Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Chavez hostage road show

This blogger was a mile away, at the end of the road below. Yet, if there were no phones, if electricity was shut up regularly for long hours, if neither newspapers nor cellular phones could reach him, there was a generator and Direct TV. Thus, even in the middle of nowhere I was not spared the incredibly tacky show that Chavez has been setting up about the FARC hostages. By the way, considering that yours truly could watch TV in the jungle, I am pretty certain that the FARC from Colombian jungle could have managed the release of the hostages a little bit faster, a little bit more expedient than what they have been doing. Right there one is allowed to grow suspicious at how the whole business has been handled.

Because indeed I have been watching a lot of stunning moments. For example the arrival of “dignitaries” in Venezuela waiting to have news from the FARC. They will fly together to pick up the hostages. Nestor Kirchner in the jungle picking up hostages? Oliver Stone I can still understand as he might be looking for some ideas for his next action packed flick. Of course, Chavez who has had a bad year internationally is having gargles out of his speeches welcoming the “witnesses”. I even heard him saying that had he invited 50 (1000?), they would all have come. In fact Chavez is totally out of control on this show, donning even the military outfit, red beret and all. As if he were in campaign himself waddling jungle ponds as I have been doing myself these days.

Chavez declarations are even becoming indecent, inappropriate, vulgar. I heard him for example declare that in spite of all the falling out with Uribe (“platos rotos” broken dishes) if this one would allow him he would jump in a plane and fly over to Colombia to retrieve the hostages himself. But do not be fooled in thinking that maybe it is just Chavez high on something. No, it is a well concerted propaganda effort. These days watching the Venezuelan state TV one assists at a full fledged viva Chavez show. We have reached now such a crescendo over that that now the FARC have become guerilla victims of Colombian aristocracy. Never mind that Uribe was reelected with more than 60% of the votes. And we hear such incongruities as Isturiz speaking of a certain guerilla as been “an excellent guerilla” (excelente guerillero). No, I am not making this up. How do you rate such a guerilla? Kills only cops? Sends flowers on Mother’s day? Is from the FARC rather than the ELN? Feeds his hostages?

But why should Chavez again stop himself from rewriting history? After all people such as Sarkozy or Oliver Stone or Yolanda Pulecio are willing to jettison Colombian government just for the sake of effect or their own petty interests. At least in the case of Ms. Pulecio we can forgive her from having become a sort of Stockholm Syndrome sufferer in her despair at getting back her daughter Ingrid Betancourt. We can even find in our hearts to forgive her from saying that Chavez is “so humane, so caring, Venezuelans are so lucky to have someone who finally cares about hostages”. Has anyone told her that Chavez does not give a crap about the near 100 hostages held inside Venezuela?

For Oliver Stone words on the other hand I cannot find forgiveness. I heard him saying “great process, great guy” referring to Chavez as he arrived in Santo Domingo, Tachira. The master of conspiracy theory has fallen big time for the ultimate conspiracy of all as Chavez is trying to con half the world with his hostage release. No wonder that Stone makes the Michael Moore look good these days. At least Moore might over interpret the facts he handles but at least he starts from facts.

I suppose that the Chavez show will have some success among that crowd. After all, many of them are in such need of another hero (Tina Turner anyone?) that they are willing to cooperate fully even if deep inside they know it might be wrong. Does Kirchener ignore that the FARC has become a gang of criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists? Of course he has not forgotten, but he pretends to. After all, what else can he try in order to make the Argentinean people forget about the bags full of money sent to finance his wife’s electoral campaign? He can take a cue from ANY Venezuelan state TV, ranting non stop on the hostages putative liberation rather than discussing why December 2 the NO won, why milk is not returning on the shelves, why inflation is eating Venezuelan incomes, why crime this December will overcome easily the Iraq death toll for the month.

Because there are some elemental values that are too easily forgotten in this most hypocrite of shows: the victims here are not the FARC, they are the hostages of the FARC. No political organization can build its political career on kidnapping and ransom. Even Al Qaeda in this respect is better than the FARC: they limit themselves to kill. The FARC holds hostages AND kills them when needed. Or have all those people fanning over Chavez in Tachira have forgotten that a few months ago the FARC killed a dozen of its hostages when Colombian security forces threaten to reach the place where they were held? Have these people forgotten that there are hundred more of hostages in Colombia and Venezuela? Are these people unable to see that Chavez is playing them like a fiddle to legitimize the FARC so as to use it to unseat Uribe or whomever comes after him?

Fortunately the calm and compunction of Colombian authorities in front of this grotesque carnival are to be admired. I suspect that even in the short term Uribe will prevail over the over excitable Chavez, no matter how many movie directors he gets to help him stage his hostage reality show. Because where it matters, in Colombia and Venezuela, Chavez is not fooling many people. Then again since December 2 Chavez has stopped caring about us. His objective now is to look good in Paris and Hollywood so that he can screw us here without anyone growing concerned. Castro has managed it for decades, why should not Chavez succeed too?


PS: As I returned to Caracas and posted this no hostage has been freed yet. I have a simple question: if criminal Ivan Marquez has been able to visit Chavez at Miraflores Palace a few weeks ago in spite of being on the most wanted list in Colombia, how come the three hostages at stake this week cannot be dumped at some dirt road crossing, with a tent, water and food for a couple of days? The FARC would have plenty of time to bail out of Dodge before giving the GSP position. No?


-The end-

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated: a lesson in leadership

People can say whatever they want of Benazir Bhutto, but courage is not what she lacked. And she paid the price for it a few minutes ago.

I cannot post much right now, even less get references, but I can manage this little note. Compared to the alleged myriad of assassination attempts on Chavez where not even a nail was broken, may this serve as a comparison of the empty braggadocio of Chavez and the real courage of a woman like Benazir. Benazir might have talked a lot too, but she acted, she put her life on line everyday of her life and she did not make and issue out of it except for what she needed to say about it. Chavez? Hot air, all the time, everywhere.

See you in three days.

-The end-

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Away for a few days

Next post December 30. Keep leaving comments anyway, I might be able to approve them at some point. At any rate, there is enough reading material for you to catch up after spending days shopping for Christmas and ingesting lots of delicacies.

-The end-

The 2007 result: these local variations that undid Chavez

One thing that is interesting to observe from the 2007 result is the surprising role that local politics played in what should have been a strictly national contest. After all we were voting for a new constitution, not the mayor of Tucusiapon. But local political situations did play a role, sometimes even a major role such as in Lara state where the tug of war within chavismo for the succession of governor Reyes Reyes probably gave the most surprising NO victory in the whole country.

The other crucial observation, in particular for the long term prospects of chavismo is that the 2006 pattern is preserved: the poorer, more dependent a region from state subsidies or hand outs the more likely it is to vote for Chavez. That is, in more developed urban areas with a significant portion of its population employed in private sector or the public sector not subjugated to the whims of chavismo (universities for example) the NO usually won. There, the socialism content of the reform proposal was read for what it was: NOT a European social democracy but more of a Cuban style state control on everything.

That Urban phenomenon

Let’s start already with this observation which I had already covered in my general survey of the 2006 election results. I had noticed that in spite of the overwhelming victory of Chavez at the national level in December 2006, some urban areas such as even San Felipe resisted the tide. Rosales did carry most of these areas, a mix of downtown business, middle class neighborhoods, universities, etc… As I wrote then
“The opposition voter is a driven self reliant voter. It is also an above average educated voter. It is now more than ever the very largest bulk of the Venezuelan middle class, from the office clerk, the qualified worker to the business magnate”.
On December 2 this year, this trend was not only confirmed but even showed signs of strengthening. Obviously this must raise issues for Chavez as you cannot build a country if most of the skilled work force is against you.

The loss of Caracas

The most dramatic example this time is the searing defeat of Chavez/chavismo in the Caracas metropolitan area. Readers must remember that in 2004 already Caracas voted to revoke Chavez. This time not only Chavez lost strongly within Caracas but he even lost in the main distant suburban areas. The main implication is that for the regional elections of 2008 the opposition has its two surest bets in the country: to unseat Diosdado Cabello and Juan Barreto who have been very deficient bad mouthed administrators.

The graph below shows in red numbers the districts carried by Chavez in 2006. And in blue how most of them shifted to the NO. Note, in the greater Caracas districts I do not include the entire districts, for example in Guaicaipuro I picked out only the Los Teques area.

