Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best wishes for 2009

May we work all in unison and effectiveness to bring Chavez closer to his political end.

-The end-

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of year whimsy

Cute article from the Wall Street Journal. they are not forgetting about Chavez and the contempt expressed for him is, in a way, even worse than what is expressed in this blog who at least acknowledges his political talent. Still, the WSJ is pessimistic "How nice it would be if oil stayed low long enough for a democratic Iran, Venezuela or Russia to emerge from this crisis. Odds are that won't happen."

But we will retain cute phrases that show how far Chaevz has fallen: "Inflation is already 36%, a punishing tax on the masses Señor Chávez claims to champion." and "Mr. Chávez can't prop up Castro or Colombia terrorists as before." Who knew.....

I fancied below a translation of my 2008 year review into Spanish, the first time I put one in my blog. That way you can pass it around your chavista friends, if you have any left.

-The end-

2008: el año en que se la cayó la hoja de parra a Hugo Chávez

Hay muchas maneras de redactar una rutinaria crónica el año. En lo que toca a este bitacorista 2008 marca el año en que la seudo Revolución Bolivariana se ha demostrado sin lugar a dudas ser sólo una senda para la ambición personal de Chávez de guardar el poder para siempre. O, en otras palabras, 2008 se recordará como el año en que se hizo imposible ignorar el carácter no democrático de Chávez y sus seguidores.

De una forma perversa eso es bueno, ya que ahora tenemos un panorama más claro de la situación. Ahora será muy difícil para cualquier defensor del chavismo atreverse apoyar esta comparsa.

Un simple resumen será suficiente para refrescar la memoria de cualquiera y para sustentar mi aseveración.

En diciembre de 2007 Chávez perdió su primera votación cuando trató de modificar la Constitución con el fin de acumular más poder para sí mismo. Un verdadero demócrata siempre se puede valorar en la derrota. Chávez fue un mal perdedor. Si en la primera noche aceptó a regañadientes la derrota (tras un retraso considerable) un par de días después él mostró su amargura en medio de sus generales, mientras que el paisaje de Caracas era salpicado con carteles advirtiéndonos que la causa no había sido abandonada.

La primera señal de lo que iba a venir fue cuando el ente electoral, CNE, falló al no publicar los resultados definitivos del referéndum. En esta fecha aún no sabemos exactamente el margen de victoria del NO. ¿En qué país democrático se puede observar tal desprecio a la población al no comunicar el resultado de una elección supuestamente libre y justa? Por lo tanto, el árbitro político de Venezuela fue el segundo en exponer al desnudo su parcialidad.

Durante 2008 una serie de decretos leyes establecieron muchas de las disposiciones que fueron rechazadas en 2007. La tesis aquí no es si estos trapicheos pudiesen haber sido aplicados a través de leyes sin un previo cambio constitucional. El hecho es que Chávez intentó conseguirlos a través de un cambio constitucional, el pueblo dijo NO y de todos modos Chávez siguió adelante.

A finales de 2008 Chávez trató de convertir lo que debería haber sido elecciones regionales en un plebiscito sobre sí mismo. Nunca como para estas elecciones la maquinaria del estado fue utilizada en la medida en que se utilizó para favorecer a una parcialidad, el lado de Chávez. Nunca un lenguaje presidencial fue tan soez como el utilizado por Chávez durante esta campaña en donde los adversarios políticos fueron tildados de traidores y cosas peores. Sin embargo los detalles de la elección, del mal gusto que hayan sido, no son lo importante, ni lo son los resultados finales: el momento estelar fue cuando el chavismo se negó a entregar los pocos lugares ganados por la oposición o los entrego después de saqueados y convertidos en nada antes de permitir que los nuevos funcionarios elegidos se encarguen. Así se les notificó a los funcionarios de la oposición que no se les otorgarían los medios de ejercer el cargo para el cual el pueblo los eligió.

