J.J. Rendón and The Pseudologia of Venezuelan E-Voting Fraud


“Without it, life would be hell on earth.” Microtec advertisement, Veja magazine, issue 87. File under “the rhetoric of the technological sublime (RTS) in postmodern technology PR, Velvet Elvis tendency.”

J.J. Rendón reproduces this news clipping about his crusade against alleged Bolivarian e-vote fraud from the La Razón daily (Venezuela), 2004. For recent news about the Venezuelan ontopsychologist’s activities in Colombia — which is about to hold nationwide municipal elections — see also

On the peculiar saga of Smartmatic — on which I am still trying to gather notes — see also

I try to follow e-voting issues fairly carefully.

There is a dedicated group of “one man, one vote” democracy nerds here in Brazil, at VotoSeguro.org, who do very careful work on the subject, and who are often much more current on developments in this area internationally, I find, than are their peers back in the U.S.

One of the more startling stories these folks have to tell — fairly well documented and researched, from anecdotal sources, but not rigorously established, yet, mind you — is that political parties have tended to avoid a serious technical evaluation of Brazil’s e-voting system like the plague, reasoning as follows:

The revelation of security weaknesses might feed into a sort of “folklore of election fraud” that could be used to create fear, uncertainty and doubt about the legitimacy of sound and credible election results.

(A biting commentary on the subject by Professor Rezende of the University of Brasilia, in fact, is the source of one my favorite illustrations of the “rhetoric of the technological sublime, Velvet Elvis tendency” (above).)

Which would, in the view of some of these folks, be a really, really short-sighted attitude to take. And their arguments on this point are not unpersuasive.

It really is astonishing to see the degree to which the Brazilian e-voting system is marketed to the public using the “rhetoric of the technological sublime,” even as international evaluations of the system tend to wind up recommending avoiding the thing like the plague.

Glue a biohazard symbol to it. Cross yourself at the very mention of its name, and go have your corpo fechado immediately.

The very same technology consortium that provides quick-count technology and services to Brazil’s elections authority, for example, suffered an astonishing failure in the Ecuadoran general elections of 2006.

The consortium failed to produce a result in the electronic quick count, which was aborted in favor of a hand count. This was the first time in history, local news sources reported, that Ecuadorans had no information on elections results on the day following the elections.

Their executives, including their Argentine project leader, were imprisoned on suspicion of election fraud, but were able to flee the country. Never to be heard of again, as far as I have been able to discover at this point. See

The history of this sort of thing goes back at least to the PROCONSULT affair in Rio de Janeiro, in which military officers hired to produce software for a gubernatorial election worked to rig the system to avoid the election of an “enemy of the [military] regime,” Leonel Brizola.

TV Globo is regularly (and credibly) accused of aiding and abetting the fraud, an issue that was revisted with some emphasis in the press here last year. Globo’s defense of the numerical gibberish it blasted the public with to create the impression of a defeat for the targeted candidate, which it does not deny having aired: The Judy Millerist “You are only as good as your sources.”

The party Brizola founded, the PDT, tends to treat the issue with a certain proprietary zeal, it seems to me, due to its historical resonance with this garish incident.

On the other hand, it should also be recalled that the “folklore of election fraud” is no phantom menace, either.

In the Mexican electoral “dirty wars,” for example, there is the infamous Manzana Azul memorandum, which advised partisan precinct captains in Veracruz to bring corruption and fraud charges against the results of precincts where voting is running counter to the desired result, whether or not any factual basis for such charges existed. And see also

In the same genre, one of the weirdest cases I know of is the rhetorical of hysterical virginity surrounding putative e-vote fraud in Venezuela, in a bid to erode the credibility of the mandate handed to the boisterious Bolivarian Uncle Hugo by Venezuelan voters. A peculiar tale for which Rendón takes full credit.

Astonishing claim apparently made here, in passing: “I am not the same Rendón who advised Roberto Madrazo” in incidents bitterly attacked by some of the Mexican metro dailies.

