After driving 7 hours for what normally takes me 3.5 hours between San Felipe and Caracas, I arrived home to be received by Alo Ciudadano passing the complete campaign speech of Chavez (1). That is right, Chavez has decided to stop over in Venezuela for a few days to start his campaign in all earnest. After all, the Barreto episodes (2), the escape from Ramo Verde, the inflation above 10% (3), a recent poll showing a 7% drop in voting intention has sent a message to Chavez: his reelection is not a given, at least if the CNE allows to count votes as they should be counted (4). (note: most links to English texts today!)
But the real surprise was actually the low tenor of the Chavez speech and the poor setting of the rally. For a first campaign rally it was a rather disappointing assistance. Yet the government had taken all precautions: El Silencio square, Plaza O’Leary, was chosen, much smaller than the Avenida Bolivar, with water fountains, trees, corners, etc,… which would allow for a better way to hide a poor attendance. In addition for the past two days we have been told over and over that public workers have been told to dress in red today and lien up the way from the Airport to O’Leary square to welcome the triumphant leader from his recent successful trip overseas. Indeed, his fabulous reception by such connoted democrats such as the Syrian and Angolan presidents must be seen as a triumph. Whatever the rally was, the cameras of Globovision was merciless: placed at a constant angle filming an area no more than a 100 yards from the main stage it showed a not very dense crowd, circulating among a few food stands and not paying much attention to the beloved leader. I remember the days were the O’Leary square was not an option for a chavista rally since it was considered too small. But yes, the crowds were dutifully dressed in red. This blogger has been observing lately that the redder the crowd the lesser the attendance.
The Chavez speech was not exciting at all although controversial. If we are to base ourselves on this speech it seems that Chavez has decided not to run on his record but instead run on a promising bright socialist (or is that neo-Stalinist?) future. Except for the solid group in front of the stage and lovingly filmed by the state media (A red tide welcomes Chavez!) the rest of the crowd seemed to neither care nor be impressed. They were just there. In the speech no concrete promises were offered, only general talk of socialism estheticism to rule the country, and the world. In fact the only unique concrete proposal was for Chavez himself to convoke a recall election in 2010, but with a twist: there will be two questions on the ballot, the second one implying a change in the constitution as ratification of this second question will allow Chavez to be reelected as long as the people “want” it. In fact, Chavez speech was a simple ideological plan until 2020. We suppose that the structural plan will have to wait.
At lest now we are fixed and no one will be allowed to plead misunderstanding: the objective of Chavez is to stay in power until he gets tired of it. There is no ambiguity at all. He spoke clear and loud on this. And along the way he will break the capitalist system to replace it by a co-dependent system. I suppose that for some it might be an improvement.
Thus I was thinking again on how come the San Felipe Caracas trip had become such an ordeal in the last 3 years and how the government is absolutely unable to even try to set up a plan to alleviate the horrendous situation of the main Venezuelan artery, the one that links Valencia to Caracas, the one on which the productivity of the whole country depends. But when I heard Chavez speech today I got it: he does not care, he does not get it. He is unable to do anything concrete: all is politics, all is about securing power, all is about out talking whomever is in front of him. He cannot understand that the number of executives bitching while stuck in the noon heat traffic are the probable main cause on why unemployment fails to abate in Venezuela. How can you think about expanding your business, hiring people when your brain fries for an hour at La Cabrera traffic jam? But worse, how can the masses of workers piled up in buses without air conditioning can be productive after spending an hour at La Cabrera? I have to accept the fact that Chavez has lost all contact with reality, with what matters the most in a country. He is so disconnected that he thinks his stupid speech today is going to carry him easy to December. But the polls are starting to come and Chavez mediocrity today is a sure sign that at least some low level panic is setting in, as illustrated by him trying such silly gimmicks as proposing his own Recall Election as an electoral cornerstone.
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1) El Ciudadano was careful to explain that since it was a Chavez as candidate speech Globovision had decided to pass most of it live, and thus was deliberately scoring points so as not to be accused of partiality when they start passing all of Rosales campaign speeches (which by the way we know will never happen on VTV). Thus it seems that the media are going to play tough and it might pay off handsomely if we are to judge from this first ridiculous Chavez speech.
By the way, Alo Ciudadano dutifully noted that the rally broke election rules as Chavez did State announcements such as naming Rodriguez Araque ambassador to Cuba, the most important diplomatic position of the regime since all the shady financial oil deals go through Havana (and where a large chunk of the loot is probably hidden).
2) A rather polite translation of one of Barreto's infamous speeches can be read here, but I can assure you that without the image, and adding the translator prudery, it does not have the same effect.
3) The inflation rate was above 2% for the second month in a row, in spite of price controls and the number fudgery already explained elsewhere in this blog. Thus the government aim at a single digit inflation is shot, and there are still 4 months to go.
4) Just as his election to UN security council seems far from assured, no matter how much money he lavishes overseas in his now incessant trips.