Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Great moments in populism

Long time readers of this blog have become quite aware that Venezuela has been continuously ruled by populist governments since at least the early 70ies. In this respect Chavez administration is only the rightful, and worst, heir of that tradition that keeps bringing Venezuela further down in the scales of prosperity. Or how else could one explain that Venezuela from being at the top of the pack in the 50ies has now slid below most LatAm countries except a few such as Bolivia or Paraguay? Even with an oil barrel at 70 USD?

For those who still do not get what populism is, and how damaging to the structure of a country it is, yesterday little incident at a Chavez rally should help see the light.

There was a meeting of the "Comite de Tierras Urbanas", some administrative monstrosity who is trying to treat urban lands as if they were Agricultural AND Urban lands, in the spirit of the most demagogical of all Chavez programs, the artificially recreated version of "Los Sin Tierras", the landless. This is the organization who is trying to promote agriculture in some miserable urban parcels, just at the same time as the official state policy is to favor a return to the country side to plant manioc by the inhabitants of the shanty towns. But of course populism thrives in contradictions and one can even suspect that chavista officials would be dumbfounded if one would point out this amusing fact to them.

Where have I seen such type of scenes?

The meeting was yet another large propaganda show where people massively dressed in red are ferried and locked up in a sports arena and where the president gives interminable speeches while the crowd is duly chanting on cue. It is interesting to notice that after 7 years of glorious bolibananarian revolution Chavez still cannot pull out the gigantic Castro open air happenings in Havana.

There has been lately some changes in these staged events. Whether people become restless from being locked up for hours, they have started to chant more and more, interrupting more and more the beloved leader speeches. For "security" reasons nobody can leave once Chavez has arrived; but the real reason is that Chavez only arrives when TV shots are good enough with the crowds and people cannot leave to make sure that the TV pan remains convincing through the show. This I have from relatives and friends who attended, almost forcibly, such events. The revolution is losing its spontaneity every day.

Well, yesterday, Damarys, a woman living in the streets with 4 children, braved the security ring of Chavez to climb to the podium to ask help from the beloved leader. The beloved leader was not amused, even if he is the only one to blame from such actions. Indeed early in his term when he benefited from real affection and not only of bought love, he encouraged people to come and hand him their petitions directly. This populist measure quickly backfired as gigantic lines formed at the Miraflores Palace doors with people holding all sorts of letters and folders to be given "personally" to Chavez. This "cour des miracles" followed Chavez everywhere, giving rise to many embarrassing moments duly filmed on TV, such as people crying disconsolately because some soldier refused to take their lovely written plea for help.

So Damarys was chastised and passed to someone else and Chavez stated a warning to the audience who showed us more than what we would have liked to see about his true nature and true goals. Here, some of his words with the translation in red as to the real meaning. Of course he was careful enough to coat all in his paternalismopopulism that has become his trade mark.

If anyone is going to climb up screaming and giving notes, I am suspending this event and we will do it another time. If you do not play by my rules then I am not playing anymore. I will give stuff to you when I decide to give stuff to you. You better wait and behave if you want to receive stuff.

Any individual must be received but I must take care of the event. Hey, this event id to promote me and my plans. Bug off!

The stage of Chavez as a governor or mayor, that he must take care of all, is for the history books now. I have bigger fish to fry now. You gave me all your votes, I control everything, bug off!

There must be discipline in this events. It is all about me, deal with your problems elsewhere. Bug off!

[Damarys attitude was dangerous] because I am under death threat, the security that surrounds me is on the alert. Look how important I am! And it is there to also protect me from you, little pests. Bug off!, bug OFF!

Or some other forms of interpretation but the reader will get the point.

It is fascinating to see that the monster of neediness that Chavez has created is now coming back to bite his ass just as he thinks so highly of himself, that his only mission is now to buy good will with the oil that belongs to Damarys and not to him. But such is populism when it reaches extremes: paternalism becomes arrogance and we finally all know what the rulers really think of the people.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Preachers: Robertson and Jackson do Venezuela

I was trying to stay away of this subject, but no… After the nefarious words of Pat Robertson a few days ago, Chavez serves us Jesse Jackson as a honored guest of the National Assembly, taking the opportunity to give him the Simon Bolivar order.

But before I get going again on this topic, let me state something which will make things clearer. Jesse Jackson is to the Democratic Party of the US what Robertson is to the Republican Party. Each one in their own inimitable way (mercifully!) suffer from credibility problems, each one is definitely a pain in the neck to their political "allies".

Pat Robertson

To say that his words were totally out of place is becoming repetitious. However Chavez can be very thankful to Robertson. The blunder of this one has come at a perfect time for Chavez when some of his recent international forays had tarnished his image, when the US press tended to be less and less favorable to his persona. With a single totally stupid declaration, Robertson has done more for Chavez image in the US than years of paid propaganda through the Venezuelan embassy, the VIO and other paid agents mentioned through this blog history. Chavez debt to Pat is huge and he should leave a significant offering at the Virginia Beach collection plate. Actually, the announced intentions of suing Robertson and the expressed wish to deport him to Venezuela as a terrorist is even more fodder for both of their popularity. Meanwhile of course we do not discuss Venezuela true problems.

Jesse Jackson

His visit is not much more beneficial to the Venezuelan people. He came under the excuse to give a speech to the Venezuelan National Assembly to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech of his mentor (who I always wondered what he thinks of Jesse up high in Heavens)

He did give a good speech at the National Assembly, urging Venezuela to "be strong":

Venezuela, be strong. Wake up. Eradicate poverty. Venezuela, be strong. Provide free medicine to the people in need. Reduce children mortality rates. Lead the fight against drugs. You have to be morally strong.
Unfortunately one could not tell if this was pious wishing, an approval of Chavez actions, or a general human rights policy statements. It seems that actually his was more of a ringing endorsement of Chavez policies (while helping Jackson's own anti Bush agenda). For example reverend Jackson had plenty of time to even go to PDVSA (also looking to fill up his own collection plate?[1]) but he did not find time to meet with opposition representatives (where there are a few African American ones, I will hurry to point out!). In fact his timing to land on the country was when opposition marchers of a few hours ago where still at local hospitals trying to mend the wounds inflicted upon them by chavista storm troopers under the complacent eyes of the Caracas Police. Gee, I recall from my US years the screams of indignation of Jesse Jackson on such similar US events. But I suppose that even for African American US "leaders", double standards also apply when looking at the "natives" funny habits.

Freshly decorated preacher with the other phony preacher.
Pictures are indeed worth a million words.



May the good Lord protect us from US preachers!!!!

[1] In fact PDVSA and Chavez have been announcing programs to help the US poor (probably making already a much better living than Venezuelan poors). The question of course is who will benefit REALLY of that help? The poor? The Rainbow Coalition directors and campaign organizations? Maybe the IRS might want to have a look at it as I want my Venezuelan oil money to reach the poor in the US, not funky preachers.

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Ps: this post does not mean that we are not concerned about the US and Hurricane Katrina. We are very concerned in Venezuela and we have full TV coverage. Best wishes for those in the middle of the storm, we are with you.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fairness in the media

Makes you wonder. I, for one, would really want to know what the heck is going on. I think that this text of Alek goes quite well with the text below from Jorge. Different angles, same manipulations?

Mistaken subliminal message from Radio Nacional de Venezuela?

Radio Nacional de Venezuela used to be the most serious radio station in the country, with almost non-stop classical music, interrupted only by the news that usually were given in a very professional, unbiased manner.

Things seem to have changed if I have to judge from the RNV website that is now far from being unbiased. This is not surprising since the Chavistas have taken over all the government media and have transformed them into propaganda outlets.

Imagine for a single moment a PBS website totally devoted to spreading the news about the government of president George Bush. Multiply that by ten and you’ll start to get an idea of how serious is the Chavista penetration in Venezuela official news media. Moreover, there is not just Radio Nacional de Venezuela, but also Venezolana de Television, the MINCI, Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias. VIVE, not to mention the fact that each ministry and government entity seems to have its own news agency.

There are so many official news sites that scanning them all is not a short task. Fortunately for bloggers and journalists, they usually have a single line of thought so that it is easy to pick what is the official party line, so after reading one site one knows already what is presented in all the others.

There are, however, particular features that characterize some sites. The MINCI, used to have the now disappeared “Notas en positivo” that I liked to cite in my posts, and now RNV contains a very interesting opinion section. Typically, the editor of that section offers some hot topics to discuss. When one enters the topic, there is a written “unbiased” summary that introduces the issue, followed by a request for opinions. To post his opinion, the reader has to leave his name, email and telephone number (optional) before the post can be considered for publication.