Aún cuando no se lo había propuesto, JJ Rendón, el venezolano experto en promoción de imagen publicitaria y política, logró un inusitado protagonismo al revelar irregularidades en el proceso revocatorio contra el Presidente de la República, Hugo Chávez. Tal vez, de manera casual, así como él mismo lo afirma, este joven de cuarenta años de edad se topó con el gobernador del estado Bolívar, Antonio Rojas Suárez, a quien en principio reveló que la totalización de los votos tenían topes que desmejoraban la condición del Sí y le daban el triunfo al No, y allí fue que se encendió el barril de pólvora para que la relegitimación de Chávez esté en entredicho en todo el país, pese al aval que le dieron Carter, la OEA y la comunidad internacional.

Even when he it was not proposed that he do so, J.J. Rendón, the Venezuelan expert in public relations and political image promotion, played an outstanding role in revealing irregularities in the recall referendum on the president of Venezuela (in 2004). It may be, as he himself affirms, that he this young 40-something just happened to run across the governor of Bolívar state, Rojas Suárez, who first reveal that the vote totals revealed [cut-off points] that put “yes” [Chávez should go] at a disadvantage and favored “no” [Chávez should stay”], igniting the powder keg that the vote to legitimate Chávez was in doubt nationwide, despite what the OAS, the Carter Center and the international community said.

We follow the usual NMM methodology: Translate pra inglês ver for future cross-referencing and annotation.

JJ Rendón es psicólogo, comunicador, con postgrado en ontopsicología y desarrollo organizacional. Su especialización es la psicología de la comunicación y masas. Su meta es “orientar a los políticos para manejar herramientas modernas que le permitan competir”. Intervino en la campaña presidencial de Carlos Andrés Pérez para promover el voto joven en 1987 y en el manejo creativo y gerencial de Chiripero publicidad en 1993, que le proporcionó la victoria a Rafael Caldera. – ¿Cómo fue su contacto con el gobernador de Bolívar, Rojas Suárez? ¿Quién lo financia? – Mi contacto con Rojas Suárez fue casual. No lo conozco bien, todo se debió a que tengo familia en ese estado. Apenas lo he visto pocas veces. A mí nadie me financia, estoy bien en mi trabajo en México y llegué a mi país como un librepensador que soy y defensor de lo justo.

J.J. Rendón is a psychologist and communicator with a postgrad degree in ontopsychology and organizational development. His specialization in the field of psychology is mass communication. His goal is to “advise politicians on who to use modern tools to make themselves competitive.” He advised the 1987 presidential campaign of Carlos Andrés Pérez on how to mobilize the youth vote,and handled the creative and management side of the “Chiripero” publicity campaign in 1993, which gave victory to Rafael Caldera.

All these people tend to be “ontopsychologists.” Dave Weinberger of the Berkman Center, evangelist of the hypertext organization, wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Heidegger, he says, for example.

A giving which gives only its gift, but in the giving holds itself back and withdraws, such a giving we call sending. –Martin Heidegger.

On whom I always like to tell the story of my faculty adviser in philosophy who challenged me to either perform the phenomenological epoché

a Greek term which describes the theoretical moment where all belief in the existence of the real world, and consequently all action in the real world, is suspended.

… right there in his office. And prove that I had performed it. Or else pick another topic for my term paper that semester, because he was, after all, a very busy man.

Another frequently cited statement from the Heidegger opus:

The Fuhrer alone is the present and future German reality and its law. Learn to know ever more deeply: from now on every single thing demands decision, and every action responsibility.

Pérez was convicted of embezzling public funds in 1996, during Caldera’s second administration.

On “El Chiripero,” see

Landman T., “‘El Chiripero’ Wins: the Venezuelan Elections of 1993,” Electoral Studies, Volume 14, Number 1, March 1995 , pp. 100-115(16)

“How did your contact with the governor of Bolívar come about? Who financed it?” [he was asked.]

