Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another reason for Chavez to close Globovision

Tonight, 7 PM, on Globovision, the Spanish version of the FRONTLINE documentary "The Chavez show". DO NOT MISS IT!!! Then again Chavez might stick a cadena....
-The end-

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 3 - Yaracuy as the epitome of all that is wrong with the Venezuelan Political System

In the second post of this series I alluded to the possibility that Chavez has reached his plateau and that he will never again get a result as good as what he got last Sunday. The reason I advance is that the caudillo model he offers is reaching exhaustion: after the most brutal campaign he could come up with, he fails to recover his 2006 numbers, while the opposition grows significantly in some urban areas. Looking at the Yaracuy results where we see the ignominious end of another caudillo, Eduardo Lapi, we can see in that state the perfect mirror of a political system that I hope is reaching its end. Note: this article will be the longest of this series, I promise that the next two installments will be less than half the length of this one. Consider it a compensation for not having written on Yaracuy much during the campaign as I watched in horror what was going on.

The Yaracuy story: the decline of Eduardo Lapi


Eduardo Lapi was the very energetic governor of Yaracuy. Triumphantly reelected in 2000 he could boast of one of the best managed states in Venezuela. Even though representing one of the smallest states he did managed to get enough national recognition that he ended as a representative of the opposition during the difficult negotiations of 2003 sponsored by the OAS and the Carter Center. Incidentally, these promised to veil for the well being of the opposition negotiators and today all of them have felt into hard times, Lapi even being in exile, and not a word form the OAS or the Carter Center.

In 2004, during the hard campaign for the Recall Election of Chavez, Lapi was one of the biggest movers, even exposing his life. He did stir the locals effectively. And he became thus a Chavez target. That eventually Chavez won the referendum in Yaracuy did not help him much. Three months after in October Lapi failed to be reelected governor in questionable elections, but he accepted the results. Yaracuy had the lowest abstention that year, a witness of how Lapi was able to stir the electorate even in the post Recall Election depression.

Things went downhill fast. Soon the mediocre, Chavez appointed, drug addict governor, Carlos Gimenez, found some way to accuse Lapi. Even though no solid evidence was presented and even though Lapi was quiet at home in Yaracuy, he was arrested and jailed because "he could escape", said Gimenez. Fine, except that the trial was never started and eventually Lapi's life was put in danger and he had to escape jail. Presently he lives in exile. You can get many of these details by searching the label Lapi.

Of course the objective of these highly unjust and illegal actions was to get rid of Lapi politically. While Gimenez succeeded at that, he failed at running the state. In the barely three years he was in office Yaracuy became a beacon for crime while services started to fail, in particular the San Felipe Central Hospital which is now considered one of the worst in Venezuela. Gimenez administration has been so bad and so corrupt that he wears the dubious distinction of being the only chavista governor investigated for corruption charges. These charges were solid enough that he was removed form office. Yet, while he awaits the end of the investigation and a possible trial, Gimenez walks the streets free. Lapi, condemned and jailed without a trial for much less than what Gimenez did, lives in exile and fears for his life.

And then the elections came. Lapi, probably, I assume, resentful that Yaracuy did not protest strongly enough the injustices that were made against him, decided to vindicate himself by winning the election, even from exile. That was a mistake, at least in the opinion of this blogger because his candidature was just too easily subjected to any legal maneuver that would leave us without a viable option in front of the chavista challenge. Besides, Yaracuy is backward enough that a campaign has to be run by pressing the flesh. Quickly the whole scheme got out of hand when Lapi refused to participate in any opposition unity front. This resulted in a break up of the unity pact observed elsewhere in the country. Weeks went by and things got even worse as Convergencia and Lapi decided to launch their candidates anywhere regardless of previous agreements reached by the opposition: it was Lapi or nothing. As a state we were taken hostage by Lapi and judging from the results we did not like it.

What was going to happen did happen. Apparently Lapi was high enough in polls that the high court decided that he could not run after all, a few days before the end of the campaign. I personally do not think he was that high in the polls. I think that all along chavismo had threaded a web in which Lapi got trapped. By letting him run, the CNE ensured a deep opposition division. And by removing Lapi a few days before the end of the campaign the TSJ made sure that there was not enough time for the opposition to repair the damage while weakening the Lapi camp. It worked: irresponsibly Lapi did not accept any unity deal and put his lame brother to run the show. The stupidity of the other side of the opposition not to understand what was at stake at this point, the refusal to swallow hard to salvage at least a few town halls, did the rest of the work and you can appreciate the consequences in the table below. This tasteless naked ambition display for people that are in fact in the supplicant line made me angry enough that for a few days I even considered not voting!!!! I voted eventually, but some did not, or not for Lapi.

The governor results: the undeserving winner

The table below shows without any doubt that not only Lapi strategy to take all of Yaracuy failed, but in the process he probably contributed AT THE SAME TIME to a weakening of the opposition and a strengthening of chavismo. Since Chavez is the one that runs the campaign of the guys he appoints to be elected governor, I call his alliances through the years "Chavez votes", in red. Since Lapi is equally as arrogant a caudillo as Chavez is, though more efficient administrator, I call the opposition votes "Lapi's votes" in blue.



I have put all the results for Yaracuy since 2004. It is easy to see the decline of the opposition electorate since then. In fact, perhaps alone of all states (Lara is special), the opposition FAILS to recover its 2007 number of SI!!!! This is even more dramatic when we look at the Convergencia vote, Lapi's movement: from being stronger than Chavez MVR in 2004, it is now 1 to 3 compared to the PSUV. The result is clear, the political destruction of Lapi has been successful, and was helped along by Lapi's own arrogance and errors.

Why such a catastrophic decline? Yaracuy is a relatively backward state, and a very dependent state now that Gimenez administration brought a considerable economical decline. Yaracuyanos voted in a pragmatic way: the lower classes know very well that a Lapi victory will not bring them much benefit, no matter how much they might like Lapi and miss the good old days when services sort of worked. The PSUV candidate was the only sensible choice if you live in the country side and have very little possibility of independent income. Chavez strategy of rendering the countryside dependent from the central state for its well being has beautifully worked in Yaracuy where considerable farm land invasions have destroyed agricultural production and impoverished the state. Take a drive through the state and it is for all to see. Even the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal did special numbers on Yaracuy agricultural destruction!

In addition in the few months since Gimenez has been ousted, a provisional administration supervised by today's governor elect had time to repair in part chavismo image and deflect all the blame on PODEMOS from where Gimenez came from. When things are awful, any small improvement looks really good, and better than what it really is. A Stockholm syndrome of sorts.

The only problem in here is that the winner of the governor's mansion is Julio Leon Heredia, a sectarian ideologue, the perfect man for Chavez to do all the dirty work still to be done to destroy once and for all whatever is left of the old Yaracuy. Not that there is much left anyway, nor that there is much worth saving here, Lapi himself was an iconoclast of sorts, busy ensuring his power by ways not too dissimilar to Chavez if more civilized. But Julio Leon is not even liked by the local chavistas. He failed at previous attempts to gain office, any office. His most stinging defeat was when he run for the National Assembly in 2005 when a dissident chavista, Ricardo Capella, beat him with only 12.748 votes! The only case in the whole country as the opposition had withdrawn from the ballot. Julio Leon comes to office because the Gimenez administration was so bad, so many people were so involved with its fraudulent ways that Julio Leon escaped the damage because no one liked him at the start. An apparatchik man that manages to pass as a new comer!

As additional information I included the numbers of PODEMOS. Gimenez was from PODEMOS before he went to the PSUV. You can see the effect on PODEMOS, when this one went from 12,2% in 2006, to 0,3% last Sunday. Nice job! All were Chavez votes after all.

The Mayors results: how Primero Justicia sabotaged the opposition results?

Primero Justicia should not escape the blame for all that went wrong in Yaracuy. Four years ago Primero Jusiticia seemed a good fit to recover what was a possibly mutating Convergencia. After all both can trace their origins to COPEI brand. Rationality would have even indicated that Primero Justicia should have fused with Convergencia in Yaracuy. But it seems that Lapi would have none of it and that Julio Borges, a caudillo of sorts himself, decided that he could pick up the remains of Convergencia on his own. Well, not only it did not work out, but Yaracuy was surrendered in full to chavismo: all districts went red this time around! Primero Justicia will be held responsible for the disaster and UNT who has stuck with Lapi will probably become the Yaracuy visible face of the opposition. After a fast rise from o,3% to 3.1% between 2004 and 2006, its fall to 1,8% last Sunday is a bad omen for Primero Justicia. A look at mayoral results will illustrate better what I mean.

The results of San Felipe are in the table below.