Para coronar este año ya tan significativo, Chávez a las pocas horas comenzó una nueva campaña electoral en la que se dejó de la pretensión a los nobles objetivos de los cuales trató de hacernos creer lo guiaban: una única enmienda a la constitución para permitir su reelección. En pocas palabras, Chávez está chantajeando al país con el mas reaccionario de los argumentos de que si no se le permite postular al cargo de nuevo, que si debe dejar la silla de una u otra manera, el país caerá en el caos. La implicación aquí no es que a Chávez se le debe permitir concurrir de nuevo a elecciones, la implicación es que no sólo debe ser autorizado para ello, sino que está autorizado a utilizar cualquier medio para asegurar forzosamente su reelección. No nos equivoquemos: el próximo referéndum es también un referéndum sobre el estilo de campaña de Chávez, sobre los abusos materiales que comete, sobre la forma en que tuerce la ley al eliminar cualquier oponente que podría convertirse en una amenaza para su poder. Los que van a votar SÍ en el referéndum de febrero 2009 también votarán para permitir que un hombre utilice tácticas tales que nunca se vea amenazado por las urnas electorales. Vimos dichas tácticas en 2008, estas incluyen desde la publicación incompleta de resultados electorales hasta las restricciones de los derechos civiles a quien le incomoda.

Esos son los únicos recuerdos que valen la pena para el acontecer del 2008 en Venezuela. Todo lo demás son meros detalles que distraen.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008: the year Hugo Chavez lost his democratic fig leaf

There are many ways to write a routine article to review a year. As far as this blogger is concerned 2008 will mark the year when the pseudo Bolivarian Revolution has been proved without a doubt to be only a vehicle for Chavez personal ambition to retain power forever. Or, in other words, 2008 will come down as the year where it became impossible to ignore the undemocratic nature of Chavez and his followers.

That is good in a perverse way, in that now we have a clearer panorama of the situation. Now it will be very difficult for any supporter of chavismo to dare support this masquerade.

A simple summary will be enough to refresh any one’s memory and to sustain my point.

In December 2007 Chavez lost his first vote when he tried to modify the constitution in order to accumulate more power for himself. A true democrat can always be appreciated in defeat. Chavez was a sore loser. If on the first night he grudgingly accepted defeat (after a considerable delay) a couple of days after he showed how bitter he was posing in the middle of his generals, just as the landscape of Caracas was being dotted with posters warning that he was not giving up.

The first sign of what was to come was when the Electoral Board, CNE, failed to release the final results of the referendum. To this date we still do not know the exact margin of victory for the NO. In what democratic country one can observe such a disregard in telling the people the result of a supposedly free and fair election? Thus the political umpire of Venezuela was the second in exposing its naked partiality.

Through 2008 a series of decree laws established many of the provisions that were rejected in 2007. The argument here is not whether these changes could have been applied through laws without a constitutional change. The point is that Chavez tried to get them through a constitutional change, the people said NO and Chavez went ahead anyway.

At the end of 2008 Chavez tried to transform what should have been regional elections into a plebiscite on himself. Never as for these elections the machine of state was used to the extent it was used to favor one side, the Chavez side. Never was a presidential language as foul as the one used by Chavez during this campaign where political adversaries where labeled traitors and worse. But again, the specifics of the election, as tasteless as they were, are not the real point, nor the final results: the riveting moment was when chavismo refused to relinquish the few places won by the opposition or when it pillaged and turned them into nothing before finally allowing the newly elected officials to take charge. The opposition officials were served notice that they would not be allowed the means to exert the position for which the people elected them.

To crown this already telling year, Chavez within hours started yet a new electoral campaign where he threw aside all pretense of the noble aims that he tried to make us believe guided him: a single amendment to the constitution to allow his reelection. Simply put, Chavez is blackmailing the country with the reactionary argument that if he is not allowed to run for office again, that if he must leave office one way or the other, the country will fall into chaos. The implication here is not that Chavez should be allowed to run again for election, the implication is that not only he should be allowed to do so but that he should be allowed to use any forcible mean to ensure that he is reelected. Make no mistake: this coming referendum is also a referendum on Chavez campaign style, on the material abuses he commits, on how he twists the law to remove any opponent that could become a threat to his hold on power. Those who will vote YES on the February 2009 referendum will also vote to allow a man to use such tactics that he will never be threatened at the ballot box. We saw those tactics in 2008, they include from incomplete electoral results release to restrictions of civil rights to whomever displeases him.