.
Some of these results that should be of great worry for chavismo. The first one is for Libertador, the Caracas downtown area, where Bernal the mayor, now one year away from losing his job due to term limits has basically stopped administering the city. The verdict is stinging there. Not only the NO gains almost 50 000 votes from Rosales in 2006 but Chavez loses 260 000 votes. That is, we see in Libertador not only a huge abstention against Chavez but a large cross over of people tired of seeing downtown Caracas turned into a dump, a lot of people that knew perfectly well that the solution to their problems is not through Chavez being able to change the name of Caracas while appointing the major himself. No, the solution comes from kicking the bums out, which is now almost certain to happen next October. Can you imagine Chavez with a Libertador mayor opposed to his policies? (note: we also see this magnitude of electoral shift in Guarenas where chavismo used to go when it needed photo ops of adoring crowds).

The second interesting result is that while the NO advanced over Chavez 2006 result everywhere, in the opposition bastions of Baruta, Chacao and El Hatillo we observe slightly less votes for the NO than for Rosales. This indicates the existence of an opposition abstention as we discussed in last week post.

All in all the result for Caracas is quite staggeringly negative for chavismo. From 2006 chavismo lost 478.000 votes while the opposition in spite of its abstention picked up enough chavista votes to gain 60.000 votes. Another year of bad management, of empty shelves and even Guarenas could be picked up by some opposition moderate left candidate….

The loss of San Felipe and Valencia

Although not as dramatic as Caracas, the phenomenon of chavismo retreat in urban centers can be picked up even in the only real urban area of Yaracuy: San Felipe. This “metro” area includes the districts of San Felipe, Cocorote and La Independencia. This time around chavismo lost even its old bastion of La Independencia!

The combined rounded vote of 2006 was 35.000 for Chavez but this time around the SI got only 21.000 votes. Meanwhile the opposition built on Rosales 31.000 to reach a NO vote of 34.000.

In the larger urban area of Valencia we observe the same thing when we combine Valencia, Naguanagua and San Diego. In 2006 Chavez got for the three of them 246.000 but the SI got 156.000. Rosales voters amounted to 220.000 but now the NO voters reached 245.000.

Chavista bastions with cracks in the wall

There are really no good news for chavismo. The only area where chavismo kept its strength was the Llanos area. But even there some worry signs are lighting up on chavismo electoral command central. For example Portuguesa was carried handily for the SI and by Chavez in 2006. In fact Portuguesa was one of the top three states in the Chavez percentile of 2006. But today in the town of Acarigua we are sensing the beginning of that Urban Vote thing. In 2006 for each Rosales vote of Portuguesa there was 3.4 Chavez vote! In Acarigua the ratio was 2.92. But in 2007 the ratio in favor of Chavez dropped to 1.71 while in Acarigua it dropped to 1.34. Certainly Portuguesa remains a sure bet for a chavista governor to succeed Antonia Muñoz next October. But next time legislative elections come around the opposition could now count on one or two seats instead of the 0 seats it has won since 2000.

The case of Barinas is actually even humiliating for Chavez even though the SI carried the state and its namesake capital. In 2006 Chavez won Barinas (city) by 90.000 to 41.000. This time around the SI won by a meager 52.000 to 50.000. From double to even in one year! We also observe other chavista bastions which present cracks in their pillars. However there is dubious new bastion for chavismo: Monagas. This state is the top SI vote percent wise. But this is a meager consolation. The SI got indeed a 57.9% of the Monagas vote but Chavez in 2006 had a 70.9%! There is a drop of 94.000 votes. And to add insult to injury, the capital Maturin voted NO anyway.

Local effects

Finally there are states where we can observe local political situations exacerbating the NO/SI result.

The big surprise of the election was that one of the states considered a chavista bastion, Lara, voted NO! And not even that close. A state that Chavez had carried by 250.000 votes was now lost by 16.000, the opposition/NO picking up a nifty 12.000 votes. Why such a reversal?

A close examination of the results show that the vote was decided in the metropolitan area of Lara, Barquisimeto and Cabudare. Just there the NO vote gained 51.000 over the Rosales total of 2006. While of course chavismo suffered a tremendous hemorrhage. And thus the explanation. The current governor of Lara, Reyes Reyes, a mediocre governor, a lackluster personality who had to pick up some of Chavez ticks to make up some for his lack of character, has decided that he wants his son to succeed him at the Governor‘s mansion. His son of course has no proven ability for nothing and the naked act of nepotism is even more grating to Larenses as the mayor of Barquisimeto, also subjected to the two term limit, wants to run for governor. The problem here is that Barquisimeto mayor, Henri Falcon, is probably the best chavismo has to offer as far as public administration is concerned. He is good looking, he talks the people talk, he picks up the garbage. Reyes Reyes has been doing his best during his second term to sabotage the action of Falcon, going as far as stopping the work on a modest mass transit construction to make sure it is not inaugurated by Falcon before he leaves office. Thus probably a lot of chavistas supporting Falcon have sent a message to Chavez with that NO vote: do not impose on us the son of your buddy. Because of course the problem here is that Reyes Reyes is one of the buddy-buddy of Chavez. Otherwise, the message might have been "watch us vote for Falcon anyway, or even worse! An opposition!!!

There are other examples of local politics at play. Anzoategui is a case where a sectarian, disruptive, fascist, pro Muslim governor, Tarek Saab, as gained such enmity that a 140.000 victory in 2006 for Chavez became a 40.000 defeat in 2007. Tarek reelection as of December 2 has become quite problematic for chavismo who might even be tempted to field a different candidate next October.

But there is a counter example where the maverick pro Chavez governor of Trujillo has managed to have his state buck the trend in the Andes giving a solid SI victory while Tachira and Merida gave a solid defeat for chavismo. though even in Trujillo the abstention brought down 2006 numbers.

Conclusion?

There is a simple conclusion: Chavez lost the automatic control of the electorate he enjoyed since 1999. Now elections will have to be won by more than a "those who vote NO or for so and so are traitors". The next contest is October 2008 and we will be able to watch close these regional differences gain a sudden key role and watch how well Chavez is able to overcome regional factors. Assuming of course that he does not kick the table before.

Just for the fun of it we could venture a prediction for the Regional Elections of 2008. Be aware that 10 months is a lifetime in politics before you give utter credence to my extremely preliminary predictions. This is just in fun.

The opposition should retain without much problem the only two states it holds presently: Zulia and Nueva Esparta. The only catch here is to find a successor for Rosales who is subject to the two term limits.

The opposition should gain without much trouble Tachira, Caracas, and Miranda. In each case the hurdle will be to find a unity candidate. But even a red dog might make it if all line up behind it.

The opposition has an excellent shot at Merida, Carabobo, Yaracuy and Anzoategui.

Through “dissident” chavistas the states of Aragua and Lara could be denied to Chavez.

Falcon and Bolivar are unpredictable at this time, the personality of the candidates being the key there perhaps more than anywhere else.

Chavismo should retain without problem all of the Llanos state, plus Trujillo, Monagas, Vargas, Sucre and the small Amazonas and Delta Amacuro. Though Sucre might not be a piece of cake depending of who Ramon Martinez decides to support. He has reached his tow term limits and his strong NO campaign almost cost Sucre to Chavez.

But of course if the students decide to run on their own then all bets are off. However that is another story. At least there is one parameter we need not worry about: Chavez starting to take interest in the administration of the country and solving some of the real problems suffered by the populace. From his December activities so far, he does not seem to be willing to make up with the "traidores" and we can expect him adding enemies. He might be erratic enough to lose these regional elections by himself.

-The end-

"A bagman's tale": a fine editorial the Washington Post left us in our Christmas stockings

On the first day back to blogging business after a wonderful Christmas the Washington Post give us a great editorial that shows us the damage that the Antonini money bag is inflicting on Argentina and Venezuela. Self inflicted wounds, do not forget. Now, for such an editorial to be published in the Post, even during the slow week of Christmas, gives you an idea on how the ignorance, manipulation and plain bad faith of Chavez and the Kirchners is affecting their international standing. That is, if the Bush administration had little to do with the indictments issued in Miami a week ago, now it will have the support of the Washington Post in helping along the investigation. Imagine that!!!!

Because this is the drama of ignorant thieves when they get caught red handed. As the Kirchners feel the bag heat searing their butts, they start badmouthing the US judicial system, for ignorance or calumny, who cares, the result is the same. That speech might score a few points for them with their audience (it seems that the US image is worse in Argentina of all LatAm countries). Maybe the naive will indeed come to think that the CIA put Antonini in that plane with 800 000 US dollars, but overseas, where it matters, Cristina K. will have four long years of no one taking her seriously. See, she does not even have a fat check book like Chavez to force her way into the social circles she would love to join of the international mighty.