I do not know if the opinions are truthful or if they have been handpicked by the editors, but I find them interesting because, one way or another, they may provide an idea of what Chavistas think about the particular issue being discussed.

I recently got interested in the discussion on the erroneous Recall Referendum results that appeared on the CNE book. The topic, called “el gráfico de la discordia” (the chart of disagreement) refers to the chart of page 118 indicating that the YES option won by 59.25% whereas the NO had just 40.75% of the vote.

The second paragraph of the introduction to that topic can be translated as follows:

“In the Recall Referendum, that was call by sectors of the opposition, according to the norms established in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, citizens participated in record numbers, when 10 million people voted in one of the most extensive journeys, which gave as a final result that 59.25% of the votes supported the NO option (that ratified the President) and 40.75% voted for the YES (promoted by the now dissolved rightwing coalition “Coordinadora Democrática”), values that were later ratified by the OAS and the Carter Center”.

So, you read it, Radio Nacional de Venezuela, the official Radio of the Government of Venezuela writes in its web page that the results of the Referendum were 59.25% (NO) versus 40.75% (YES).

Now, what is wrong with that statement? Well, actually the official results published by the CNE were not 59.25% vs 40.75% as claimed by RNV but rather 59.10% vs 40.64%. Those are the results published in the official page of the CNE.

Is that an innocent mistake? I think not.

I think this is a deliberate but subtle way to induce the reader to believe that the chart depicted on page 118 of the CNE book represents a simple inversion of a YES by a NO. That inversion would have been a silly but understandable mistake that can easily silence those that wonder if the results given by that chart could be the real results of the Revocatory Referendum.

Unfortunately for you, dear RNV editors, the chart on page 118 may or may not be mistaken, but we are 100% sure that if there was an error, it was not a simple inversion of a YES by a NO. So please stop the subliminal propaganda.

Funny how Chavistas seem to have a problem with numbers! There is always a mistake of some sort, in particular if they are electoral numbers!

Jorge Arena.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Death by asphyxia in Venezuela

To all the diseases that we once thought were all but eliminated in Venezuela but who in this past 6 years seem to be making a come back (Malaria, e.g.), add a new one: death by asphyxia in Venezuelan public hospitals. Yesterday the big news was that in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday four people died of asphyxia at the Magallanes de Catia hospital as the supply of Oxygen run out. A media firestorm erupted. One side blamed the victim and the suppliers of gas and the other side blamed the total anarchy of Caracas public hospitals administration and the huge debt accumulated by the state to its doctors and providers; these can only be expected to hold the hat for so long until they just cannot provide their services anymore.

There is no point in arguing this case as the guilt of the state is only too obvious, such incidents multiplying fast as the collapse of the radiotherapy services in public hospitals reported in recent weeks demonstrates. It seems that all intentions and cash go for Barrio Adentro, the public relations program touted urbi et orbi for propaganda purposes while the hospitals infrastructure and services keep degrading. Unfortunately for Chavez, his propaganda tool of Barrio Adentro, for all its possible virtues, cannot go much more past some aspirin and simple stitches: it is a basic primary health care and it cannot perform the complex functions of hospitals, or even “half way” hospitals such as our “ambulatorios”.

But let’s look at the government excuse of budgetary constraints. Two characters to examine.

Barreto, mayor at large of Caracas, claims that the monies are not coming through (for which declaration he surely will be reprimanded severely!) This admission of how the Venezuelan budget has become Chavez personal purse where the states and cities cannot even get the share imposed by law shows the evil of centralized power. But even if we were more than willing to grant Barreto this excuse, the way he uses the monies that reach him are simply abject. Last July Barreto was involved in some totally un-transcendental dispute about the true name and foundation date of Caracas. This made him order a few paid advertisements in Caracas newspapers, including even a FULL FOUR PAGES in El Nacional, on August 2 if memory serves me well. I regret that I have not saved it or taken a picture to use it today as it could not be found in El Nacional. However Miguel did send me this picture attached which shows already a half a page paid add. By the way you can observe just by the composition the pamphlet nature of the add.

This picture by itself cost, I am told, 6 million bolivares. The four pages which were at national level cost at least as much. And there were more, in more papers. So, let’s not be nitpickers and say that all his little campaign for massaging Barreto pseudo-intellectual ego cost Caracas town hall 15 million. I am told that the oxygen bottle that were missing cost 400 000 each. A simple calculation shows that Barreto’s ego trip could have bought 37 oxygen tanks. How many people could be saved? The reader can draw its own conclusions.

But some might say that I am unfair with Barreto, the mayor of such a large metropolitan area cannot be bothered with oxygen tanks inventories. So let’s look at Asia Villegas, the one in charge of medical supplies in Caracas town hall. That woman, instead of looking into how many Band-Aids were needed for Caracas hospitals did manage to pick up a feud with the US embassy. The reason? She was refused a DIPLOMATIC visa to go to the US for some women’s right conference. The embassy quickly pointed out that since she was not a national government employee she was asked to justify the reasons to demand a special visa when she could apply for a normal visa like this blogger would do. She preferred to make a big stink out of it, probably considering that as the sister of the ambassador to Mexico and of the star anchor man of the state TV, VTV, she should be treated like royalty. Such a revealing glimpse into the mind of chavismo!

There is no conclusion needed, the reader’s intelligence is enough to decide.

PS: This post although written by me has been researched and discussed by Miguel and myself. It is thus signed by both of us and will later appear in Miguel’s blog. The outrage must denounced in a single voice. You are invited to copy and paste in your own site and add your signature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A tale of two preachers: Pat Robertson and Chavez

Normally I would not bother writing about this type of story but I have received so many mails on that that I feel obliged to post a note.

Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson, of the 700 Club fame, of the 1988 presidential run adventure, has asked for someone to shoot Chavez. I read somewhere else that one of his arguments is that since Chavez claims everywhere that the US is trying to take him down ,well, "we" might as well do it.

This is in a way hysterical. After all, Chavez who has become a preacher himself, spitting as much fire and brimstone as Pat Robertson in his younger days, is just collecting his verbal due from another preacher who apparently takes all of Chavez speeches against the US as true. Some of his very own medicine?

The vice, Jose Vicente Rangel, of course jumped on the issue making a fool of himself claiming that Robertson, an has-been, is direct evidence of US terrorism, or some such nonsense. Well, Mr. Vice, Robertson might be to Bush what the Tupamaros are to Chavez when they shout against the US. Should Bush demand that the Tupamaros be arrested for terrorism? Or that the "youth" that put the US on trial a few days ago should be called upon their terrorist words? Gimme a break!

Should we give any importance to Pat Robertson words? None at all. He already got too much exposure, and he is embarrassing greatly the White House who had to come out quickly to dismiss his words. After all he is the man that called for hurricanes to hit Florida when Disney granted equal partner benefits to its homosexual employees . In my book, Chavez, Jose Vicente and Pat are birds of a feather. When you keep shouting the extremist line all the time, well, you are bound to get an echo.

'nuf written!

PS: just for the record. I do not want Chavez dead. I want him alive and put on trial for all the hurt he has done to Venezuela since 1992, for all the people that died due to his reckless actions, for all the sick people that did not get good health care because of all the money he squandered around the world and at home, for all the corruption that he has ignored, if not blessed, past and present regimes included.

Note added that evening: In Alo Ciudadano catching up with the news I was pleased to hear that all of Venezuela condemned the stupid declarations of Pat Robertson. Furthermore it seems that there is some weird maneuvering in the CBN web page between a report on Venezuela that was never aired and today's declarations of Robertson. Even better, apparently Robertson might have broken a federal law or two. So we might get at least something good out of that ridiculous episode: Robertson might get shut up!

