Sunday, August 29, 2004

The consequences of the recall election result in Venezuela

Part 3: Interpreting the results

Sunday 29, August 2004

One fun thing after an election is to peruse the electoral map and see the variations, the patterns, the strange distortions, the local effects, etc... This time I have been deprived of such a fun game as I am wondering whether it is worth to examine the results. Are those the real results? But days are going by and it seems that it will be quite a long time until fraud is proven, if ever. Even if proven that does not mean that Chavez did not win, etc, etc... Actually some people are now promoting the "we got screwed, let's move on anyway" strategy which, if I am not yet ready to share, I do understand why some would consider it. We cannot spend the rest of our lives bemoaning fraud, as even if we prove it, reversal is not obvious with what is, victory or not, a gangster administration.

That is why I decided to examine some of the results anyway and see if some of the patterns are interesting, as no matter what the "exact" results are, patterns might still be meaningful.

How was the fraud made?

Before I get into describing what I found, I must submit this caveat: the numbers provided in the official CNE page do not reflect the results of a fair electoral campaign. They might even reflect a real fraud, at least in many districts. So far, from what one can gather, we are talking of voting machine intervention in about a third of the districts. Patterns vary, from tops to SI votes and excess going to NO votes, from standard fixed averages votes, to Chavez supporters registered in some manual voting districts to use that as show case and justify the "modified" results in electronic voting districts. All of this still in domain of speculation as a definite proof is yet to come (though some seem quite good already!).

As I have written earlier, I think that there is a real possibility that Chavez might have won and that any rigging modified the tallies to fatten his lead. Something went wrong though and some unlikely things did come out of the totals. For example how come the SI did not win a single state? Not even Margarita? This most touristic state in Venezuela has been very hard hit by Chavez unwise economic deals. The crisis affecting the Venezuelan middle class, the increasing violence scaring away foreign tourists, the currency control exchange dramatically affecting the tax free business of the island have together dealt a major economical blow to the island. Depressed Margarita did vote NO? even by a couple of hundred votes? I mean, they should have cheated to make sure that the opposition carried at least Margarita!!!!!!!!!

It is because I see such strange results, the permanent refusal to count ballots (though probably useless now), and not even a hint of self criticism from the pro-Chavez CNE majority that should apologize at least for the long lines, that I am still convinced that fraud was committed. But that is OK, time to look to the "results" anyway.

The result patterns in Venezuela

There is only one noteworthy lesson to take from the results: urban areas with a significant industrial base have actually gone against Chavez, or let him barely squeak by! Where Chavez does better is from rural areas and urban areas that were already depressed before he reached office. This observations, of course do have their exception (Margarita and Aragua states for example).

How can we explain that?

The rural effect. This is actually easy to explain. With his "misiones" Chavez got more bang for his bucks in rural areas, with no work for its people to begin with. In these areas, any handout can have a significant effect on people, even if temporary. Any Cuban doctor that lives with the natives is big news. Any "agrarian reform" talk is good, not because the natives might be receiving land, but because that the one little corner they "invaded" to build their little shack will not be taken away from them.

The urban counter effect. Once we understand the rural effect it is not too hard to understand the urban effect. With higher costs of living, and considerably more personal insecurity, the chavista handouts do not have the same effect than in a rural area. In addition, the very depressed private sector has caused an increase in the jobless rate. Workers know that, know that jobs have been going down ever since Chavez reached office, and many of them also know that the best social program is a stable job.

When we observe the results of the three main metropolitan areas of Venezuela, Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia, we see that the "official" results do give a victory to the SI, or at least a lower than national average victory for the NO. Let's go and look at 4 tables, keeping in mind an official 59% for the NO and 41% for the SI.

The Yaracuy results

In the following tables, the purple shade indicates the global result for the states. The red the result for the metropolitan area of the main city, and in pink partial sums of metropolitan areas (for example the dormitory cities).

Yaracuy is actually an easy example. Even though in the state the NO won by 60.14%, in the San Felipe metro area the NO barely won! Even Independencia, with a chavista mayor, went below the state average! On the other hand all of the rural areas went for the NO, some in very large percentages.


