Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Black-mail time in Venezuela

As I type this post I am wondering whether I am writing to try to explain things to the few readers still interested about Venezuela’s fate or if I am hoping that one of them will enlighten me. The matter at hand is of course the complexity that the electoral scene has reached. So, let’s start by the easiest one: the chavista side.

Chavismo’s take: to hold an election or not to hold.

Chavismo has not decided yet whether it will go to a real election on December 2006 or if instead it will take advantage of a complex international situation (sky high oil prices, supplies problems, death of Castro) to force the issue and get rid of the trappings of democracy once and for all. What better way to obtain this but to call for a plebiscite in December as a ‘til kingdom comes Chavez reelection system.

Really, when one looks at the actions of the government, the refusal to yield an inch on the more than flawed electoral process, the overly partial CNE directorate, the gross scheduling of misiones give away presents, the “sudden” inauguration rush of public works that should have been completed years ago, one can only think that chavismo is up to something. Thus there are two case scenarios I can come up with for chavismo:
1) play hard ball, then at the very end, when the opposition is all but out of the race, yield significant concessions when it is too late to make a credible campaign that can change the outcome. Then whether the opposition comes back or not, you look like the good guy (12/2005 scenario, now purposefully planned).

2) play hardball until the end, take the chance that the opposition will boycott the elections again and then hold a plebiscite with enough cheating to get the 10 million votes even if those 10 were nowhere to be seen on election day (did any one went to check the Saddam 99.99% victory?). Then put the world in front of the “fait accompli” that formal democracy is dead in Venezuela and that the people have elected a Fujimori minus the efficiency and mixed it with a Castro without the defined purpose. At 110 USD the barrel the world might just buy it.
No matter what, I am convinced that chavismo will play dirty and cheat as much as it can get away with it. Too many people will go to jail if Chavez loses power. It is just that simple.

The opposition take: to fight for the 2006 election or start building for the future.

The essential fact about the opposition campaign is that it has not done yet what it should have done 6 months ago. In fact, what it should have done by August 2005. We are still waiting for a program, for a unity of purpose, for a leader, for an opposition that can go beyond the “Chavez out” slogan which expiration date was October 31 2004.

I think that even if the primaries allow for a single candidate by late august, the general scenery is dismal for the opposition. Chavez could be beaten but not if you start your campaign a few weeks before the election. There rarely are miracles in politics. Short of Castro or Chavez death the outcome of December is the margin of victory of Chavez. That is, the trickeries of chavismo might ensure the victory but the margin can only be blamed on the opposition inept leadership. Let’s look at the bad news.

The obvious observation is that the hoped for unity is crumbling fast. On one side you have Sumate which has forced the issue on the primary elections and thus has become a political group in addition of an electoral NGO. I do not know what price will Sumate pay for that but I got some hints this morning. The other side of the newly formed anti-primary group gathers around Teodoro Petkoff. Although to be fair, it is anti Sumate primary group, not anti primary group. This morning I received in the mail an open letter to Sumate by Leonardo Pizani. I cannot express how disappointed I am by such a letter coming from someone who should have known much better than trash Sumate. The logic of such a letter in fact indicates that the fight around and within the primaries is indeed going to degenerate soon in a free for all, compromising any effort for a credible unique candidate against Chavez.

The other observation is that so far there is no evidence that the primaries are going to be a rousing success. Success will be achieved if at least as many people vote as those that voted in December 2005. But even Sumate is already implicitly acknowledging that this will probably not reached as it is printing only 4 million ballots! Then again, one could think that the images of people that could not vote in the primary because they had no ballot could be worth a few millions on add campaign. Unfortunately I doubt this will happen: talk shows of Sumate directors as guests are full of people asking again and again the very same question: how do we know that the government will not figure out who voted in the primary and then punish us with a renovated Tascon list? The basic argument of Teodoro by the way, to state that a primary was not the ebst way to pick a candidate since too many might not be willing to participate and feel cheated.. It is amazing for me how the Tascon list perverse effects are so underestimated by so many politicians. Unless of course the objective is that the victor of the primaries will be elected only by those who are already in the Tascon list. One wonders…

Thus I am left to hope that all of this in fact follows a diabolically traced plan where either Rosales emerges as the undisputed victor of the successful primaries (the most likely scenario) or if the primaries fail miserably then Rosales will lead the march towards Teodoro headquarters and proclaim him as the candidate. Who knows, weirder schemes in politics have been shown to carry the day.

But there are some good news. First, some people are really starting to get the point that the opposition cannot unify itself, it is too varied. Yes, it should reach an electoral alliance, but that is not the same as unity at all costs which is now more and more appearing as the brake for any opposition progress. Read for example the Sunday article of Tulio Hernandez in El Nacional. Thus perhaps there might be hope that the electoral campaign might allow settling some of these issues and even if Chavez is largely reelected in December, there will be a renovated opposition that he will have to deal with, strong enough and getting stronger to the point of thwarting his constitutional change plans and our descent into abyss.

There is even a better piece of good news. The group that has been promoting CNE warfare above any other consideration has got a nice smack in the face last Saturday. This group, formed by Resistencia Activa, AD, Ledezma and a few other who think that they were the big victors of last December has been promoting the line that the only worry of the opposition should be to force Chavez to change the CNE and electoral rules. Since this is not going to happen unless force is displayed, the end result is that this “abstention” movement is sabotaging any opposition effort, willingly or not, the end result being the same. Well, these people last Saturday decided to have a march to the CNE. It was the expected bust, even more so than expected. Eventually such nihilist uncompromising positions that do not bring any visible benefits end up tiring even their early followers. Again, abstention for its own sake is not enough to generate a political movement: without a counter offer of some worth, or some solid sacrifice from their part, the asbtentionist folks not only will dwindle but will drag down a lot of people with them.

The last piece of good news, and the best one, is that one candidate at last has started discussing the real issue, the white elephant in the room: Chavez totalitarian tendencies. The T word is now more and more used, and not only by this blogger who was chastised months ago when he dared on occasion to use the T word. Now Teodoro is on to it and I suspect that Rosales might even use it any time soon. I do not think that calling Chavez a totalitarian dictator will be enough to win the election, but it should at least allow for a rally of the thinking opposition away from mundane issue towards the real sacrifices that will be required to remove from office this infamous second tier petty political class that has made it on the coattails of the “mas gran hablador de paja” (biggest B.S. speaker) that has ever occupied the Miraflores seat.

So there I am, still not much clearer myself about the future after writing this. But with so many people blackmailing so many others, who can figure out was is really going on…

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