A Bagman's Tale

Did Hugo Chávez purchase the allegiance of Argentina's new president?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

IT'S LONG been well known that the close relations between Venezuela and Argentina are not the result of mere ideological affinity: Under President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has purchased some $4 billion in Argentine bonds, bailing out a government whose paper is widely shunned in international financial markets.

Now it's emerging that Mr. Chávez's personal ties to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner also may have been fueled with petrodollars. According to a U.S. prosecutor in Florida, Venezuela's self-styled socialist revolutionary dispatched a bagman to Buenos Aires last August with $800,000 for Ms. Kirchner's election campaign. When police seized the cash-filled suitcase, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas Mulvihill said last week, Venezuelan and Argentine authorities conspired to cover up the matter by offering the intermediary $2 million in hush money.

This seamy story is coming to light because the alleged bagman, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, happens to be a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen with a home in Florida. After his bag was discovered at a Buenos Aires military airport on Aug. 4, Mr. Antonini began cooperating with U.S. law enforcement. Mr. Mulvihill said at a court hearing that numerous recorded conversations document the attempt by Venezuela and Argentina to silence Mr. Antonini, working through businessmen close to the Venezuelan government and a Venezuelan intelligence agent. Three Venezuelans and a Uruguayan were arrested in Florida on Dec. 12 and charged with being unregistered agents of the Venezuelan government; a fifth suspect is at large.

Ms. Fernández de Kirchner, who took office days before the arrests were made, replaced her husband, Néstor Kirchner, a populist who allowed Mr. Chávez to use Argentina as a staging point for anti-American demonstrations. Argentines and Americans who hoped the change of presidents would lead to an improvement in U.S.-Argentine relations are disappointed; some, demonstrating their ignorance of the U.S. legal system, blame the Bush administration for the results of a criminal investigation. The Kirchners' reaction shows that hopes for a change in Argentina's foreign policy were probably misplaced. Rather than distancing themselves from the scandal, both have joined Mr. Chávez in making wild charges about White House "dirty tricks" and a supposed Bush administration plot to subjugate Argentina.

"Relations with the United States are not good, and Argentina isn't a colony" of the United States, Mr. Kirchner declared last Tuesday, shortly after his wife conferred privately with Mr. Chávez. That, of course, doesn't answer the question many Argentines are asking -- which is whether Argentina is becoming a colony of Venezuela.

-The end-

Monday, December 24, 2007

The 2007 Christmas Post: the Christmas miracle of 2006

Nosotros vivimos bajo 'e la matica
Verano con ella, y ella verdecita

(sung by Un Solo Pueblo)

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this same time I was in no mood to celebrate Christmas. The country had reelected Chavez for 6 years and he was showing no signs of settling down to the task of ruling the country. In fact we were already having serious ominous rumblings of what the next year would be. Instead, today on Christmas eve we have regained some of our composure, and even, shall we say it, some Christmas spirit, Venezuelan style.

All because during some nightmarish Christmas moment Chavez decided to come out publicly to close down RCTV. And today in retrospective we can tell the whole year as a Christmas tale on how evil finally starts meting some of its due.

Oh, for sure, our problems are far from been solved. Even if Chavez were to resign tomorrow, he has done such deep damage to the social fabric of Venezuela, such big damage to our ability to live together, such material damage to the way the country is built, kept up and run, that it will take at least 5 years of excellent management and skillful politics to regain some form of institutional commitment, of common purpose for our nation's project.

But no matter how grim are our prospects for peace and growth all together, this year, this Christmas, something has changed: for the first time since 1998 we are facing a relatively peaceful Christmas with the sense that we have again a voice in our future. That is, after December 2 we know that there is a way out of the nightmare that Chavez represents. We do not know how or how long, but we know there is a way out that does not necessarily require extensive bloodshed. In 1999 we were grieving Vargas. In 2000 we were worried sick on the increasing power of Chavez. In 2001 we were entering the open conflict after the first general strike in decades. In 2002 we run out of gas and the country was on the verge of breaking up. In 2003 Chavez had denied us our civil right to call for a recall election. In 2004 the whole country had fallen into the hands of Chavez bringing a new crop of local officials that would soon reveal their general incompetence. In 2005 we had lost the last voice we had left at the National Assembly and wondered if we would even be able to field a candidate against Chavez. And in 2006 we thought it was all over, that Chavez was in power for ever.

But this year we got hope again. Once Chavez closed RCTV his deterioration started. He created a generation of bright new leaders, ideas suddenly had values of their own. He forced the opposition to put its act together. He revealed himself the power hungry dictator that he really was. And on December 2 he met defeat for the first time. Nobody could have predicted that this Christmas we would have a diminished president, a president who lost the initiative and who does not seem to find ways to regain it except through vain attempts at shouting louder than the rest of the world.

We have the opportunity to enjoy Christmas for the first time in years, for what Christmas means for Venezuelans. Song, food, family, partying, good cheer all around, forgetting who is chavista and who is not. Next year will be very hard for all of us, but tonight let's have an Hallaca, some Pan de Jamon, a little bit of Ponche Crema, maybe a roasted Turkey or Pernil and let's enjoy our family and friends. Tomorrow we will have the whole day to recover and watch kids play with their new toys. Let's us all remember together that life can be good while we listen to our Aguinaldos.

Nosotros vivimos 'bajo la matica
Verano con ella, y ella verdecita

Merry Christmas to all, and thanks to all who have already written to me or expressed it in the comment section. I apologize for not replying but I am dumbfounded by the amount I have received this year from so many people.

Ps: the simplicity of these folksy words form Un Solo Pueblo make any translation useless as it would require a small post to just explain them. I am sure that one reader will come up with one good way to account for them. Let me just say that if you "get" them, then you are truly Venezuelan, and I mean "get", not "understand". these simple words cannot express better my admiration for the resilience of the Venezuelan people, the one that should be admired tonight.

-The end-

Sunday, December 23, 2007

And let's not forget about Chavez and the FARC

Another story that is developing with an unusual pathos and morbidity is the collusion between Chavez and the FARC of Colombia. Having been kicked out from his mediator in the hostage situation, Chavez has been livid since then and is willing to bring Colombia and Venezuela to the brink of war to satisfy his wounded ego. That he made the mediation a show for him and Piedad Cordoba presidential ambitions does not seem to have crossed his mind as now Chavez has taken upon himself the right to speak on anything, "por que no te callas" withstanding.

It has taken all the skills and nerve of Colombian diplomacy to avoid an escalation to terrible consequences. For Venezuela that is as we are very dependent on Colombia for our food supply since everyday we produce less here. Besides if Chavez were to start a war with Colombia within days Colombian army would seize Zulia and Tachira and the war would be over. Look at the fat and corrupt military leaders promoted by Chavez and compare them with the lean Colombian leaders, with gloved hands and years of military training fighting the FARC.

Now the sick game is for the FARC to surrender three of the hostages to Chavez alone. And of course to try to turn international opinion to think that Chavez and Chavez alone can solve Colombia's problem. Besides demonstrating how low have the FARC fallen and how weakened they got under Uribe, it also shows how little some circles in the world care about Venezuela and Colombia. If one can perhaps forgive Ingrid Betancourt's husband Lecompte to say that he would be OK with Uribe resignation to see his wife free (he has a tattoo of her on his shoulder) one is much more worried about some strange bedfellows such as the French government who do not care what will happen to Venezuela and Colombia once they get Ingrid. Though fortunately the French seem to have wised up about Chavez since he showed empty handed at the Elysee Palace. Lately they have shown signs that a different mediator than Chavez might not be such a bad idea.

I did came across this raw but to the point editorial of IBD which says it all quite well, putting the finger on Chavez using the FARC and the hostages to try to weaken Uribe government. Let's not forget that this IS THE REAL INTEREST OF CHAVEZ, to bring down Colombia democracy as weak as that one might be. If Chavez did care about hostages and crime he would be busy solving the hundred of them taking place in Venezuela as I type. Is anyone in Venezuela or the world paying attention to the Venezuelan hostages? Or its political prisoners for that matter?

