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Will there be observers in Miami-Dade?

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LESS than six months away from the U.S. presidential elections in November, the voting system in the state of Florida - where the last election became a farce - is as much of a disaster as it was in 2000.

The computerized voting systems still do not function in a dependable way, and tens of thousands of citizens continue to be deprived of their voting rights due to the ill will of officials in an electoral machine controlled by Republican Governor Jeb Bush.

A report by a Miami-Dade County official has just revealed that the Votronic brand voting machines, used in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, have "serious defects." According to that expert, both voting slips and the machines themselves disappear when the computerized system carries out its final audit.

In a memorandum published one year after it was written, Orlando Suárez, Miami-Dade technical services manager, writes that the system is "unusable" for the audit, recount or certification of elections. Suárez drew his conclusions from a detailed analysis that he made after a municipal vote in May 2003 in North Miami Beach.

The local authorities have acknowledged that nothing has changed since he turned in the results of his study.

In his report, Suárez analyzes the voting results in an area where nine machines were used and where the results of two of them fail to appear in the audit - which, however, did include the serial number of one machine that was not used.

For its part, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a national organization that defends civil rights, carried out a study of 31 voting stations in Miami-Dade, analyzing the results of an election in September 2002. It discovered that 18,752 voters signed the register upon presenting themselves to vote, but only 17,208 votes were later counted by the system.

Although it may be that some voters abstain from marking their ballot at the last moment, the number of 1,544 "disappeared" votes - that is, 8.2% of the total - is inexplicable, assuming that citizens didn't show up at the polls just for the fun of it.

The ACLU reports that in elections for the state House of Representatives in Palm Beach and Broward counties in January 2004, the votes of 134 voters who signed the registers did not appear. The winner, Hellín Bogdanoff, won by only 12 votes.

According to experts, it is impossible to carry out a recount of every single vote if the computerized voting machines are not accompanied by a special printer.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood, appointed by Jeb Bush, refused to authorize the purchase of such equipment, qualifying it as "unnecessary," in spite of protests by Democrats.

Another shameful aspect of the "preparations" for the November vote is that thousands of voters mistakenly excluded from electoral rolls in 2000 have not been reinstated.

According to The Miami Herald, only 33 of Florida's 67 counties have responded to a request by state officials to check on whether the close to 20,000 excluded voters have been reinstated, as was agreed two years ago by the state and the NAACP, the most important civil rights organization.

Among those counties that have not even bothered to respond to the request are Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach.

The suspicious negligence of local officials has been noted at the same time that the state has just ordered them to ensure that 47,000 people with alleged convictions do not appear on their same electoral rolls.

In the months leading up to the 2000 presidential elections, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris contracted a private Atlanta firm to draft the lists of persons excluded for those reasons - mostly African Americans - deceased voters and those who were registered more than once.

There were so many errors on the list handed in that local voting officials refused to use it. More than 12,000 voters falsely identified as criminals and 7,500 who supposedly were registered in more than one place were thus excluded.

In Florida, people eliminated from the electoral rolls for having criminal records must personally request their reinstatement from a commission presided over by the governor himself, which meets four times per year.

During the last such session, on May 29, some 60 people were called to make their request for reinstatement, and only 28 of them received a favorable response.

More than 35,000 people are waiting to be called to such hearings, according to the ACLU.

During the 2000 elections, thousands of Florida residents, mostly African Americans, were unable to vote because they were deliberately or mistakenly included on the list of voters with criminal records.

In the last presidential elections, George W. Bush received half a million fewer votes than his opponent, when less than half of registered voters went to the polls.

In Broward County, more than 7,000 ballots were declared null and void, 800 of them because the holes punched to indicate choice didn't completely perforate. In Miami-Dade, 17,000 votes were discarded for various reasons, and in Palm Beach more than 12,000 votes were eliminated for insufficient perforation, to which were added another 19,000 that were perforated more than once.

At the request of Republican Party strategists, the Cuban-American criminals from Vigilia Mambisa and their chief, Miguel Saavedra, appeared at the doors of the Miami-Dade building where the laborious labor of a manual recount was underway, and they took charge of bringing the democratic charade to an end.