Those are the only things worth retaining from the 2008 year in Venezuela. All the rest are mere distracting details.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

With jails like these.....

The red pages of the papers can be full of hints on why things in Venezuela are far from improving.

El Universal carries today an item about yet another gun and knife fight inside a Caracas jail. The reason was a section of prisoners trying to take the upper hand on another. Two people killed, some hurt. One of the killed had already been serving a murder term for three years and yet his wife managed to get pregnant while he was in jail and to give birth to their third child.

How many wrongs can you see in the paragraph above?

How did these people manage to get guns?

Aren't the guards supposed to be in control so such fights are unnecessary?

How come a murder criminal in jail manages to get his wife pregnant?

How come he even still has a wife willing to have sex with him?

I'll stop here. Thinking about all that is wrong in a society that has such a jail system and the people that accommodate themselves with it will spoil the Christmas spirit to the most liberal of individuals and turn him into a ferocious castigator...

-The end-

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chavez goes to church

I am really starting to wonder what is it that they put in their revolutionary eggnog. Before Christmas we had Chavez expropriating a shopping mall and a foreign minister with outright lies for the camera. Now we have Chavez reading at Catholic Mass on the 24...

Yes, that is right, Hugo Chavez went to mass on the 24th and he made the first reading of the Catholic Mass, apparently the traditional one from Isaiah.

Of course, Chavez been Chavez it could not just be about a simple Xmas service. At the exit (or going there, I could not figure it out) he declared that Venezuela was doing fine in spite of the coming crisis. Probably his own version of a Christmas Miracle.

But what was simply fabulous was that he took along with him most of his cabinet, including the minister for legislative decrees, Cilia Flores, formerly known as the president of the National Assembly. In attendance were also the two Arabic sounding members, Tarek and Haiman who until now we did not know whether they were Muslim of Christian (remember, there are many Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian Arabic Christians). We still do not know since they might have been there for ecumenical purposes, and none of them, from Silly Flowers to Haiman knew the traditional mass responses. I could not find the video yet, and if someone finds it please let me know to post it, it is priceless.

As an act of supreme hypocrisy from the man that insults continuously the Roman Church and who claims to belong to all sorts of religions it can hardly be matched.

Chavez will really do ANYTHING to remain in the front news, even on Christmas Eve... Or as my father said, pardon my French "c'est incroyable que quelqu'un puisse se foutre de la guele du monde à ce point!". Not translatable, alludes to people constantly mocking you at incredibly high levels.

-The end-

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Post 2008

Just a simple post to wish you all a very happy Christmas, to thank you for having been with this blog for another year and to tell you that I will see you all back after the 26, unless of course I cannot resit yet another sarcastic post on Maduro or Chavez.

May peace and joy bless you for at least a day, even if you are in Venezuela :)

-The end-

The things you do because ridicule is not lethal

Alice in wonderland would have had that easy.....

Today foreign minister Maduro did another doozy, or nincompoopery which coinage readers of last post seem to have appreciated. This week end he was telling us that the WaPo is mandatory reading for the opposition so we know what to say against Chavez because it is well known that we are unable to come up with any criticism on our own since this country is paradise. Today Maduro tells us that the collection of signatures in favor of the in vita aeternam amendment was a huge success among Venezuelan overseas. According to YVKE network "mundial", the sycophantic network if any, Maduro said that more than 50% signed for it, in particular youth and students.

The first question is of course if they are so happy with Chavez that they want him stay in power for ever, how come they are not living in Venezuela? You know, inquiring minds want to know...

In fact Maduro is a through and through liar. The 2004 the Recall Election was what would more closely resemble next February vote. Then the participation was 66,44% of which 89,58% voted for Chavez to go. If my calculator is right that gives 59,52% of registered Venezuelans at embassies voting for Chavez to go.