-The end-

And let us not forget of bags full of money

While Christmas is taking more of my time and I am preparing my last posts for the year, I wanted to make a small parenthesis to visit the Antonini Maletagate case. Not for any new revelation that will shatter the innocence of the reader, no, not at all. But to point out to some curious phenomenon: the "any excuses is valid" syndrome for the eternal apologists of Chavez and his friends, currently the Kirchner couple who everyday looks more like the peronista family capo di mafia that peronismo in the end keeps proving to be.

Today the Washington Post has an article on the whole thing. The article will not tell you anything new. Thinking minds now know that Chavez has been financing the Kirchner campaign (and Correa, and Ortega, and Humala, and Evo and Lula -though maybe indirectly courtesy to the huge contracts to Brazilian engineering companies- , and X Y and Z). Chavez has a fat check book and he has demonstrated how to buy "friends" with it. The 800 K suit case (and other loaded cases now) has only brought us the proof. We all know that only Venezuelan justice could do anything against Chavez and we all know that it will never do anything against Chavez. On this regard in Venezuela we can only take a seat, relax and enjoy the show of watching Chavez making a total ass of himself defending what cannot be defended while his international standing keeps sinking.

No, what is interesting in that Post article are the comments, at least the first dozen of them: all defenders of Kirchner, all conspiracy theory supporters implying that Antonini was on the payroll of the CIA FBI BUSH. They cannot be that stupid. Or can they? If the CIA FBI BUSH links go so deep inside PDVSA to allow for example Antonini to get a seat in that fateful plane from the hands of high ranking Venezuelan and Argentinean officials, then how come no more juicy scandal has been uncovered? How come no more visible marks of corruption have been unveiled? And let's push it further: how come the Kirchners and Chavez are still in office if the CIA FBI BUSH can put moles at such high levels?

No, the only thing I can think to explain these comments (and those of journalists and officials that should know better) is despair at trying to hide the stinking pot. You can hide it but there is not enough Glade to cover the smell, no matter how many hired pen Chavez and the Kirchners can find. It blew on their nose due to their own stupidity. Had they fired the right amount of people in August 2007 they would not be today in the mess they are at. But see, for Chavez after 9 years of doing what he wanted, for the Kirchners who learned from Chavez the talk to do pretty much as they wanted in Argentina, it must be a rude awakening to realize that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. No matter how many paid or not sycophants grace the comment section of the Washington Post where they try to dodge all of the damming facts brought for by Monte Reel.


-The end-

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The 2007 result: the surprising abstention

Can the CNE results be trusted?

This is not an idle question. If the CNE announced that Chavez lost, then by all means he lost!!!! But was that the margin of victory?

This question is rather easy to answer. First, nobody has come out yet with any evidence that the numbers are really that far off from what the CNE said. I mean, by the time all is in it is possible that the difference widens to somewhat more than 2%. But that is all. After all, polls announced that the SI victory would be very narrow, that the NO victory would be narrow and getting wider as abstention decreased. Abstention having increased from December 2006, it is not surprising that the NO victory was narrow, even predictable.

No, the real question here is the abstention. The number not only is double than the one in 2006 (not really surprising for a ballot where Chavez was not directly at stake) but the CNE reports two numbers!!! As if one could go to a voting station where only someone could vote on one question, not the two ones. I mean, the number of valid votes could be different, but the number of abstention should be the same: people did go or did not go to vote.

I think it all comes from the very sloppy way the CNE works, and probably a deliberate sloppiness. So, to cut short to any wild speculation I will give now my very own conspiracy theory.

The problem, the possible cheating part of the CNE, is the electoral rolls. Those seem to be very inflated and could have been created to allow some ballot box packing. But this would be possible only IF the opposition does not bother counting ballots or is not allowed to count all ballots. This probably worked quite well for chavismo in 2004, both the referendum and the local elections for Carabobo and Miranda. It might have even worked some in 2006 to improve the margin of victory. But this time even though all centers were not duly monitored by the opposition, enough of them were, courtesy of the student participation, and that blocked any possible electoral fraud scheme.

The lesson is very simple for the opposition: it needs to mount enough of a machinery that at least 50% of electoral centers are duly monitored at all times by opposition legal observers/witness.

The regular chavista abstention

The next observation is that chavismo is missing its votes very regularly across the country.

Chavez lost 34% of its vote count from last December in the Andes region but lost 45.7% in the Guayana region. The spread does not even reach 12%, easily accounted for some regional variations, and up to a point to the local strength of PODEMOS, former unconditional supporters of Chavez.



Clearly Chavez has lost 1 voter in three and this is a lot in any standard, and even more so as he tried to turn the vote into a plebiscite on his persona. We can easily extrapolate that a third at least of the chavista electorate is a NiNi electorate, only in for Chavez as long the advantage it receives compensate any disadvantage. Here, clearly, for whatever reason, the advantage were far from compensating the probable annoyance. The reasons? Tired of crime? Not enough milk on the shelves? They actually read the reform and did not like it? They are tired of voting?

No matter what, we find again that magic number of chavista voters who will always vote for Chavez, a number always established at around 30% in this blog. Yet… A significant chunk of chavista voter Sunday 2 was voting under coercion. Too many were afraid that a Chavez loss would mean losing their job, or their relatives jobs/"becas". Too many were not sure whether the secret vote still exists in Venezuela (Tascon list exerts its ravages as much within chavismo as within the opposition). So, what is the real hard core chavismo today? Probably less than 25%. Sunday 2 it was around 27%. On December 2005 it was as low as 20%. The ones forced to vote for Chavez might be as much as 5%, hence my 25% top.

The lesson for the opposition? There is 20-25% of the country that will never be convinced by any message this one can put up, unless there is a general collapse in the image of Chavez who would push these voters into abstention or another messianic leader, certainly not to vote for any democratic opposition leader. The good thing in it is that it should simplify some the opposition discourse. This one should only bother targeting the now floating 20% of the Venezuelan electorate. As usual, electoral victories are won in the center, no matter how relative that center might be.

The very irregular opposition abstention

The abstention in the opposition existed. The debate between voting and not voting exerts too much of a strain and must be resolved. That organization allows for surprising electoral victory should be the best argument now to bring back to the fold the chronic abstainers.

The table above shows that in two areas the opposition got less votes than what its unified candidate of 2006, Manuel Rosales, made. This includes Zulia, the home state of Rosales where he is down by 8.5% (at least by current CNE numbers as of this typing). This is quite paradoxical. But there are some explanations available.

First, as mentioned above, the constant argumentation by some opposition sectors that the CNE is always cheating and that we should never vote has a toll to be paid. You cannot make hundred of thousand of people not vote for 2 or 3 elections in a row and suddenly make them go back to the ballot box in barely two weeks. That is exactly what happened in the last two weeks of the referendum, campaign when finally some die hard abstention promoters suddenly turned their jacket. Too late for many voters. I do not think that this was the case in Zulia, where Rosales always preached the ballot option, but it certainly was the case in other areas.

Second, at least in the case of Zulia, there were not enough chavista NO supporters available to compensate the abstention of the opposition vote. For example if we look at the 2006 result we see that in Zulia PODEMOS represented only 4.16% of the vote. And it is fair to assume that at most half of PODEMOS voters deserted Chavez enough to go and cast a NO vote.

This can be sen more clearly in an "extreme" example such as Sucre where in 2006 PODEMOS brought Chavez 28% of the 74% he got, that is more than 1 in 3 votes. Yet this time Chavez barely won with 51% of the vote in Sucre state. What is more telling is to look at the actual numbers. In 2007 Chavez gets 125 K votes, quite down from the 268 K of 2006!!!! The opposition got 95 K in 2006 and the NO got 120 K. Clearly it is safe to bet that the 1o1 K that PODEMOS had in 2006 became at least 20K NO and the rest split between abstention and SI. The PODEMOS "effect" was strong enough to make Sucre account for half of the vote increase of the opposition in that area ("oriente" in table above), in spite of a good show for the SI in Monagas. But there PODEMOS was barely 2% in 2006 and the opposition improves only by 10K even though Monagas has about as many voters as Sucre.

Where did the voters go?

We shall look more at the regional voting patterns of the next post, but right now it would be good to examine where the NO votes went and how abstention played a role.

First, based on Zulia and the Andes where PODEMOS is weak and where the opposition did not get back its 2006 count, we can say that at the very least 10% of the opposition voters did not go and vote. Since exit polls are woefully deficient in Venezuela and/or not published anyway, we do not know at this time if it is true or if it is higher that 10%. Considering that so many chavistas publicly declared that they would vote NO I think it is fair to assume that up to 15% of the opposition in 2006 did not vote on December 2 2007 and that the over all improved results are due to significant chavismo cross over.