A Supreme Court judge later ensured that Bush received his imperial crown.

Upon observing the disastrous situation of Florida's electoral system, and more precisely in the banana republic of Miami-Dade, where the Cuban-American mafia is planning to guarantee Bush another "victory" - in spite of his markedly falling popularity - one has to ask: will there be observers in Miami-Dade in November? •

Recuadro:

MasTec and "The Baby" adrift

• MASTEC, the Mas Canosa family's "multinational" company, created at the same time as the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) with the favors of the late President Ronald Reagan, is in a shambles. And why shouldn't it be, when the CANF is too - both mafiosi creations being ignored by the White House at the request of Cuban Liberty Council hard-liners, whom at the moment are in favor with the Emperor.

Berman DeValerio, Broadsky & Smith, Charles J. Piven, law firms specializing in lawsuits against delinquent companies, are keeping a close eye on the MasTec case, ever since it became known that the telecommunications company had manipulated its report to stockholders. The case is now before the courts, and victims have until June 14 to add their names to the lawsuit.

Jorge Mas Santos (Mas Canosa's son), the CANF's leader in perpetuity and owner of the mafiosi firm, signed a report published last April 13 in which the company bumped up its inventories, artificially inflated its income, represented contracts under negotiation as secured, did not maintain the required reserves and bypassed standard accounting rules.

The alarm was sounded when MasTec suddenly announced that the presentation of its 2003 results would be delayed because the firm needed to make "adjustments." Nobody was naive enough to swallow that lie.

Standard & Poor's, a specialized firm whose pronouncements are the Bible of large investors, fired the first shot when it considerably downgraded the firm.

In the stock implosion unleashed by Standard & Poor's rating, the company's stock began to plummet, doing away with the capital of those poor wretches who had staked their money on the future of that deformed creature of the Miami mafiosi circles.

A GRIFTER NAMED AZNAR

In another development, the participation of two MasTec executives in the mega-fraud of the Sintel Corporation in Spain, now under investigation by Judge Baltasar Garzón, could also cost them dearly.

In order to complete the picture, however, there's one thing missing: for Garzón to also extend the arm of the law to another conspirator: José María Aznar.

The former resident of the Moncloa Palace never hesitated to fraternize with some of the most well known South Florida terrorists. By November 1995, Aznar had embarked on his shameful relationship with the heirs of the Fulgencia Batista dictatorship by linking himself with the generous treasurership of the CANF, the most powerful counterrevolutionary organization at that time in Miami.

Aznar threw himself into the arms of now-deceased "Chairman" Jorge Más Canosa, the firm's virtual owner, with such willingness to please him that he soon became "another member" of the mafiosi troupe.

In 1996, Sintel had 21 affiliates in the world, when Juan Villalonga, former vice president of the telephone company and a close friend of Aznar, sold it to MasTec. Mas Santos later fraudulently liquidated Sintel in a series of dubious financial maneuvers and a slew of international societies in the tax paradises and banks of Luxembourg, Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and the United States.

The spectacular scam left thousands of employees of Sintel and its subsidiaries jobless, in spite of their public protests. After being devastated in a speculative operation, Sintel finally declared bankruptcy.

Abandoned by the White House, MasTec could not figure out how to find the financial oxygen that its presidential patrons had traditionally provided.

The desire for revenge by the CLC dissidents who were catapulted from the CANF a few days after September 11 proved fatal.

Thus, the juicy contracts for work in Florida faded away, and those in Iraq never materialized.

The "younger" Mas Santos, or worse, "Baby," as he was nicknamed by those who find humor in his misfortunes, is now more isolated than ever.

In addition to his taste for Armani suits and his distaste for guayaberas, his preference for filet mignon at the Capital Grille on Brickell Avenue and imported beer at the Trattoria Solé on Sunset Drive, and his aversion to Cuban rice and beans accentuate the exclusivity of his community of origin.

We will soon know what solution his buddy Joe García - the bus-driver's son - will find in order to put an end to the drifting of his burning boats. If he can find them.

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Jean-Guy Allard

Jean-Guy Allard

Periodista canadiense radicado en Cuba. Es autor del libro "Auge y caída de Reporteros Sin Fronteras".