You do not like that result? Never mind! Let's look at Chavez apogee in 2006. With a 59,68% participation Rosales did get 75,37% which according to the same calculator still gives a hefty 44,98% of Venezuelans that voted for Chavez to go, for a paltry 14,o6% who wanted Chavez to stay.

Now, how this paltry 14,06% became in two years more than 50% when at home Chavez went down by ten points is something that we, the naive and innocent WaPo readers, would like very, very much to be told by Maduro.

Me thinks that chavismo polling numbers are so bad "que ya no saben a que palo ahorcarse".


-The end-

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chavismo with time on its hands: expropriating shops

You would think that with a an inflation rate edging 30%, with a crime rate offering no relief, with oil prices for the Venezuela variety looking to 20 USD as a goal, with worries about how to pay for all the food that needs to be imported next year, and more, much more worries, chavismo would be very busy to have time for sensationalism. Think again.

Apparently chavismo has time on its hands to do or say stupid things.

The mall that would not be.

Chavez in his Alo Presidente decided to expropriate a soon to be inaugurated mall not too far from downtown Caracas. The San Bernardino Sambil was designed in the hope of revitalizing a depressed area and in the hope of bringing much needed safe retail space to the Western area of Caracas. It is all built on private capital and in such a location it has got to have had all the legally required building permits. It has absolutely no strategic value for the country, and even the lame excuse of Chavez to stop the growth of traffic downtown is ridiculous because in fact it could actually help by allowing denizens of the West not to trek to the malls of the East anymore. Besides the mall is already built, it has been under construction for two years and it is a little bit hypocrite that suddenly Chavez cares about these urbanism issues when he has been unable to force his underlings to even pick up the trash of Caracas on time.

That it was a whim of Chavez is clear in that he does not know what he will be do with the San Bernardino mall "a hospital, an university or a school". As if retail space could easily be transformed in the type of space that such organizations require. The San Bernardino mall could only be transformed in office space if you really wanted to void its original function. It is probably cheaper to tear down most of the mall and build a hospital than to condition the mall into a hospital.

But I am not going to go into the whims of Chavez desperately trying to get attention to garner his voters for his latest referendum (he announces that he should get at least the total he got in 2006, as if the last two years of his rule had been that stellar with inflation and crime! Unbelievable!) What I can tell you for sure is that this is a very serious blow to private investment in Venezuela. No one anymore will undertake a major building project, from mall, to housing, to factories, knowing now that a single presidential whim can void years of effort. Or does anyone thing that with oil at 30 USD Chavez is going to pay the investors of the Sambil a just compensation?

With such stupid moves the economic crisis next year is suddenly appearing at getting much worse than expected.

The seditious editorial.


In my preceding post I commented on the latest Washington Post editorial on Venezuela. Apparently that editorial is bringing enough unease in the government that it brought foreign minister Maduro to make one of the most stupid declarations of his career, already rich in nincompooperies. According to Maduro the Washington Post is the organism that transmits to Venezuelan opposition the lines it should use during the campaign against the in vita aeternam reelection.

That is right, the Washington Post, the paper of Watergate, is now the chosen conduit of a Republican administration to give orders to the Venezuelan opposition. Apparently this blogger is not the only one who every morning reads the Post to make sure he knows what to write in his blog.

One does not know if we should cry or laugh at this.

Apparently the portion that irked Maduro so much is this one which I reproduce in full:
The problem is that elections in Venezuela are no longer free and fair. Mr. Chávez has turned national television into a state propaganda outlet, and the Miami Herald reported Sunday that the government spent tens of millions of dollars to buy votes in the recent state and local elections. The state election authority, which is controlled by Mr. Chávez's loyalists, delayed the announcement of his defeat in last year's referendum; reliable sources say the president conceded only after he was told by military commanders that they would not put down protests against a falsified result. The official results, showing the margin of Mr. Chávez's loss, have not been released.

Now, what part of the above is untrue?