In numbers that would be that the 4.292 K of Rosales in 2006 went down conservatively 10%, by 430 K, to 3.870 K. Thus the difference with the referendum result over two weeks ago of 4.504 K comes form 4504-3870 = 630 K pro Chavez voters who this time voted against their man wishes. For some it might not be that much but I think that it was a huge cross over considering the political situation at the moment. These 600 K voters cannot ever be taken for granted by Chavez again, and cannot be brought back to the fold with money. They have become the moral and democratic caution of chavismo and the more hysterical chavismo becomes since December 2, the more likely these folks are to become the nucleus of a new opposition movement in Venezuela that could be very effective in gaining ground among those who abstained within chavismo.

Thus we can review the numbers of chavismo. Chavez has claimed that 3 million votes were missing. This is not quite true. If we assume that all that the CNE says is to be trusted, not a small IF, Chavez went down from 7.309 K in 2006 to 4.379 K early this month. But of these 3 million as much as 500 K belong to the opposition natural loss/abstention. The 3 million in fact are 2.5 and split 600 K to the NO and 1.9 actual abstention. How much of that 1.9 million is actual "normal" abstention or a deliberate staying at home rather than go and vote NO is not known. Of course, chavismo is not prepared to say that at the very least half a million "chavistas" went over tot he NO and prefers to present it as 3 million "lost" to abstention votes.

I have tried to show a visual help for these calculations and extrapolations, in the three ring figure below.



The outer ring is simply for reference, the 51% NO victory, in blue. Chavismo is red. The inner rings are those that try to give an image of the electorate major shift.

The middle ring is the percentile share of the presidential election of 2006. This one includes for chavismo PODEMOS, MVR and other minor parties, for a total of 63%. In blue, Rosales for the opposition with 37%.

The inner ring gives that same 37%, coincidentally with the 37% of Rosales which yielded the final 51%. Except that this 37% has at least a 5% borrowed from chavismo. I put it near PODEMOS in the chart as the more likely source, but I expect no more than half of that 5% coming from PODEMOS.

The inner ring shows the precipitous decline of chavismo due to a phenomenal abstention (35% in the inner ring compared to 67% in 2006, middle ring). I have put side by side with different tones of yellow the abstention coming from opposition and from chavismo. Their combined number is the CNE declared abstention, I just tried to make an educated guess on their respective distribution.

But that inner ring also clearly shows that the opposition won the NO more by chavismo desertions than its ability to convince it to vote NO. That it convinced many to stay home is certainly very good, but not enough to unseat Chavez any time soon.

The consequences of this result will be examined in a future post where I will include regional variations in vote.

-The end-

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 2007 result: is the tide out for chavismo?

The CNE to this day has not published the detail of the 2007 vote and we might not get it until sometime in January. So far we only have the first bulletin vote with details of SI versus NO on a regional basis. But there is no result from embassies, no numbers on local abstention, just the global abstention of the second bulletin at 43.95%.

On the surface the results seem to be quite clear: the NO managed to get almost 2 points ahead of the SI, the constitutional reform that would have made Chavez an almighty leader was rejected, and Chavez got his first electoral defeat in 9 years, but it is a close one and he should rebound easily.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Chavez did receive a severe defeat and his ability to bounce back is seriously compromised. The reason is very simple: considering all the extraordinary advantage chavismo had coming into the contest, and an extraordinarily unfair one at that, that the electoral armor has been breached could provoke a significant and permanent withdrawal of support from a large sector. The psychological effect here is tremendous and the reactions from Chavez himself in the days that followed the vote are more than enough to establish that fact. The only thing chavismo has going for it is that the opposition might not be ready to capitalize on this disenchanted electorate. It is in a much better position than what it was a year ago, but there is still nothing within the opposition that indicates that it could reach power in less than a couple of years on its own merits. And we all know that two years in politics is a life time….

Why was Chavez defeat such a stinging one. First there was the basic error of the campaign, to make the vote a plebiscite over Chavez. Thus the vote annuls the brilliant result of one year ago. It does not annul it enough to question the Chavez stay in power for a few more years, but it makes Chavez an effective lame-duck president for 5 years. Unless of course Chavez chooses non democratic ways to act and in this case he risks very much to see his tenure shortened real fast. But in the unlikely prospect that he decides to be more of a democrat, he faces one serious electoral hurdle in October 2008 and the prospect that the opposition could take upon itself new constitutional moves that could result in curtailing his term of office. It is simply amazing to see how a man who had so much power in December, managed to squander a lot of it in his unnecessary search for more power. In this play there is a strange mix of Lear and an evil Prospero gone vaudeville.

The key to understand this is to analyze carefully the abstention pattern, at least as much as the CNE results can be trusted, or are even complete. It is clear that if Chavez lost a lot of voters, the opposition also lost many of its own. It is that difference that gives our first hint at how difficult it is for Chavez to bounce back to his former preeminence since he has much more ground to cover than the opposition.

But there is a second “shocker”: the opposition made up its own abstention losses at chavismo expenses. Electoral wisdom says that once a voter has crossed the line, for whatever reason, it will be much easier for the said voter to cross it again and again. Does anyone remember the Reagan "Democrats"? True, these “new” electors have come over form a wide variety of reasons, from their admiration to the student movement, to their dislike of the proposal going through the beginnings of a simple dislike of Chavez after so many years of dumb love. Chavez certainly has not been likable this past year, but still, that does not mean that the opposition to Chavez has a lock on these votes. But the tide is now running in its favor: patience, field work, and new ideas will eventually remove chavismo from office. The students have the ideas, UNT and PJ have the patience now, and all are starting to understand that elections cannot be won without reaching to the voter.

To come to these conclusions above one needs simply to compare 2006 and 2007 result, examine how the abstention has moved and look closely at some very interesting regional variations. This will be done in the next two posts on that matter.

PS: as a coincidence as I post this article written already a couple of days ago (I had to at least put down my scheme for the rest of this three part series) Weil regales us with a great cartoon: the three gifts that the opposition got this year.



Of course, the NO result, for the serious stuff.
For comic relief the King of Spain now famous words found even in Cel Phones ring tones.
And the bag with 800 000 dollars, sure to be the Grinch that stole Xmas from Lady K. and Ego Chavez.

And the happy family thankful for the three best presents they could have received this year.


-The end-

Monday, December 17, 2007

The US killed Bolivar and FOX manipulated the news

Well, after today that is what is left for Chavez to say. We have the strange feeling that we could hold our breath waiting without much damage...

The Spanish version of the news gives us more details. Apparently Chaevz talked for 4 hours to tell us that the US, already becoming an evil empire in 1830 started circulating rumors about Bolivar to start a psychological warfare. There must have been a FOX like network then, no? Never mind that psychology had not been invented yet, and that the Evil Empire was barely reaching the Mississippi with a few log cabins and mud huts.

But the craziness of Chavez and his ignorance on so many things and his willingness to display his ignorance is not what matters here. What is really shocking for a Venezuelan like me is that he gave the order to open the hallowed tomb of Bolivar. Just like that, because he thinks that Bolivar was assassinated before tuberculosis took him away. No one of course told Chavez that in these days EVERYONE knew that advanced tuberculosis like Bolivar had was assumed to be a death sentence and no one needed to hurry up to assassinate such folks unless there was some juicy inheritances at stake. That was not the case for Bolivar who was on his way into exile, then a politically defeated man of little threat.

No, what is terrible here is that Chavez thinks that he has the right to play with the country's symbol as he pleases, that he does not need to name a commission first that will study whether opening the sarcophagus of Bolivar is a justified endeavor. He gave the order and you know that as scary as it is it might happen, and there will be no serious supervision on how this will be done and that simply what is at stake might be Chavez wanting a piece of Bolivar to do voodoo to recover from his terrible year of 2007, sealed with his stunning loss of December 2.

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

PS: I do not know whether FOX manipulates the news, I only watch CNN on occasion and they are themselves not above doing it. I just used FOX because it seems to be the a favorite target of the pro Chavez crowd.

