Well, the informed reader might ask "did they ever stop?" without this being neither an idle question nor an ironic one. It is certainly true that the Chavez administration seems to have been on a perpetual electoral campaign since the mid 1998. A case could even be made that the only thing Chavez seems able to do is to campaign for office, and that is what he does and that is why the country is so ill managed, so wasteful, so corrupt.
With the announcement of the constitutional reform on August 15, and a vote expected in December 9, we were all wondering when the official campaign would start in earnest. Legally it should not start until late October, but it has started already in August. However this time the government has found yet another way to abuse its authority: the mini-cadena.
By law the Chavez government benefits of two permanent tools of propaganda that dwarf anything the political opposition could ever do in the media: 4 minutes a day of free "information" and the cadena.
The "information" is supposed to be of an institutional nature to promote certain services of the state and educational campaigns, but in fact is mostly plain propaganda at the expense of what should be paid advertisement for private media networks (radio stations or TV alike).
The cadena of course is the SIMULTANEOUS broadcast, for as long as the government pleases, on all TV and radio across Venezuela. Normally it should be an official speech of national interests, but under Chavez it has become his main campaign tool and propaganda machinery. When political tensions run high we can get several hours of cadena a week, some of them lasting several hours themselves. Needless to say that the opposition is not granted ANY right to reply, not even a few minutes advertisement on the state TV system which are nothing more than 24/24 365/365 propaganda affair.
And this weekend we got the mini-cadena. In this novel format the electoral campaign for the December vote starts, without the CNE objecting in anyway (what Chavez is doing is illegal but the sold out abject CNE is certainly not going to intervene as we have learned recently that the famous Ramirez 'rojo rojito' fine is yet to be paid!). This new format starts exactly as a cadena starts, with the little music and the running white horse. And then for about a minute or two we see Chavez reading one of the proposed constitutional changes from his August 15 speech. Then the cadena ends. What is wrong with that? Isn't Chavez allowed to educate the public opinion about the proposed changes? The answer is no, it is one of the most naked abuse of power form Chavez.
1) Chavez steals revenue form the private media IN ADDITION to the 4 minutes he is allowed to everyday.
2) If the opposition were to post a similar counter message the CNE would forbid it as it would be considered electoral campaign whereas the nature of the cadena supposedly exempts the government from violating the constitution. Imagine that!
3) If the CNE were to close its eyes on opposition early propaganda, such propaganda would not be allowed in the state networks, even paying for it.
4) Of course, if the opposition were to try to pass such propaganda on private networks and radio station, it would have to pay for it. It is free for Chavez (did I already mention that?).
So, the new constitution is emerging as the old one is been violated by the very people who wrote the old one. Can you imagine all the constitutional violations that will happen with the new text where even less restraints will be available to protect citizens against the abuse of the central power?
Btu there is some good news in that. If the government is already resorting to such extreme and illegal measures to promote the shameful proposal, then it must mean that their own numbers are not too good, that the promise of 6 hours work day might not be enough to pull through a constitutional referendum without cheating. So the cheating has already started though a totally unfair and abusive campaign. Nothing new, just one new evidence of the non democratic nature of the regime.