Sunday, October 31, 2004

Time is running!

11 20 PM Venezuelan time and still the CNE has not come up with any communique. Most polling stations closed at 5 PM and the others must have closed by 8 PM. As usual, this type of delays decreases confidence in the results. I am willing to guess that the audit is done in a majority of the centers, after all, we did it here!

San Felipe is quiet. It is also late for us, as a provincial town that goes to bed early.

No other news to report from the preceding post. The TV is stuck on "replay" mode about all the incidents of the day. Amazing how a country can muzzle information!

----

So I will tell you my experience with the audit process while we wait.

I must confess that I went inside the school in front of my place, and not at my very own voting center. I was told that there was enough people there and that I needed not to worry.

The sergeant in charge, taking grand airs announced that he would let only 6 people go in. IT is difficult to argue with a guy holding a riffle but we still managed to get at least 6. But we were six good ones because yours truly is a big mouthed one, and there was another one to back him up.

One table, controlled by a chavista crew, managed to transmit the results BEFORE they printed the results in front of the public, that is the 6 of us that got inside! If readers remember well, one of the assumed causes of electoral fraud on August 15 was that the machines transmitted data first, then were transmitted something back and that was when the print out came. It was of course quite possible to "insert" something in the machine memory that could alter the real result.

But that was OK and after complaining the guys that came in with me, and from table 1, asked me to talk to explain the proceeding to the president of table 2 who wanted to transmit first and print after. But I prevailed thanks to someone finding some piece of paper that contradicted the instructions she had and that were an earlier version. So we moved on and it was all fine. I have to say that I was the one that asked for the results to be read aloud and it worked! Of course by the time we reached table 3 all was fine and went as planned without an itch.

In the three tables the results for Lapi were in the same proportion. That is more than 2 to 1.

Then they all spend almost two hours filling up a boatload of forms!!! And signing them all of them!!! Finally we could do the final audit and all was fine and done.

I want to make a small and perhaps silly comment, but yet worth it I think. When I asked for the results to be read aloud as soon as they came out from the machine, the president did so. The audience of perhaps 30 people was very calm and even solemn. As Lapi crushed Gimenez there was not a single cheer but not a single lament either! Even though there was a majority of chavistas in the room! This was democracy at work! All knew that the results read were the real ones, no tampering whatsoever for that table and all respected that regardless of their chosen candidate! It was very moving. Of course what happens to these results once they are transmitted to Caracas is another story, but we, as citizens, had done our best to preserve the votes of our neighbors.

Definitely the need for an impartial arbiter in an election is the key for a good election!

PS: I was allowed to take a couple of pictures but for respect to the people that worked so hard and that tolerated my nosiness I decided not to post them.

Just back from auditing a ballot center!

I was away for all of this time because I managed to get involved in the auditing of a ballot center. Only 6 people were allowed in and somehow I managed. All was fine there. Lapi won by 2 to 1 and more. From the witnesses for Lapi I gathered that informally Lapi won big in Yaracuy. So did my mayor. So we are fine, I hope, though there is always the 3 AM surprise.

I heard that Carabobo, Zulia and Monagas were preserved for the opposition, and that Margarita and Tachira might have been gained. No word yet on other states, in particular Miranda which was in a very tight rope last time I heard of.

More later, but right now, the CNE has postponed the announcement until 11 PM, usually a sign that the government is not faring as planned...

Now I am going to get some diner and write later on my experience and results as they arrive. But in Yaracuy pro Lapi folks are already celebrating.

4:30 PM update

I am going to take off to sense the street. I will be back in a couple of hours. So I am leaving with a quick update.

Polls will remain open one additional hour! Instead of closing at 4 PM, they will be closing at 5 PM. On August 15 they had to remain open until midnight. This time there are not enough people and they will remain open an extra hour to see if folks show up. Apparently Rodriguez realizes that abstention is too high (for his cheating scheme?)

Hey Rodriguez! This is what happens ANYWHERE in the world when people do not trust the electoral umpire and the system is too complex! Got that?!

El Universal has already out a photo gallery of the day!

And for your Sunday chuckle, an English version of the "vice" declarations on wishing the US an electoral system as transparent as the Venezuelan one.

This is it for now. You have plenty of just posted pictures and links to more to entertain yourselves until I can come back, hopefully with some results.

More pictures on the Yaracuy vote in Venezuela

As promised, I have taken a few pictures today to show how San Felipe has been gaily redecorated for the electoral campaign. But let me start first with two pictures on how we vote.

The first one is one you arrive at the table and you are greeted with the choices, to the right of which there is the button that will activate the voting machine.



Then when you are all cleared up you are faced with two "membranes", on the left. The same choices as before but now on a touch sensitive device.



On the screen your choices appear. If all is right you push a "VOTAR" on screen button, there is a loud beep and the machine prints a paper receipt that you go and deposit in a box. Of course, you do check that the paper does reflect your choices...

Now, for the electoral decoration.

Graffitis of course are everywhere as it seems to be the preferred form of political advertisement. What is notable when we look back is how much people respect each other advertisement now, and how creative they are. Of course there must be a provision made for people who hold office who seem to have more money to spend in adds.

First an example of coexistence. This large Gimenez, the pro Chavez candidate, had on the right side a Victor Moreno painting added later.



But respect is important. In La Independencia where Gimenez was mayor before running for governor, Lapi and his candidate for Mayor can paint an important street corner.



One thing that is interesting is the creative streak experienced, in particular by the pro Chavez side who has a rich tradition of grandiose murals from the diverse leftists regimes through history. We have thus either the "cartoon" example with a Yaracuyano "bourgeois" very upset as he is about to turn "chavista" once Gimenez makes it to office.



Or the more "heroic" style, strangely reminding run down Havana in the picture I took.. However, this been Venezuela, the land of misses, the women do not have heroic workers clothes, but rather skimpy outfits showing their voluptuous figures. You can be hot and red it seems.



The left has always liked glorified big posters and even Yaracuy does not escape this genetic marker. The townhall of La Independencia had no qualms posting a huge portrait of Chavez supporting Gimenez. Not even Lapi would have dared do such a thing when Caldera was president. Besides being tacky, it is illegal. But law of course is a very relative term in Venezuela.



But all in all, this leaves us with gaily festooned streets where the pro Lapi and pro Gimenez propaganda coexist in a rather pleasantly surprising manner.



Definitely, living in the provinces has its nice advantages.

I voted!

I voted fast. No line whatsoever. I was the third to vote on my REP page, a page that listed 10 people! Thus at 1 AM, with more than half of the voting time gone, the guys at the table told me that abstention was very large, indeed in the 70% range! But driving in front of chavista centers, I did not see lines either... Abstention crosses lines, the consequences of a discredited CNE, the opposition does not feel like going to vote and neither do chavistas as they think their candidate will win anyway...

I am having lunch now and will be back in an hour or so with some pics that I took. By the way, if anyone wants to send me a pic, please do it as JPEG or GIF format and no more than 50 KB!!!! The hotmail box gets full real quick!!!! Please. give me all the necessary details so I know what I am posting.

PS: the local exit polls so far seem to be giving Lapi a huge lead. Deja vu all over again?

The Venezuelan vote is not going on very well, but it is going

I have not voted yet. The reason? There are no lines anywhere, I can vote whenever I feel like it!!!

Now this is really bad for all parts. The voting act is considerable more complex than on August 15, and yet, the line of about 60 people in front of my house at 8 AM (preceding post) has dwindled to a dozen at this time, 11:30 AM. In August, the line went around the block until mid afternoon and it was only for a Yes/No option.

In other words, regardless of the political posturing of these past weeks, electors from BOTH sides have no motivation to go out and vote!!!!!!

I just heard a rather worried Freddy Bernal, the Chavez henchman mayor of one of the Caracas districts, asking people to go out and vote to defend the revolution!!! And he is not the only chavista to do so as the "vice" expressed concern for the apparent high abstention turnout. I mean, if even chavistas are now walking over each other to plead their folks to vote, you know that something is not working somewhere...