I know that Maduro is paid to make a fool of himself, but if there was an occasion to remain silent it was that one. Now more people than ever are going to read that editorial and learn more than what they wanted to learn about Venezuela. I love it!!!! I do not know who advises Maduro (I am not sure his English is good enough to read the WaPo himself) but that person ill advised poor Nicolas who would have been better off doing his late Xmas shopping.

-The end-

Friday, December 19, 2008

Amending fascism

OK, I know, cheap shot of a title, but I could not resist. But before I go into a quick summary of yesterday events let me offer you a brisk Washington Post Editorial that says it all about the current situation of Venezuela and Chavez, with phrases like this one: The official results, showing the margin of Mr. Chávez's loss, have not been released. "sin pelos en la lengua", as we say in Venezuela.

What can I say about yesterday performance in the National Assembly? No surprise was expected since we knew that the servile National Assembly was going to approve the orders of Chavez to allow for his eternal "reelection" (read again the editorial above, I am not the only one doubting of the quality of Venezuelan elections). And yet surprises came. The "debate" run longer than expected, the popular fervor was well below the low standards we expected, the fascist response to dissidence was much higher than expected. Just as Chavez unveiled his true thugofascist inner core since November 23, so did the National Assembly revealed its own commitment to authoritarianism. Highlights in no particular order.

- boxes of useless signatures were carried by a human chain to the floor of the assembly. As I observed the carriers I thought about the move I was subjected too recently and let me tell you that for boxes supposedly filled up with paper they were darn easy to be carried around. The chair refused to have the boxes opened for inspection by opposition assemblymen. Imagine that!

- one box was opened by a sympathetic and exalted carrier who ruffled the leaf for the cameras. The cameras detected many blank sheets in the ream of paper! I mean, they cannot even fake it in one box!!!! Amazing!

- the multi hour cadena we were threatened with did not take place. Apparently someone at Miraflores knew better and did not trust Cilia Flores to put up a good TV show.

- the debate, to give it a name, was a mix of sycophancy and anti imperialist diatribe as if Chavez was the only person able to protect us. Rewriting of history and world economics reached yet new heights.

- we got a public lynching from the chair itself. Cilia Flores, in an act of utmost fascism, sorry, no other word can convey the atmosphere of the moment, picked a video out of context, from two years past, to try to publicly humiliate Ismael Garcia. She played the video over and over and then she launched herself in an attack that would have made proud Goebbels (or any of the Stalin judicial commissars for that matter). The only think she proved to us was how effective Ismael Garcia has been at exposing this sorry bunch. While giving Ismael good points for behavior as his attitude was exemplary.

- finally, the scarce assemblymen and women who dared to vote NO were roughed up at the exit, while still INSIDE the Assembly building, by their colleagues it seems.

Truly, fascism has no amend.

-The end-

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 7 - Conclusions

It is rather late to give the conclusions of the November 23 electoral joust. But a new election sneaked in and well, you know, I had to cover two elections at once. Thus this post can be considered the last of the 2008 series but also the preamble of the 2009 series. And to illustrate this duality I will like to look at the Lara state results.

Lara is a very interesting state because it is supposed to be a chavista bastion and yet as the table on the right, click to enlarge, shows it has a high electoral instability, meaning that chavismo can never be sure how it will perform there. And at a referendum time this is quite a handicap as the 2007 "surprise" illustrates when Chavez lost the referendum in Lara. It is also interesting to observe that the percentage of votes obtained in Lara bears little relationship with the actual amount of votes gained there. The top vote getting was for Chavez in 2006, but Henry Falcon gets 7% more share with almost 70 000 votes less. And yet chavismo should not be happy with that result at all: at least 100 000 of these votes are cross votes from the opposition!!!

If you look at the 2008 details you will see that there were almost 120 000 more votes cast for governor than for the state legislature. I know it is more difficult and maybe less interesting to vote for legislators, but that is quite a difference, is it not? And when you look at who lost the most votes you can see by yourself that the PSUV lost 50.000 but its allies more than 100.000! However the opposition in spite of its division loses much less. In fact, Primero Justicia gets more vote in the legislature list than for the governor they supported!