Monday, August 22, 2005

The way we are

I have been distracted by many side issues and I have thus missed the “commemoration”, to give it a name, of the Recall Election of one year ago. There is really nothing to commemorate or celebrate. And I do not think that it would be foolish to claim that it is true for at least 90% of Venezuelans: we are not better off than what we were a year ago. Some might not agree but I would like to point out a few things that any serious observers would be hard pressed to deny:

  • the so called Venezuelan pseudo-miracle is due almost uniquely to high oil prices, high enough that they are able to mask an oil production drop while sustaining and expanding our tropical banana version of welfare state
  • importation of goods have risen by half, putting to rest the theory of “desarollo endogeno”; if the malls are again full of goodies it is due to the government allowing and subsidizing imports through considerable increases in the public sector wages, while private sector wages lack behind, a situation at the antipodes of true economic growth
  • a full year of “peace” has only brought us a Mercal network for distribution of subsidized food mostly bought over seas in a totally unaccountable fashion while local production keeps dropping (we have half of the industries as in 1998, we produce less milk and meat today than what we did in 1998)
  • the country is literally falling apart, be it its roads or its hospitals while no major infrastructure project, all launched or projected pre 1998, has been inaugurated or has even shown “normal” progress in its works
  • Vargas refugees are still living as refugees, while Venezuela keeps giving money away and even building houses in Cuba
  • the country is nowhere closer to reconciliation event though polls and electoral results would make the casual observer think
  • crime is as rampant as ever while corruption is vigorously feeding a minority
  • death penalty exists as strong as ever in Venezuelan jails
  • and more, much more
All documented extensively in this blog, El Universal, Miguel’s work and so many other sources, free or not, but of course not in any governmental channels where all is rosy and fine. Indeed, the imposing amount of advertising made by the government on its state media, and the now intolerable amount it forces on the private one, can only speak of a government trying to hide how stalled, or even bad, things are in so many sectors. Even “cadenas” seem to increase in frequency again, in spite of the Gag law.

In other words we are living in a bubble, inflated by high oil prices, where only some sectors of the economy show some haphazard growing strength while the people simply try to regain a semblance of a normal life.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Two Tough contests

Note of the author: because this is an article about a contest, I do not want to give away the names of the winners too early in the text. For this reason, most of the references that I traditionally include as hyperlinks are cited at the end.

The other day I was discussing with some Venezuelan friends about who they thought was the worst figure in the Chavista government. I am aware that the term “worst” is a bit subjective. It depends on which measure is used to assess “badness”. One could interpret it as the one figure that has been most damageable to the country, or the most incompetent, or the one that uses his/her power in the worst way. So there are many definitions to pick the “worst” figure but, regardless of the definition, the contest is indeed quite tough because the competition is very stiff.

The Chavista government is indeed rich in figures that are incompetent, arrogant and cynic, that have damaged the country permanently and that are unusually vulgar, even for the low standards of Venezuelan politicians.

Attorney general Isaias Rodriguez and Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel were really popular among my friends, and I must admit that they are hard to beat. And who could be indifferent to the charms of Assembly members Tascon or Iris Varela (1) (R5)? But, after some thoughts, I picked two different candidates.

I picked them because of their arrogance, striking even among all the other Chavistas. They systematically forget what it means to be a mayor representative of a democratic institution. They perform their role as if the institutions they are in were their own, with total disregard for anybody that is not identified with their party and their views. But, among all, I picked them because they have two key positions that are the foundation of any democratic system and their lousy job as keepers of the democratic way will make an impact for generations to come.

My first runner up is Chavez’s major puppet in Congress. I am aware of being a bit harsh because everybody in the current government is Chavez’s puppet, but this is a very important puppet. My first runner up uses the thin government majority in congress shamelessly; he does not even understand what it means to respect the voice of the minority, even within his own party. When a law has to be passed because Chavez wants it badly, like the Civil code modification or the Central Bank law, he asks for a blind vote and does not even admit a discussion within his own caucus, let alone the representatives of the very important opposition (R1,R2,R5).

So, my first runner up is definitely Nicolas Maduro, the president of the National Assembly.

My winner is, in my opinion, the most intelligent Chavista in the current government. One may argue that that is not a very difficult achievement given the kind of government figures that are running the country. As we say in Venezuela, “en el pais de los ciegos, el tuerto (2) es rey” (in the country of the blind, the one eyed is king). But my winner is no “tuerto”, he has both eyes and he knows how to use them. No wonder Chavez has chosen for him what is probably the most important position in his government. One may not like him, but the guy can think.

He transformed a vibrant democracy where people believed in their system into the twilight zone we have now in which nobody has any trust in the voting process. A twilight zone in which people see the abstention as the only way to protest what is happening in Venezuela. He did it by the sheer use of his arrogance and probably, his professional knowledge (3). When the opposition raised doubts about the validity of the results of the Revocatory Referendum of August 2004, he systematically refused to provide the voters with the only proof that the system still worked: the manual counting of all the ballot boxes. When Sumate claims that articles 95 and 106 of the Ley Organica del Sufragio have not been respected, he just disregards Sumate claims and says that Sumate may have confused the law with a law in the United States. When Sumate indicates that the electronic notebooks compromise the secrecy of the vote, he disregards it again.

Why do I say he is the most intelligent Chavista of the bunch? Because his strategy is brilliant:

1.- Stand in your position and forget the impartiality that the keeper of the most sacred democratic process should have.

2.-Disregard complaints and public opinion to discourage opposition voters.

3.-When necessary, accuse the opponents of the same ailments of which you are being accused.

So, it is with great amazement that I recently read that he claimed that Venezuela’s current electronic voting system was the most secure of the world and attacked the “cheating” of previous governments that used manual counting (R3,R4). That is brilliant because Sumate is asking for manual counting to insure that Venezuelans trust their system again.

Sumate is his pain in the neck (R6,R7,R8, R9). So by attacking manual counting as a cheating system, he not only wants to pass as the champion of transparency but also attacks Sumate in its quest for clean elections.

So, my winner is definitely my “tocayo” (4) Jorge Rodriguez, president of the CNE.

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At the end of this discussion, I asked another question to my friends.

“And, what is the Chavista that you like the most?”

They looked at me as if I were an extraterrestrial. It was the classical question that could only had one answer. In fact, they unanimously said

“none!”

I insisted and they kept telling me that there was absolutely no one in the government they could agree with or think good about. I do not accept defeat too easily, so, in the end I changed the question:

“OK, maybe I should not be asking about the chavista that you like the most but rather about the one that you hate the least… ”

They thought very hard about it and one of them, the most virulent anti-Chavez of the group, jokingly came up with this very surprising answer:

“Chavez!”

Even as a joke, I jumped from my seat in disbelief. He added:

« Why not? Remember, Jorge, En el pais de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey »

They meant that the Chavistas are so bad, that, ironically, Chavez himself might be the best of the bunch.

I have been thinking about his answer for a while and found out that I profoundly disagree with my friend. This has been exactly the strategy Chavez has been having lately, his government is so bad that, for his followers, he is a saint that has to put up with those very inefficient ministers. And, for his enemies, his government is so bad that he stands out as the best chavista.

Sorry Hugo, but I am not fooled that easily. You are bad, really bad. I am even tempted to move down Jorge Rodriguez to second place but I want to remain loyal to my original understanding of the term “chavista figures” (that excludes Chavez).

Call me a purist. I told you noneles that this was a difficult contest.

And as for Jorge Rodriguez…

My dear tocayo, in my mind, you are second only to Chavez himself. And, by the way, all my condolences for the ugly tricks that the “mano peluda” (hairy hand) (5) was doing with your book. But you know, tocayo, that will teach you a very important lesson :

When you are the author of a book, YOU SHOULD READ IT FIRST!

Jorge Arena.

(1) Iris Varela is known for some amazing declarations like the infamous “porque nos da la gana” referring to the fact that even with a very thin majority in Congress, the Chavistas will pass any law, no matter how absurd or unconstitutional, “porque les da la gana” (because they feel like it).

(2) In colloquial Venezuelan Spanish a “Tuerto” is a person that lost one eye.

(3) Interestingly, Jorge Rodriguez is a psychiatrist.

(4) Also in colloquial Venezuelan Spanish, people with the same given name are called “tocayos”.

(5) In Venezuela people often refer to a “hairy hand” when unexplicable things happen at the political level.

Articles and references:

(R1)“Maduro sin metro”

(R2)“Otra vez el Codigo”

(R3)“Rodriguez: no hay sistema electoral tan seguro como el de Venezuela”

(R4)“Jorge Rodriguez: credibilidad del CNE aumenta 6%”

(R5)Tal Cual 22/6/05 page 3 “Porque nos da la gana”

(R6)« Estamos haciendo algo importante con Sumate : la estamos ignorando »

(R7)« Sumate introdujo ante el TSJ recurso contencioso electoral contra el CNE »

(R8)« El 7 de Agosto no habra elecciones limpias »

(R9)« CNE confia en decision favorable en Sala Electoral » El Nacional, July 22, 2005, A1.

(R10) “CNE : libro sobre RR tiene erroes, omisiones, mentiras y tergiversaciones”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New French blog on Venezuela

Sometimes it takes the eye of the accidental tourist to cast a new look on some given Venezuelan scenes. Please, welcome Victor Bruley and his great pictures on Venezuela and chavista paraphernalia.