Already this morning Borges, the leader of Primero Justicia, declared that the abstention was worrying. And the the voting process was running into trouble as his reports indicated that only 70-75% of the centers had opened!. This last piece of information is rather stunning! At a quarter to 10, Rodriguez had the gall to declare that 72% of the voting centers were installed and open. 72%? Should not that have been, say 99% at this late hour? Well, at 10:15 AM it was suddenly at 94.8%. One has to be impressed by the ability of these people to convert mediocrity in a shining success.

On other news

Chacon has hinted that the media could watch the auditing process. I suppose that even his close military mind realized that a tid bit of PR might be good to ensure the validity of the election.

The "vice" hoped that the US election of Tuesday would be as transparent as the Venezuelan one. Well, I agree that the US election is questionable but I am not sure that the Venezuelan system is the shining example that the "vice" would have us believe.

Irregularities are reported in at least Yaracuy and Miranda, where people print push the button for one option and another one appears. This time Lapi did not waste time in going to the media and scream bloody murder! The lessons of August 15!

Capriles Radonski complains that his heavy opposition district of Baruta is particularly late in opening its center compared to other districts. Coincidence?

And as I am closing this post I took a peek outside. There is no voting line!!!!!! Nobody! At noon! Too early even for Venezuelan Sunday lunch time!!!!! Oh well, I think I might as well go and vote now.

Of the inconvenience of living in front of a polling station

I do happen to live in front of a school, and this is really becoming a pain in the neck. On week days it is OK to be waken up by kids at a quarter to 7 until all together sing the National anthem at 7 AM. After all, I must get up anyway to go to work. But on election days it is quite annoying to be awakened when it is still dark outside. But this particular election takes the cake.

It all started when LAST weekend the army already came to install the transmitting antenna. In August, the first time with these antennas (later found to be transmitting both ways during the polling process and thus accused to be one of the main tools of electoral fraud), they were installed about three days before the vote. Now, for the past week I have had to deal with soldiers guarding the school all night and playing the radio so as not to fall asleep. Thank the deity that they did not play it too loud and I could sleep by covering the noise with some "white" noise.

But I must confess one thing: having the army, even if young recruits that probably would have preferred to be anywhere else, was quite unnerving. I have become so anti-military under Chavez that any proximity to any army uniform might start giving me the hives anytime soon. And I suspect that I am not the only one in Venezuela...

This military presence gave us also a few fascinating images to remember. Schools remained open until Wednesday or Thursday for some. So we had the spectacle of seen young recruits, with huge assault rifles that reached almost to the ground for these young, short and skinny soldiers, mixing with all sorts of children running around. In the US people would have freaked out! Not to mention that these poor soldiers were lusting after the older girls, some of them not insensitive to the charms of the battle fatigues... Really...

But this morning was the last straw! The "revolutionary" web site Aporrea is certainly announcing the way things will be. A couple of weeks ago it was the tumbling of the Colombus statue. This week they had again over a big red background a "suggestion" to download "la diana" which is the military morning call. Note the note for voting against "los golpistas", the coup mongers, conveniently forgetting that their own leaders were the original real thing in 1992. But revolutionaries are not know for their subtlety.



Well, it seems that in San Felipe someone did it, and somewhere between 5 and 6 PM a truck blared the morning call in the San Felipe streets!!! After that there was a racket as the people of the polling station arrived and at 6 it opened and that was that for the night quiet.

At least I can see people voting. Less than in August but there has been a line since 6 AM. Local elections always have a lower turnout, so there is nothing outside of "normalcy". We'll see.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Yaracuy Campaign Scenes in Venezuela

I have been trying to find a few colorful images to depict the campaign atmosphere, but really, nothing was particularly interesting. I did not find spectacular graffiti, or counter adds above other folks adds. All in all, there is reasonable respect to private property and other folks political advertisement. Here we like much more painting walls than posters and we all know the effort it takes to paint a wall. I suppose that the "art" of the other side is respected... I have put below one of the most spectacular ones in San Felipe, by the pro Chavez candidate on the embankments of one of the quebradas.



Another curiosity of our electoral systems, brought to high level under Chavez, is "pay off time". That is, the usually late misiones grants are magically paid when it is convenient for the regime. Friday was no exception and huge lines of people waiting for their diverse allocations, all linked to Chavez of course, formed at some of the banks, those that have made "agreements" with the regime. This way people were reminded that if they wanted to keep cashing in, well, they knew what to do on Sunday. No, there is nothing new in that except for the scale and the boldness in which this is made now.

I drove around and checked out the banks. Four banks had lines including up to 2 to 3 hundred of people, lines that lasted for hours. The first picture is from the front door of one of the Banesco agency (the other one had a line even bigger but I could not take a good pic).



What is not shown in that picture is that the line on the right went around a block and a half. But you can note that the hall of the bank was full of people!!!!

This is better conveyed in the Banco de Venezuela pic. The door to enter this bank is down at the end of the block on the right. What you see on this pic is the line going up, turning over itself inside the parking lot (hard to see because it is hollowed ground and people were against the wall to avoid the sun some, but you can guess from the guy in the yellow shirt that is looking in the inside and a few umbrellas sticking out) and then finally going back on the side walk and up half a block more on the left.



The lines in front of the other Banesco agency, and the Banco Industrial, a state bank were as long, showing that there is no advantage to belong to the state bank.

Now, as a control point the pic of Banco del Caribe, at around the same time, 9:30 AM. This bank has no agreement with the government anymore, meaning that it is not allowed to receive your income tax for example. What you see is a few people waiting for the ATM machine...



This is the way chavismo treats its own people, hours of line under a harsh sun (or rain, does not matter). So you can guess how it will be treating the non-chavistas... Unless this is all an exercise to start teaching us to stand in line Cuba style.

Tomorrow I will try to take pictures of voting centers and some other propaganda.

Jesse Chacon or Jesse James?

We just got treated to a cadena by Jesse Chacon, the Interior Minister. It seems that in the glorious bolivarian revolution now any public official can commandeer the air waves as he pleases (no she has done it that I know).

Jesse made a cadena which in a normal country would deserve his immediate destitution. Jesse just spoke to warn the electors among other things that the folks to be elected tomorrow are the ones that will receive the funds that the central government "grants" them (it is a law, it is not at the will of El Supremo) and that they must be able to work in coordination with the central government to effectuate the changes that the country need (meaning of course that Chavez will cut funds to people that do not vote for his ticket). This is bolivarian democracy in all its splendor/horror, another shining example of "mentalidad de la soldatesca" (that military mentality that characterizes every day more and more chavismo).

And he added, unbelievably!!!!, that since the advent of the bolivarian revolution Venezuelans have enjoyed an unparalleled access to democratic participation and that tomorrow was such an example. Jesse Chacon just forgets to mention that the inexistent democracy of the past was the one that allowed his beloved leader to reach office and that he was one of the coup ringer that shoot his bloody way to seize the control of VTV in the 1992 series of coup again the said democracy.

That is right, Jesse Chacon who claims that now we are in a democracy is an assassin just as Jesse James was. At least we never had to suffer a sanctimonious Jesse James in cadena.

I am outraged!

An Electoral non-atmosphere in Venezuela

In this veillée d'armes there has been no drama worth reporting during the day. Of course, the petty accusations from each side kept flowing, the hour by hour more obvious electoral fraud is taunting us more forcibly. But it is all a development that the readers of this blog were expecting. A simple summary of the day will suffice to describe what seems more like a day previous to a battle, a call to arms, than what should be a festive pre-election atmosphere.

Squabbling CNE rectors

During the day the rectors kept exchanging accusations. It is astounding that this late in the game an electoral system direction is arguing to this extent! In any normal country such a bitter recrimination would worry all parts as to the effect of the election. But not here!

Rodriguez, the real president donned the little cap he wears on electoral weekends to declare that all was fine. Supposedly as an answer to the continuous media reports on irregularities when installing the ballot centers. As usual Rodriguez did convince few, probably not even the bulk of die hard chavistas who know what is going on and do not mind it all. Such is the mind of people who surrender democracy at the foot of El Supremo, in any country in the world for that matter. Ah! Human nature!