There is only one explanation for the numbers that you see in that table on the right: the new governor of Lara, Henry Falcon, is a free agent of chavismo, well, almost, and a significant chunk of chavismo will not follow Chavez every time. From 2006 to 2007 chavismo lost 120.000. But it did not recover them to elect Falcon: at least 100.000 of his electors came from the opposition. Chavismo must be worried sick about Lara this time around: not only Lara could contribute even more to a NO result next February, but a solid NO victory could even force the hand of Falcon to become in turn a dissident. All that is at stake for Chavez in 2009 is illustrated in Lara!

And this is perhaps the most important result of 2008: Chavez might have reached his last historical plateau. If we believe chavismo account of 53% of the popular vote it is way below the 66% of Chavez two years ago, the more damaging that the regional election campaign became a plebiscite on Chavez due to his grotesque intervention in the election. Indeed chavismo did win more votes than the opposition on November 23 but as we have seen there are many factors that diminish greatly whatever positive might reside in that 53. For example, key states were lost. For example, dissidence might not have been as strong as expected but the way in which chavismo dealt with it will come back to haunt them. For example rural vote might have gone for Chavez, but all indicate that a significant fraction of it was a "dependency" vote. Maybe individually these things are not that big, but taken together they are very ominous for the next referendum.

But the opposition should not gloat as much as some of its spokespeople do. It still lack in vote even though it has been growing steadily since 2006. And even if it wins next February, its difficulty at unifying its electorate weakens its future perspectives. The arrogance of a a few local leaders was enough to cause the loss of at least 10% of the districts that should have gone to the opposition. The opposition has thus three urgent tasks that it must conduct almost simultaneously:

- get ready for the amendment referendum.
- find a way to effect better unity for the municipal council elections later in 2009.
- offer a real program that can carry the opposition to a National Assembly victory in 2010.

The work starts today, Xmas or not.


-The end-

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mercenaries in action: the red shirts S.A.?

I have been off the news these past few days. Trying to finish all of this year work to be able to close shop for three weeks and finishing a move is just so taking that I missed this new evidence of fascism within chavismo. Yesterday and today students who tried to put flowers at the Bolivar squares of Valencia and Caracas were beaten up by chavista loiterers. Apparently according to the revolutionary credo Bolivar only belongs to Chavez and his followers. Only they have the right to invoke his name, only Chavez can interpret adequately Bolivar thoughts. If such interpretation changes over time nobody minds within chavismo.

Let's go back to the article I translated earlier today during my lunch break. Juan Barreto, outgoing mayor of metro Caracas had hundreds to thousands of people on his payroll whose sole function was to keep up political agitation. Apparently Diosdado Cabello also has such payroll in Miranda state. How many other chavista governor or mayors do have such payrolls? Why do these people need to pay red shirts SA, shooting people, harassing political activities, defacing buildings, etc, etc...? Was chavismo so lacking in arguments so long ago that it made it a sate policy to hire violence? Because resorting to violence is the outlet of people who lost the argument.

But there is more evidence on how far along the road of violence chavismo is, which can be expressed in other ways than just fist fights. Siemens admitted paying bribes, millions of dollars in bribes to Venezuela officials to get subway contracts. Are we hearing any follow up by chavismo on that? No, nothing at all. But speedily the judicial system of Venezuela did ask the US for eventual holdings of Rosales in the US. That is right, Rosales possible villa in Miami is a matter of utmost importance but all the villas bought by the Antonini group and the now the Siemens group is something that chavismo cannot be bothered with. Another hallmark of fascism.

-The end-

The abuses uncovered in Caracas Metro Mayor

Simon Boccanegra of Tal Cual gives us a quick summary of the latest in Venezuelan corruption. Worth translating below, for you to read once again that this Chavez administration is the most corrupt of all of our history. And a rich one at that in matters of corruption.