Favoritism in the news, even when reporting tragedy in Venezuela

Yesterday there was a tragic plane crash in the Perija/Machiques area of Venezuela. 160 people died, all passengers being French tourists from Martinique who chartered that plane to go visit Colombia and Panama.

Since the crash was in Venezuela, of course Venezuelan media here the first ones on the spot. But as I found last night, access to the crash site was restricted according, apparently, to how close to Chavez your boss is.

Since it was a French tragedy, I watched last night on cable the French international broadcast of TV5. I was aghast to observe that all long ditance shots where carrying the Globovision logo. However all the wreckage scenes were "exclusives" from VIVE TV, the pro Chavez network founded sometime in 2004. I would be very interested to know how cvome the VIVE crew coudl film the close up it filmed and how come Globovision and RCTV could only show images from afar. There is no morbity here, just a question on how come some media seem to be more equal than others.

A translation

Michel Garcia has honored this blog by translating the long letter to the opposition leadership that I wrote a few days ago. The translation into Spanish can be found here, and I hope it will circulate in order to stimulate discussion.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Delirium tremens in Venezuela?

Quo non ascendet?

On August 15 1805 legend has it that Simon Bolivar swore on some Roman ruins that he would fight until death to free America from European yoke. Or was that Caracas from Spain? Nobody really knows for sure as it was only reported decades after the death of Simon Bolivar, by the only alleged eye witness, Simon Rodriguez, to someone else who waited a few years until saying it so himself. But no reference of this scene in Bolivar’s own hand writing.

It does not matter: it is a tall tale worth exploiting and as a child I remember cartoon books on Bolivar with a dashing young Simon swearing in Rome, with romantic ruins in the background. Very Goethe.

Nobody dwelling much on the fact that to be traveling as a tourist in 1805 Rome one had to be rather rich, in addition of adventurous. Which of course speaks of the high class background of one who these days some would love to pass as the first Marxist in history.

One of those who could not resist to have his little own Roman holiday was El Supremo. But it did not work out, probably after somebody told him that Rome in August 15 was not the very best place where to go and do campaign as only carloads of Japanese tourists would be there to welcome him. Add to it the expensive youth festival and a rather pitiful electoral showing on Sunday 7 for somebody hoping to gain 10 million a year form now, and Chavez decided to do his own little Monte Sacro party at home.

So, taking advantage of adulating and well paid youth hanging around in Caracas streets, courtesy of Venezuelan petrodollars, Chavez had his little party at he Panteon church hill in lieu of some Roman hill. At least he had the remains of Bolivar a few feet away from the podium.

But the honors really were not going to be for Bolivar. In his speech (1) Chavez announced to probably a few bemused faces that he was planning to do better than Bolivar, that he would not plow the sea and retire late enough to make sure that his work would be accomplished. In short, Chavez will lead personally the fight to vanquish the US imperialism, the worst that ever existed on earth, about to commit genocide on who knows what. You got to love that free use of such burdened words as genocide and imperialism: in his supreme ignorance of history recent speeches seem to indicate that Chavez has decided that it would be simply better to rewrite it.

I suppose that in some deranged minds US imperialism is worse than, say, the Holocaust or the Gulag. Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that there is indeed a relation between Bagdad and Buchenwald (as my fingers just hurt typing this blasphemy). But when one reads that Venezuela is buying bad Ecuadorian debt, one is allowed to ask the following question: “and what about Venezuelan imperialism?”

In aeternum

Unfortunately it seems that Chavez is getting ready to stay in office until now 2030. at which time he would be 75 years old. So conceivably sometime along the way he could pull a Castro and push the envelope until 2035 or later. There is already talk of 9 year presidential terms and unlimited reelections. Probably with Rodriguez directing the farce all along, vis comica at the CNE

Of course, the real question here is how come someone can think of himself as so indispensable? Even the longest “serving” tyrants of our history were more careful with appearances. Guzman Blanco retired for a while to France before coming back. Gomez did put puppet presidents, and even left the country without a president for a little while. But now El Supremo is shamelessly planning an “until death does us part”. If there were ever an opportunity for people to start wondering about Chavez good intentions and metal balance, well, that is the one. Quosque tandem at Miraflores?

Sustine et abstine

Indeed this new development is quite worrying. I think that Chavez is smart enough to realize that not only his words are silly, but that they spread unnecessary alarm here and abroad. Not because it is necessarily a bad thing to have a president for life if he were really doing a good job, but someone who already survived a Recall Election with 40% of the people truly opposing his stay cannot possibly assume 2030 as a dead line, even more after last Sunday not even half of his folks bothered going to vote in spite of all his entreaties and CNE cheating. Castro does not seem to have such problems when he calls for elections: he gets his 100% participation and yes. So, what’s the deal?

Perhaps that braggadocio is actually a way to pretend to ignore what happened last Sunday. A betrayal of his subconscient? Or actually an announcement of things to come? Meanwhile we might as well get ready for even wilder speeches to come as we are reaching a few bicentennial events.

(1) Special treat today: all links to articles in English!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Venezuela news roundup: real cheap politics and electoral fraud again

A roundup? You mean there were other news besides the Sunday election commentary?

Well, yes, there was other news, including information on possible electoral fraud. Thus in no particular order as all the news are equally bad.

The DEA is out

President Chavez decided to sever ties with the US Drugs Enforcement Agency. One at first would wonder what would be the interest of Venezuela in breaking up with the DEA, which acts conjointly with all sorts of anti drug traffic agency. But apparently they were spying or something. No kidding... Of course the DEA is spying everywhere, or how else do you think they can catch drug traffickers? But soon the US announced that the visa was revoked to 3 National Guard officers (rumors are that they are actually involved in drug trafficking themselves). The reader can draw its own conclusions, this blogger limiting itself to think aloud about the continued decomposition of the Venezuelan army.

Do not miss the take of Manuel Caballero on "Narcochavismo" today!

The US is on trial at the "Youth Festival"

While commentators where wondering about the Sunday results the Youth and Students festival was inaugurated. This left over from the communist party better days turned out as expected, a silly crusade against the US. Of course, it was disguised first as some affair to fight for peace and anti globalization. But that would have carried the progressive and democratic veneer of the Porto Alegre Forum. No qualms here to shift to an all out attack on the US. In the country of the benevolent leader that sank around 50 USD per day per attendee (according to the National Assembly "extra budgetary credit"), all is allowed as long as his image is glorified, with Castro's along but Bush/US vilified as mush as possible. In a week where we learnt that HIV medicines are short and that the public hospitals have asked private clinics to help with radiography services as all the ones in the public sector are out of order, a simple calculation shows that the government has sunk at least an admitted 9 millon USD in a festival which gave us the following highlights:
  • Revolutionary youth of the world shopping at fancy Caracas malls electronic stores
  • Revolutionary Cuban young women shopping for soap and shampoo in downtown Caracas
  • Revolutionary concerts free for attendees. Local kids that wanted to go also (there was plenty of room in some of those concerts) where not allowed in
  • A mock trial against Imperialism (a.k.a. as the United States of America) where all the evidence against the US 200 years of imperialist career was presented. Interestingly the accusatory part was Eva Golinger, US attorney who made a specialty of accusing Venezuelan opposition figures for not even a fraction of what she did against her country today. But the US is a democracy and Venezuela has ceased to be one. I am not sure if Ms. Golinger realizes how disgraced she came out today.
  • An hysterical 12 year old Cuban kid who had been brain washed and who broke at least a dozen of Venezuelan laws and regulations with his speech live on state TV. The kid words were so incendiary that Globovision had to "beep" them, but they made it live on VTV who, we are sure, will not be molested by the state regulatory agencies (1).
  • And who knows how many "cadenas" for El Supremo inspiring words.
All of this duly documented in Venezuelan papers, including moderately pro Chavez Ultimas Noticias who probably could not believe its own ears and eyes (2). Plus the mock trial on the festival web site for Eva whereabouts in her Caracas Rose starring role

Electoral fraud

Friday night on Globovision we had Alfredo Keller declaring that his vote was not reflected in the table where he voted, according to the CNE web page. Miguel reports today with his juicy comments that in addition of the extraordinary number of null votes, the CNE admitted that results were erroneously reported on the CNE web page. Today we read the interview of Tulio Alvarez where he comes right out to say that the August 7 elections were fraudulent. Thus the numbers of votes, the abstention, the results, are all meaningless. The only thing that is true is the empty voting stations so amply reported everywhere while we are still waiting for the documented evidence for voting stations with long voting lines that "forced" the CNE to extend voting hours for three hours. All serious observers concur to suspect that these three hours where part of the fraud.