Lonely Sobella Mejias put a brave face in criticizing those that do commit irregularities trying to bar access to opposition witness and electoral workers when installing the electoral centers. She was not anymore convincing than Rodriguez. The whole country knows by now that she is only bark, and no bite. Not to mention that we all know that her role is trying to defend the AD positions, who all criticize. Like AD, she probably thinks that her party will score a surprise when we all know that the election is rigged. Poor Sobella, another one who did not know when to quit and who is now slowly sinking in ridicule.

Electoral fraud suspicions keep growing (as if it were needed...)

All the evidences of fraud are already for all to see. On August 15 we did not know to what extent fraud was to actually take place but we have no doubt of it. But today we know. After all it is now a well accepted fact that the electoral registry is rigged and that the CNE and the High Court have been stalling its correction. The only question is where else will there be electoral fraud. One answer came yesterday.

The interior minister Chacon, flanked by the defense minister, announced that the people would not be allowed to assist to the manual count of the audited ballot boxes (in English). Incidentally it is ONLY one box by center, regardless if that center has 50 boxes or one box. Statisticians can start their little spread sheets.

This was accompanied by a precise threat from the commander of the Nazional Guard (no spelling mistake) who declared, right after leaving a reunion with High Court president Ivan Rincon, that people who tried to open the ballot boxes to count them will be arrested on the spot. So we know that Nazional Guuad abuses are pre-forgiven by the High Court.

What is wrong with this picture? According to the ineffable Chacon, in electronic system voting, box opening is part of the audit and thus not public. Really... And he hopes to increase the public confidence by hiding the most crucial part to a very few witnesses? He also claims that the opposition agreed with it. That this stupid scheme was imposed to a reluctant opposition would be more correct. But Chacon demonstrated in 1992 how to make people agree with you by shooting them down.

To reinforce this militaristic approach to democracy, as the opposition communique smartly pointed out, Chacon persisted tonight by declaring that people were not allowed to gather in front of voting stations to witness at least the printing of the results. Pure intimidatory escalating and more evidence that the government wants to hide something.

Now this blogger is not opposed to certain conditions to ensure some order. Certainly in a school room one cannot let everyone and their brother try to get in when the crucial part of an election takes place. But once upon a time, in the days of the execrated 4th republic, any political party presenting a candidate in a given district was allowed to send an eyewitness when ballots were counted. Now the number of witness is restricted. If electronic voting is progress, then please, let me go back to paper voting! May serve of lesson to the US readers of this blog who might get their votes "lost" next Tuesday...

As if that was not enough we learned other juicy details. For example the voting machines that were audited were not going to be used in the election. A wit pointed out that this was equivalent to prepare for a long trip on your SUV but checking the brakes of the econo-box you use to commute to work.

Add to this all that has been reported before, from the refusal of the CNE to even examine the evidence presented on August 15 claim, to the lack of impartial observers, and a score of other things and the normal observers would be excused from wondering what the results of tomorrow might mean.

To vote or not to vote

After these words the reader can be forgiven to wonder why this blogger will accept to be bothered into voting tomorrow. Well, what else is there to do?

Rumors in my neighborhood are that people are organizing anyway, regardless of what the powers that be are saying or doing. The CNE and the central government are so discredited that no one cares anymore. There is also a sense that there is not enough soldiers to fulfill the threats. Though of course, as in February 27 the army will have no problem in letting the media observe any repression it does as a way to scare people away from voting centers when voting is over. Let's hope for the best on this respect. But one thing is certain, there is more tension tonight than on August 15.

It remains that the fraud is now clearly a real possibility and no one can ignore it, be it in a foreign embassy, an international organization, private Venezuelan homes or visiting tourists. One cannot help but notice that for all the words of Rodriguez a few weeks ago, there has been no more talk of bringing back the OAS or the Carter Center, not even for the auditing as he promised to try. If he were as honest as he claims he is, he would not be squabbling with Mejias this late in the game, he would have helped in sitting the missing 5th rector, he would have offered a more credible counting and auditing system, he would not be as hysterical as he is. All in him screams lies now, it is pathetic. But he is supported by chavismo and the only way to unmask him is to make his work more difficult by going to vote and force him to cheat in such a large scale that it will become too obvious to hide. It might be a silly hope but that is about all that is left to us.

One is to expect that the opposition leadership will be more prepared on the Monday early hours. Their actions will determine if we will lose our democracy once and for all tomorrow or if defeated we will finally get on the road back to reclaim it fully, and eventually expel this nightmarish regime on a not so distant horizon.


Friday, October 29, 2004

Electoral update in Venezuela

I was busy today and the Rice/Kerry/Chavez caught my eye first. But of course elections are in everyone's mind, whether we vote or not. Tonight just a quick update.

Upcoming attractions

I will be covering through the week end. I am trying to put together a few pictures of the Yaracuy electoral scene for the local flavor. On Sunday I will be voting and I have no idea how long it will take, and how much I will cover, but I will cover as much as I can, and providing that there is some excitement in the air, which might be happening after listening to the threats of the Jesse Chacon today. But I will write more on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile you can add to the already detailed motivations of the electoral campaign and the local predictions and an interesting photo gallery from El Universal, dedicated to all the problems that we face us who live in the provinces. Highly recommended!

Ouch!

Well, it looks that the Kerry statement hurt, deep. The Venezuelan ambassador in Bogota wasted no time in criticizing the FARC connections implied by Kerry. The defense minister, Garcia Carneiro, one of the dimmest bulbs in the chavista luster, said that Venezuela was independent since 1811, supposedly as an excuse to say that Kerry could not meddle, and I suppose as an excuse not to really answer the charges of Kerry. "Shoot the messenger", the usual tactics of chavistas. The Rice statement seems to have had quite an effect too. I saw on TV that the foreign minister called upon the US for Condi remarks, and only one link so far from Venpres, a link that might change.[added next day: Papers carry the reactions of the Jesus Perez, our foreign minister. El Universal but also a provincial paper that does a better job than the Caracas ones of that piece of news, El Impulso. I wish I had more time to check some of the provincial papers who also do an outstanding job at exposing the miseries of the regime, but there are only so many hours in a day. For those that are interested I recommend EL Impulso from Barquisimeto, El Carabobeño and Notitarde from Valencia which I all read on occasion as they sort of cover the Yaracuy area. The Yaracuy papers are pretty much worthless.]

Costa Rica

Now we are by the third Costa Rican ex-president, in jail, about to be jailed or under investigation. Ah! Imagine one day CAP, Lusinchi and Chavez in jail together! One can always dream! If one Latin American country can do it, maybe there is hope for the others, ours in particular!


The Kerry statement, plus one from Condi Rice

Serious foreign policies versus Mickey Mouse foreign policy

Readers of this blog can be of great help. Last night I could not find it but this morning AIO had kindly put the campaign link in the comment box. Part of the press release deserves to be posted here:

President Chavez had an historic opportunity after the recent referendum to take Venezuela in new direction. He could have used his position as the constitutionally elected leader to embrace respect for democracy and the rule of law at home and throughout the region. Unfortunately, he has gone in the opposite direction.

President Chavez declared after the referendum that he was ready to work together with the peaceful opposition. Instead, he has chosen to prosecute some members for the "crime" of accepting a small grant from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy to promote the referendum. President Chavez should immediately stop these politically-inspired prosecutions and begin fulfilling his promise to move Venezuela forward to a truly democratic future. And we should work with our regional allies to make clear that the world will be watching.

Now, this is quite something, even if he is desperately trying to get a few more Hispanic votes in Florida.

But it gets better. In an interview to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Condoleezza Rice, president Bush's National Security Advisor, makes it quite clear that no matter how much oil Venezuela has, a renewed Bush administration will be only disposed to tolerate Chavez up to a point (dated 10/23, three days before Kerry). It bears quoting:

Q: Libya and Venezuela are both important oil-producing nations. What's going to happen there?