“My contact with the governor was purely accidental. I do not know him well, it all came about because I have family there. I have only met him on a few occasions. No one finances me, I am doing well with my business in Mexico and came back to my own country as a free-thinker who defends what is just.”

A mí nadie me va a ofrecer ninguna propuesta para que me parcialice por algo, soy un librepensador, un venezolano que le duele su país. – ¿Y qué fue lo raro que pasó en el país en el referendo revocatorio? – Sentí mucha lástima por lo que pasó. Quise, así como creo que todo el pueblo venezolano quiere una respuesta seria y cabal al planteamiento del supuesto fraude en las elecciones del revocatorio. Los garantes de la transparencia de este proceso no actuaron como debía ser, más bien se dedicaron todo el tiempo a descalificar las preocupaciones de la oposición.

No one is going to make any proposal that I take side, I am a freethinker, a Venezuelan whose heart bleeds for his country. –And what was that strange thing that went one during the recall referendum? –I am extremely sad over what happened. I wanted, as I think all Venezuelans did, a serious and credible answer to charges of alleged fraud in the recall election. The guarantees of transparency in this process did not function as they ought to, but instead were devoted full-time to discounting the concerns of the opposition.

– ¿Por qué se usó una metodología que aplicada por la OEA, el Centro Carter y Súmate que resultó infalible a la hora de la auditoría? – Eso lo he planteado en varias oportunidades. Y con mucho respeto también me voy a dirigir a Súmate. Pero, se aplicaron métodos tradicionales a una elección no tradicional. Se han debido adaptar los procedimientos de la auditoría a otras cosas más que simplemente que totalizar o dar muestras aleatorias, la auditoría ha debido ser más profunda, a fondo. Este proceso estuvo viciado y fue desleal hacia la oposición. No fue nada transparente, quizá debe ser por el estado de derecho, que, al parecer, no existe en Venezuela. Así como tampoco va a ser comprobado el gasto público que fue derrochado en esta campaña gubernamental. Este aire lo pagamos todos los venezolanos y no es del gobierno, aquí hubo peculado de uso y en cualquier país del mundo, unas elecciones en estas condiciones fueran anuladas. Aquí hubo ventajismo electoral. Más nada. Este es un gobierno que huele a democracia, pero no deja espacios.

–And why was a methodology used which, as applied by the OAS, the Carter Center and Súmate, turned out to be infallible when it came time to audit the results? –I have addressed that on a number of occasions. And with all due respect, I am going to direct this point to Súmate. But this was to apply traditional methods to an election that was in no way traditional.

The whole point, and the challenge, of elections prior to the Information Age was to count every vote accurately. In this brave new world, which hath such creatures as Rendón in it, that is somehow no longer the case.

They should have adopted audit procedures that included more than just adding votes or studying random samples, the audit needed to be much deeper, much more fundamental. This process was corrupted and cheated the opposition. It was entirely nontransparent, as it perhaps should be under the democratic rule of law, which does not exist in Venezuela. Likewise, the expenditure of public funds on this government campaign cannot be proven. This money belongs to all Venezuelans, not to the government, and there was misappropriation of public funds and in any nation in the world, elections held under these conditions have been annulled.

It would be interesting to study the statistics on that: How many national elections have been annulled worldwide in, say, the last 30 years, on grounds of procedural irregularity?

Here there was an electoral advantage to the government. Venezuela smells like a democracy, but it leaves no open spaces.

The opposition boycotted the last Congressional elections.