Mercenaries

The audit that is being conducted in the metropolitan mayor office, now that it changed hands, is yielding some really stunning results. So far it was discovered that about four thousand people linked to armed groups "colectivos" of the 23 Enero area and other, went through the payroll office of town hall on the 15 and last day of the month to receive the stipend paid for their revolutionary devotion. This mini chronicler, in his unquenchable naivete, thought they were revolutionary individuals, misled and slightly passé, but genuine. It so happens that they were only a bunch of leeches, who cannot receive any other name but mercenaries. Well, they are paid. We had noted the dismissal of the second in command at the DISIP, general Zarraga Gutierrez, was due to a report that prepared, in which it referred to the links between Diosdado Cabello and some of these "colectivos". That is, one could infer that some were on the payroll of Juan Barreto and others on the governor of Miranda. No wonder these dedicated compatriots of the "Esquina Caliente" [Hot Corner of the Bolivar Square] requested for a meeting with Ledezma requested a meeting to find out the fate of their meal-tickets. Anyway, the "revolution", whose quotes are growing with each surprising finding of this nature, which already owes us an explanation of the deals Singing Children of Miami [the famous maletagate], now offers us yet another demonstration of their patriotic detachment with the revelations of the German company Siemens. This one confesses to have paid about 18 little million of dollars to unidentified government's "revolutionary" guys for favors received. Of course, His Majesty [Hugo 1] will not delay in accusing the Empire of this new slander against the integrity of his partners, as he did in the case of the suitcase of Antonini. But nothing can be done, the rotten smell is now unbearable.

-The end-

The Chavez permanent show: 170 hours of cadena

A little note of interest: Chavez this year has already spent 170 hours in cadenas. That is, Chavez has commandeered ALL TV, and ALL Radio stations of Venezuela to transmit simultaneously his speeches for 170 hours this year. Nobody else is allowed to do, and nobody can reply to his message on the state TV network, the largest one by far in the country (1).

Now I do not want to discuss the undemocratic nature of Chavez imposition (forgive the redundancy). What I want to consider is when does Chavez do real work.

The first thing to note is that these 170 hours represent 21,25 8 hour working days. Let's round it down to 20 working days becasue, you know, the president works more than 8 hours day. Besides a very small portion of these cadenas is not really from Chavez directly. Now let's take into account that if Chavez might spend 20 working days in cadena, he spends AT LEAST as much on political events as we can see from any cursory glance at VTV, the state network which is a 24/7 propaganda and government "information".

Before you may argue that it is really not that much, that Chavez works at least 12 hours a day anyway, let me point out that the cadenas are well prepared: Chavez comes all the time with plenty of books, paper clips, prepared statements, etc... That is, for a 2 hour cadena he works at least for one hour before hand to prepare himself, supervise the stage, make sure the crowd is big enough, etc...

So, we are up to 40 days of direct political activity, on cadena or not. Let's add to it the Alo Presidente shows, which admittedly are more work related since most ministers must be in audience and are publicly berated for any failings (see the Frontline fabulous documentary on that). Let's say for the sake of argument that the time spend in Alo Presidente in only chit chat and political anecdote represents 25 Sundays at an average of 3 hours. That represents 75 hours or 9 more days. Thus we are up to 49 days of show.

We can also add a large portion of what Chavez spends traveling for unnecessary matters. For example when Chavez hires a stadium in Argentina to make an anti Bush speech, how does that relate tot he real needs in Venezuela that Chavez is supposed to address? Crime, inflation, how are those helped through a speech in Santa Cruz, La Plata or Moscow? Chavez spends about a month a year outside of Venezuela. Let's be conservative and assume that 10 of these days can be added to our 49 days total.

We can also add a few days of show. Or does anyone think that receiving Sean Penn or Naomi Campbell is nothing else but a show promoting Chavez? There are also those "intellectual" gatherings taking place in Venezuela which Chavez attends and who do little if nothing to help crime and inflation and public work deficiencies and run down hospitals in Venezuela. How many hours spent in those events? Let's be conservative and put that at only 5 extra days of show.

Thus we are at 64 days spent on show for self promotion. 64 days. 13 weeks of 5 working days, a full 25% of the year work spent in hot air emissions. Not to mention the time wasted by ministers and other public servants away from their work stations as their presence is required to create the "cheering" public.

And of course the time spent at thinking about all of these events and planning them cannot be counted.....