A: [snip the Libya part] In Venezuela, I can't make that argument. I think President Hugo Chavez is a real problem. I think he will continue to find ways to subvert democracy in his own country. He will continue to find ways to make his neighbors miserable. He will continue his contacts with Fidel Castro, maybe giving Castro one last fling to try to affect the politics of Latin America, which is not a good thing. He's involved in ways in Colombia with the FARC (Marxist rebels) that are unhelpful.

The key there is to mobilize the region to both watch him and be vigilant about him and to pressure him when he makes moves in one direction or another. We can't do it alone. This is a region where if we try to do it alone, we actually probably strengthen him. But the OAS (Organization of American States) can do a lot. We're hopeful that the recognition that he's not following a democratic course will help mobilize the OAS to do that. They have done it before -- with Peru they did it. Watching his activities and making it costly at least politically for Chavez to carry out anti-democratic activities either at home or in the region is really about where we are.

Now this bear a little bit of reflection. Clearly, the US is very well informed about the doings of Chavez. No matter how much oil they need, no matter how much accommodation Carter does, they know the man and they know he is not good news (observe the amusing detail, by the way, that the editor asked Ms. Rice about Libya and Venezuela in the same sentence, and in her answer Libya is improving and Venezuela, well, you read it!)

But the reflection goes further. In a serious democratic system, no matter what its flaws are, there are a minimum of consensus that are reached between all the parties. Arguably the current US campaign is one of its bitterest, and yet, yet!, one can surmise that the people behind the stage are working together to make sure that whoever becomes the next president there will be a blueprint reflecting the National Interests waiting on his desk at inauguration day.

This type of consensus is found in other countries with even deeper divisions. For example in France, Socialists and Liberal Right parties share the notion that French foreign policy can only be made upon a basic agreement with Germany, no matter the squabbling on Weiss Beer and Camembert. Germans in turn all worry about their Eastern borders. Polish parties have all tied their lot with the US. Even in South America some examples are found. Brazil political parties all support Mercosur, more or less but all support it. They all support Fidel Castro too as both Cardozo and Lula made the pilgrimage to Havana.

In Venezuela this is not the case. The opposition is not consulted on foreign policy. Period. Something that was done in the past, even though the president had the final word. Actually, it seems that Chavez only consults Castro on his foreign policy... This is rather grave because it actually allows foreign interests to sneak one way or the other within Venezuela, either flattering Chavez and sponsoring corruption to gain advantages, or by stirring the opposition into trouble if they do not get what they asked Chavez to give them. It is also very dangerous for countries and particulars trying to make deals with the Venezuelan government. Chavez could slip in his bath tub tonight and die, and a new government will feel no obligation to fulfill obligations contracted by Chavez. It will be very easy for such a new administration, that could even come from Chavez file and rank, to find all sorts of compromising evidence to back out of any given deal.

Only when the basic tenets of foreign policies are shared, when the National Interest is above the personal interest, can a country offer a coherent and respected foreign policy. When that does not happen, then our principal commercial partner is found unanimously criticizing us.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Kerry blasts Chavez on Sumate (and others I suppose)

Just before folding in for the day I run across a Union Radio note on a recent Kerry declaration (which I could not find on Kerry blog, but not surprising since they surely cannot put all that appears in the press).

In that declaration Kerry defends the NED actions, in no meek terms. No meek terms for other stuff either. The NED part is already blurbed in English by El Universal.

I wonder if after attacking Bush so violently during his recall election campaign now Chavez is considering rooting for Bush... As for poor Eva Golinger, I guess she will have to make her threat to vote for Nader good.

An opposition reaction?

Well, things must be worse than I thought.

I just heard the latest message (or was it an add?) from Enrique Mendoza. But before some background.

The abstention has been the specter of this election and I have already described some of its consequences (1, and 2).

There are real reasons to promote abstention and some important figures/op-ed-folks have done so.

Meanwhile chavismo has made a campaign without pair in our history as far as using public funds for particular interest, negative campaigning, character assassination, and what not.

To the point that the CNE had to make a timid and fake declaration yesterday, barely 24 hours before the campaign closes. In that declaration Rodriguez decided to "investigate" Chavez abuses, and the opposition and media one for good measure. It is stunning how impartial the CNE is in such situations...

But the CNE has been caught red handed in partiality: his on the hour cadenas that have been harassing us for the last few weeks do not take place when Chavez makes a campaign speech on the state TV, VTV. Tonight again Globovision Alo Ciudadano was telling one of his guests to keep talking that there was no cadena coming as Chavez was in some proselytizing act. All illegal acts of course for a sitting president.

Now, Mendoza's message.

After a lackluster campaign, if one could charitably call that a campaign when comapres it to the efforts deployed by Lapi in Yaracuy or Rosales in Zulia, Mendoza started reacting a couple of weeks ago. Today, even Milagros Socorro in El Nacional recognized that Diosdado Cabello campaign in Miranda was more effective and willful than she would have expected.

Thus I am not quite sure to interpret tonight's message by Mendoza. Either it is a last ditch effort as he feels himself lost. Or it is the surprise counter attack from the opposition. What was the message:

It was an indictment of the cheating CNE. It was an acknowledgment of the faults of the CD leadership on August 15. It was a call, a strong call to order, to the abstentionist wanna-be that they would wake up to a chavista administration nightmare, with a dramatic picture of what such an administration would be. The terms used to detail all of these things are basically illegal in a campaign, though obviously less illegal than what Chavez is doing, by far, if there were a real electoral umpire in this godforsaken country...

I was stunned!

Pretty much it suggests that the campaign will not close tonight at midnight and that the opposition is defying the CNE outright! Is this a test strike before a pitched battle on Sunday? Or is it a desperate move to bring abstention back to the ballot boxes? If I could only have access to real opinion polls, but my private ones indicate that there will be abstention, though on both sides...

------------


On other matters. I was not planning to write today, too tired after the extensive posting of this week. It is draining. But I thought that this development was of interest to people reading Venezuelan blogs.

Although I will keep my "election coverage", for the next few days I will keep monitoring the two long posts that I did on the electoral motivations and the possible outcomes (which I might update some as needed), reminding folks the links at each new post so that the discussion can continue if people feel like to. These posts will be as valid Monday morning as they were when I posted them earlier this week.

The Complexity of Regional Elections in Venezuela (part 2)

HAZARDOUS PREDICTIONS IN THE VENEZUELAN REGIONAL ELECTIONS

From the preceding post the reader should have gained a clearer idea that the Venezuelan regional elections are particularly complex even though the results are rather predictable. I have thus, to the better of my knowledge, tried to give in the table below a prediction of the local results and the why of my prediction for each Venezuelan state. These predictions are of course based on the parameters listed in the previous post. In a way it is rather an optimistic prediction as I hope that the opposition will manage to rally at the very last minute and retain all of its states except for 1 or 2. It might even be able to pick up a couple of chavista states which should be a great help for future plans, in particular if it picks up Tachira. Overall, status quo is the very best we can hope on state houses. But at the municipal level it is a whole different story.

Cities and districts predictions

A prediction that I cannot make in detail is the result on the town halls. That is where the electoral fraud at the level of the Electoral Registry, REP, will be felt the most. The opposition has been unable to have the CNE budge on this. In other words, we are going to elections knowing full well that the deck is stacked against us and hoping that legally at some point we might force new elections on some districts.

What is about to happen at the level of municipal districts is nothing short of a disaster. Up to 100 town halls will go to the Chavez site, which is a shift of about 30% of town halls in Venezuela. That is, on November 1st up to 70% of Venezuelans might wake up with a pro Chavez mayor. This will be particularly dramatic in some states such as Falcon which with 25 districts might go from 4 pro Chavez to 20+!