But the biggest fraud was that the CNE accepted the "morochas" of chavismo allowing basically the double vote of chavismo. If we count the null votes (amazing by themselves, read Miguel) we find out that with about 30% of the votes Chavez party get about 60% of the seats at stake. With its allies it gets about 80% while its dissidence is spoiled of its few seats and end up rioting in the streets. But a deal must have been reached as the Tupamaros rioting last week have announced that they were going back into the fold, that there was no fraud. Sure, guys, suddenly you saw the light... The reader again can draw it own conclusions.

But we are left with a few questions that need to be answered by the CNE, no that it would help them greatly at this point as their reputation is pretty much shot in both camps.
Why the voting prolongation? How come there is NO HARD EVIDENCE at this point that there was a need to keep voting stations open three more hours? How come you knew that there was voting lines through the finger print machines which supposedly do not communicate with the CNE during voting hours? Was the CNE electronically linked to voting stations in spite of your promises? Were you again monitoring who was voting for whom and where and when?

Why so many Null votes? Why the automated system with Smartmatic, that cost us a fortune and still gives us 17% null, huge delays in reporting, and bad reporting anyway? (Do not miss a new great investigative reporting by Alek Boyd on the cheats at Smartmatic and how US electoral districts would be well advised before trusting their electronic votes to such people!)
And many more questions that could be asked, but the reader surely will consider this enough to draw more conclusions. By the way Sobella, how long until you quit the CNE? Or must this blogger decide once and for all that you are actually an active accomplice in the forgeries of the Rodriguez sleaze team?

=== === === === === ===
(1) Venezuelan laws forbid the appearance of kids at political events. In addition, the new "gag" law forbids obscenity and diverse bad languages during kid TV hours, hours when that particular "pionerito" pronounced his hysterical words. This is a judicial no-brainer, but of course, I advise people not to hold their breath waiting for the sanctions.

(2) Ultimas Noticias and El Nacional reported on the HIV drugs deficiency (subscription only, as Tal Cual, sorry!). One of my friends taking them confirmed to me that indeed gaps are now frequent and CD4 monitoring deficient. But he considers himself lucky as he has not been without drugs for more than a week though it happened more than once. He does not know whether he is getting the real thing or Cuban generics. The collapsed radiation system has been extensively reported, in particular by Tal Cual. Again I have a relative on a long waiting list for anti tumor drugs. He will get radition AFTER the chimiotherapy. Hopefully things will work better then. How many pounds of HIV drugs can be bought and how many radiation reactors can be fixed with 9 million USD?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Open letter to the Venezuelan opposition

Any election, no matter how crooked it might be, brings new elements to the political discourse. Last Sunday disastrous showing for democracy is no exception. The challenge for you, dear opposition leaders, whether you supported abstention or not, whether you dealt behind doors with chavismo or not, is to decide what is your next step according to the new hand given to you..

The good news is that it should not be very complicated for you to realize that you need to come up with a clear strategy as the dust you are biting now should tell you. So, I am willing to help you find a way out.

FIRST, THE FACTS

Let’s look at the results as per the front page of El Nacional today (as good as any other source considering how impossible it is to have a good representation of the country’s political force in view of cheating, abstention and the "morochas", all CNE sponsored).

Chavismo.....47,1%
Other........18,5%

Opposition...17,3%

Null.........17,1%


Let’s start with that extraordinary null vote, which at the very least shows a deficiency in the voting procedure, and at the worst is the mechanism used by the CNE to cheat in order to decrease the abstention numbers. Let’s also assume that it could be in part the voters expressing a “none of the above” option. That should give you pause.

Now, let’s look at chavismo figure. There is good and bad news there. The good is that it failed to pass the 50+% mark so hoped for. That bad is that it passed it as quite a few of the “others” are actually linked more or less to chavismo. But the real good news is that in spite of all the built in advantage, of abstention, chavismo does not get the 59% of August 2004. Isn’t that something!? With a real feisty campaign, there is plenty of room for you to cut into chavismo. Besides, you can hardly go lower than your present 17.3%. Or can you?

The other fact is that at way more than half of your voters, those that usually vote for you, did not bother to vote this time. And most of those already stayed home last October. In other words, managing politics the way you are managing them these days IS NOT GOING TO BRING THEM BACK to the voting stations. It should be clear for you that any “appeasement” strategy that you might have had has failed. Actually, that abstention number is bound to increase dramatically in December as people like me, considering the incredibly obvious manipulations of the CNE this time around and the wimpyness shown by you, will really wonder about the point of voting in December. Yes, I have followed you until now, but there is a new deal in town and my obligations to you have ceased, as little as they might have been.

SIDE PROGRAM, OPERATION CNE

Things have changed, dramatically. Now we are discussing saving democracy. Forget about “preservar espacios” as Sobella Mejais once said to justify her staying in the CNE as a Chinese Jar. In fact, forget about the CNE altogether. With the way the CNE is operating, there is nothing to look for in there. They must be confronted and that is all. You should all rally behind Sumate, or if too unpalatable for some of you, behind some panel that will decide for all of you whether to run in an election or not. But Sumate should be the only conduit to negotiate with the CNE, in the name of ALL of the opposition. Or do you have a better agent? What good as it done to you to forget about Tulio Alvarez and let Sumate hang high and dry for chavismo to make it target practice? You might reply that Rodriguez will never negotiate with Sumate. And who will Rodriguez negotiate with? Come on! Get a grip!

The time has run out with the CNE. Remember that you have the 350 article in the constitution and you can apply it perfectly there. Remember that real observers will come in December and remember what happened when you let observers participate in the negotiations for the Recall Election. Observers are there to observe, so give them something to observe. The best thing that could happen to you is for the EU to say that it is leaving Venezuela simply because elections cannot be run in the conditions imposed by the CNE. REMEMBER, Chavez needs a democratic caution and your blunders have been giving it! When are you going to learn? You need to demonstrate that elections are impossible and refuse to negotiate the basic points defended by Sumate. Even the Carter Center might approve of that!

Besides now we are running for a National Assembly. All that talk of local leadership that will run anyway in Municipal or Regional Elections is now bogus. The way things are in Venezuela we all know that no one is going to make it to the National Assembly if there is no political organization behind. If you agree among yourself, the candidates will have to abide by your decisions.

Besides look at how easily unhinged Rodriguez gets when slightly confronted! Keep confronting him all the time and you will see him resign sooner than expected! And by the way, DEMAND that Sobella resigns. She is all alone there, she is totally ineffective except for a token concession they grant her. Stop playing that game! Let the CNE totally fall in the hands of Chavez. It is acting as such anyway, so let the word know the truth by removing any democratic fig leaf excuse they might still have.

SECOND, THE OBJECTIVE

Now it is the hour of truth: will you rise about your petty interests? Or will you go and meet the final defeat in December, leaving the National Assembly with a more than 2/3 chavista majority, with 25% soldiers that will never question a word from Chavez and will brow beat any civilian in chavismo that dares emit a personal opinion? A 2/3 majority which will make legal all the illegal measures taken by chavismo since 2003 and thus projecting a legal image outside and dooming us for a decade to live under a military boot without even a military coup d’etat? Does Fujimori ring a bell with you? At least he did a coup d'etat! Are you going to allow the election of a 2/3 majority that will vote yet a new High Court, a new CNE, a new Poder Moral, even more subservient, if possible, than those ones that so sadly figure there? A 2/3 majority that will make it impossible to run a partially fair presidential campaign in 2006, with the aggravation that nobody will pay attention to any united front candidate knowing full well that Chavez will win no matter what?

So, which should be your objectives? Very simple, make sure that Chavez does not get that 2/3 majority. Everything else is secondary and can be discussed as of January 2006. Such discussions as a common program government, a platform to rebuild the country, a way to have Chavez lose in 2006 should be postponed: if you do not get 1/3 of parliament in December, it is all over.

Thus what we have ahead are fire and brimstone days and if you have no stomach for it I suggest that you make room for those who have it and wait for more normal days to try a come back.

There is no need to riot in the streets, we do have the necessary democratic tools to force chavismo into a few concessions, such as the 350 article. But to succeed we need to set aside personal interests, be ready to sacrifice what we need to sacrifice, and all go with one clear objective at hand. Account settlement can wait for 2006. Because what we are facing is a chavista campaign that will not hold any punch and if you are not united in some simple common objectives, then you will not be able to withstand the pressure. You must work out fast a commonality of intentions that allows you to include all opposition parties, all abstentionist main leaders. By the end of August all should be ready to go. No Coordinadora Democratica this time, no need for them: the message will be simple and able to include all, to appeal to even some dissatisfied chavista voters.