– ¿ Cuál es la responsabilidad de Smartmatic en todo esto? – La responsabilidad es grande. Tenían una responsabilidad muy alta, tenían en sus manos todo el soporte de la voluntad de los venezolanos. En más de cinco años de conflictos políticos, esta empresa era la garantía de la válvula de escape. No basta que digan que son unas máquinas perfectas, inviolables, basta y sobra para que la gente ya no crea en ellos. Yo soy una persona anti-máquinas, creo que a la gente le interesa tener algo físico entre manos, decir que su voto se respetó. A la gente hay que dejarla elegir, sin presiones. Esta es una lección más para los venezolanos, les quisieron imponer una empresa que, por ciento veinte millones de dólares, no le ha dado tranquilidad a los venezolanos. Smartmatic se ganó su dinero, está bien, que le vaya bonito. A mí me impresionó mucho oír al presidente de Smartmatic decir que las máquinas son inviolables. Ninguna metodología es perfecta ¿Es que acaso creen que somos estúpidos?”, inquirió Rendón.

–What was Smartmatic’s role in all this? –Their responsbility is very great. They are largely to blame, they were in charge of measuring the will of the Venezuelan people. In more than five years of political conflict, this company was the guaranteed escap valve. It is not enough to say that these machines are perfect, [unhackable], that alone is enough for people not to believe in it. I am an anti-[voting machine] person, I believe people need something physical in their hands in order to saay that their vote was respected. You have to let the people choose, without pressure. This is one more lesson for the Venezuelan people, who had a company forced on them that, for $120 million, failed to provide peace of mind to the Venezuelan people. Smartmatic got its money, good for them. What impressed me was hearing the president of Smartmatic say that the machines are [unhackable]. No methodology is perfect. Do they really think we are so stupid? asked Rendón.

– ¿Se deberían eliminar las máquinas de votación para las próximas elecciones regionales? – Yo reto al CNE y al propio Presidente de la República para que eliminen esas máquinas de votación para las próximas elecciones regionales. A mí nadie me va a convencer de que este proceso fue equitativo. A Smartmatic que le vaya bonito, pero fuera del país. El proceso revocatorio, insisto, estuvo viciado, parcializado y tuvo serias desventajas para la oposición. Si Chávez ganó la elección, lo que yo dudo, el señor Rodríguez debería eliminar las máquinas y que la gente vote manual. La confianza en esas máquinas no se inyecta, hay que ir a lo manual, a la auditoría en caliente.

–Should machine voting be eliminated for the next regional elections? –I call on the CNE and the President to eliminate the use of these machines for the next regional elections. No one is going to convince me that that process was fair. I wish Smartmatic all success, but somewhere other than here. The recall election, I insist, was tainted, slanted and put the opposition at a serious disadvantage. If Chávez won that election, which I doubt, the Rodríguez ought to eliminate the machine and have people vote manually. You cannot just inject people with faith in those machines, you have to read the manual, do [spot] audits.

– Voceros del oficialismo lo descalifican ligándolo con proyecciones hechas por usted en el Miss Venezuela ¿Qué hay de cierto en eso? – A mí también me han ligado con la CIA. Pero, yo soy un hombre soltero y sí conozco muchas misses. Muchas de ellas me han dicho que las ayude en términos de opinión para manejar sus carreras. No tengo por qué decir quienes son, porque mi parte profesional merece respeto. Yo asesoro a quien yo quiera, y si lo hice cuando tenía veinte años, eso no es problema de nadie. Lo que pasa es que en Venezuela hay dos mundos, definitivamente. Dicen que soy de la CIA, por una confusión que se generó en México, por competencia desleal con una empresa de otro señor Rendón que me lleva treinta años. Son matrices que se generan, cuando hay mucho ruido.

–Official spokepersons discount this criticism, associating it with projections you made in the Miss Venezuela pageant. How much truth is there to that? –The also often accuse me of CIA ties. But I am a bachelor and so I know a lot of beauty queens. Many have asked me to help them manage their careers. I have no reason to say which ones they are, because [professional ethics require me to respect their confidentiality.] What is happening is that, in Venezuela, there are clearly two different worlds. They say I am with the CIA, because of a confusion that came up in Mexico, because of unfair competitive practices by a firm run by another Mr. Rendón which … [can’t quite grok what is saying here.] These things arise when there is a lot of noise.