SINO
Yaracuy State 39.86%60.14%
Cocorote52.17%47.83%
San Felipe50.06%49.94%
Independencia47.94%52.06%
San Felipe Metropolitan area49.84%50.16%


The Caracas results

Caracas is divided in two states: the ex Federal District (Caracas Libertador) and Miranda state. Thus a little bit more of a complex table where I differentiate the Caracas districts of Miranda with a green total. When all the at large districts are taken in, Caracas is still far below the national average for the NO. Even including the full Vargas state which is not a real dormitory state.

Here the very surprising result is that in Petare, whose population is supposedly in the majority in the "ranchos", the SI won! The strict Metropolitan area, Libertador, Baruta, Chacao, EL Hatillo and Petare, in yellow, include all the districts that all tourist see first when they arrive in Caracas: the slums that precariously cling to the hills! How come that if more than half of the population lives in the slums or areas like the 23 de Enero, still the SI wins? This is actually a major defeat for chavismo! The Caracas that Chavez has so lavishly courted turned its back to him. No wonder the opposition rallies were usually bigger than Chavez ones. We know now why he had to bring so many buses with people to fatten up his rallies!


SINO
Miranda State49.24%50.76%
Petare (Sucre)52.88%47.12%
Chacao79.98%20.02%
Baruta79.39%20.61%
El Hatillo82.07%17.93%
Caracas Miranda65.60%34.40%



Los Salias71.10%28.90%
Carrizal52.91%47.09%
Charallave30.04%69.96%
Los Teques43.21%56.79%
Guatire41.03%58.97%
Guarenas33.60%66.40%
Miranda Dormitories42.62%57.38%
Vargas State (Caracas dormitory)35.68%64.32%



Caracas Libertador43.96%56.04%
Caracas Miranda65.60%34.40%
Caracas51.31%48.69%
Caracas Big Metropolitan Area48.58%51.42%


The Zulia results

Although less marked the pattern appears in Zulia too. Maracaibo has been carried by the SI in spite of a pro Chavez mayor. The explanation is quite simple: Zulia has been hard hit by the economic recession and the PDVSA crisis has not helped. Actually the PDVSA take over by chavista handymen might have brought a severe backlash that will not heal fast. To illustrate this I have separated the two shores of the Maracaibo lake in what one could very loosely describe a the Maracaibo Metropolitan area. The East shore has three out of 5 districts with SI victories, and if the NO prevails it is because Cabimas is the most populated district, and still the result went below the national result of 41 to 59! This weakness of Chavez in the East shore and Maracaibo itself can be attributed at the rather unpopular PDVSA take over and the dismal environmental policies of the Chavez administration. In fact, before August 15, Zulia and Margarita were the two states that all thought should go to the SI column.


SINO
Zulia State47.44%52.56%
Maracaibo52.06%47.94%
San Francisco40.21%59.79%
Maracaibo, West shore49.66%50.34%



Lagunillas55.64%44.36%
Cabimas44.12%55.88%
Santa Rita50.94%49.06%
Tia Juana47.26%52.74%
Bachaquero53.11%46.89%
The PDVSA area, Maracaibo East Shore49.01%50.99%


The Carabobo result

Carabobo is/was the biggest industrial area in Venezuela. The table next shows again the same pattern described above. Only Aragua state escapes this trend and this is due to a popular governor and the fact that its industry is more spread through the state although as depressed as anywhere in the country. Lara state has only industry in Barquisimeto and this one was already touched before Chavez came into office. The Lara governor also worked hard at keeping the city in the NO side. The last industrial area is Bolivar state, but there we are talking of big industries mostly into the hand of the state, so the economic impact of the recession was felt differently.


SINO
Carabobo State43.32%56.68%
Valencia51.24%48.76%



San Diego65.24%34.76%
Naguanagua53.83%46.17%
Los Guayos33.58%66.42%
Tocuyito33.32%66.68%
Valencia Dormitories44.70%55.30%
Valencia Metropolitan48.76%51.24%


A last note

In the official CNE page the results of the foreign vote are not added yet. One must remember that the CNE even toyed for a while with the idea of not letting people overseas vote, but gave in considering the constitutional implications. Well, the results overseas were an unmitigated disaster for Chavez. If not enough, of course, to change the result, it is fun to observer that the SI got more than 90% overall. No wonder the CNE is "forgetting" those results… But the results are published elsewhere for those who are interesting.

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