The first thing to look at is the Chavez vote. It is in ascent but dips badly in 2007 where the NO makes a surprise strong showing. But then it was the worst time of the Gimenez administration. However the recovery of 2008 is noteworthy in that chavismo fails to recover, by far, the 2006 vote number. Furthermore, cross voting was important when you observe that the chavista candidate, Francisco Capdevielle gets ONLY 37.4% of the vote while Julio Leon gets 52.6%. The opposition does not have much to brag about anyway since it also fails to recover its 2007 NO vote when you combine the Lapi and non-Lapi oppo vote. Even Primero Justicia does not escape that cross voting, a clear sanction to its choices. Miguel Ponente a decent candidate whose main endorsement was Primero Justicia did manage a second position and got more than half of its votes from Primero Justicia. But at the governor level for San Felipe PJ votes drops from the 3979 gained at the mayor level to 1827 votes at the governor level where it did not back Lapi. Considering that San Felipe should be by far the starting point for a P.J. conquest of Yaracuy and seeing that it barely brought half of its state wide votes, clearly, whatever strategy Julio Borges had went horribly wrong with the voters. Leaving many like me really angry at Primero Justicia for having brought us the curse of a total state loss.

For Convergencia the result is equally bad. The imposed at the last minute candidate de la Cruz came in third, ruining the chances of Ponente, a decent candidate. Not only that but de la Cruz fails to get the Convergencia vote: at governor level for San Felipe they get 7393 while at town hall level they get only 4617! I regret that exit polls are scant in this country because there would be a fascinating story of voter sanction to be written in San Felipe. True, the appearance of a slimy third party candidate, Salame, who had the most visible local campaign (paid by whom?) could explain a lot; but one thing is certain, if the opposition had rallied behind Ponente who could only afford a discrete campaign, the dynamics might have pushed him above Capdevielle.

A Ponente success was possible because the PSUV candidate was a very poor choice for the PSUV as the result plainly show. Francisco Capdevielle used to be the editor of a local rag, Yaracuy al Dia, and thought that this was enough credential for politics. Whenever he run he lost, and bad. You can see in 2004 when he run as a dissident chavista how little he got, wrecking the chances of Gamarra to get elected in a year where the opposition abstention was heavy. The PSUV named him because they probably did not think he would win anyway and also because he worked in the local state government to try to recover some the mess left by Gimenez. Now, thanks to the PJ/Lapi fight, we, in San Felipe, are stuck with a nightmare mayor, delusional about his worth, and without a mandate, which probably will radicalize him even more.

For illustration I am also showing an even more pathetic case, the one from Independencia district which is in reality the Western part of San Felipe. There mayor Parra Barrios was running for reelection. This Convergencia mayor was barely elected 4 years ago benefiting from a chavista division (Gimenez had been such a bad mayor that his sister came in third). This time, Gimenez out of the way, the dissident chavista of 2004 comes back as the official PSUV and carries the district. Unfortunately for us Parra Barrios was considered possibly the best mayor of Yaracuy in the last 4 years, and you can see it by the cross voting where a lot of supporters of the "other" oppo option went to vote for him anyway.

What is very damning for P.J. in this case is that its total votes that went to Pastora, 135, would have been more than enough to put Parra Barrios over the top!!! Did P.J. not realize that Parra Barrios was ahead, that he was a good mayor, that he deserved reelection, that Pastora had no chance? The loss of Independencia is solely attributable to P.J. insistence in supporting a candidate that had no chance whatsoever!!! We, the people who are goign to suffer the possible negative consequences of this, are not going to forget the dreadful role of P.J. in Yaracuy. At least in Independencia I got a better feed back from Alvarado than for Leon or Capdevielle.....

To complete the Yaracuy survey and to illustrate how strongly the cacique Chavez has managed to impact the traditional political culture of the country side I include the results of the Veroes district. This district is the low lands close to the sea, the site of old sugar cane plantations and slavery. As such it has the highest proportion of African American and agrarian conflict. Chavez should get there 70 % of the vote, and he does.

If you examine this table carefully you will also notice that when Lapi was managing himself Yaracuy and the campaign, he was getting reasonable results in Veroes. But once he is out, the Convergencia apparatus dwindles fast and limits itself to urban centers as they do not have the guts Lapi had to seek votes even in Veroes. Caudillos share this characteristics: be it Chavez or Lapi they have the gall to speak their mind and go where it takes to win (though Chavez does that less and less). That explains the extraordinary decline of the Convergencia vote. One thing we can also note there is the stupendous decline of voting in 2007! Veroes is a true Podunck backwaters area interested only when there is a need to elect the Cacique. Other elections simply do not register there. And P.J. 49 votes, well, I need not explain... As long as it cannot have at least 300 votes in Veroes it can forget about Yaracuy.

Conclusions

Yaracuy is the perfect example on how the caudillo/cacique qualities of Chavez have managed to conquer the rural areas of Venezuela. The more urban areas resisted better but any encouraging result was made impossible when you found also another caudillo pretending to impose his will. When Lapi was in charge he could influence enough rural votes to be reelected because people sensed that they could vote for him and still keep receiving whatever services they were receiving. Besides the cacique Lapi was next door whereas the cacique Chavez was in Caracas. Lapi was more scary...

But these same people knew perfectly well that a Lapi in exile, even if he won, could not guarantee access to whatever they had access to today. Never mind the brutal campaign of Chavez that was really scary for people hanging on a thread for their daily bread. The large and undeserved victory of Julio Leon Heredia is at least in part explained by this social reality since it cannot be explained at all by his inexistent charisma.

The good news here is that Lapi is now politically dead and probably buried for good. In his arrogance he took such gambles that now he is left with no one to speak for him in Yaracuy. No one elected that is, with some political clout to keep Lapi in the martyrdom news. You do not get fame or win future elections through a battery of lawyers fighting a judicial system staked against you: you get fame by confronting the abuses against you by being there yourself. Lapi's arrogance left him worse, much, much worse than what he was a few weeks ago. Not only politically but in the mood of the people who will blame him for 4 years of deep chavismo, in case, as it almost certainly will be the case, the new mayors fail. He probably will remain in exile for years.

We got rid of one caudillo. Now we need to wait until the drop in oil prices coupled to more arrogance from Caracas teaches us not to trust in caudillos ever again. With this thought at least the results of last Sunday have a silver leaning for Yaracuy.

Epilogue

The recovery of Yaracuy for the opposition has been made tremendously difficult. Not only it will have no district where to base itself as a showcase of good administration, but its only and lone leader is politically dead. The only ones that could have replaced him are also out such as Parra Barrios. Convergencia only gets a lone representative at the Legislative council. There is nothing she can do when you consider the well known sectarian nature of the incoming administration who will try to find ways to silence her from day one. Obama it ain't.

I think that Convergencia days are now over and the party should examine itself closely, say bye bye to Lapi and seek new horizons with an out of state machinery that will help them launch a credible challenge in 2012 where it should be able to recover at least San Felipe, but not much more. Yaracuy is in PSUV hands safely until at least 2016. Even a bad Leon Heredia administration will not hurt chavismo considering that the disastrous Gimenez rule did not stop the PSUV from increasing its vote count! By wrecking the independence and self respect of the state the Gimenez administration has been at least very successful in one thing: giving Yaracuy tied up to Chavez.

AS far as I am concerned Convergencia should dissolve itself and go over to UNT. There is no UNT leadership yet in Yaracuy, so the good Convergencia local leaders could get the UNT nod without too much trouble and get help from Zulia. Going to P.J. would be a huge mistake as this one needs first to clean up its act, to apologize to Yaracuy. But I do not see Borges doing that, if you ask me, he showed too much contempt for us last month. Too many people in what should be the starting blocks of PJ in the state, San Felipe and Independencia, are mad at PJ. This one would be better advised to go elsewhere to invest politically. This blogger, for one, who gave 2 of his 4 votes cast last Sunday to Primero Justicia will probably never give his votes again to P.J., or at least as long as Borges is its leader. If UNT people want to contact me, I am open to propositions.


-The end-

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back to April 2002? Now it is Chavez the blatant fascist

Political remakes, when twisted around, are always ugly. What Chavez has been doing these past week is truly awful, damaging himself more than one could think it possible.

In short, neither does Chavez recognize the small gains the opposition made, nor the democratic ways it showed when Chavez campaigned brutally against it like the low life thug he is at heart. Yesterday he announced that he will not work with the newly elected governors of the opposition, and asked his people to oppose them at any step. He will cut their funding and name a parallel government. His supporters are also emptying all what they can from the state offices to be taken who knows where. That is, chavistas are looting state property. Chavez went even as far as saying that the new governors are already destroying his misiones and firing people when THEY HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN SWORN IN YET!!!! I mean the guys cannot even walk into their office yet and they are already busy firing chavistas, conspiring against Chavez and mounting a coup 2002 style funded by the CIA and what not. You can read it all from a softer version here, to cruder ones here and here.

The problem here is that Chavez thinks he is rallying his red shirt when in fact he is showing what a thug he is and how incompetent he is. After all, when any of these red shirts get a rare moment of lucidity they might start wondering how come these new elected governors are not rotting in jail if they are that dangerous.

