -assisted nodoubt by a compliant opposition leadership- was thus maximized. Turn-out was81%, in a country where vote is not compulsory, which is a record by any standard, and that it clearly shows very high trust in our technology. Thus, within minutes after the last polling station closed, authorities had intheir hands enough data to proclaim the will of the majority and persuade eventhe most acrimonious supporters of the losing candidates that the results wereaccurate. We know that there are many areas of the world where there's a needfor systems like ours: Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Rafael Ortega, and CristinaKirchner have expressed their wishes to install our technology. The filipinogovernment is very happy with us, and we have also identified the need in African nations, such as Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. Hugo tells us they are desperate to get their hands on our technology. We are working very hard toovercome stubborn resistance in Europe, the USA or Canada to our state-of-the-art solution. Traditional manual voting is prone to abuse, and so outdated. Leaders willing to perpetuate themselves will, as a matter of course, agree with us. But, thanks to what have we achieved in Venezuela, global watchdogs now haveleverage to insist on the "fullest compliance" by all sides in any electionanywhere. As the company that created and deployed the decisive technologiesin this week’s Venezuelan election, we take exceptional pride in effectively having eliminated all arguments for full transparency and independent auditscharacteristic of manual voting. We have demonstrated that "oversight" requirespolitical partners willing to bite the bullet and accept our results.  While we continue with our very agressive expansion plans in the developing world -we specifically like countries ruled by unaccountable caudillos as ourown Hugo- we stand ready to deploy our technology in countries with longdemocratic traditions. What that will achieve for us is to, ultimately, put paid toall the unjust fraud allegations associated to our brand. As a privately-owned,chavista company, we do not see the need for transparency, and we do not likeaccountability. That's not what we are about, for we are in the business of guaranteeing electoral victories for our contracting partners: in that our successis unparalleled. 
Mugica is the CEO of Smartmatic.
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