-The end-

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gucci-cuchi

In Venezuela we have a term of endearment for lovers, a tad old fashioned these days when language has acquired a je ne sais quelle crudeness, "cuchi-cuchi" (almost the same sound in Venezuela) . I thought of it as I was catching up some in my reading on the latest scandals which all involve revolutionaries who want to live well, while some other revolutionaries stand in line for hours to buy a pound of milk. I could imagine the vice president saying the equivalent of cuchi-cuchi to the guys filling up his wallet after he signed contracts for finger printing machines. I could imagine Carreño saying cuchi cuchi to his wife when she gave him his Louis Vuitton ties with Gucchi loafers for no other reason but her having enough money now to splurge at any mall she wishes to.

Rayma is the cartoonist from EL Universal that I seldom use in spite of her utter brilliance because, like Zapata El Nacional, she is too Venezuelan for outside people to get it, contrary to Weil who seems some times to draw his cartoon for the foreign crowd. But this week Rayma gave three cartoons in a row that deserve ample distribution, allowing me to make up some of my neglect. The first one of course is the one above making allusion to the incident where interior minister Pedro Carroña, ooops!, Carreño was caught off base about his wearing a LouisVuitton tie (1). He should have known that Venezuelan female journalists are well versed on fashion and thus speaking of socialism and equality and impossible reconciliation with the NO country while you wear a Louis Vuitton, well, it sounds phony. Which explains the second cartoon here, with the LV on Che beret. Surely if the Che had worn any fashion design in his days (Hermes was big then, to name a reference) he would not have amounted to much. By not using brand names and toughening it up in jungles he became a logo himself, which is more than can be said from ANY of the bolivarian revolutionaries that we have had to put up with for the last 9 years.

One thing about being late in blogging on these matters due to end of year extra workload and Internet problems is that it sort of pays off: I just need to mention other people work. I have found three resources. A fabulous article form Alex Beech who had to wait for a year to be dragged back at her blog to write. I suppose that the intensity of the ridicule was irresistible for her to write about. Then there is a great gossipy compilation from Feathers who details all these socialists heroes ties (as in relationships, not only ties) and how they are linked to the government (very cuchi cuchi if you ask me). To narrate the new details about the Maletagate which is causing a lot of grief in Buenos Aires, and much less for the time being in Venezuela where all the crooks are out of reach from the Venezuelan judicial system (too bad that judges in Miami cannot be bought or pressured as easily than in Caracas, as Kaufman and Co. must be meditating these days) El Universal felt the need for a general compilation page web for all matters pertaining to bags full of money, brand name or not.

I think never as this week we have seen the true miserable nature of the bolivarian revolution, how it spoils all what it touches and how accidentally it reminds us that Peronism was always Peronismo. Cristina K., botox and all, cannot put the blame on the US judicial system even in the spectacularly infamous way her chief of staff, Fernandez, is trying to do, and thus possibly wrecking the US Argentinian relationship for the full term of Cristina K. All because Peronismo was too corrupt to put a stop to it when it had a chance last August. In fact, the incredible tone of that article indicates more than anything that there is guilt in Argentina that needs to be hidden. In a normal country with a normal president, such a letter would have never been allowed for publication. I suppose that the right hand of Cristina K. like many a Venezuelan revolutionary such as Maduro who showed Argentinians how to dodge the issue for their respective hoi poloi (the thinking world? they have long ago ceased to try to impress) will obtain this nifty medal of Rayma for the true robber cum revolutionary: the keys of a nice BMW to put their Vuitton bags full of Gucci shoes in. Meanwhile, Cristina K. who was thought to be more of a maven in the foreign policy field than her husband, well, now we know it was not true.

Plus ça change et plus c'est la même chose.

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

1) video here, long but with the whole story, zip to minute 7:25 for the Gucci moment. But the whole video is worth watching as it includes precious footage of Chavez insulting his own supporters in his infantile bitterness or a minister admitting that after 9 years of revolution Venezuela imports still 95% of its junk while displaying his total ignorance of the state of the country. then again Pedro Carroña, ooops, Carreño, was the one of the secret cameras in Direct TV decoders for the CIA to spy on all Venezuelans.....

-The end-

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Censorship in Venezuela is followed closely

While I had Internet problems I could still manage to finish my second article for Index on Censorship, a UK specialized publication that follows all sorts of censorship actions through the world.

I figure it would be a nice post for this Saturday as I need some rest after a hectic week. The article is here.


-The end-

Friday, December 14, 2007

Organized crime in Venezuela administration

While my Internet connection suffered some problems, scandals to report kept accumulating. The big one of course is the arrest of some of the original accomplices of Guido Antonini, the man of the 800 000 USD suitcase. Remember? Early August? Wee hours? Buenos Aires Airport? A private flight with Argentinean and Venezuelan officials? And a carry on case full of cash?

Well, the FBI and associates kept investigating and early this week they arrested some of the associates of Antonini. I will not go back on that since it is old news for the readers. The news has shifted now and we got the first reaction form one of the bosses of the involved parties: Cristina Kirchner, freshly inaugurated president of her country and who got enough this week to kill her honeymoon period. As seen on TV, she was pissed, making the worst outbursts of Hillary seem like those of a sweet lady. But see, Cristina has the fine art of Argentinean arrogance so for bitchy retorts, no one holds a candle to her. Even when all the fingers point at that money as having been destined to finance her electoral campaign.

So, what was the very original reply of Crisitna? That it was a garbage plot to sabotage her administration by US agencies. Then again there is that, and she did not address it at all. Maybe she did not read it? Not for her the minutiae of justice following an administration whose redolence of corruption is still far from the stench of the Caracas continental size corruption. Because let's us not kid ourselves, if Argentina justice is definitively a notch above the Venezuelan one (they did catch the carry on, did they?) it is still far from the basic standards of the US system when money and IRS are involved. Crisitna might want to wiggle that one out with high heels and hair flying in the breeze, she would be well advised to sacrifice whomever she needs to sacrifice. But her reappointing Nestor's cabinet tells us that it will be business as usual in Casa Rosada and thus the quality of politics in Argentina are not going to improve a bit in the coming years.

But of course what is much more interesting here is that the picture of how Chavez finances political friends is now becoming quite clear for all of those who tried to ignore it. I mean, we ALL knew, even if too many pretended not to know, that it was goign on but many of us did not know how blunt was the meddling of Venezuela in some parts of the world, nor how much money was so directly spent. The carry on case full of money form Venezuela has already been seen in Panama, in Miami and in Bolivia. We can assume that for every case caught, there must be at the very least 10 that went through. Did you know that with the 800 000 of Antonini alone, at least 16 modest but solid and complete homes for the poor could have been built, roads and all services? As much as 8 tons of milk could have been bought, attending the monthly needs of at least 100 000 poor Venezuelans?

But in Venezuela, from were Crisitna got her cue of course, it is all a big media manipulation, a show from US agencies. “U.S. propagandistic trash" were the words used by Lara. But then again the recent campaign has demonstrated that the communications minister has run put of ideas and is left to scatological expression to justify Chavez misrule.

All evidence points out that Chavez will keep giving money around to promote his glory, not the welfare of the Venezuelan people. The latest was the gift of 4.5 million dollars to build a stadium in Bolivia. Yes, that is right, as the works for the Venezuelan stadiums is not completed yet (and probably will never be unless some tournament comes this way) Chavez is building elsewhere. I suppose that a stadium in Oruro will ensure that the opposition to Morales in Bolivia will quiet down, dazzled, and go watch soccer........ no word of fresh milk coming back on the shelves....

Meanwhile if any one had any hope that corruption would abate some during the last 5 years of the Chavez administration, think again. Yesterday the National Assembly, out of the law and the constitution as usual, returned in office for another 7 years Clodosvaldo Russian, the man that was in charge on watching over the moneys of the state. In his "distinguished" tenure he managed to skewer some opposition characters on some very minor administrative charges. Leopoldo Lopez is the best example. The mayor of Chacao will not be able to run for office for about a decade because he shifted some budgets funds in order to pay Chacao workers. (Note: not to his pocket, to pay town hall workers). Meanwhile, Kaufman now in jail awaiting bail in Florida, will be able to run for any elected office if he chooses to do so. Clodosvaldo I am sure will not do anything against him as he has not done anything about all the major corruption cases of Venezuela. In fact, one of the few presentable chavistas, but insignificant ones, such as Mari Pili Hernandez have been found guilty by the office of Clodo. I suppose he needed a token chavista to justify his persecution of any opposition figure Clodo is told to attack.