But the more interesting reflection at this point is to notice that when Chavez once again drags in the tired 2002 coup arguments he does not realize that he has behaved much worse than Carmona and that all that he has done since then has done more to destroy Venezuelan democracy than what Carmona attempted to do. Oh! Chavez did it all "legally" but the consequences are the same: when the head of a state behaves like Chavez behaved yesterday in Vargas you know that there is no check and balance left in the country and thus democracy is likely dead.

For the fun detail: Chavez even announced that he wanted to change the name of the state because Vargas, the first civilian president of Venezuela, because was not Bolivarian enough (read, not a military thugs like all of his heroes besides Bolivar). How long until sycophant Garcia Carneiro satisfies his wishes?


-The end-

Friday, November 28, 2008

And more good news: The New York Times on US future policies toward Latin America

I do not know whether the New York Times read the letters to Obama sent through diverse blogs, but if they did not do so we can write that "great minds think alike". Today's editorial is a must read for any person that Obama will hire at State. I enjoyed this paragraph a lot:

Declining oil prices, and the declining stature of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, will also make Mr. Obama’s task easier.

We have no patience for Mr. Chavez’s corrupt and autocratic ways. But the Bush administration did enormous damage to American credibility throughout much of the region when it blessed what turned out to be a failed coup against Mr. Chavez.

Obama will not be cursed with that albatross of the coup blessing. It needs to be repeated by the way, that no matter what the Eva Golingers of the world say or what cute things Chavez invents (the last thing was that US helicopters landed at Maiquetia on April 11 and the "people" forced them to leave), there is no proof that the US was actively preparing the coup, not even that it knew much about it before hand. NOTE: I am not saying the US is nice, its involvement in too many other coups is well established, but the April 11 fantasy intervention is still that, a fantasy intervention propagated by paid agents of Chavez with new and more extraordinary acts of heroism and resistance as years go by. Only the "blessing" exists, courtesy of Condi herself.

And as it is accurate with Venezuela the editorial is also accurate as to what Washington needs to do about Latin America. The last paragraph is priceless:
IF there is still a question about the need for a new policy for the region, consider these facts: Latin America provides a third of the nation’s oil imports, most of its immigrants and virtually all of its cocaine. And, oh yes, it’s right next door.




-The end-

In the good news department: two blog awards worth noting

Reader Alpha who got his inspiration reading anti Chavez Venezuelan blogs to open his own blog, Free Opinion Venezuela, has been voted the best blog in the readers awards of the Deutsche Welle. He won in the Dutch language blog category with a 26% vote share, which is almost double of the runner up. This is noteworthy result as there is only one vote per IP address. Please, do visit his blog to congratulate him and encourage him to continue. We will need all the help we can get to tell what happens in Venezuela next, now that Chavez seems determined to close Globovision.

We will notice that this got him his first radio interview of what I hope will be many as consistent and rational bloggers do reach the main media. We will also notice again that as usual no one is a prophet in his own land as people like Miguel or me get more notoriety outside Venezuela than inside. Not that Spanish language blog writers in Venezuela get much media exposure either at home........

But the news gets better as Yoani Sanchez from Cuba won the jury prize as best blog of the year. Period. It is important to remind readers that the extraordinary freedom that Cubans experience force her to send through e-mail her posts to friends outside so that they can publish her blog. When will Venezuela News and Views start being published through e-mails? With the imminent closing of Globovision the time might be closer than what you think.

Meanwhile I also invite you to visit her blog, Generacion Y, and leave a congratulatory note. Her fight is also our fight as Chavez subsidies to that repressive regime keep it alive, barely.

-The end-


Will Chavez close Globovision?

Monday night in his "cadena" of spite, Chavez accused Globovision of having violated some CNE ruling on Sunday. He asked for severe punishment. One day later one of the CNE rectors said that no media broke any rule on Sunday, and that at any rate it was for the CNE to decide on this specific issue.

Today, CONATEL went ahead anyway and served Globovision papers based on trumped up charges. These procedures could close Globovision as early as next week. The president orders have been followed and forget about the separation of powers.

I am not going at this point to get into specifics: readers of this blog are very aware that Chavez has been looking for an excuse to close the network. .

The point is that closing a news channel available ONLY in Caracas and Valencia as an open broadcast is not the thing a triumphant president does. That closing is the best possible admission by Chavez of his impotence at forcing the country to submit to his will, his impotence at dictating his views as ours.

FASCISM.

-The end-

Thursday, November 27, 2008

And in Venezuela, state sponsored terrorism?

As if the news were not burdensome enough, Tal Cual revels that Diosdado Cabello has been linked to Venezuelan state sponsored violent groups (future terrorists?) and that the investigation has been silenced while the guy in charge was dismissed.

Disodado Cabello lost his governor seat of Miranda because he spent his 4 years in charge doing national politics, terrorizing political opponents (from within chavismo or the opposition, he is an equal opportunity thug), and enriching himself and his relatives and his own cohorts so as to be able to run for president in 2012. In his latest demonstration of what a jerk he is, during last week rains in Caracas, he forced out the Baruta rescue teams from disaster sites so that the Miranda state teams would be the only ones shown on TV. Soon he was seen giving away yet more refrigerators and washers to the "victims" of the disaster. But in spite of possibly the best financed machinery of any pro Chavez governor he still lost the state.

Let's hope that Chavez takes the opportunity to get rid of him, though it is always good when you rule like Chavez to have creeps like Cabello or Rodriguez Chacin to do the dirty work for you. This type of characters do have an advantage: they are evil enough that you need not to express yourself directly as to your wishes: on their own they know who to get rid of, what trick to pull, what financial deal to garnish your pockets can be made.

By the way, since yesterday we are bombarded with tales on how Di Martino is ransacking the Maracaibo town hall before giving it up to Rosales. He will get an empty shell. Such reports are also coming from Caracas and Miranda, though apparently things are goign a little bit better there. Still, outgoing mayor Barreto who had been allowed to have his own TV (disguised as the Caracas Mayor at Large information network, AVILA TV) will not pass that TV to Ledezma: the Minci of Izarrita has already removed all the equipment so even if it allows the license to remain in the hands of Ledezma, this one will have no way to access the airwaves of Caracas as a local station. Censorship in the nakedest form! So we see that the culture of violence and anti democratic values have percolated very well from Chavez to his immediate followers.

-The end-

Mumbai

Once again we are bloodied by religious fanatics. Once again we are faced with a group of people with whom dialog is impossible. Even the Venezuelan government was prompt this time in condemning the ultimate cowardly attacks on Mumbai where hotels guest were sorted by nationality before they were shot.

The timing was of course very well chosen because the leaders of these terrorist know very well other practices such as Thanksgiving in the US. They also know that any possible faint "appeasement" coming from the new US administration must be fought from the start. Obama has been served notice that attacks on America will not stop until total surrender in Iraq, Afghanistan and even India. Which of course will not stop anything as these fanatics will find new excuses to continue their attacks anyway. Modern day Jihad never ends. Multi cultural and multi religious splendors like India are a threat for these people and the Muslim in India must be reminded that if they do not rise to kill the non Muslim crowds, they will become target themselves.

-The end-

You lost an election? Create a new currency!

OK, now I have the final proof that Chavez knows he lost the election: he pulled out of his ass a new currency for the ALBA countries. A brilliant way to distract political analysts by bringing in economic analysts!

Of course, this will never work. The problem is not the currency of these countries, it that they produce nothing of significant value for the rest of the world, except for Venezuela's oil. In fact I suspect that Correa of Ecuador is trying to use this as a way to escape the dollarization of Ecuador which is a road block in his wishes to seize power the way Chavez did. After all, how can you create a punitive currency exchange system like Chavez did if your money is the US dollar? Of course Chavez loves the idea because Venezuela will be subsidizing it and with that he hopes to control further his client states, a group of miserly country that is not able to contribute to any currency scheme anywhere: Cuba, Honduras, Dominica, Nicaragua and Cuba (Ecuador is just an observer, the only one that could contribute anything if it were not so busy ruining its international credit by not willing to pay its debts). And in this time of crisis as the Moscow stock market gyrates wildly, he invites visiting Medvedev to join in.

I do not know if I should cry or laugh at this latest silliness of Chavez. No one in his entourage is going to tell him that he does not have the money for that toy? Does he know, I mean as in biblically know if necessary, that oil prices are around 50 USD?

Bonus point if you read this far. If Thanksgiving turkey weighs you down on the couch you can read the adventures of Sean Penn in Venezuela and Cuba and see how skilfully he has been manipulated to promote the agenda of Chavez and Cuba. Fascinating reading if you can stomach so much self serving prose that belongs way more to a blog than the pages of any publication. Then again The Nation is kind of a blog, is it not?

-The end-

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 2 - is there a new chavista voter?

The answer is NO.

