And the electoral fraud in Venezuela?
Fine! Thank you very much!
After three days in Caracas I am able to sense a shift which was at least partially confirmed by today events as I was driving back to San Felipe. In brief.
The fraud investigation is now mired in a technical battle where no actor is really doing great. Though it is safe to state that the one getting the worst beating is the Carter Center. It would be fair to say that the Carter Center is incurring into the same mistake, unless done on purpose, than the CNE. The CNE refused to open the ballot boxes, the Carter Center refuses to name an international and independent panel to investigate the statistical discrepancies in the Venezuelan results. Both of them are bound to lose any shred of credibility as they hide behind "their" experts. Whether there was a fraud becoming of course a moot point.
But this constant talk of fraud is undermining Chavez, who, by the way, is the only one to blame for this tension. He could have asked for a ballot counting on August 16 and shut up any criticism. Instead, since his people are unable to do anything but disqualifying the critics (Alvarez was a "copeyano", Hausman was an "adeco", as seen on the front pages of VEA, this unique rag that is gracing our newsstands) chavismo is relying on its leftists friends outside to do the deed. They certainly are willing to publish all sorts of things. As usual they try to focus on one detail hoping that by extension it will disqualify all of the valid research that came along. Typical strategy from these people, while by all means they will avoid discussing all the other abuses committed before or on August 15. That these abuses, such as an irregular voter roll, to name one, by themselves should already question the election regardless of the outcome, as pointed out by the final report of Gaviria.
This report by the way, which has already grated Chavez considerably, has forced him to maneuver to try to get the OAS Brazilian ambassador to produce yet a new report to try to limit the damage of the Gaviria report. Indeed, Lula has decided to accept lots of contracts from Chavez and why should he not defend him? Money has no odor even for an ex trade union man! Besides he must start thinking about his reelection and a few thousand jobs created on Venezuelan contracts are certainly not something to disregard. Unfortunately that initiative would only help with the media as the Gaviria report will not be replaced. But Chavez knows very much the power of the media and he does not criticize it when he can use it to his advantage...
While Chavez tries to manipulate the OAS he is having lots of troubles in his borders. It is every day more evident that an army used to distribute frozen chicken in popular markets and try to find juicy bonus b doing Chavez politics, is not able to control the Venezuelan borders where the Colombian FARC seems to go and come. This probably was one of the main reason why Chavez did not go to New York and instead donned military fatigues and went to Apure tonight to try to make amends with the troops. Accusing Colombia as he just did will not help him much at the OAS.
But that should not be his main worry. The Coordinadora Democratica, CD, as expected is giving up the ghost fast. Today a group of governors and mayors have organized themselves to coordinate all of the electoral activities for the regional elections. This leaves presumably the CD the task to demonstrate that indeed there was fraud committed and thus redeem its poor acting. This promises a more committed and militant activism as the governors and mayors are defending their job. This usually motivates politicians quite a lot. Look at Chavez in July if you do not think so!
But it gets better. Already Primero Justicia and Alfredo Peña, Caracas Mayor at large, have indicated that they will abide by primaries of sorts to ensure unity in anti Chavez candidates. And guess who is the head of that newborn commission? Eduardo Lapi, my very own governor. After weeks and months in the limbo of the CD he comes back to a stellar position as Enrique Mendoza looks rather discomfit. Lapi can be accused of many things, but not of being a wimp and I am sure that the CNE and chavismo are not very happy with that choice. Proyecto Venezuela even chimed in the determination of part of the opposition to confront an unfair CNE.
As I was expecting this reorganization of the opposition is finally happening. There will be several groups issuing from the CD, but the one that matters, the one that can organize civil resistance, the one that can bring out people to vote on October 31, the one that can create a Public Relation nightmare for the CNE is the group composed by our elected opposition leaders. This is where the future of the opposition resides. The more than likely candidate of the opposition against Chavez in 2006 will be a sitting governor or mayor. Remember, you read it here first!
And the fraud? Well, we will see about it someday. Fascinatingly, it might be becoming a non issue. For what is a rogue government, proving the fraud will not unseat it, that much is clear. But blocking future fraud and beating him at the local level would weaken Chavez much more than uncovering the fraud. Heady days ahead as Chavez and his CNE will need to find ways to trump civil disobedience on election day, and what not. Logic would indicate that with 60% on August 15 chavismo should be going to election with a big smile on its face. Instead, we are witnessing the CNE stalling any reform. Interestingly contradictory, isn’t it?