THIRD, THE MESSAGE

A few lines are enough.

No to Castro. No to financing the rest of South America. Venezuela first. No Bolivian adventure. No China deal. Be patriot!

This can appeal to some chavistas who are getting tired of seeing Chavez traveling back and forth, spreading Venezuela oil money as if it were his only. Forget about Latin American solidarity, did they think of us in 2002? 2004? Attack any travel, any initiative of Chavez, accuse him of being a thief if necessary. What do you have to lose? It is your money you are defending after all! Expose him ruthlessly in every meeting, in every interview you can, without making it personal. Just ask WHERE THE MONEY GOES AND WHO ALOWED HIM TO DO SO. You, in the National Assembly are the only way to put brakes on that piñata.

No to a National Assembly sold to the army. No to the army. No to the war with the US!

The Army has caved in to Chavez. You should use those pictures of soldiers in Cuba to question the devotion of the Army to Venezuela. There is nothing to expect from an army who has abandoned any democratic vocation it might have had in the past. Walking on eggs around them has not brought anything, has it? At least you might force some reaction inside the army and obtain that it remains impartial one election more (though I wonder how impartial it has been in the last three elections, but then again I am such an anti military person, I distrust soldiers so much…)

Offer a referendum on the army, a referendum to put back the army in the barracks. You can call for a referendum from the National Assembly. Say the it is the people who should decide what the army does, not Chavez.

Also, proclaim your friendship with the West. Say that only Europe and the US and Canada and capitalism will allow Venezuela to build a bright future. Criticize Bush, criticize Iraq, point out that Bush is gone in two years but that any war that Chavez starts will last us a life time. Enough of letting Chavez define who is a traitor and who is not! Enough of letting the army fake a war it cannot win and that will leave us ruined even if no shot is ever fired! Accuse Chavez of betrayal at every corner if needed. Or do you think your silence so far has paid of? Peace and jobs, that is your proposal and state that Chavez CANNOT BRING THAT BECAUSE HE DOES NOT WANT IT!

No to violence. No to personal power. Yes to separation of power.

Do not be afraid to attack the judicial system, the CNE, the Chavez administration. They will not help you, they will not rule in your favor. Attack, attack all the time because even if you behave nicely from here to December they will stick to you, put you in jail at the latest sometime in 2007. Actually you should even say that your objectives will be to change the judicial system, to make sure Isaias does not repeat as attorney General, that Clodosvaldo will be moved to another retirement home.

See, you do not need to attack Chavez directly, just attack all the mess he has made!

Say yes to Barrio Adentro, say yes to Mercal.

Say that these programs have convinced you but that they are poorly managed. Say that your objective is to integrate these programs with existing structures to make them work better and that you will pay Venezuelan professionals well so as to free yourself from Cuban doctors.

Say that you will pass laws to recover international trust in Venezuela, to create jobs.

Explain that Chavez support of Castro is blocking private investors, Venezuelans and foreigners and that is why there is no jobs, no housing, no real development. Say that cooperatives are fine but without international and private investment they are not enough. Say that you will offer new laws to strengthen cooperatives and allow them to seek joint ventures with foreign cooperatives and investors. That jobs, jobs and more jobs is your only economical program. Look in the eyes at chavista electors and ask them if they know anyone with a REAL job? Offer jobs to replace all the failed misiones, and use the money of the failed misiones for Mercal and Barrio Adentro. I know, it is tough to swallow but do you have anything better to offer? Do not worry, you are not going to win anyway, what you want to get is a chance to win someday and for that you need to make sure that Chavez does not get 66%!

No to barter, we want cash for our oil.

This is a no brainer. No more barter for ships, no more barter for meat, money will be only spent at home, with Venezuelans, on Venezuelans. Too bad if this puts us at risk with our trading partners. Announce that all commercial deals will be reviewed and that the head of PDVSA, a few ministers, a few ambassadors will be investigated. So they might threaten to sue you? They will do so anyway in 2006, 2007 and the following years on any other excuse. You want to save the country, and get a job along the way? Show disposition for sacrifice, for honesty, publish the tax return of all your candidates and demand to see the one of Chavez and co and to audit them. Play dirty, they will, but play democratic, what you would demand in any civilized country.

Chavez will stay until December 2006

Yes, say it, but also say that you will make sure that he rules better, that the money is spent where it should be spent. Say even that you will force him to pick better ministers!!!! Be creative! After all, cohabitation worked elsewhere, why not in Venezuela? At the very least you would gain a real CNE for 2006 if you manage to get more than a third of the National Assembly.


Voila, you do have a simple program that can reach the masses. You need not go further. And you should actually even make it briefer than what I wrote, just pick something coherent and stick to it. You have to present your self as martyrs willing to sacrifice yourself at the National Assembly if needed, and not as people just trying to look for a well paid job. Play Chavez fire and brimstone game, try to make him talk of December 2006 instead of December 2005. Make him look like a power hungry madman. Challenge him to collaborate with you!

FOURTH, THE ELECTORAL STRATEGY

You must make your “morochas”. Chavismo is going to make theirs, so have no qualms about making your morochas and screw the built in advantage of chavismo. The CNE is not going to ban morochas no matter how illegal they are and how much Teodoro protests. Keep complaining about them, keep asking them to be eliminated, but build them. They will allow two options when you get around to form the list and allow you to agree.

THE UNINOMINAL VOTE

Play the regional card. Forget those who want or thinks they deserve this or that. You will only overcome the seat distribution by playing the regional card.

For the uninominal votes let Copei rule Tachira, Rosales rule Zulia, PJ rule Caracas and Miranda, AD rule Sucre, Margarita and Monagas, PV in Carabobo even if it is a corpse etc…

Allow for the creation of a left wing. Even though the corpuscles such as Solidaridad or left parties such as the MAS are nearly obliterated, make sure they will get half a dozen seats. You will need them for the 2006 presidential race. Put one MAS in Aragua, one Solidaridad in Caracas, one Causa R in Zulia and Bolivar, one Union in Anzoategui and 2 or 3 more here and there. Forgive them for having supported Chavez, you will need a democratic left to pick up the chavista mess someday or it will fall into Chavez II and sequels are never good.

Deal with the abstentionist leaders by promising that if the CNE does not change the ways things are run, you will withdraw all candidates by election day. And then give them a few positions in the ticket. Ledezma in Caracas, Paz in Zulia and one or two more here and there. Let's see of they resign come election day. If you do not like them there will be elections to get rid of them in the future, that is, if you get at least 1/3, remember!

Don't be afraid to nominate more candidates than spots available, you will do primaries through September if needed and have the losers resign. But one thing: whoever wants your general support, your union label must pledge to withdraw after an unfavorable primary. Do not worry, electors will not be fooled, they have demonstrated Sunday that they will stay home and not vote for a "traitor" in case they decide to break their pledge.

THE VOTE LIST

This is where the parties can run. Make it a primary of sorts and do not be afraid to give AD some preferences in the provinces: they still have some appeal there even if you cannot believe it. Or do you think that PJ is ready to take over Trujillo? Solidaridad to win in Zulia? Ledezma to carry Barinas?. This will be a pre-primary to start sifting through a unity candidate for the presidential election. Whichever party runs nominal candidates, it must leave the list vote to the others of the coalition, that way you will really know who has what appeal where by comparing seat votes and list votes.

Thus, on the list vote part of the “morochas” distribute seats as the result of Sunday vote, even if AD gets half of the candidates. You can have there multi party lists and use that as a pre-primary of sorts. Though you could demand to chose some of the AD candidates, force AD to renew itself some, to have less ADecos willing to pact with the devil. AD will do it for a few extra candidates, trust me! More than one party can support the list vote, so go ahead and have fun with it. That way you will protect yourself from any accusation of lack of primaries. But do not worry about that, Chavez is not going to allow primaries in his camp, not after what has been happening with the Tupamaros.

SUPLENTES

The Venezuelan law has a wonderful tool to allow you to reach unity: the replacement assemblyman: "el suplente". The suplente is the guy that seats and votes following Chavez orders when a chavista big week must attend some Chavez meeting or do his or her Miami shopping. Make every candidate that runs under the alliance pledge that they will seat one assembly session yes, one session no, lots drawn after the election. Make every candidate that want Unitarian support sign an official pledge and publish it, along their tax return. That way both principal and "suplente" will be motivated to run together even if they are from different party. They will both seat equally with both serving 6 months session. You can even force them to share any income as an Assembly person! And point out how shameful chavista suplentes have been behaving! Show that yours will be useful national assembly people that will really work if they want to remaining the assembly.