And so we have the clear picture of how the mafia runs the Venezuelan government. NOT A SINGLE VENEZUELAN ISNTITUION is seriously investigating the Miami 4, as they are too busy protecting themselves from future pursuits or scandals, and making sure Chavez keeps spreading corruption, moral and financial, all over Latin America. Of coruse, the capo in the show is Chaevz who at this time can only plead insanity, a plea for which dossier these past few weeks Chavez has greatly contributed.

-The end-

Thursday, December 13, 2007

announcement

temporal internet access problems courtesy of the wonderfully inefficient public administration of venezuela. back tonight on regular posting.

-The end-

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sarkozy receives Qaddafy

France receives today Muammar Qaddafi for a state visit. Again, I must revisit a prophetic post of mine:
She also seems to be the more principled candidate of the lot. She has said that she will be willing to increase pressure on Iran and on states that do not respect Human Rights adequately, going as far as letting her name associated to a possible Beijing Olympic boycott if China refuses to put pressure on Sudan over the disgrace of Darfur. If one candidate of the lot might be able to resist some of the indecent pressures of Total like companies she might be the one.
Indeed, Sarkozy has shown to be someone ready to do anything for a fat check for French goods offer. Not that it is necessarily bad, the French state needs to pay for its huge welfare benefits, but some counties manage to do so without being as cynically flashy. But today even his glamor minister, Rama Yade, could not help herself criticize that visit. The Guardian note failed to reassure me on Sarkozy commitment on human rights.

I did not know I would miss Segolene Royal so much by now. Only the socialists in France these days speak against creeps as Qaddafy or Chavez or Poutine or..... Even the lefties are on occasion in bed with Sarkozy on these things. Revolting.

-The end-

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A video from people who have too much time on their hands

You need to be able to read Spanish for this video but you are gonna chuckle a lot with it. Probably inspired from Katy's post at CCS-Chron. (hat tip M.)



-The end-

Saturday, December 08, 2007

CNE update

The CNE announced "final" results last night. But in fact they only announced that officially the NO had won. Only 94% of the tallies are accounted so far! 5 full days after the vote!!! I mean, even from Ulna Bator by FedEx the consulate tally would have reached Caracas by now! Well, I do not know if we have a consulate in Mongolia, but if we had one, DHL or FedEx can serve it.....

Even a 98% I could have understood: need to validate tallies, etc... But ONLY 94% at this point? With the system that chavismo wants us to believe is the most sophisticated and fair in the world?

This morning, somewhat recovered from last week I decided to have a closer look. After all, I am waiting for the final results to examine the results in more detail. I am not too concerned about the final result: the big centers have been accounted for and what remains are probably small centers with few votes. Yet, even allowing for this provision I cannot help be be worried by the contrast between the 88% tallies bulletin of Monday 1 AM and the one from yesterday.

Monday morning we had 8.883.746 votes counted and yesterday we only went up to 9.045.344.

From her own admission Tibisay says that the remaining 2000 tallies have an average of 200 voters per tally (1).

Since Monday the CNE counted 160.000 votes, for also 6% tallies. With the same calculation we see that the average tally count drops to 80! 160 000 / 2000 = 80. The average tally in these 6% is lower than the average tally on the remaining to be counted.

OK, so maybe Tibisay was in a hurry to leave for Buenos Aires, but at the very least we can say that the CNE is REALLY sloppy in its work. That is why no matter what people do not trust the CNE. Or is that what the CNE wants, people not to trust it?

PS: and even though the bulletin has been emitted, the CNE page on results is still NOT updated....

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

1) I quote in Spanish from the CNE page so nobody can tell me I am misinforming or misstating:

La rectora señaló que aún están pendientes por totalizar 2.000 mil actas, de las cuales mil corresponden a centros de votación manuales, ubicados en sitios lejanos y en el exterior. Mientras que las otras mil actas son de centros automatizados sin factibilidad transmisión y con pocos electores (Amazonas, Delta Amacuro, Apure y algunos municipios lejanos). Todo ello representa unos 200 mil electores.




-The end-

Images that say it all

I figured out that after two weeks of intense blogging and one week of astounding reactions from Chavez, it might be time to give a more restful post to the readers of the week end. I have compiled below two pictures and two cartoons that by themselves summarize perfectly well the reasons behind the defeat of Chavez. They also give us some serious hints as to what the future has for us.

Is there a future president in this group?


I suspect that this might be the image that has most upset Chavez this week. Assuming of course that El Nacional reaches his desk in Miraflores. However we can be pretty confident that this picture did because it was also the same issue of the article by Lugo-Galicia which elicited the scatological epithet that Chavez proffered.

It is difficult to overestimate the part the dissident students played in defeating Chavez last Sunday. When they burst on the scene last May after Chavez closed RCTV, nobody would have thought that 6 months alter they would bring down Chavez from his towering 63% victory of December 2006. Oh, they were not alone, along he way the opposition parties accepted to take second seats, PODEMOS and Baduel defected, milk went missing. But today who can deny that the student movement of May 2007 has become an essential character of the Venezuelan political scene? Some observers sensed it already in May, that the students would reveal the intellectual misery of chavismo, that Chavez was naked. This writer must again remind readers of his June post, a post who has proven to be prophetic.

Even Chavez, increasingly isolated at Miraflores, must have sensed in this image the power of youth, the renewal of ideas that his bloated self is now unable to offer. That is why these students must sleep in different houses every night, as Chavez is behaving everyday more like Herod than Jefferson.

What Chavez thinks of us


Weil gave us two splendid cartoons this week. When Chavez says that "the people is not ready for my project" he projects the utter disdain he has for us, the utter reactionary nature of his project. Not to mention how undemocratic his reaction is. Venezuelans are moving more and more into the global world and Chavez wants to hold them down, to silly communal farms, to meager XIX century like cooperatives, to outdated values. Even the old social and economical terms, he fails to update them into something that could be constructive, significant, appealing beyond the members of the cult.

Why we might have said NO


When all is said and done the reason we might have said NO is simply because we got sick and tired of Chavez incessant verbiage. This one has gotta be the best campaign poster of the 2007 season: "the only way to shut up Chavez, vote on December 2".

What now?

I do not know what is next, besides a possible restful Christmas once Chavez spews out his bile. However one thing is certain: Chavez is trapped in an impossible situation. The mismanagement of the referendum proposal, the greediness exhibited everywhere, have placed Chavez in a labyrinth from where no matter how much he screams and insults us it will be very difficult for him to escape. In fact, if he does not start taking in the defeat and the realization that the Venezuelan people had told him that he has 5 years in office and that is that, he might not even reach the end of these 5 years.

PS: for those who might not get all of these pictures, details are in the preceding 10 posts of this blog. This post is a summary of sorts.

-The end-

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Economist versus Weisbrot

While we keep waiting for the final results I figured out that I should be catching up with some of the stuff readers sent me. One very amusing item came for a rather bitter Weisbrot, notorious Chavez lobbyist. He seems to take a little bit personally the result of yesterday. Then again having made a career of more than 5 years explaining to the world why Chavez is such a great stuff, well, that Venezuelan people rebuttal of Sunday must be rather humiliating for him. Oh well....

On the other hand The Economist has published an excellent review on why Sunday result was against Chavez. Contrary to the "studies" of the Weisbrot hack team, the Economist dig into actual examples of corruption and incompetence such as its study of the "collective farm near the village of Buenos Aires in the coastal plain of Barlovento". Whoever was sent from the Economist to dig there got even the amount, in dollars, pocketed by corrupt "socialist" officials in charge to develop this project: 465.000 US dollars. Thus we can gather that when the "beneficiaries" are able to measure all what was ripped off from their governmental grant, they either sat out that referendum, when not voting NO. We should not be surprised at all.

The Economist even observes: The emergence of the “third pole”, composed of Podemos, General Baduel and the student movement, should in itself herald a less polarised politics. I do not know whether they read blogs in English (which I suspect they do because some of the stuff in that Economist article could have come out form either Quico, Miguel or myself) but I particularly liked that sentence. After all it is something that I am trying to convey and for which I am getting some crap as many dismiss the Baduel episode or the PODEMOS defection. But the Economist does notice (They probably got it from Teodoro).

Anyway, the good thing about Sunday result and Chavez despicable reactions is that from now on we should read a much more critical press outside of Venezuela. The Weisbrot and other assorted hanger on will have a hard time pushing their stuff, when not fired outright by Chavez. After all, now that he has an expiration date, why should he favor such leeches who have no more chemical preservative to bring to his image?

