Friday, July 25, 2008

The Venezuelan 2008 election: update 3

Rumor wars?

Slowly the opposition keeps trudging toward an Utopian unity. What is surprising is that it is reaching it in more places than expected while some others seem doomed to see a division at least until mid October. The only good news here is that chavismo in turn seems seems to go from a more "united" front to an increasing divided force. Too early to predict any effect since for all practical purposes the real campaign, the one that will really sway undecided voters one way or the other, not to mention convincing them to vote, is barely starting in less than a third of the country. Thus we are left to more rumors than ever, including rumored polls that would give an increasing advantage for the opposition.

The biggest rumor of all is that in Caracas, as the demise of Leopoldo Lopez looms more certain as days pass, the opposition will have this most surprising of "plan B", to promote for mayor at large Ismael Garcia of PODEMOS. Words fail me to describe this move: I really do not like the guy even if he eventually helped a lot in the sinking of the constitutional reform yesterday. See, he has kowtowed too much for too long for Chavez, not to mention that I doubt his ability at managing such a complex city as Caracas, quite another task than managing small La Victoria!

This morning on the other hand of all people we saw Julio Borges on TV, perhaps not too sorry to see Leopoldo go, explain to us that the mayor at large candidate for Caracas could not be second string candidate like Ledezma (though he did not mention names but we all know who he had in mind). His point was that in Caracas you run at the same time against the chavismo candidate, Isturiz, but also Chavez and Jorge Rodriguez (Libertador candidate) and Diosdado Cabello (seeking Miranda re-election). For Borges you need a heavy weight and Ismael is the one. We'll see. Though I must admit that chavismo might prefer to leave Leopoldo after all as Ismael will definitively eat inside chavismo base.

What would be Ismael prospects? Well, he certainly would do better in Libertador than Leopoldo would do, but he would also lose some votes in Chacao and Baruta. People like me would just have a hard time to go and vote for him and he will have to run a real good campaign to convince us to cast a vote for him. We will vote for Baruta and Chacao mayors but we will be too tempted to cast a null vote or vote for a minor player for Caracas: after all Caracas office has been gutted by its current mayor who passed to the state the police and hospital corps, leaving very little action for the oncoming Alcalde Mayor.

Elsewhere rumors go as well. The latest one is the battle for Barquisimeto. This city represents half the votes of Lara. Yet as its former mayor, Henri Falcon, is the candidate for the state the implausible possibility has arisen that chavismo candidate for Barquisimeto is so discredited that the opposition could carry the city! And who knows, a good campaign there could even threaten Lara result! Fortunately for Falcon there will be no good candidate for governor against him so we can be pretty sure he is going to win (it is amazing how difficult for the opposition it has been to come up with a solid name for governor for at least 10 years!). Now in Barquisimeto we have the fight between Chavez ex-wife, mercurial Marisabel and Ramos, an ex-trade union big wig. Both are adequately left for the local taste and rumor has that they are even at polls. Thus there is nothing else to do but to register both of them at the CNE and see how the campaign evolves until one of them truly emerges and gets the nod from the other.

Where rumors fly like crazy is in Carabobo. I was visiting there this week for business and I got quite an earful. Apparently Mario Silva candidacy is tanking big time. And Chavez-insulted sitting governor Acosta Carles might have more support among chavismo than people would like to admit. See, Acosta Carles did made shady deals with private construction business and thus he did manage to build more social housing than any other chavista governor in the country. Corruption and efficacy, the ideal chavista wet dream! Thus not only he will cut in the official candidate base, the infamous La Hojilla anchor, but he could trash him!!!! This is very worrisome for chavismo and the latest rumor circulating is that Silva will desist at the last minute and pressed for time Chavez will have the perfect excuse to name Ameliach for Carabobo. Ameliach was noted for his tenure as the president of the National Assembly who least appeared at the presidency chair during a term. In fact his repeated absence form debates suggested that he was ill and near death, which tells you how absent he was. Ameliach, another low grade military, as Carabobo governor could even be worse than Acosta Carles was. But Ameliach at this point can only do better than Silva.

But this is not all. The real, real rumor that I have a hard time to take even semiseriously is about "Paco", the Valencia mayor, barred from running for term limits. He is said to be in bed with Acosta Carles as having his people work in the construction deals of Acosta Carles. The rumor is that "Paco" who hates the Romer even though he officially is considered an opposition man, might throw his hat in the ring to divide the opposition and improve the chances of either him or Acosta to get elected. A four way race in Carabobo?

But it gets even better. The Salas who are little local caudillos of their own preferred to stay put for 4 years rather than keep contesting the result of 2004 where it seems that the reelection of Henrique Salas was indeed stolen by a CNE maneuver. Apparently as it is always the case in Venezuela, that was the price to pay to make sure the Salas deals were not exposed in public. We can thus be certain that if Salas is reelected this time, whatever "deals" Acosta Carles did will remain discretely hidden from view, at least by the Salas.... Why can I suspect that? Henrique Salas Feo has been lately supporting a lot of UNT candidates! Yes, the natural inclination of Proyecto Venezuela, if it were a real political party and not just a vehicle for the Salas, would have been to seek fusion with PJ with whom in appearance they share an ethic of good government, as far as such an ethic exists here. But PV is revealing itself to be just a traditional Venezuelan party, leader centered (as much as the PSUV by the way) and the fit will be with UNT against PJ.

And what is Chavez doing these days? Shopping for weapons and kissing ass to the King of Spain at his summer retreat.....

Note: padding myself in the back. The latest Datanalisis rumored polls confirm in part what I was already writing in early June. Even if chavismo wins more states and town halls than the opposition, a majority of Venezuelans might be under opposition rule at local level after November 23.

-The end-

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