But there is always a silver lining: AD and Copei will be the main losers there as 3/4 of the town halls about to be lost are in their hands. Whatever bite is left for these parties might be lost and we can only better off for that on the long run. On the short run it will be a disaster as thousand of public employees will become jobless and as the now proverbial inefficiency of chavista mayors will be visited on 3/4 of the national population. It is to be hoped that the lost town halls will at least provoke the needed shake up within AD and that this one will finally decide that Chavez is bad news for them no matter what deals they make in dark rooms (Copei is all but dead). Unfortunately there is no reason to be optimistic on this point.

To end this section, most large cities from either side are not expected to change hands, except for Caracas at large. There the SI vote was stronger and the misiones effect not as convincing.

State projections

I have made an effort on this table, creating links to go back and forth between the sates and the predictions, thus the reader can read only the states s/he might care about. The table is also organized in a way that I hope will allow people to follow the results on November first, if they are not too depressed to do so. Maybe we could make a pool and bet on the resutls :-)

First I have listed all the Chavez states currently run by a chavista governor. They are sorted according to the percentile total of the SI vote on August 15. This way the chavista sates are listed according to maximum vulnerability.

The opposition held states are then listed and sorted according to the NO vote. That way it is easy to see which are the theoretically more vulnerable states first.

The last two columns, Oct-04 and Nov-04, have a color code: in red for chavista states and purple for opposition states. In the last column the expected result are indicated in red or purple and in pink for states with a slight chance to go/stay Chavez, mauve if there is a slight chance to go/stay opposition.

As a side comment, to illustrate the predilection of Chavez for the military over the civilian, in the Oct-04 column I have put a mark when the chavista sitting governor (**) and/or the chavista challenger (*) was in the army. Pretty good illustration on Chavez plans to militarize all institutions, pretty good way to suggest that we are already in a "legal" military autocracy.

Finally I have inserted two column that list which states have major divisions within the opposition candidacies, and which ones are more subject to be a victim of significant opposition abstention.

In the comments that follows the link to each state I have put links from El Universal that have helped me write the blurb I wrote for each state. Sometimes I think that El Universal is rather ill informed about the provinces, but that is why your obliging blogger supplements El Universal comments when he can.

Table of expected results of October 31 (if there is no electoral fraud, otherwise all bets are off)
StatesRecall Election vote

Opposition unity

Abstention effect on opposition

Oct-04

Nov-04
SINO
Nueva Esparta5050yesslight
Tachira4951nosome**
Merida 4654no?**
Falcon4257nono**
Vargas 3664nosome**
Lara3565nosome**
Cojedes 3367yesno**
Sucre3367nono
Trujillo 3366nono**
Aragua3268maybeyes
Barinas3069nono
Amazonas 2970no electionno
Delta Amacuro2970nono
Guarico 2971yesno
Portuguesa2673no?
Apure3268no?*
Bolivar3366yes?**
Monagas 3961yes?
Yaracuy3960noslight
Carabobo 4357noyes*
Distrito Capital4456yesYES!
Anzoategui4554yessome
Zulia 4753yes?*
Miranda4951yesyes*

Comments by geographical areas

The Eastern "oriental" states

Nueva Esparta is a state that lives mostly from tourism, and a tax free (shopping) port. It has been particularly hard hit by the continuous devaluations, currency exchange controls and economic permanent recession. Thus it is not surprising that it is the state where the SI reached its highest percentage, the only one where it actually won! Its controversial, inefficient and subservient pro-Chavez governor should get the boot and Margarita island is the almost certain chavista state to go to the opposition, which distresses greatly Chavez to the point of doing one of the longest "Alo Presidente" on the record, with empty promises galore, with burning buildings as a background. {back}


In Anzoategui a previous division of the opposition has been now settled in favor of AD. Thus the opposition has a chance to retain the state house though with a different governor. In that state there was a PJ/AD fight and it is difficult to predict how this will affect the outcome. Things that complicate the panorama is that Anzoategui has been hurt by the oil strike which has been very divisive. And the chavista candidate, Tarek Saab who has been refused a US visa and in other times was a real human rights defender, has had trouble to establish his leadership, though he is well known nationally. {back}

Monagas is another state duly affected by the oil strike. But one where foreign companies are allowed to operate and thus its effects are mixed. Governor Call is alone and so is the chavista candidate. Chavez has invested a lot trying in part to compensate his failures in Zulia by taking the other two oil states of Anzoategui and Monagas. But Monagas is one of those states that tend to vote either "for the government" or for tradition. Thus, if Chavez has a chance to unseat Call, this low key old fashioned governor has a real chance to retain its seat, even though the NO vote was very high. But Call could be helped by the rather controversial chavista candidate who failed in the past at trying to get the state house. {back}

Sucre, arguably one of the most beautiful areas of Venezuela, is one of the poorest areas in the country. It did not use to be so but its ex-centric position leaves it far from the commercial routes and the oil industry, leaving only tourism and agriculture as its main sources of revenues. In addition it had a very troubled political life, going as far as launching mobs to burn down the state capitol in 1999. The current governor Martinez acts more like a capo di mafia than an actual governor. He was ousted once because of his poor response from the Cariaco earthquake where it was rumored that he pocketed some of the relief money. But he threw his lot with Chavez and made a surprising come back in 2000. He did not hesitate in leaving the MAS when this one broke ranks with chavismo and has remained one of the main adulators of the president. This seems to have paid off: misiones flowed in, Sucre got a hefty NO vote and AD is the shadow of what it used to be there. This unsavory governor, if crafty politician, has the good luck to have a divided opposition in front of him, divided enough that he can even ignore a pro-Chavez dissidence that could still diminish what should have been a comfortable victory. {back}

The central States

Vargas is the ravaged state of the 1999 rain disaster. It has never recovered fully and the present governor does serve as a blank to many a critic. Still, he is one of the most devoted of Chavez followers, a very frequent guest to many a public event where one wonders what the heck he is doing there. His star might have started to fade some. He is not as often behind Chavez as he probably has to catch up with his work in Vargas. The opposition, even though very divided, has managed to put some credible challenges. A certain consolidation in the last few days around a single candidate, Roberto Smith, might be too late and should still allow Rodriguez to retain his seat. {back}

Carabobo has union in both camps except for a dissident against Salas Feo. But the Salas dynasty has worked really hard and Carabobo is reputed as one of the best run states. In the 2000 election extensive cross over voting took place and there is no reason why it should not happen again, thus compensating a surprisingly high NO vote. The ex-military running for Chavez, Acosta Carles, is the famous military of the burp! He raises much instinctive dislike and does not seem to have mobilized the chavista base. Yet his job creation proposals are rather creative, such as using dwarfs to create a theme park on the Snow white story. It will all depend on whether the abstention will affect Carabobo and whether the opposition dissident manages to take away enough of Salas Feo votes, though he might also be siphoning some of the chavista vote. One thing that helps Salas Feo is that the industrial might of Carabobo has been deeply hurt by Chavez policies, and people are aware of that. The misiones might not have been as effective in garnering sympathies for Acosta Carles. Carabobo is really a good test state to check for August fraud and the real implications of Chavez policies, assuming of course that there is no fraud on October 31. {back}

Caracas Mayor at large is the great disaster for the opposition, the best example of self destruction it has shown all along since April 2002. After having hesitated for a long time to support the reelection effort of Alfredo Peña, the sitting mayor elected on Chavez lists and now a bitter enemy, all but AD rallied behind him. AD, breaking ranks, had Claudio Fermin run, a very discredited candidate himself. Chavismo did postulate Juan Barreto, perhaps its worst option for Caracas when one considers that several other more palatable options were available. A few days ago, even though leading at polls, Peña surprised all by withdrawing from the race and leaving Fermin and Barreto fight it out alone, a most distasteful choice for a majority of the population! It seems very unlikely, and barely more desirable, that Fermin takes over Barreto in the very few days of campaign left. Thus Peña probably handed Caracas on a silver platter to chavismo! This can only be considered as an irresponsible act from Peña who did not even offer an alternative protest action to fight the electoral fraud that he used as an excuse for withdrawing. Unless of course Peña is trying to obtain forgiveness from chavismo so as to go back peacefully to journalism... {back}