What has taken place is a decanting of the electorate into a client group that votes for Chavez, like it or not, and a more critical group that distances itself from Chavez more and more. This is nothing new. Already in 2004 I observed that the Recall Election result was a defeat for Chavez in Caracas area and many urban areas, with his margin of victory coming from outlying suburban or rural areas. You could see that even in relatively small cities like San Felipe where Chavez was defeated, though the result at large of Yaracuy state was a strong win for Chavez. This pattern was described again and again in 2006 and 2007 when I analyzed closely the results then. What we see today is the culmination of sorts of this separation of the electorate which results in the map that we see (that once again I lift from AM as he has the tact to put in light blue the states won by the oppo with less than 50%, and in lighter red the likewise PSUV victories, that way it looks less drab than the propaganda maps offered by chavismo).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since according to my statistical counters 51% read me form the US, I must wish you a nice Thanksgiving. For those who have direct familiar concerns in Venezuela, you know what thanks to give tomorrow afternoon when you slash that roasted creature.

-The end-

Russian fleet in Venezuela: a message to Obama?

Juan Forero strikes against Chavez for the third day in a row, and with the Russian fleet in Venezuela. True, there is a message for Obama there (read the article) but the picture chosen to illustrate the article also tells us of fat and incompetent Venezuelan generals, more worried about looting the country, eating chicharron washed down with 18 years old Scotch than staying fit to fight back an invasion. Priceless!

Update: this Weil cartoon will go nicely to illustrate how Chavez has totally lost contact with reality.



-The end-

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 1 - Eating crow, eating cake

My broadband is returning but is very wobbly. I was able to start looking at the CNE result but they are incomplete, and at the speed I have I cannot be bothered. Since I do not have special contacts that can send me the CNE files, I will have to wait to start my post election analysis. That is, assuming that the CNE will give us complete results some day. After all we are still waiting for the 2007 final results....

But if I cannot analyze things I can at least score my predictions. Last Saturday I posted two graphics, one including major cities to watch for. Since the CNE is not complete I cannot score myself with that last one. But the second graph which was really my predictions, I can score.

The first thing I must do is eat some crow. When I designed that table I really did not think carefully enough about scoring it after. I tried to organize it from the state where the opposition would get the highest percentage to the state where it would get the lowest. But that worked for anything shaded blue or red. In a Cartesian fit I placed in the middle the states "tending to" dissidence but I did not place them really where they would have gone if I had thought about them some more. And Yaracuy of course I should not have placed it at all since I was not calling it. I should have placed it with the Alcaldia Mayor which I was not including in the series since it is not properly a state.

Thus I have packed all of these at the bottom of the chart, including Libertador that the CNE does not give numbers for yet, though Rodriguez has been proclaimed mayor elect already.

This being said. I predicted 6 sure for the opposition and I got 5. I predicted two tending, and I got one. I predicted three tending dissidence and I got zero. But Barinas was so, so close..... I missed Sucre, my biggest mistake of all. Maybe I really bought the confidence of the locals, the polls and the image of Maestre as being such a lout, a bad candidate, a failed mayor of Cumana. Simply put, logic could not allow for his election. And yet he won. But we will discuss the why in future posts. Merida as I mentioned in some comment I was reluctant, very reluctant to give to the opposition. In fact it is the only state tending for the opposition whereas I had more tending chavismo. In normal predictions one would have put 3-4 tendency (though some of course could argue that the dissidence is actually opposition so I would have put 4 and got 0). Then again I could say that I got all my pro Chavez predictions :)

But it was easy to predict the opposition winning. I can point out that in Cojedes I resisted siren songs and I always put it in the Chavez column. Same thing with Aragua which some were saying that Didalco would bring to our side. So, to make things a little bit more challenging I classified the states according to where would the opposition get the best and worse percentile. Which was a mistake of sorts that forced me to remove a few states to be able to evaluate, as I explained above. Once these states were taken out (Libertador by the way would not change much the result if I put it in since it would fall with Falcon) you get the graph above.

On the left column the way I ranked the states last Saturday. The second column the appropriate colors according to the convention of this blog. The third column is the percentile difference as of today CNE. Next column is of course the states classified according to that difference. In total there are 18 states classified.

In maroon 6 states that fall exactly where I predicted they would fall!!! 33% exact score. Note, two oppo states BUT 4 chavista states ranked accordingly. And three in the middle which is more difficult to place than on the extremes.

In mauve the states that are only one off their predicted position, not bad at all, 2 states.

In yellow the states that are" in their zone", that is within two spots of were they were predicted to fall. 5 of them.

And finally the way off mark, in red, three of them.

Thus out of 18 states I got 15 either in their right position of fairly close to it. If I dare say so, this is a rather good score. True, if I had included the 3 dissident and Libertador it would not have been as good as Trujillo would have been a wrench. I did the exercise tonight anyway and I still would get 16 out of 22 within three spots of their final rank, still 4 of them in their exact rank.

I am starting to know my Venezuela, no? Maybe not the success of 2007 in prediction but who did better than me thsi Sunday? OK, I know, it is pretentious to pat one's back but.....

-The end-

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If Chavez were a conscious, serious, people loving president, he would apply article 185 of the constitution

It does not matter what Chavez berates for 4 hours or what the New York Times prints today: the opposition progressed, won very important districts, and the most symbolic ones at that. Or does anyone pretend to show that winning in Delta Amacuro was more important than the Sucre district of Caracas? For their locals maybe, but for the rank and file chavista living in, say, Guacara, Sucre result is more telling than Tucupita.

If Chavez really meant to rule for all Venezuelans instead of plotting ways to get reelected in 2012, he could simply finally apply article 185 of the Constitution which offers the perfect mechanism to bring ALL Venezuelans around the same table to approve the general lines of the country development and to study the biggest problems that face us all. Because what is coming our way Chavez CANNOT face it alone, not even with his PSUV. 2009 will be a rough year starting as early as late December when oil income will be halved within a few weeks. Today we are still cashing bills for oil sold above 100 USD a barrel but late December the bills cashed will be for oil sold below 100, and by March the bills cashed will be for oil sold at 50. We ave no other export to compensate for this loss of revenue. Our tourism industry is in shambles, and anyway foreign tourists will have less money to spend. We still will need in March to import more than half of our food with not even half the money we used to have. There is no escaping reality.

And if to this you add other problems that can only be solved through consensus, such as crime and the viability of the remaining private business who will go under if Chavez presses them further with taxes, we can expect some major trouble in the second semester of 2009 when the 17 states who voted red last Sunday start claiming for the promises made to them.

Article 185 calls for a Federal Council of Government, presided by the Vice President (see, Chavez does not even need to be seen sitting down with opposition governors for business). Its main function is to distribute the responsibilities of governing among all the parties that constitute the different form of executive governments in Venezuela. It is thus formed by the full executive Cabinet, all governors and one Mayor per state, plus a few invited organizations as needed such as trade unions, business groups and major civil rights organizations.

This Council actually decides how certain amounts of money are spent to favor more deprived regions. That is, the regions who give the most to the central state have a said in which project their money will be spent to help the less favored regions. As a peace and unifying organization you can hardly have come up with something better than this Council, one of the few things worth rescuing of the 1999 constitution who today is more dead than alive, courtesy of chavismo constant violations.

But of course Chavez cannot accept this because such Council works for the decentralization of the country, for local responsibility, for cooperation within states without necessarily the hand of the central government. In other words, this great article of the constitution works against all what Chavez stands for: single man rule. By the way, by not applying it Chavez violates the constituion, but who cares?

If I am reminding readers about this article it is because some times I think I am one of the few Venezuelans left who still remember some of the good hidden in the 1999 document, even though I opposed it when it came up for vote. Chavismo from its side only remembers those articles that can be used to increase Chavez power. All the other articles that can protect his "enemies" from abuse are routinely ignored when not violated downright. I am under no illusion that this article would ever be applied but it would be nice to see a major newspaper in Venezuela remind Chavez that the said article exists.

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

In Spanish the original article:

Artículo 185. El Consejo Federal de Gobierno es el órgano encargado de la planificación y coordinación de políticas y acciones para el desarrollo del proceso de descentralización y transferencia de competencias del Poder Nacional a los Estado y Municipios. Estará presidido por el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva e integrado por los Ministro y Ministras, los Gobernadores y Gobernadoras, un Alcalde o Alcaldesa por cada Estado y representantes de la sociedad organizada, de acuerdo con la ley.

El Consejo Federal de Gobierno contará con una Secretaría, integrada por el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva, dos Ministros o Ministras, tres Gobernadores o Gobernadoras y tres Alcaldes o Alcaldesas. Del Consejo Federal de Gobierno dependerá el Fondo de Compensación Interterritorial, destinado al financiamiento de inversiones públicas dirigidas a promover el desarrollo equilibrado de las regiones, la cooperación y complementación de las políticas e iniciativas de desarrollo de las distintas entidades públicas territoriales, y a apoyar especialmente la dotación de obras y servicios esenciales en las regiones y comunidades de menor desarrollo relativo. El Consejo Federal de Gobierno, con base en los desequilibrios regionales, discutirá y aprobará anualmente los recursos que se destinarán al Fondo de Compensación Interterritorial y las áreas de inversión prioritaria a las cuales se aplicarán dichos recursos.