-The end-

The 2007 result: general trend

Even though this Friday morning the Venezuelan Electoral Board, CNE, has not emitted its second bulletin since the wee hours of Monday morning, a scandalous thing, we can start looking at the results anyway. After all, no matter what the bulletin will say this afternoon, if indeed all results are published this afternoon, the general trend is clear and we can look at it. The detailed results after all are more important to illustrate specific points from the general results.

As I have said in previous discussions of electoral results in Venezuela: I have a limited faith in the exact numbers emitted by the CNE. After all, the secrecy around the CNE is enough to make anyone doubt about which are its real intentions. However, no matter how much fudging the CNE might or might not be doing, the trends are difficult to hide and can thus always can be detected. To hide trends would require major fudging and fortunately there are enough controls to protect from gross manipulation.

With these provisions stated, here is the first table of results. You will need to click in a new window to enlarge. In further posts I will go into regional results some of them being very, very interesting. But I need the full count and the real abstention for discussing them properly. Also, if the final results alter this table significantly, which I doubt, I will republish it as needed.



First, the basic result. The red square show where the SI won and the blues square where the NO won, with the final result at the bottom in a darker blue square. This is a retake of my predictions chart.

This would seem a priori a narrow victory of no real importance, but it is not. If it is not a decisive victory for the opposition, it is still a major defeat for chavismo, a defeat pregnant with future problems if the Supremo does not amend his ways some, or kicks the table board. But this is only understood when we go into more details.

The first thing to do is to calculate how many votes chavismo lost and how many the opposition won. The two columns on the right look at how many votes each side won or lost by regions. This is calculated, for the sake of simplification, by comparing the Chavez and Rosales votes of 2006 with the SI and NO votes respectively in 2007.

Let's start with chavismo losses. They are remarkably uniform. In all regions chavismo lost at least 1/3 of its 2006 votes. The region where it lost the least was the Andes and the one where it lost the most was Guyana. The spread between the two is 11.7% (from 34% to 45.7%, orange highlights). Now, of course when the CNE missing 10% is added today this will improve some, but the trend is here to stay.

But when we look at the opposition things become quite different. To begin with, the opposition ACTUALLY LOSES votes in two regions, in Andes and Zulia! Amazingly Rosales, one of the big leaders of the NO campaign cannot find his own numbers in Zulia 2006, his home state. However elsewhere the opposition gains some, to a maximum of 13.7% in the industrial center. The two "negative growth" regions and the top "positive growth" region are highlighted in lilac.

what can we make of this rather startling result?

1) There was an opposition abstention. If we judge from the Andes and Zulia we can see that this opposition abstention was probably in the 6 to 10% range, which is to be expected in a referendum election, less exciting than a presidential election.

2) Why did the opposition grew elsewhere? Regional explanations often, to be discussed in future posts.

3) The spread between results of the opposition is also important: from -8.5% to 13.7% we get 22.2% spread!!!! Almost the double than the Chavez results spread of 11.7%!

Preliminary conclusions:

Both chavismo and opposition suffered abstention. This is normal since we are in a referendum, an election that draws less voters than a presidential election.

The opposition made up some of its abstention from chavismo. That "recuperation" varies greatly from one region to another.

The nearly 3 million votes that chavismo is supposedly missing include in fact as much as half a million opposition abstention (pale blue highlights). The opposition 4.5 million votes might include as much as 500 000 chavista votes.

More observations and conclusions in future posts, stay tuned.

-The end-

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Nuestro insolito universo

The Chavez/chavismo loss of last Sunday is starting to have strange effects reminding us of that famous radio show in Venezuela "our strange universe" where many a wacko theory was examined in all seriousness even if the premise did not deserve more than outright dismissal after a good laugh. In no particular order, mostly today news:

Venezuelan plane stoned in Bolivia

Apparently in Bolivia Venezuelans are now looked upon in more contempt than gringos. A Venezuelan army airplane was stoned by the natives in the northern jungle settlements. Plane had to leave ASAP.

Communication Minister Lara thinks that the use of "mierda" as an expletive is not a crime

I have to agree with him on that . The use that Chavez made of it was incredibly stupid, incredibly revealing, and of course incredibly damaging to Chavez. But not a crime. It is a mystery as to why Lara thought his words would help his boss. But at least we should recognize that he sense that something was wrong with his boss yesterday. No word also on whether his boss appreciated Lara's literary allusion to Garcia Marquez "El Coronel no tiene quien leescriba", the famous novel about a finished dictator (Nobody writes to the Colonel).

Vice Minister Villegas resigns

In an interview after the referendum he said that Chavez need to listen to other people. He will not be one of these voices. At least not from the inside.

Chavez mother says she is delighted that the NO won

Now, what better spin maker than your mother...

Chavez (and Diosdado Cabello) lose the Miranda state vote

Ex governor Mendoza is threatened with arrest. Apparently he is the one who organized the Miranda campaign for the NO. This surely must give a new meaning to "gracious democratic recognition of defeat".

No one can put pressure on Chavez

Or so says the defense minister, Rangel Briceño, who has a hard time constructing simple sentences. Yeah, we knew. That is why Venezuela has been living on the edge for almost a decade, the inability of Chavez to sit down and negotiate something. So, Mi General!, tell us something new.

But Chavez puts pressure on his followers

Today he reproached a room full of ardent supporters, of those that did vote for him, for not having helped remain and that because of them he would have to leave in 2013. In fact, he blamed them for letting the slums of Petare vote NO. And told them that they owed him. Can you say "resentment"? Can you speak to the wrong crowd? how bitter can one get?

Cilia Flores about to lose her seat

In what is one of the most amazing news of the day, some of the responsible for the Sunday loss might pay for their mistakes! The National Assembly chair, Cilia Flores, whose actions have done so much damage to the SI campaign is openly questioned and might not repeat next year at the National Assembly unless Chavez forces the issue. Will he? Will he not?

Gimenez of Yaracuy might get the boot

And another piece of incredible news, Yaracuy sleaze bag governor Gimenez might get removed form office and condemned at least b parliament. I mean, in a country with so much incompetence and corruption, what Gimenez must have allowed must defy the imagination. The committee of inquiry talks about 200 billion bolivares. Even at 6000 tot he USD, it is a tidy sum to see disappear in thin air.

Meanwhile, journalists who try to cover such news keep beaten up by the Caracas Police Metropolitana

That is right, the Metropolitana of Caracas has beaten up savagely a camera man of Globovision. All is filmed, including the thug faces of the thug cops. You would be hard pressed to chose between a potential mugger and asking one of these cops for help.

And finally, you lost an election? Change hour to have folks speak of something else.

That is right, out of the blue we are back to that stupid half an hour change of time zone. That way half of Venezuelan kids will have more sun in the morning and the other half less. Works a little bit like the referendum for a constitution that only would have worked for half the country.

-The end-

Great news! CNE to emit results Friday afternoon!

Our long wait for the election results of Sunday might be over. We have got NOTHING since the 2AM bulletin, even though more than 10% of the ballots were were not accounted for yet (AWOL?). But Tibisay Lucena, the head honcho of the CNE, is invited to the inauguration of Mrs. K in Buenos Aires. Why? I suppose because she is a woman, or that the K dynasty wants to keep leeching of Venezuela for as long as Chavez is in office. Whatever it is, Tibisay is leaving tomorrow afternoon AFTER the press conference where the final results will be announced. Or so the CNE page tells us. We all hope that by Friday she will have got back her composure from her sorry spectacle of Monday AM, or that Sandra Oblitas will have stopped her partisan crying.

***This post is 100% irony/sarcasm free.
No Venezuelan voter has been used to test the emotional implications of
what is implied in this post***

-The end-

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Delays at the CNE

Since it has come up in comments, I still cannot make my electoral analysis because the CNE at this late time has yet to emit its second bulletin!!!! That is, at midnight on Wednesday we are still stuck at what was published at 1 AM Monday morning. I am not going to discuss how inexcusable this is. I just want to note that a careful study of abstention and comparison with previous elections by region is essential this time and I cannot do it until I get the final result. NOTE: I really do not care about the sterile debate on whether we got 50.7% or 54.7%. What I can tell is that by the time the embassy vote rolls in we will cross for sure the 51% barrier. And the 12% remaining to count might be a lot of "actas manuales" which tend to favor Chavez. Thus we should not expect any improvement from these counts. Get used to it, we will not go above a 51.5% total no matter what Ledezma or SUMATE claim. It does not matter anyway.

-The end-

Followers