Aires Pérez Rodríguez traveled by canoe for three hours to deliver the paper receipts showing a total of 225 votes cast for state governor in this hamlet. Then he passed them to his aunt, who drove them a further 150 miles to the Bolívar state capital. When the official count was released days after the Oct. 15 election, however, there were an extra 471 votes for the government’s candidate. It wasn’t just Mr. Pérez, the opposition party’s election monitor, who noticed. The ruling Socialist Party’s own election supervisor in El Casabe realized it, too. “This is illegal,” said Luciano Mendoza, the election supervisor, who showed The Wall Street Journal the voting-machine receipts that counted just a third as many votes from the hamlet as reported by electoral authorities later. “They say they bring justice, but instead they commit fraud.”
Mr. Pérez’s evidence prompted opposition officials in Ciudad Bolívar to make more comparisons of voting receipts to an official tally on the National Electoral Council’s website. All told, in records reviewed by the Journal, they discovered that more than 2,500 votes were added statewide, flipping the winner of the Bolívar state election from the opposition candidate—briefly listed as the winner on the Electoral Council’s website—to the government choice. The declared winner, Justo Noguera, a National Guard general who never held political office from outside the state, took office two days later in a surprise midnight ceremony.
“There’s clear manipulation here,” said Luis Lander, director of the Venezuelan Electoral Observatory, a nonpartisan group in Caracas that tracks elections after he examined voting-machine receipts that the opposition alliance posted online. “The results were altered to allow the losing candidate to be declared the winner.”