Miranda is the basket case of the opposition. Once an inexpugnable fortress it has suddenly become very vulnerable. Even though there is only two candidates, the opposition having had no problem to unite behind Enrique Mendoza, the defeat of August 15 has been placed on Mendoza and the opposition threatens major abstention in the Caracas areas that Mendoza needs to fight back from Tuy Valley areas where chavismo fares better. However people have not forgotten his rather good administration and chavismo has not been able to pin on him any misdeed except for being the leader of the opposition. Unfortunately for Mendoza, Diosdado Cabello, the chavista candidate has been campaigning for now a year and although very far in early polls he has been able to climb steadily by identifying closely to the misiones, questioning Mendoza character and sexual preferences, and by being one of the very few chavistas that is not totally under the shadow of Chavez. He even is considered coming from the "manager" wing of chavismo, whatever that might mean. This has played well in the areas outside of Caracas where he leads in some districts! It will all depend on how the abstention operates though recent polls seem to indicate that Mendoza is tightening the race again with a series of political adds that show his old combative self. {back}

Aragua is the only industrial state still held by chavismo. Its NO score was good but the local governor who was reelected in 2000 with the highest percentage in the country (70% +) does not have it as easy this time. The problems of Didalco Bolivar come that he rather reluctantly embraced Chavez when the MAS left the coalition, and all remember this. Chavez was even rumored to consider someone else. Didalco Bolivar followed Chavez for very pragmatical reasons: he wanted the monies to keep coming to Aragua and he was aware that as the main military state in the country, his life would be made miserable by the soldiers that would have to follow orders to hinder his administration. But the harder than expected recession has ravaged the industrial tissue of Aragua and Didalco bears the brunt, unfairly has he is the only chavista governor whose administration has successes recognized by all sides. Even an army officer has mounted a pro Chavez dissidence that is apparently higher in the polls than the sitting governor would like. To complicate matters, the wife of Didalco's predecessor, Margarita Tablante, has managed to mount a credible bid and slowly but surely has rallied most of the opposition groups around her. Still, Didalco Bolivar was so strong in the past that he should have enough reserves to manage to survive easily, but he could lose his majority at the state council and maybe even a townhall or two. {back}

The Andes states

Trujillo is another poor and backward state, and the preserve of AD and Copei, that is, until Chavez came. It is a state where the misiones have made quite an impact. The opposition squabbling has been enough to ensure the re-election of the sitting governor in spite of a few scandals such as a police strike a couple of years ago and a coming teachers' strike. I am not even aware of Chavez planning to visit Trujillo during the campaign, so confident they are of retaining this state. On the radar of Trujillo, the new political forces are not even a blip as all is a sterile battle between AD and Copei. {back}

Merida should have been an easy pick for the opposition. Even though the NO vote was higher than expected, at 54% it was way below the national average. The sitting governor, Porras, is very disliked in spite of the misiones, and carries the albatross of having been elected in 2000 under fraudulent conditions, the most scandalous affair of these elections! He retained the nomination because Chavez said so. But the opposition managed to blow it by running two separate candidacies, both strong ones, from the ex governor with a victim aura and the Merida mayor who seems to have a decent record. Again, AD has been the wedge in the state as the ex-governor was expelled of AD in 2001 for protesting its internal autocracy. One can hope that a last minute arrangement might make the opposition catch up and win but it seems very unlikely. {back}

Tachira is a difficult state for both sides. Its ex governor "El Cura" Calderon was ousted in 2000 under a cloud of electoral fraud favoring the chavista candidate, Blanco La Cruz, a coup monger of 1992 and a Chavez radical. Since then the state has fallen prey to the Colombian guerrilla, the kidnapping industry, the decrease in trade between Venezuela and Colombia and what not. The political struggle has never relented and Calderon is trying this time to come back with a vengeance. Many in Tachira do not like him but still will probably rally behind him as the best option to unseat Blanco La Cruz. Thus an atomized opposition is slowly decanting in favor of Calderon and it remains to be seen if this one rallied the troops or if Blanco La Cruz did manage to benefit from the misiones enough to overcome his poor record as a governor more interested in politics than in efficient administration. Though the fact that Tachira was the second highest state in SI vote percentage indicates that it stands a good chance to go to Calderon. Local polls show a dead heat. Again, the division within the opposition will be the cause of that loss. {back}

The Guayana states

Bolivar is an interesting case. The governor is an ex chavista, with a reasonable if questioned record, associated with the 1992 coups. But now he is running against Chavez in perhaps the only state that actually has benefited from the Chavez administration as it is loaded with state enterprises. Chavez, who has never seen a state enterprise he did not like, has kept them afloat with huge subsidies and thus has created a fake prosperity. The NO vote reflects this and makes the task even more difficult for the sitting governor in a state where cross voting is less likely. The dissidents on both sides are non factors though the chavista candidate does not have a hearty support from the base as he is considered too moderate for a state with militant union tradition. {back}

Delta Amacuro is a shoo in as the governor even benefits of the support of some of one of the opposition parties! In this rather backward and poor state, the opposition manages to split in 4 candidates, increasing even further the reelection chances of one of the two female governor of Venezuela. {back}

Amazonas is an indigenous state, far from everything, with the particularity of having its governor elections in a few months (terms have to be for 4 years, and the 2000 election was annulled). Still, chavismo should win easily there as it is pragmatically a pro-government state, no matter who is in charge in Caracas. If you add to this the pro Native-American rhetoric of Chavez, it is a safe state for him. {back}

The "Llanos" states

In Guarico the opposition has managed to set up a common front. But the local governor, a Chavez allied if not directly in Chavez party, has a reasonable administration record. Though his quite confrontational style has garnered him a lot of enemies. His administration is also considered corrupt. Still, it should remain in the Chavez camp without trouble, in particular when one sees the large NO vote which should compensate any crossover voting. {back}

In Barinas the Chavez clan has taken over. Nepotism and corruption are main complaints, but Chavez has spent lavishly. Chavismo dominates in spite of a poor administration by Chavez daddy, old and ineffective. In addition the opposition is divided so it is not helping its chances. {back}

Apure is an interesting case where an AD governor is now out of AD and supported by Primero Justicia. Both sides have failed in unifying candidacies so all is possible although it seems that the present governor and the ex pro Chavez governor should catch most votes. The opposition could retain that state, if barely, considering the large NO vote! {back}

Cojedes has the curiosity to have 4 chavista candidates and a perfect union within the opposition. But the actual governor seems to have gained most sympathies and all rests on how fractionated the chavista vote will remain. A difficult but not impossible pick for the opposition though its candidate is too linked to the past. Also, like most rural states, the misiones have improved chavismo chances, as seen from the NO vote. {back}

Portuguesa is the granary of Venezuela. It is also a state with a strong tradition of leftist parties who went easily over to Chavez but who also present him with a serious division this time around. "La Negra" Muñoz has not been a very convincing a governor and even with the backing of Chavez and a very high NO vote in August, finds herself on a tight rope as her left flank cannot be relied on. The opposition has managed unity around Colmenares, an ex governor that was pro Chavez in the days when the MAS supported Chavez. But chavismo who first supported Colmenares and then Muñoz is paying the price. Still, it is a state that should remain for Chavez, if barely. {back}

Zulia and the MidWest (Centro Occidente)

In Zulia the situation is clearer. Manuel Rosales has emerged as one of the strong leaders of the opposition as he has managed to sever his ties with the pre-Chavez era, even though he was AD. His strategy was in part to confront Chavez directly during the oil strike of 2002, appealing to strong regional sentiment. And his administration was not too bad either, though not shining. He is greatly helped by the chavista candidate, General Guttierez, whose claim to fame is to have jumped on board of the Pilin Leon tanker during the oil strike to arrest the striking crew. This high feat of revolutionary glory won him the Zulia candidacy though he is not from Zulia, a rather crucial defect in a very "regionalist" and proud state. He is seen as such a carpetbagger that he is rumored not to be able to find his way through Maracaibo streets. In spite of all of Chavez efforts he is still trailing badly at the polls, while the local chavistas fail to give him more than lip service support. The importance of Zulia, politically and ideologically for Chavez cannot be underestimated as he is threatening to put Rosales in jail for signing the Carmona decree while promoting one of the dirtiest campaign in recent memory. But independent minded Zulia is very difficult to manipulate as more than one Caracas politician found out. Zulia might end up becoming for chavismo the disaster that Caracas will be for the opposition, and a strong Rosales victory could make him the new opposition leader, with a 2006 window! {back}