What IS the story with the Smartmatic machine, anyway? It was a story that appeared suddenly overnight then just disappeared. ORVEX keeps this folklore alive, but those people are simply, well, barking insane.

Give me some time, I will try to collect some notes. Some guy with a funny pseudonym — in the Slashdot tradition, we would call him an “anonymous coward” on Google Answers offers the following

Holy smoke, the background on this company reads like a novel and looking into it absolutely wore me out. Here we go:

Life imitates art! Larry Rohter’s favorite rhetorical gambit:

Smartmatic Corporation was formed by Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica Rivero, Roger Piñate, Antonio Mugica Sesma and Luis Feliu and incorporated in Florida in 2000. Seven years prior, the company was then a Venezuelan “research group” called, “The Research and Development Unit of Panagroup in Venezuela”.

Well, there also happens to be a software company in Venezuela called “Bizta Corporation” that, until a couple of years ago was doing very poorly. According to a report attributed to Miami Herald, the Venezuelan government decided to revive the company so they sank about quarter million dollars into it. This allegedly gave the government a 28% ownership interest in the company and wouldn’t you know it, things supposedly starting getting much better for them.

The Herald apparently took and interest in the goings on down there and looked into the company further to see what was going on. According to reports, as it happens, Bitza Corporation has since
incorporated in Florida also (in 2001), and, according to my source, listed its address as 19591 Dinner Key Dr., Boca Raton, Florida. Why is this important? Because VCRISIS, a Venezuelan news site, indicates that this happens to be a residential property owned by Smartmatic Corporation’s co-founder, Antonio Mugica’s father.

The Herald also fired a senior editor for letting staff earn extra money aiding and abetting government propaganda. Paid for with your taxpayer dollars.

I wondered about Bizta Corporation myself so I typed “Bizta Corporation” in Google and searched for it:

You can stop right there.

Any idiot who thinks googling stuff up is any way to get to the bottom of anything does not deserve to be listened to.

Not even Google, to its credit, makes this claim. See also

Unhappy with CIA intelligence reports on Iranian bad actors, someone had a State Dept. intern use Google to try to identify names to put on a blacklist they wanted to put together for some performance art piece they were putting together for an oversight committee.

We spend gazillions on our high-tech spies, and here these people think that a half an hour of googling can produce more reliable results.

Some listserv has posted a lot of the newsflow on the issue at the time.

The Smartmatic conspiracy theory was promoted heavily by the likes of Olavo de Carvalho here in Brazil, on his “The Media Unmasked” Web site.

Which is a font of gabbling nonsense the likes of which the world has seldom seen.

On whom see

In other words, this story is mainly promoted down here in Brazil by the author of a textbook — “How to win an argument without being right” — on how to practice the unsubtle art of gabbling disinformation for fun and profit.

It makes an excellent companion volume, I think, to David Maurer’s The Big Con. Which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Wake me when someone with a shred of credibility — that is to say, someone who has not stated publicly time and time again that their professional metier is David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki-style FUD and disinformation — says there is something to it.

All of which, of course, contributes absolutely nothing to the practical question of how Venezuelans run their elections.

Can the results be trusted? What are their audit and quality control procedures? If Mr. Rendón invokes the RTFM (read the fershlugginer manual) principle, he gives no signs of actually having done so.

Which is why I am only interested in hearing from absurdly literal-minded beancounters — 2+2≠5, and not-A is not logically equivalent to A — engineers, and other such members of the reality-based community, on the question.

Because unlike Rendón, I am not an anti-machine guy, myself.

Where would we be without the cash register, for example?

Whose principal audit control, as we know, is printing out a paper receipt and handing it to the customer.

Machines can be engineered to work reliably to five nines or better. Examples abound.

All the rest tends to be hysterical noise and filibustering while changing the subject — generally to the subject of hookers. These people seem to be mesmerized by hookers.

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