-The end-

And when it rains it pours: the Washington Post

The nasty thing about the collapse of broadband in San Felipe is that I keep getting my newsletters drop wise. And forget about speed blogging! Thus I only now received the Washington Post newsletter which I usually receive about half an hour before the New York Times. It was worth the wait.

Apparently Juan Forero was not invited to the press show of Chavez. But he watched it and neither did he buy it.

The Washington Post also came with its editorial direct and to the point: HOW TO BEAT Mr. CHAVEZ. From that editorial you gather that perhaps the best result for the Venezuelan opposition is that finally it is getting credibility outside of Venezuela. Thus the last paragraph worth posting:
The opposition now has an opportunity to show that it can offer a workable alternative to Mr. Chávez's policies. Partly that will mean better crime-fighting and delivery of services, but the key element must be a clear and continuing commitment to democracy and the rule of law. If those principles survive in Venezuela, Mr. Chávez will be forced to leave office in four years. That's a long time to wait -- but by now the opposition should have learned that shortcuts won't work.


Added later: for good measure I went to read the Miami Herald (I cannot get a newsletter from them). Interestingly there is no editorial on Venezuela and their coverage is less sanguine than the NYT or WaPo. In a way I can understnad it: probably tired of hearing the Miami exile claims that Chavez is packing his bags the Herald Journalists point out that the gains are not that hot (maybe he had access tot he CNE? Maybe he has broadband that I do not? :) ). However the Herald is clear that Chavez road is not an easy one and that last Sunday did not strengthen his hand at all. Ah! And they were not invited to the press conference either. Poor Patricia! She must have felt quite lonely as the sole attending scape goat for Chavez last night. The Herald also moves on, reporting the Russian warships berthing in Venezuela. Adequately the entertainment page reports on Frontline coming show TONIGHT... Ah! the wonders of timing!!!

-The end-

Editorials that hurt: no holds from the New York Times

If Hugo was pissed off last night, imagine his temper this morning if they bring him the translation of today's New York Times editorial. I love, LOVE, the last paragraph.

He should heed the message. Rather than lash out at his opponents, Mr. Chávez must accept democratic limits to his rule. He should stop trying to extend his control — by hook or crook — over all of Venezuela’s political and economic institutions. He should abandon for good his push to change the Constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2013. Venezuelans deserve the chance to choose a competent government.

Here Patricia! Your cue for your CNN report.
-The end-

Simon Romero was not invited at Chavez press conference

But he watched it as he wrote his latest entry for the NYT. He did not buy Chavez explanaitions. And heck, he could also get coffee (and whatever could help him with the ordeal) so he surely was in better mood at the end than Patricia Janiot.

-The end-

The day after: a press conference from hell, and the real winner of Sunday

I have serious broadband problems, just in the middle electoral data harvest. With a CNE page which must be slow this week with all the hits, I cannot start examining results. However from the little bit I can gather there is a really bad result: chavismo gained many municipal districts, all of them in a few states which is going to make it infinitely harder for the opposition to maintain a credible presence there. I need of course to see the why of this negative result and how bad it is, but I can already point one of the main reasons: opposition division. That cost us all districts in Yaracuy and most in Carabobo, including Valencia. In each case the division was due to the arrogant nature of its leaders: Lapi and Salas Feo who must be fully blamed for that loss.

However the news this morning is the press conference that Chavez held yesterday. If you had any doubt about how much chavismo was hurt last Sunday you just needed to watch the show of Chavez who lasted at least 4 hours, with foreign journalists taken as hostages, including CNN Patricia Janiot who was dressed down along her absent colleague Glenda Umaña who was called a liar. The maintain of Patricia Janiot in front of the slew of insults and innuendos was a perfect study in class and professionalism, Chavez looking more than ever like the barbarian he is. By the way, Chavez was having coffee served while all the journalists were confined to their chair for the whole time, no peepee break.

The motive of the press conference, for Chavez, was to explain in rich details why according to him the Sunday vote was a big success and why the foreign press was lying when it said it was not. Maybe, but for the life of me I cannot recall any world leader that had to spend 4 hours explaining, pen and paper in hand, why he won his election. Note: the HIS is on purpose because the explanation showed clearly that Chavez thinks of his new governors as HIS, as in an object, not a supporter.

The press conference, to give it a name, was littered with irrelevant pseudo historical references, and clogged with April 2002 interpretation. Apparently the obsession of Chavez for 2002 is much more than an electoral ploy to motivate his supporters, it is becoming a neurosis of its own for Chavez. Because of course a press conference it was not. Chavez started it, then called a cadena which lasted more than an hour so the whole country could see him lecturing the foreign journalists in a rather scandalous way and then closed the cadena when he finally acceded to reply to a few questions. VTV kept showing the show and I watched it at times. Any reply of Chavez was of course a monologue lasting around half an hour, peppered with dares to Obama, compliments to Castro, and threats to the opposition. All journalists could appreciate at length and leisure how often Chavez betrayed his totally undemocratic nature. Fascinating!

But of course the aim of Chavez was not at all to inform the foreign press, he is smart enough to know that hey all made their opinions long ago: he was addressing us, trying to convince us that the opposition did not get the strength to stop him from pursuing his attempt at eternal reelection. So when he explained in exquisite detail why he won so many small districts, it was almost touching to see him considering the Cua district as important as the Sucre district won by Carlos Ocariz. That defeat must has been particularly stinging for him. He went into exquisite detail in explaining how the most populous districts of Sucre voted for Chavez. Of course, we all know that, but in his explanation Chavez undid his whole argument, unbelievably. What anger does!!! He told us that the emblematic district of Caucaguita voted 62% for him. That is, in one of the poorest areas of Caracas 38% of the folks voted against him!!! He cannot even understand what a defeat that is for him when a socialist government should get in such a district at least 80% of the vote!!!!! He cannot replicate the lopsided margins in HIS alleged districts that Macaracuay gave against him (90%).

This is indeed what hurt him the most even though he cannot quite articulate it to himself: Sunday he lost his ability to rally massively the downtrodden masses and he cannot deal with that. That is where his pseudo revolution is being exposed and he hurts. Ocariz did a number on him and thus last night he was crowned as Sunday's hero even if his name might have never been mentioned last night.

-The end-

Monday, November 24, 2008

The view from abroad

With my morning tea, my bleary eyes read Simon Romero NYT summary and WaPo's Forero account.

Simon Romero considers the vote a victory for the opposition. Since he is based in Caracas I assume that he saw the campaign, that he understood the extraordinary unfair advantage of Chavez in the whole context and thus he can appreciate that what the opposition got was more than just a mere question of numbers: it was a feat by itself.

That does not mean that Forero did not get it either. But based in Bogota he cannot be as aware of all the abuses committed. One thing is to know about he abuses, he does, another thing is to be fully aware of the consequences of these abuses by suffering them on a daily basis. Thus he scores the result as sort of victory for Chavez but with crucial gains for the opposition.

Both are right in fact. Romero senses that Chavez has now more obstacles to his race for life presidency, and that is crucial enough for him that yesterday was a serious set back. Forero senses that Chavez still has power and that 17 states, no matter how small these states are, is still something he can use. When you read both articles then you have to agree with what I wrote last night: once again there was an election and nothing was solved.

-The end-

"Dulce de lechosa" moment

I was about to go to bed neither happy nor sad when I decided to surf a little bit. Well, I also got phone calls so we did scan together. When I saw the bitter declarations of Isturiz as to his defeat in Caracas I knew that the opposition victory was better than I thought at first. McCain concession it was not. And then the silly words of Muller Rojas gave me the full measure of what chavismo had lost. Well, they are not democrats at all so any loss is one too many for them. But such bitterness? Such a a lack of grace? Having nothing else to say but that the only reason the opposition wanted to win Sucre and Miranda was to conspire? Gimme a break! Grow up! Fess up to your shitty administration! If giving away thousands of washers and fridges did not buy the election, then there must be a powerful reason behind it, and not a conspiracy! Jerks!

OK, now I go to bed with a smile.

-The end-

The first communique

Some things are strange but overall it is what I had previewed so I guess I cannot complain.

The opposition so far won Zulia, Miranda, Nueva Esparta and the very symbolically charged Mayor at Large of Caracas. So already we are plus 2, and two big ones, compared to 2004.

Two states are still too close to call, dixit CNE, Tachira and Carabobo. I still think that they are going to go opposition, and Globovision agrees with me.

Chavismo won the rest and swept away the dissidence (that is the part I have a problem with though I can understand that the opposition did not want to vote for the freshly minted dissidence, a lesson full of sinister forebodings).

My two failures so far are Sucre and Merida, though Merida I had predicted leaning, not for. After all I wrote that Davila was a lousy candidate and that his victory would be due to mayoral victories in Merida's capital and El Vigia. I did think a lot about Merida and only in the last minute I reluctantly put it in the oppo column. Next time I should listen to my gut feeling more.

Too early to evaluate the results of course. If Tachira and Carabobo go oppo, the opposition can be happy and Venezuela is different. A good victory but Chavez can lick his wounds. Though a constitutional change will be now much more difficult if the trinity Zulia-Carabobo-Miranda go oppo in the end.