Be creative!!!! There is always time later to agree on annulling agreements and what not. Whatever you annul will never be as bad as the unfulfilled Chavez promises. And who knows, you might like it, it might work and by 2006 you might kick Chavez out. But one thing is certain: the way you are managing things, Chavez is staying until kingdom comes!

CONCLUSION

All of this can be set up in one month if there is a will among you. You can do something else if you want, but it has to be as radical, as inspired, as selfless, as looking forward.

Or people like me will stay at home and start looking within chavismo for ways to survive (Tupamaros? A mision "collaboration"?)We are not going to support you any longer if you do not give us reason to support you and if you are dragging us down along. It is time to grow up. The games are over.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trouble in Venezuelan electoral paradise

Rodriguez, the head of the Venezuelan electoral board CNE keeps trying desperately to apply thick make up on the abstention numbers. With little success, though he did manage to decrease by a point the total abstention "according" to the manual vote counts now in. Isn't it interesting that whenever the manual votes counts come in, chavismo always seem to improve its numbers? Coincidence? Naaaahhhh..... I am just some silly oppo that is always willing to find fault. Shame on me!

The interesting piece of data is that everyone of these already artificially inflated voters cost the nation 20.13 USD! This is kind of steep for virtual voters, if you ask me! You may add Rodriguez, the shrink from hell, to the long list of inefficient Chavez servants. He got the job done, maybe, but at great cost and with all the seams out for all to see.

Meanwhile the Tupamaros are rioting in the streets, and not only those of Caracas. The Tupamaros, who borrowed their name, I think, from one of the most fearsome urban guerilla in Latin America, the one from Uruguay, are a left of Chavez group based originally in the 23 de Enero area, a popular and populous area where the ills of Caracas are particularly strong and which was until this Sunday considered the bedrock of chavismo. This might change soon.

Apparently during the rather fake primary process of selecting candidates for town halls in Chavez party, MVR, (a mistake that will not be repeated for the designation of national assembly candidates of the MVR), the Tupamaros "won" but lost anyway. This at the time was duly reported as scenes of intra chavista fighting were ubiquitous in papers and TV. The Tupamaros were duly pissed off and decided to run on their own, of course to defend the true revolution of President Chavez and to protect him against the thieves inside the MVR who hide the truth to Chavez. Apparently they have not realized yet that Chavez as the president of MVR (illegal and unethical by the way) knows perfectly well that the embarrassing Tupamaros have been set aside. See, Tupamaros have the nerve to demand results from the government actions! Imagine that! Given them money in Mision X is apparently not enough to please them! The nerve!

So now we see them on Globovision and RCTV, two oppo media, defending Chavez but accusing "elements" within the CNE and the MVR of cheating them from their votes. They know of course that all the money comes from Chavez and they are trying the path that so many other ex-chavista tried and failed, to pretend that a camarilla "isolates" Chavez from the reality. Good luck there, Tupas! By the way, in spite of the clear popular roots of the Tupamaros that cannot be accused of being "white" opposition, as you can see from the above picture, they are already being trashed by servile chavistas such as the mayor of Petare who owes his position to his daddy being the vice president. Seeing Vicentico accuse Tupamaros of pro oppo tactics was truly a highlight on how low can people sold out to chavismo fall, how willing they are to become modern days Quislings.

What happened there is that the Tupamaros fell because of the illegal and unethical "morochas" tactics, that is the double voting that favors obscenely the winner of the total vote. That is why chavismo with not much more, if that much, 60% of the vote it racking at least 80% of the seats while Tupamaros or oppo parties, who before Chavez would have got some minority and democratic representation, are shut out from even having a voice to complain. But the regular readers of this blog already know quite well the different ways that chavismo cheats.

It is thus no wonder to see a declaration of Carlos Melo, another one from the left who is left without representation, declare that Chavez objective is the one party state, a la Afro-Muslim fashion where local tyrants pretend that the people are happy with a single party state. And one might add that within that one party structure only the line of El Supremo counts as we see the MVR less and less inclined to try the primary system, going back to the good old days of AD from where it comes from, after all.

And speaking of AD, it also had an internal public fight yesterday. Isn't that something that AD and the MVR look everyday more and more the same! Of course there is a segment of AD that is getting upset at the continuous lack of good results for AD (and Sunday was quite a lackluster day for AD, preferring to go down in flames rather than to concede that it might not be the main opposition voice, another way in which AD and the MVR are so identical!). At least in the press conference that was interrupted by hecklers, AD let out the idea that time for opposition unity had come.

Aside from the funny anecdotal story of this Tupamaros and ADecos, those rioting street scenes should point to us where the future lay, where Chavez wants to go: a single monolithic party that is held together simply because all the electoral mechanism are set and rigged to make it very difficult for a democratic option to develop. The model here is Mexico who managed for 70 years to have the PRI in office. Chavez just want to reach 2021. No! Wait, it is now 2023 and some say 2030. Seems that he is liking power more and more. I suppose he has decided that he wanted at least 20 years of Latin American leadership and each year that Castro lives, well, Chavez must push back his retirement...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The real result of Sunday's election

And to keep the suspense short, it is the high rate of abstention.

Yeah, yeah, chavismo got 80% of the seats, and this and that, but this is not very interesting to discuss as it was already predicted. As I wrote yesterday, it is enough to look at some key results to have an idea of the local variations played, something expected in a local election, the only real interesting thing. Even within chavismo, local disputes affected the outcome of that 80%, as the Tupamaros were protesting today claiming that chavismo "morochas" had robbed them of councilmen supposedly elected on their lists. Welcome to the opposition frustrations Tupamaros! It was fun to see you on Globovision tonight. They did not want to receive you in VTV?

But the abstention number, the official CNE of 69.18% (you gotta love that 0.18!), this is the number that excites all from chavismo to antichavismo. Definitely the political frame has shifted yesterday. Thus, let's go by parts.

Pollsters in the mist

...,les augures menteurs,...

Some polls before the election were giving all sorts of high numbers for Chavez, as high as 80% even as many questions would cast doubt as to the methods of the polling. Reminder: a country that has suffered the apartheid making Tascon's list is not going to reply very honestly to pollsters. Pollsters seem to be unable or unwilling to modify their techniques and keep getting weird results.

This does not mean that I do not acknowledge Chavez appeal, and after Sunday I would look like a fool pretending otherwise. But certainly that support is very badly evaluated. A little bit over a week ago the director of Keller and associates, the only polling firm that seems to get its act together these days, was interviewed by Roberto Giusti. This fascinating interview has been translated into English. What is remarkable in the work of Keller is the differentiation between illusion and reality in Chavez supporters and how Chavez manages to maintain popularity on the illusion he creates rather than actual deeds. The conclusion, one that this blogger has always held to, is that the hard core chavismo vote is 30%, something that even in the heyday of opposition hopes in the mid 2003 when some polls seem to drop Chavez to 20% and so many people were so willing to accept, I always supported.

It seems that Sunday's result will force people to consider Alfredo Keller a little bit more seriously. Unfortunately for the opposition, his numbers do not point to an easy way out without work and a modicum of unity....

The CNE abstention

Et la foule grandit, plus innombrable encor.

The CNE has come out with its number and nobody believes it, not even the allegedly pro Chavez observers of Ojo Electoral who give 74% abstention. Sumate goes to 78.1% abstention. The truth is obviously somewhere in between, that is about the number of 2000. This is very bad for the CNE indeed. The 12/2000 elections came after two years of 6 difficult and tense elections. Actually, chavismo was so afraid of elector exhaustion that it added at the last minute a trade union referendum in the hope of stimulating participation. The result was disappointing as 76% stayed home.

But it gets worse. If it were not for the last minute prolongation, illegal prolongation, of voting hours until 7 PM, by the CNE own admission 500 000 more people would have been added to the abstention numbers, bringing the results to the 2000 one. If voter fatigue was obvious in 2000, voter fatigue cannot be claimed today, even more as chavismo made a big issue of having its supporters go out and vote.

The CNE in fact has been trying extremely hard to cover this fiasco. Arrogance and grandiloquence and presidential congratulations, all was used to that effect, even a cadena of youth and student festival. But we all know what we saw on Sunday, or rather did not see. We all are still waiting for the visual evidence that at 4 PM on Sunday voting centers had so many people standing in line that voting hours had to be extended. So far we only have the word of Lucena and Rodriguez, and it has proven worthless long ago. It would be as if Cindy Crawford where to try to cover her beauty mark with make up: she might manage it but you would still know it is somewhere below.