Falcon has been a state very affected by the maelstrom of politics, in particular during the strike. It also has a significant chavista dissidence as an ex companion of Chavez coup in 1992, who after fighting with Chavez failed to return in his good graces. He is now running against the sitting governor, Montilla, also issued from the army barracks. Falcon is a particularly varied state, from desertic Paraguana to the humid cattle rich land of the Tucacas area. Somehow Montilla has managed to establish a strong leadership and is poised to take most of town halls from the hands of the opposition. As a very rural and disperse state the misiones have been very effective there in improving Montilla standing. Not to mention the divisions between the opposition. This is really a state where a united opposition might have made a difference and the chavismo dissidence is probably not enough to helpt it unseat Montilla. {back}

Lara is a state that could have gone to the opposition, surprisingly, in spite of a high NO vote, due to a rather disliked and ineffective chavista governor, Reyes Reyes. But an unsolvable division within the opposition ranks ensures a victory for the sitting governor. His meager success comes from whatever Chavez has brought to Lara and his, forced, association with the more successful mayor of Barquisimeto who represents more than a third of the votes, and who was "convinced" not to run for governor. The opposition division is a pity because ex governor Orlando Fernandez was a much better governor than Reyes Reyes. But the AD candidate, Mariano Navarro, has been intractable and remains in the race even though Orlando Fernandez is higher in the polls. As a result this division might even encourage a higher abstention thus sinking definitively the chances of the opposition even as the other minor candidates withdrew. On November first, it will be one of the harder explanations that AD will have to provide. {back}

Yaracuy, the home state of this blogger, is apparently complex. The governor, Eduardo Lapi, has run afoul from the opposition traditional leadership and is paying the price with a dissident candidacy backed to the outmost by AD and Copei who do not forgive him to have almost singlehandedly made them irrelevant in a rural state that they once controlled totally once. Not to mention that he become a nationally known leader when he became one of the members of the negotiating team late 2002. Caracas old pols do not fogive having to share TV sets with the natives. On the other hand Lapi benefits from the support of all the newer opposition forces, making Yaracuy a classic fight between old style politics and new style politics. However, in spite of the opposition division, Lapi is greatly helped by the chavista candidate who was probably the worst option available for chavismo. Gimenez was the mayor of La Independencia and his administration has been very criticized as too politicized, inefficient, rather corrupt and rife with nepotism and "friends", which bars him from criticizing Lapi for the same provincial sins. Thus, even if Lapi is perceived as an authoritarian, Chavez style, his efficient management of the state should allow him to repeat in spite of a hefty NO vote in August. {back}

PS: As this post has a significant amount of information, some being the "perception" of this blogger who cannot follow closely what goes on in every nook and cranny of this country, mistakes and omissions might have been made. But I am more than willing to correct them and add new info that readers might have. It is thus an "open post" that the reader might want to check back later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chavez to be sanctioned for illegal campaign activities

April's fool! Bwahahahahah!

Wait! We are in October!

Finally after months of campaign abuse someone at the CNE decided to raise a complaint (English). About time that they noticed!!!!! Maybe Sobella Mejias finally realized that after her friend the Zulia governor got such a trashing last Sunday...

But her late reactions must have had a slight effect since the CNE finally decided to open an "investigation".

Bwahahahah! Hahahahaha! (tears and sob due to heavy laughter).

Did Rodriguez listen to Chavez today in Yaracuy? Is he aware that this has been going for ever and that now at four days of the election it really does not matter much if he slaps a fine on Chavez wrist?

Does Rodriguez think that he is fooling ANYONE, from either side in Venezuela?

April's fool indeed!

Bwahahahahaha! Whahahaha! Cough! Cough! (writer passed out just as he hit the "publish" key)

Chavez in Yaracuy

And Governor Lapi closes his campaign

Local politics can be quite interesting. Today we got the visit of Chavez trying to improve the sagging chances of his designated governor to Yaracuy. He was supposed to come Tuesday but postponed at the last minute. As a result the scene selected for Photo-Op had to be moved, or so I was told, since Lapi had already scheduled long in advance the Avenida Caracas, the "grandiose" backdrop for all his closing rallies. Avenida Caracas is wide and steep which of course gives great takes for TV cameras…

So Chavez had to settle for Avenida Libertador in La Independencia, which is a decent backdrop too. This blogger who usually gives pics from this type of events must confess that this time, due to work obligations, messed up the different times for the different rallies and missed both of them! Still, he has a tale to tell.

Realizing that I had missed the Lapi meeting at 10 AM (I thought it was at 1 PM) I tried to make it to the Chavez meeting. However I knew that I had missed it when I heard a series of planes and helicopters zooming above my office. Chavez had landed, at tax payer expense.

I waited for a little bit and made it home realizing that I was already too late to get anywhere close of the rally stage. While having a very, very late lunch I watched the state TV which of course gave the whole event live. Well, I have to admit that the turnout was impressive for a 150 000 people town. But before pro Chavez readers cheer and anti Chavez readers weep, let me remind you that this is a provincial capital with only one single movie theater. Thus a visit by Chavez is like a visit by a rock star in Caracas: most go, and if they cannot go, they pay attention anyway. And if you doubt it, keep reading.

On my way home, I checked the radio stations and half of them where broadcasting the speech. That is, even some of the supposedly anti Chavez media were transmitting the speech as they knew all wanted to hear what Chavez had to say on Yaracuy, in Yaracuy. We were in the news and we were not going to miss it!

But not for all. Driving in front of Banco de Venezuela, one of the banks that manage the funds and payments for the misiones, there was a line, I kid you not, of at least 200 people, most wearing some red chavista insignia! Apparently it was more important for them to cash in than to go listen to the beloved leader… And some think that there is a real commitment from the people in populist regimes. Sigh!

After lunch I went to pay my phone bill (1). Chatting with the attendant she told me that this morning there was a stream of people going to the Avenida Caracas, to the Lapi happening. The turnout apparently was very impressive. At noon the tide reversed and the flow went toward the Libertador this time with red shirts. Busses also passed along the narrow street as the main thorough fare was closed by the Chavez stand. She told me that the chavista buses passing were from all around the neighboring states, even one Metro Bus from Caracas that had broken down and was being towed, window graffiti and all!!!! I imagine the Caracas commuters that will find it strange today that there are less metro bus on their line than usual. Some more inquiring with other folks that commute from the neighboring villages revealed that the highway entrances of San Felipe were chockfull of parked buses early this morning. For Lapi and for Chavez, all amiably parked together. The only difference was that the Chavez buses were also from next door states!

In other words, these rallies might bring out a lot of the natives, but when they include Chavez, they also come with groupies.

Eventually I made it home just to see the end of the speech. It was that long. And soon I could hear a lot of honking from buses stuck in what was probably a massive traffic jam… Oh well, I wonder how the Caracas visitors made it back with their bus at the shop.

Ah! I was forgetting! I did not hear the Lapi speech but unfortunately I did hear part of the Chavez speech. Lapi was of course accused of evil incarnate. Chavez listed all the minute successes of the misiones, and even pointed out the Cuban doctors corps that were attending the rally, all dressed up in white coats. Apparently Cuban doctors now are allowed/required to participate in Venezuelan politics. An interesting development. And Chavez promised us that after October 31 victory, the land redistribution will get into high gear. But he would negotiate first with the folks owning 40 000 idle acres to see if they would sell him some for the "poor". If not, he would send the army to "inspect" and find any possible code violations and then fine them to the hilt; and then force them to sell or be dispossessed. And some people wonder why folks are not investing in Venezuela besides the one in the oil industry. Personally I wonder who has 40 000 idle acres in Yaracuy.