To really measure the worth of this result we need to wait for the town hall results. Winning Aragua, for example, is one thing, but if Maracay goes opposition it dims the luster of the victory a lot. We will see tomorrow. Now it has been a long day and I am off to bed. Not happy but not sad either. Let me remind the readers who are reading this late at night that the opposition made too many mistakes to think that in one simple election it could reverse all of them at once. It is a good step on the road of recovery. At least we got real fighters in the new positions, Capriles, Ocariz and Ledezma, right at Chavez door.

In other words, as it happened in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and now 2008, an election was held and nothing was solved; the fight for the next election starts tomorrow. But here is a good piece of news: we got rid of some dead wood and some lousy leaders whose future is now very bleak: Diosdado Cabello, Jesse Chacon, Aristobulo Isturiz, Claudio Fermin, the Lapi dynasty, Andres Velasquez and Rojas Suarez, William Davila, Galindez... True Chavez will recycle his debris, but he must be happy that they will not be a challenge for him now. Expect the complete downfall of Disodado soon....

-The end-

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 2008 election day events post

23:08

And thus the CNE dragged this agony for yet another hour.

22:13

Until about an hour ago there were still a few people voting in some centers which had mechanical problems. But now 99.9% are done with, whatever is left is very unlikely to make any change in the final result.

So again we are facing the same problem as in 2007: the CNE waits for Chavez to be ready to announce the result. That is, they are waiting for their orders on how to give the first bulletin so Chavez can come right after in cadena and try to do the best of it. Truly, had Chavez won by now we would know it. Even though I know that Yaracuy is lost I still do not hear any celebration in the streets except for some distant music.

So? What is once again delaying the CNE? Chavez personal crisis? A break down of Sandra Oblitas (she is the hard core chavista of the lot and was seen crying the night the referendum lost).?

The sad part of thsi is that chavismo might have actually won but Chavez himself set the bar so high that anything less than a strong victory for chavismo will pass as a victory of sorts for the opposition. Comme on fait son lit on se couche.

22:05

Start getting ready. It seems that the CNE announcement is a matter of minutes. Then again we heard that one already, did we not?

21:58

Carlos Ocariz 350; Jesse Chacon 13.

21:38

My brother's table: Capriles Radonski 348; Diosdado Cabello 14.

A new meaning for "not even close".

21:09

It has started: the opposition has hinted that if the CNE delays results too much they will go ahead at some point and announce them anyway. 2007 all over again.

20:48

My brother final participation number: 371 voters, 28% abstention!!! And if you consider that the CNE lists are so up to date you can discount at least a 5% people dead, moved or something, the result is even better. For a local regional election you can hardly ask for such a high turnout!

20:45

At 14:35 I posted a link to exit polls. With a big caveat. Well, sure enough I have been informed that it was disinformation from Aporea. AS if that would have been enough to stop people from going to vote.... Geee......

20:40

OK, condition to open champagne: at least 6 of the just mentioned list.

20:39

A cold headed source who was pessimistic thinks we might have won in Nueva Esparta, Zulia, Tachira, Sucre, Merida, Guarico, Miranda, Barinas, Carabobo, and Caracas at large. I got from someone else the same info, also telling me we lost Yaracuy.

If this is true we are seeing 9 states plus Caracas. Not exactly my nightmare scenario for Chavez but certainly enough to require lexotamil.

AGAIN!!! Do not open your champagne yet!!!!! this is just rumors that are getting more trustworthy but still rumors.

18:54

My brother reports 337. That is 65% participation and still voting. That is the kind of turnout Ocariz needs.

18:34

"El carometro" of Ledezma makes me optimistic for Caracas. "Carometro" is a local political term where we measure the expression on the face of folks to decide whether they won. The "carometro" of Muller Roajs of the PSUV was nto very good. Then again in their frame of mind losing one election is one too many anyway. We, democrats, do not suffer of such angst. Well, we are pissed when we lose but we also understand when we do not win all we thought we would do. At least in democratic countries, not this one where the government has an incredibly unfair advantage and we must be happy with the scrapes that we are allowed to get.

18:20

I have been told that Yaracuy is lost. No surprise. I have restrained myself to write about Yaracuy because I cannot be objective. I am so angry at the ways Lapi and his supporters have behaved, thinking only in the return of Lapi even if that would screw us. As I was voting I realized that it was lost in Yaracuy: I had to help too many people to vote and I saw way, way too many people wondering about how to vote. This in a center that always vote 4 to 1 against Chavez. The only explanation is that the Lapi/Capdevielle people were too busy fighting each other to worry about voter registration and education. Well, at least it is the end of Convergencia and Lapi. Capdevielle never had much of a chance anyway.

17:30

My bro reports that they have reached the 280 number and counting, many people waiting outside. That gives 54% participation in Macaracuay, better than last local election.


17:25

Dog walked. Many centers in San Felipe still with long lines. Others have just closed, like the one in front of my home. All is quiet so far though some people are throwing fireworks. I could not tell what camp were they from but probably chavistas: they are the only ones with money for that. then again they have them and they rather blow them up than later if they lose.

Exit polls received are still not verifiable but it seems that in Carabobo things are closer than expected: the recent collapse of Acosta Carles with the Makled affair might have played something in it. But Caracas seems more open than expected. The cadena and the rain of Thursday? Another case of you lose soem you get some?


15:40

Off to walk the dog and enjoy a little bit the afternoon.

15:20

Abstention might be at a recent all time low in Caracas. My brother's table (he got drafted by the CNE) in Caracas has 512 registered voters and he just wrote me that they are at 225 votes cast, with plenty of people waiting outside. Still low you may think but it is lunch hour, a small wave is about to arrive and thus they hope to cross the 300 mark which for that center would be good.
14:35

A page with exit polls. WARNING (again): there is no way to verify how legit are those exit polls.

14:30

How Daniel voted.

First picture the complexity of choices. You need to select three votes from the left panel and one from the right panel. Imagine in Caracas where you have up to 10 votes in 4 panels!!!! People here were very confused because information did not reach them, because the opposition is divided and was more preoccupied in settling internal scores than educating voters. If we lose Yaracuy it will have been sheer incompetence and irresponsible from our local potentates.

Although I am rather informed it took me a couple of minutes to locate well all of my choices (2 for one party and 1 each for two other parties). And I had to help a few people who could not make sense of it at all and of course were unwilling to say for whom they were voting for. I think that I made sure that at least 6 opposition votes would be cast correctly.

From that I can see the advantage that Chavez has by accepting only PSUV: his voters do not have that morass of small parties to chose from, 90% of them getting less than 0.5% of the votes anyway. Autocracy has its rewards.

This second picture is the inner school yard. Tropical voting is definitely nicer than winter voting. The lines can be followed along the walls as a big S. Voting time of these lines you see between 1 and 2 hours depending at what table you vote. Mine was relatively fast but the next one was desperately slow! The nice thing is that since we are a small city and an old district, you cannot fail to meet someone you know to chat away the wait.


14:05

First exit polls reach my mail box. Warning: I cannot verify the source. Capriles and Ocariz would be beating respectively Diosdado and Chacon by almost 2 to 1. Ledezma and Salas Feo leading, Salas with a comfortable advance. Adan Chavez would be losing in Barinas.

I REPEAT: not verified so please, do not break champagne bottles yet. Remember August 15 2004?

13:50

Back from voting. Long lines, about 40% participation at 1 PM which means that my center is headed for a record turnout for a non presidential election. Lines were slow but moving. Curiously as far as can tell from people stuck on their cel phones, centers where chavismo wins have lines moving faster.


12:15

Off to vote!

10:45

Public service announcement. Students, NGO and other groups are making available this list of phone numbers for anyone to report problems at any voting station, or any irregularity that could be happening inside or around a voting center.

0212 583 7196
0416 402 5917
0416 402 5532
0416 402 4184
0416 401 6697
0412 637 1981
0412 637 1979
0412 637 2016
0412 201 9562
0412 201 9563
0412 201 9564

10:30

In a little while I am going to go and vote. But while I get ready I am leaving you with two links appropriate for the day.

Gustavo Coronel tells us of all the abuse and unfair pressure exerted by chavismo to intimidate voters into voting for their candidates.

If you want to know why Chavez is going to lose in Zulia you can read this article on how the Gaiteros musical groups have had to self censor themselves as the Gag Law forbids protest songs on radio. Yes, today in Venezuela Bob Dylan music could run into trouble in radio stations. If it makes it, it is because it is in English and censors are stupid or thing that protesting against the US society quirks is allowed. Since the "gaita" is the protest song form of Venezuela, you can imagine the effect of that in Zulia, the land of the gaita, used to vent its frustrations through end of the year gaitas. It is Spanish and by subscription to El Nacional so I have put it in my other blog for you to read.