It reeks of CNE fraud, yet again, and a miserable one as it is not even a matter of changing voting numbers, just trying to have people show up.

The chavismo abstention

Pour les âges futurs, l'héroïque Laurier.

Of the opposition abstention there is not much to say. It had been announced, people had campaigned for abstention, the CNE even emitted veiled threats against such a campaign. Whether the strategy of abstention promoters to fight chavismo is good or not is not for today, but that abstention was not a surprise.

But the chavismo abstention was a surprise. Let's, for the sake of argument, believe the CNE number of 70 %. And let's believe the datanalisis polls of 70% for Chavez. And let's assume that of the 30% that voted, 8% only were opposition. So we have 70% chavistas of which less, much less than half of them, 22 %, bothered to vote, IN SPITE of a dedicated campaign, IN SPITE of even a semi cadena on voting day, IN SPITE of all the free bees distributed, IN SPITE of last minute voting hours, and IN SPITE of many other things we do not know about.

Any long winded explanation on how these type of elections always provoke high abstention cannot explain how come a leadership based on passion (see the Keller interview above) cannot convince more than a third of its followers to go and vote.

Why the abstention?

Déjà le temps brandit l'arme fatale.

It is actually very simple, beyond all sorts of complex explanations such as why misiones cannot buy eternal loyalty. The fact is simply that in a regime that is more and more centralized around a unique leader, it becomes pointless to vote for anything as all know that it is irrelevant. The leader might as well name whoever he wants. Thus, in a future measure, as a hardening of the government is sure to follow such a spiteful electoral demonstration, we can expect the "democracia participativa" to find ways to force people to go and vote. Chavez needs more votes in 2006 than he got in 2004. A veneer of democracy needs to be shown to the world. Or why else did you think the electronic voter registration is all about? It is to know who voted and for whom. That for sure will encourage people to move their butts on election days.

All verses from the same French poet. Bonus point to whomever guesses the name.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some symbolic results

Finally, the extremely slow CNE page is releasing some results. I have compared what can be compared, that is the list votes to council folks and the list votes for the state assemblies of October 2004, which were already much lower than the votes for governor or mayor. Of course, this is assuming that what the CNE publishes ressembles the truth.

San Felipe is lost for the opposition. In October 2004 with 34% abstention, the Chavez candidate got 5 894 votes. Yesterday the chavista list got 6 006, a thin increase. The opposition had carried San Felipe for Lapi's party with 9 996. Now it has 2 853, a drop of 71%. So, before anyone says that the talent of Gimenez at the Yaracuy state since late 2004 is responsible for the victory, I would suggest that they get their calculator and verify these numbers. Any victory of chavismo in San Felipe is by forfeit. Chavismo might be happy to gain the town hall but it is a hollow victory. If fair elections ever come again to Yaracuy, they should worry about their seats as they have failed to grow after 10 months in office except for the newly registered voters as per the change in public workers that moved to San Felipe. I do not think that the drop in Convergencia vote is solely due to pro Lapi public workers moving out..... As for the opposition, in flawed 2004 elections it still managed to retain San Felipe. They could have retained town hall. Now they will have to deal with the chavista folks in town hall, harakiri is thy name.

Caracas Park Avenue, Chacao, remains Primero Justicia. In 2004 Chacao voted 20 844 for the state assembly in spite of an already strong abstention movement (something that did not happen in Yaracuy). This time the PJ list dropped to 14 693, a solid 30% FURTHER drop. Chavismo was 4 402 and this time drops to 3 120! A 25%! And those are some of the rich chavistas (Rodriguez among many lives in Chacao, in a luxurious pent house, I was told).

Baruta, middle and upper middle class stays PJ. 37 797 in October 2004, but this time 12 395!! Yet chavismo goes from 9 011 to 6 359. So, there is chavista abstention even though by voting they would have had a chance to improve their holdings in Baruta and embarrass PJ. But the anger of the middle class for the system cannot be hidden anymore, even the middle class chavistas as I assume there are some in Baruta.

Chavismo abstains in popular Caracas neighborhoods. Sort of looking at random I picked El Valle, a low middle class and lower class neighborhood. In October the MVR, Chavez list, got 17 985. This time it got 10 485. A 42% drop is just not normal, no matter what spin chavismo puts on, in particular when the October 2004 elections had already some abstention effect in the Caracas area, including El Valle. Interestingly although not a PJ area this one did run a list both times but experienced a slight increase! From 905 to 1032. In 2004 the MAS (center left) was running in the union list with PJ but this time went alone. And its vote, although meager, also went up from 145 to 479. Thus clearly there is something else going on in El Valle: the locals are not happy with the infamous Bernal, at the very least, and some are unhappy enough to go out to vote for someone else.

PJ points its nose in the provinces. In Lecherias PJ gets 2 501 votes to 842 for the MVR! Up from the 1 320 from 2004 whereas MVR actually goes down from its 1 211 result! Even if Lecherias is a rather open area that lives on tourism and thus more open to the language of PJ, it is still a demonstration that with time an effort PJ can get a few townhalls outside of Caracas. But in Maracay more affluent Las Delicias PJ fails to pierce even it it gets into second place, probably victim of abstention, and a heavy wealthy military component in the neighborhood cashing on Chavez bonanza. Thus the MVR gets 4 070 to PJ 973. AD is a distant memory in Las Delicias.

Proyecto Venezuela in big trouble. In the affluent Naguanagua district the PV list vote went down from a 2004 total of 13 545 to a stunning 1 995! The lack of fighting spirit of Salas Feo, the defeated and more than likely cheated out ex governor might have had something to do with it as his electors just abandoned his party! In rural Bejuma it is a complete collapse. PV goes down to 111 from a 2 388 in 2004! The implosion of PV is just a major fact of this election as even in Caracas very affluent El Hatillo district, PJ takes the majority of the town hall and they are not in best term with the barely reelected and very questioned PV mayor Catalan who probably worries as of today of a Recall Election on him next year, even if PJ does not ask for one.

AD in trouble too. Monagas state was a bastion of AD. Well, apparently no more. In one of the state capital Maturin districts, San Simon, AD drops to third with 1 889. It had 16 348 less than a year ago! But MVR has nothing to write home about. It also drops to 11 308 from a high of 20 445. But apparently some divisions among chavismo there is responsible for that result. Yet, the drop is impressive! In Lara we can see more trouble for AD. It seems that the division tactics of AD there affected any recovery it might have hoped. In Barquisimeto's Catedral parish we can see the order of players evolve. In 2004 we had MVR with 14 412, PJ with 1 309 and AD with 1 304. In second was a coalition now gone but whose main party was OFM with 3 617. Today we see MVR with 9 573 (chavismo suffers as in Caracas, even in militant Lara), PJ gets a decent 1 167 which brings it to a sudden second in an area which is not very favorable a priori, OFM drops to 4 with 978 votes and AD to a distant 6th with 826! Though there is a chavismo dissidence with the Communist party getting a third position with 1 079 as governor Reyes Reyes dynastic intentions are causing trouble in chavismo rank and file. Thus AD seems to continue its decomposition as its isolationistic and arrogant position is not bringing the dividend it hopes even when chavismo falls back some.

Even in Margarita island where it holds a governor, AD is not faring much better. Porlamar, the main city of the state, sees AD go down form a 2004 of 4 220 to a 3 085 today. Each time, even though the MVR is rather unpopular in Margarita whose tourism industry has suffered through currency controls and import restrictions, the MVR wins, in 2004 with 7 153 and yesterday with 3 903, admittedly a spectacular drop! Chavismo CAN lose votes!

Conclusions?. There is no need this time to make a deep analysis as I did in previous electoral moments. Besides, the nefarious role of the now infamous CNE is even more perturbing, even less favorable for a serious analysis of the real trends of the country as it was in October or August 2004. The only conclusion that one might dare to draw is that chavismo is much more vulnerable than thought at first. But we can also conclude that the opposition is far from showing any ability to gain from this. PJ ascendancy is far from assured though of all the opposition parties it is the only one that can lick its wounds. AD is not yet dead but it is corpse like in texture. The others are pretty much history or reduced to local accidents such as Rosales in Zulia state or Copei reduced to Tachira. PV might be gone. The center left is not even ready to run in competitive elections. However those conclusions are drawn, and I must insist on that, under the light of the consequences of an ethically corrupt CNE who has deeply damaged the electoral act.

A much more interesting post to be written later is to study how come chavismo has such a sudden weakness. Or to discuss what the abstention camp, a very meager victor, and an ineffectual one, will offer now. But that will have to wait for another day.

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