To conclude, a little observation. Chavez was accompanied by: the education minister, the environmental minister, the "popular economics" minister, the communications minister, and, I think, one or two more ministers, none of them clergy. This to open a rehabilitated special education center. What the heck were doing all of these guys there? Don't they have work to do? Why must these operetta leaders travel with their permanent court?

But one thing was really good! Two major meetings almost met and as far as I can tell, San Felipe is at peace. And some wonder why I like it here in the provinces....

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(1) In Venezuela the mail system does not work so you must pay all your services at the bank or at the utilities offices. OR have a direct withdrawal system. I cannot do it with my phone because I rent.



The Complexity of Regional Elections in Venezuela

This oxymoronic title introduces my attempt at trying to paint as briefly as I can the diverse aspects of the regional elections in Venezuela. I will organize this in two parts:

The elements that shape these regional elections, discussed below

The predictions state by state, discussed in a subsequent post
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THE DETERMINANTS OF THE VENEZUELAN REGIONAL ELECTIONS

The chavismo set up

In most states Chavez has set up himself the candidates, and sometimes he also seems the one running the campaign. The reason is very simple: he wants governors, and mayors, that will follow strictly his orders. Chavez does not like decentralization as he thinks that being the "leader" of the revolution, "his benevolency" must be the sole provider of the "beloved" people. Governors are the people that mail the checks and take the blame.

Unfortunately for Chavez, the brief history of Venezuelan decentralization process has been long enough to convince a majority of the Venezuelan population that day to day problems are solved much better by local authorities than by some bureaucrat in Caracas. And that is affecting the pro Chavez candidates up to a point, in particular the ones that Chavez has picked out of nowhere to lead his troops. The case of Zulia where a military whose only claim to fame was taking the Pilin Leon tanker in January 2003 is a particularly daunting set back for Chavez as his candidate is still trailing almost 2 to 1!

But the authoritarian way to decide candidates by Chavez has other side effects. Chavismo is a rather heterochromatic alluvial compost of leftist movements, and, early on at least, right wing and democratic factors. Thus, in some locales the decisions of El Supremo have not been well received and "dissident" candidatures, usually to the left of the Chavez nominee, have sprouted. Their effect is hard to evaluate with polls as electors on this side of the spectrum are rather hard to reach, and rather secretive.

The referendum after shock

Winning, fraudulently or not, has been good for Chavez. Indeed, we are a country that loves to be with "the winner", deservedly or not. We root for Brazil at world soccer cup just to be able to shout "We won! We won!" Vicariousness is thy name!

This been said, we are also a country of cross voters. In my very own Yaracuy, a rather backward state some would say, Chavez won handily in 2000, but Lapi won handily his reelection trashing the pro Chavez candidate (who, admittedly, was a rather lousy candidate). The question is of course whether the August 15 afterglow will compensate the cross voting habit. Or even if the August 15 possible fraud might tarnish that Chavez advantage.

The convalescing opposition

The opposition never fully recovered from August 15. Nor would have that been possible in such a short time. Also, what was worse than losing was the lack of alternative strategies which left the opposition completely adrift. Eventually some steps were taken. The Coordinadora Democratica, CD, initiated its slow demise while the decisions were transferred to the local office holders, the ones that had to run their campaigns. A few more months and the local leadership would have been able to distance themselves from the failed CD effort on August. But as it is, it will have to do with October 31.

The electoral fraud debate

There are two debates actually. The first one is the debate on the August 15 fraud. This one unfortunately has not received all the support that it should have gotten, certain organization being more worried in negotiating some quota (or is that shreds?) of power with the thugs in charge. This ambiguity within the opposition has been deadly. No serious politician came out to say that the August 15 result was legitimate. But too many leaders were too comfortable in letting others take the brunt of the blame, or put up a weak defense of their case. The reasons are difficult to understand. Either there was fraud or not. If a political group is convinced that there was fraud but it is not willing to take action, what kind of messages does this send to the voter? An explanation of this contradiction is finally appearing.

The main issue of the present election is a direct consequence of the August 15 likely fraud, namely the fraudulent electoral registry, REP. The CNE has done its outmost to block investigation and revision. The opposition has made it, at least for a while, its sine qua non condition. This has aggravated the campaign problems and distressed the people strengthening a pro-abstention movement. It is easy to understand that with a fraud claim unresolved with an intransigent and arrogant CNE who does not even get its 5th member renewed, there is little trust in fair elections. So, why bother voting?

AD’s game

The reactions to the Tulio Alvarez report and his predictions that the opposition would lose at least half of the cities and districts it controls now just due to the REP irregularities, not mentioning the misiones, has finally brought the necessary clues to understand the games being played within the opposition.

Through August and September, the referendum numbers, whether clean or not, indicated one certain: if the opposition did not manage to unite in the critical districts Chavez candidates would win hands down. That electoral unity has been impossible to achieve and only in October, as the Alvarez report became a political reality, have some efforts been made to that effect. Why was unity, in the face of so much adverse evidence, so difficult to achieve?

The answer is AD who as the grand old party of sorts in Venezuela, the inventor of petro-populism, has been unable to change with the times. Even the Chavez disaster does not seem to have dented its arrogance and stubbornness. After the August debacle, an AD that denounced fraud on the 16, was one week after announcing that it would go to the elections as if nothing. AD has never been bothered by contradictions.

My speculation is that AD decided long ago that the country was perhaps against Chavez but that it would not go and expose itself anymore to unseat him. The momentum was definitely gone on August 16. If there is one thing that has characterized AD through its history is pragmatism and survival skills. They simply decided that Chavez was here for a few more years and that they better got ready for that time. The first thing to do was to become the main opposition party, preferably the only one as during the good old days of AD/Copei. No need for unity pacts, it was now more important to be the sole survivor than to take states away from Chavez. And Primero Justicia, PJ, was the main obstacle before that goal

As a result, PJ who would have done a more principled stand against the CNE and Chavez, realized that it would become the victim of both chavismo and the Adecos who share a profound dislike for the new brand of responsible politics that PJ embraces. PJ was thus forced to hit the campaign trail and try to avoid its early demise at the hands of wily and totally unscrupulous politicians, be them from AD or from chavismo.

The campaign as such

The campaign has become a struggle between AD and PJ, usually indirectly through allies. Everyday it becomes clearer that AD forced the issue on who will lead the opposition after October 31. And this will probably have devastating consequences for the opposition as a whole. In particular for the MAS, Copei and other minor forces from the past who quite often are forced into alliances with AD in the hope to preserve something of their past glories.

Chavismo is actually not being any wiser. The idea of using the opposition divisions to try to get all the states has actually weakened its cause. Political greed promoted internal divisions that are unresolved and that will come back to haunt Chavez after the 31, as the militant left is very upset with the chosen candidates. The specter of hegemony might have actually resulted in a slow re-motivation of the opposition. The talk of fraud is not good for chavismo either as some of its electors might decide not to go and vote since their candidate is certain to win.

The end result is a lackluster campaign. A few postcards.

  • a wicked and discredited CNE does not even put the pretense of fairness as it leaves Chavez do stuff for his candidates that would impeach him promptly in ANY civilized country
  • a CNE who for three weeks now has been giving us a 2 minutes cadena every hour in a futile attempt to convince the people that the very complex voting system they set up is "easy" to do
  • a CNE who puts his cadenas all the time except when Chavez campaigns live on the state TV
  • a congested and sweaty Chavez visibly upset at having to rescue all his candidates, feeling lonelier than ever, berating his humblest followers in public! Asking them to go away because they come to him with their grievances! (it is long gone the time wen Chavez accepted paper notes from his adoring crowds!)
  • a prostrated opposition who only reacted the second week of October when Chavez had been campaigning fast and furious since August 16
  • a very single march of a few thousand people when hundred of thousand hit the street on a whim
  • a chavismo that can only fill its rallies if Chavez attends

    and so many more images of a politically deadened country... The end of an era, for all the players.

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