9:30

By the way, if anyone has interesting information, please put it in the comments or send it to me if you think it is worth including within this post. Pictures are welcome. And if you stay for the vote count at your center, I will publish these results, CNE or not. But after at least 90% of centers are closed, I do not want to be too illegal. It will be kind of an open thread today.

And now for my coffee and some paper reading. See you in an hour or so.

9:15

Went to walk the dog and pick the papers. The PSUV has installed a huge tent two blocks from the voting center. Nobody there except two activists bored reading the papers. The papers are neither El Universal nor El Nacional.

On the way back I saw a car with a PSUV propaganda sticker and a 14 on a cardboard behind the windshield. IT was a car monitoring voting stations: they stopped briefly, looked from the window and put a phone call from a wireless. Although I am not absolutely sure but it looked like one of these "trunking" devices, not a sexy small Nokia, which do not rely on wireless phone networks. Military? Nothing from the opposition anywhere. At the very least we can say that there are 14 cars monitoring San Felipe area voting stations, figuring out where the lines are and preparing whatever contingency plan the PSUV has to speed up or delay voting. For example the voting center in front of my house has in general a 2 to 1 ratio agaisnt Chavez. Is it better for PSUV to discourage people from voting there because of the long lines (a quick phone call to a voting center PSUV member could delay the voting process easily) or is it better that there is no line so people think that opposition voters are not voting?

I do not care to speculate however I cannot fail to observe that PSUV is now very organized, with a powerful machinery while the fight between Lapi and the rest of the opposition has resulted in a weak machinery for our side. Once upon a time Convergencia had the best machine in the Yaracuy. Those days are over.

8:45

I have finally reached my brother who this time had to serve at a voting center in Macaracuay. The line is long but not too long. What is going on is that the voting process is complex and people are missing a vote regularly because they do not understand the "voto lista" from the "voto nomimal". The hoped for 3 minutes voting time is turning out not to be enough.

For legislative body we need to vote twice or even more. 40% of legislators are elected from a list where the names are divided proportionally. But 60% are elected on a name basis, kind of the way it is done in some Southern states of the US. The problem is that some circumscriptions have more than one representative and you must vote for each and everyone. This is not only confusing but very unfair since with 40% of the vote a party can carry ALL of these "nominales" representatives. The way legislators are elected in Venezuela, including the "morochas" thing, renders that vote very unfair, not representative, and let's not be afraid of words, undemocratic. I will write more about that later when I dig old posts I did on this respect.

8:35

Having my cereal I read in the New York Times that Carter has been refused entry into Zimbabwe. I love it.

I also read some text messages. Long lines in some Caracas centers. The voting is quite complex and as a result chavistas vote fast and opposition votes slow. The options for chavistas are less and they are arranged in the voting machine in an easier way that the opposition options. Discrete ways the CNE finds to tilt the advantage for Chavez.

Outside my window voting seems to be normal. The line is about a dozen folks.

8:15 AM

I was wondering whether I was going to go though writing a regularly updated post again. But I have done it for every election since 2004 and since it is my last election from where I can watch a voting center activity, I decided to do it for old times sake. In a week or two I will have moved and will not be subjected anymore to the early wake up calls of a voting center opening.

But this time once again, at 5 AM street noise woke me up. I can deal with that and fall asleep again. But this morning chavismo also had to show its nervousness: we got taped wake up call military style "la diana". A stupid truck kept driving around waking us all up. I do not know what time it was, it was all dark outside and it got me very angry while I tried to hide my head under pillows. The idea is for chavistas to wake up early and go to vote first so as to remain in the streets until votes are counted. I do not know who came up with such a stupid idea but Chavez announced it, and more than once.

The catch see, is that opposition voters are also awakened and they are pissed and more motivated than ever to go and vote against Chavez. While there is no guarantee that chavista voters will respond favorably to an early wake up call. Well, in my next home I will have no more voting center noises and I will be in a small street , hopefully protected from any "diana".


-The end-

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Frontline on Chavez: The Hugo Chavez show

I have been told about the Frontline report on Chavez coming up next week in PBS, but already up on the web. Unfortunately in San Felipe my broadband is hardly better than a good dial up on a good day. I have watched its chapters anyway, this whole evening before the election, and it is excellent. They have talked to the right people (and read certain blogs that shall remain nameless?).

My sole criticism, and a light one, was for the third segment. They did not quite get April 2002. They started that segment on Caracas poverty with a Direct TV antenna in the middle of the shanty they were filming. We would see more of these Direct TV dishes when they discuss the RCTV closing. No comments on that but viewers will be able to figure it themselves, I hope anyway. But they get so many things right that we can forgive them not to understand the legend woven April 2002. For example, they are clear about oil nationalized in 1976 and not as the PSF of the world want us to think: by Chavez in 2003. They also bring the boliburguesia "boligarchs" through its biggest figure, Ruperti. Very unflattering portrait. Discretely but surely they show that business sweet deals with he government is still at the core of Venezuela, revolution or not.... I loved it!

The cooperative chapter is brilliant. They compare the textile one that is shown to "political tourists" while they are sewing bunches of red clothing! And after they show a real cooperative, of the kind not shown to visitors, left on its own, without any business training, left to a slow death. And the end of that chapter they go on to housing construction cooperatives; we see the guy that is still waiting to get paid while the "la Suiza" subsidized development lays idle, stopped on its track once Chavez monitored the inauguration of the first building and moved on to some new interest. Fabulous! With savaged tractor bonus!

The chapter on freedom of expression is excellent at illustrating how freedom of expression is still exerted at least by some within the opposition (the self censorship issue is not addressed) but showing how such freedom of expression does not exist within chavismo ranks. We get two examples of awful scolding of chavista supporters, an activist humiliated in an Alo Presidente and Eleazar Diaz Rangel who shows to us that he accepts his scolding as the abject sycophant he has become. It is amazing that Diaz Rangel would have thought that he would have fooled Frontline with such lame excuses!!! But what is better is that Teodoro Petkoff explains clearly how the terrorizing of his supporters is an effective weapon for Chavez to control them. Fascism anyone?

The sketch on the general scolding in Barinas during an Alo Presidente is almost alien. The discomfiture of his ministers and local notables is pathetic. Colette Capriles tells us how Alo Presidente is used to show Chavez making all the good decisions while making sure that all believe his staff responsible for the bad ones. (my note: Yeah, it works up to a point because eventually people start wondering about why Chavez cannot get good help). That sketch is going to be devastating in the US where management principles are held seriously by employees and boss alike. I sure hope, if anything, that Obama watches that single minute of the show. As a contrast on how he is running his transition it cannot get any better!

Frontline also gets with simplicity to the Tascon list business without even needing to name the little man. Simply, a list came out and was used to destroy careers, showing how dangerous it was to oppose the bolivarian revolution. Clean, to the point, eliciting interest for the audience to find more about the subject. Quality documentary at work. No wonder Izarrita already protested the Frontline show. Wait for next Tuesday when it hits US TV.

There are other goodies too, such as when Rory Caroll was duly insulted in an Alo Presidente, with Europe along the way, by Chavez (which was also one of my memorable 2007 posts by the way, giving me the motivation to create that wonderful common project for readers to discuss the constitutional reform). Frontline points out that the Guardian is a "Liberal paper" to make sure that the US audience understands well that chavismo has long ceased to have anything to do with Liberal issues.

And they also get a teary interview of a victim from kidnapping and how his family did not get ANY help from officials. Never mind the pharmacist who runs his business behind a self imposed cage.

The show ends with the frame of two texts. Before it discussed the NO victory and the refusal by Chavez to gracefully acknowledge defeat. This was probably the time at which the documentary was run. Since then it went under editing but more things happened and FRONTLINE ends the documentary with two texts.

In the summer of 2008 Chavez used a
special enabling act to push through 26 new laws,
12 of which had been part of the rejected reform.

In the local and regional elections to be held
on November 23, 2008, Chavez barred hundreds
of opposition candidates from running.

There, no allusions, no hints, Frontline says it all with facts, images and words, too many from Chavez himself to allow anyone to deny the conclusion. The Venezuelan embassy will have a conniption fit.

By all means, watch it and make sure as many acquaintances of yours watch it too. It will be shown on US TV on November 25. The Internet site also carries a Spanish language version. I have not checked how well translated it is but there is no reason to doubt that it will be good too.

The interview with the director/producer, Ofra Bikel, is well worth reading too. She does observe curiously:

It's one country in which almost no one speaks English -- and I'm talking about editors, writers and journalists even, which is very unusual in Latin America.

Another thing is that there was nobody there who expressed any fondness for the United States in the way that you find in other countries.


-The end-

VN&V electoral map courtesy of AM

AM blog has also been following the election and putting up polls that I have used, as well as maps and other goodies. Yesterday he put up the map with his predictions, Caracas Chronicles' and mine. Thus I am taking the liberty to post here the lifted map of my results and for those who can read Spanish his link so you can go and visit, look at the other prediction maps he has (pollsters and bloggers) and thank him for his hard work.



A few notes.

From AM format he considers Distrito Capital what I call Caracas Mayor at large. That is why it appears in light blue. Nobody really seems to care about Libertador even though it is the largest municipal district in Venezuela. Oh well... I am the only one that gives that district to Ledezma, by the way.

Otherwise there is really not that much difference unless you go into the pro Chavez pollsters whose red is so deep that it risks overflowing Curaçao, Guyana and Colombia....

Some folks think that I am too optimistic, some too pessimistic. Some are pessimistic themselves and ready to downgrade their predictions, like Quico who has been burnt once too many at this prediction business. I suppose that in a way I am optimistic in that I decided that the anger over potholes remaining unfixed and power outages will be able to overcome any chavista machinery at play tomorrow. I also assume that the mayor candidates who feel they have a chance at winning will make sure to have their own local machinery at work too, which should benefit the opposition candidates for governor. The Chavez machinery will make a difference in the states painted pink. Thus I am at peace with my predictions and feel no need to change anything. After all I am conservative in a way since I only give 6 for the opposition and a possible Merida as 7th. The reason of my inner peace, so to speak, is that I consider a 6 states gain a solid victory, not great but solid, improved by whatever the chavista dissidence manages to get. After all the opposition has made too many mistakes and it cannot hope to turn the tables in one single election.

AM considers Henri Falcon as a dissident. I am not ready to give him that label but in truth he probably is. I do happen to have a chavista relative in Barquisimeto. Yes, all families have a black sheep. I was astounded when he told me yesterday that he was not going to vote for Falcon because he considers him a traitor. He was angry enough that he will not vote at all, not even for the mayor election.

-The end-

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Venezuelan 2008 election: update 21 - VN&V final predictions

And thus we reach the eve of the election. I have been postponing as long as possible giving my final predictions because, well, they were changing back and forth as the days went by and as I dug further in regional parameters. Thus before I give my predictions it might be good to review what happened in the last months of campaign and how that might have affected the outcome.

Did Chavez benefit from his aggressive style?

A difficult question to answer. Certainly I think, as some serious pollsters do, that Chavez did mobilize better his hard core base. But did that work for the chavista closer to NiNi-ism?

The fact of the matter is that in 2007 Chavez went missing 3 million votes. Note: the opposition missed half a million itself. I think it would be easier to quote myself from last December analysis:

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 [December 2007]. But of these 3 million as much as 500 K belong to the opposition abstention [itself]. The 3 million [chavista abstention is] in fact 2.5 and split 600 K to the NO and 1.900 K 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 to the NO and prefers to present it as 3 million "lost" to abstention votes.
The strategy of chavismo was thus to bring back these voters, assuming that they were chavistas that did not vote then but surely would vote again for Chavez, not for the opposition. Thus massive spending was made to try to diminish as much as possible the negatives of 2007 such as food scarcity. That seems to have worked some, Chavez personal numbers improved somewhat but Chavez associates did not...

The ensuing radicalization of the political speech certainly did mobilize the core, revenge-seeking chavista base, a portion that probably abstained significantly in 2007 because the issues were too complex for these people interested in immediate rewards, monetary or revenge, it does not matter. Maybe Chavez violent insults and threats did appeal to this people, but they also displeased some more civilian chavistas. Which shift is larger? My guess is that Chavez will recover some of the 2.5 million lost folks but not all. A million maybe because his violent speech cannot compensate for the failures that people observe at local level from the chavista crop of elected officials in 2004.

Did the opposition win in 2007 or was it abstention?


This question is asked in a facetious title because it is the great unknown of 2007. If the opposition lost half a million of its voters from 2006 to 2007 did it win because half a million chavista voted NO? Will these vote against Chavez again? Hard to say. However we can be sure of one thing: there is no reason to expect less voting this time around for the opposition. In one year Chavez has done nothing to bring back the cross over voters. In fact by stating clearly that the only thing he wants is reelection by proposing a future amendment he alienates once and for all these cross over voting. I expect that the opposition will not only get its 2007 number but recover a large chunk of its own abstention. Thus the opposition number might rise "naturally" by half a million, remaining behind chavismo by half a million only. If this happen then the opposition will not win more than 5 states because a large chunk of its increase will come from Zulia alone.

The voters prediction

This time around I cannot predict the actual number result as I did in 2007 to a surprising success. Nor should I try. A referendum has clearer parameters to allow a prediction for final numbers. In regional elections the parameters can vary wildly due to local issues and local candidates character. Thus I will limit myself to a range into which each camp will fall (note: prediction at the governors level, without counting the Alcaldia Mayor of Caracas who would count as double voting).

Opposition: 4.504.354 to 5.500.000 (that is, better than 2007).

Chavismo: 4.379.392 to 6.000.000 (that is 1,3 million less than Chavez in 2006 at best)

I know, I know, it is a cope out of sorts to give such wide ranges so I will add that chavismo will get more votes than the opposition but that it will be less than 500.000 above. In other words the 3 million difference of 2006 between Rosales and Chavez would have been reduced to half a million difference with all the consequences that this will bring. Note, I am not counting the dissident vote as in the future they might go either way. They could reach more than half a million themselves and explain why chavismo will not get more than half a million above total opposition vote. BUT, and this is important, the opposition+dissidence will go within less than 200.000 of chavismo, if not barely above. Below chavismo still but way too close for comfort for Chavez future plans.

The result summary

In this table below I have regrouped all the predictions I did in the "regional politics" series. I have simplified by cutting off many town halls of interest just keeping the most significant ones. I have also updated some results as new data reached me. Click to enlarge.


You can observe that I put the Chavez radicalization effect at recovering states that were weakly leaning for the opposition such as Anzoategui or Aragua. That is, what was gained by the opposition seems to remain gained, but what could have been won, is not anymore.

Clearly, if I get only 80% right Venezuela will have a much more varied political landscape Monday 24. Note: contrary to the chavista propaganda I include the states that were fully pro Chavez until October 2007 as red states. After all, Guarico and Trujillo became "opposition" not even 6 months ago. Chavista spinning at its silliest. I might try to write a post on Yaracuy tomorrow explaining why I refuse to decide where it will go.

How to decide who will win, REALLY?

The point here is that when Chavez decided to turn the election into yet another plebiscite on him he improved his chances to win more states but he also decided to risk carrying the full brunt of any loss that might occur. That is, in July 2008 an 8 state victory of the opposition would have been considered good. A 10 state victory a major blow to Chavez. Now, 8 states will be a major blow to Chavez and as low as 5 states would be an excellent result for the opposition, depending on which are those states. For example, how can you spin positive for chavismo that the opposition "only" won Miranda, Carabobo, Zulia, Aragua and Caracas at large? Replace Aragua by Sucre and Nueva Esparta and the spin does not work any better.

To try to convey this into a visual I have crated this graph below, a little bit complex at first but follow me and you will understand better.


In the first column after the states name I rate each state as it was won in 2004, not getting into the "how long it remained chavista". The second column is a rounded population number in thousands. Third column are my predictions, with a non call for Yaracuy and a wild guess for the three states where dissidents have a shot. The next column explains how I classified the states: by margin of victory. Thus I have put Carabobo first because I think that Salas Feo is going to trash Mario Silva even though he might not reach 50% of the total vote. The trashing is artificial, due to the Silva/Acosta split. But Zulia could easily reach a 20% spread too. And so on until the lower states where Lara is going to be a walk in the park for Henry Falcon assured of 30% more than his immediate follower.

The 5 column is more interesting. There I have calculated what percentage of the population will be under opposition administration AFTER November 23. If my predictions turn true, of course. Same thing for chavismo. As you can see the chavista "sure states" do not even reach 30% of the population whereas the opposition "sure states" reach 40%!! Now, if we add to this all the "tending to" states, chavismo now gets more states than the opposition but still does not get a majority of the population!!! in other words Chavez ability to keep running the country as he wishes will depend on whether he can beat the "dissident" or come to terms with them if they win next Sunday.

In other words you can see by yourself that if the opposition wins "only" the six states I indicate it will still be a good win for it and a defeat for Chavez. A paradox from afar but a reality when you know what is going on.

But there is a "nightmare scenario" for Chavez. Let's assume that the opposition wins its 6 seats and the two weak leanings of Merida and Yaracuy. If any of Aragua, or Bolivar or Anzoategui were to also fall in the opposition hands, this one would rule over 50% of the country (the three arrows in the column) . With only 8 + 1 states!!! And this in spite of 15 pro Chavez and dissident states....

9 states for the opposition could be thus a major, major victory for the opposition as it would rule out any possible constitutional reform to allow for Chavez reelection in 2012.

In other words, when you see the results Sunday night, it will not be a matter of whom has the most states to decide who won: Chavez will get the most states. The victor will be the opposition if it reaches more than 40% of the country population. Not even 50% are needed because the incredible unfair advantage of Chavez during election could make a 40% victory a stunning one. I can assure you that even the chavista hoi polloi will get that!

PS: of course, the result of 23 night night that might eclipse any other result is a dissident victory in Barinas, Chavez home state.


-The end-

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