The question of course is when does Chavez has time planning the projects that are really necessary to Venezuela; and more importantly, when does he have time to do the follow up that is required to make sure these projects do indeed take off and yield the expected results? Since it is a resident that is unable to trust and even less delegate, you can imagine the consequences that you read in the red pages of the papers of the inflation index.

The question that you do not need to ask yourself anymore is why the Venezuelan public administration is slowly becoming more and more anarchic: nobody higher up has time to care about things working.

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

1) according to RCTV who is not subjected to cadenas anymore now that it can only be seen on cable.

-The end-

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 6 - Unity, thy shall not fail us

Not only I am running late in finishing my post election analysis but I should already be writing the next one for the coming eternal reelection amendment. What I am sure of is that my plan this year to stop the blog for at least two weeks is off.

One thing that the opposition tried very hard to get early this year was unity, understanding very well that without unity chavismo would simply smother the opposition. The 2006 and 2007 numbers were clear, one on one the opposition could win a few important places, two on one it had no chance outside a dozen districts of Venezuela. All went fine, all states but two had unity, but what the opposition did not say was that unity was not achieved as widely as we thought in individual districts. True, a few people like Petkoff tried in the last weeks to ring an alarm but personal ambitions were too strong. As a consequence key places were lost that should have been won without trouble. The table below illustrates some glaring examples of how this division cost dearly to the opposition. I have added also what political movement was the responsible of the loss in a given district, but meaner than what Tal Cual did over a week ago as I was preparing this post.

Before getting into the details it is important to recall how division can play a role. Of course, division favors chavismo who has pulverized any internal divergence. But there is another perverse effect of visible division: it risks promoting abstention among the likely opposition voters. The NiNi or chavista elector considering voting for the opposition as a way to punish the administration is probably going to be out off if the opposition does not offer him or her a clear choice.


The column "missing votes" is the total percentage won by chavismo minus the
votes gathered by A and B (and C when it happened). If the result is negative
that means the united opposition would have won. If it is positive (Bolivar)
it is small enough that a more focused unity campaign
would have made up the difference.


I have illustrated the division in three scenarios: state, local, legislative. Let's start at state level since there is only one clear example (I have already extensively discussed Yaracuy where division was not the only factor). Bolivar is the pathetic example. There Primero Justicia made a deal with PODEMOS, a deal mirrored apparently in Aragua and elsewhere. Even though polls indicated that Andres Velazquez was forging ahead, PJ and PODEMOS stuck with their man and both candidates went down in flames. Unfortunately for PJ, Rojas Suarez had LESS than half the votes of Andres Velazquez. For those in the know, two weeks before the election PJ and PODEMOS knew that their man was not going to make it. For PODEMOS the guilt will not be too much since it got punished elsewhere severely but for Primero Justicia there is a lot to explain. Also Bolivar is a perfect example on how a bitter battle between the two opposition candidates probably generated rejection from the electorate and thus the sum of both men do not quite reach the PSUV number. Had unity prevailed the campaign about the very lousy governor running for reelection would have been more consequent and effective.

At municipal level there are many examples. I have already discussed Yaracuy losses of San Felipe and Independencia that touched me closely and that I blame on the arrogance of Julio Borges and Lapi. At least Lapi will pay for his arrogance as he can face now years of long exile. Borges will have to account for that if he wants PJ to grow in Yaracuy. But there was another even more pathetic example, Carabobo.

There the Salas dynasty is a mix of the Lapi arrogance and the more modernist image of PJ. Proyecto Venezuela, their party, failed there accumulating the errors of Lapi and PJ! By personal arrogance they meant that Carabobo was their due and thus they refused to make the necessary political alliances. By arrogance of thinking that they were owed a national destiny, they also refused to make the alliances that would have eased their fusion with the movements who actually had a future. The result has no appeal. Salas Feo won with less votes than what was expected although the unity was made around his own candidacy. His less than 50% victory was further damaged when most districts went Chavez and when even the legislative body went from Proyecto Venezuela control to PSUV control!!! That is right, when in 2004 Salas Feo lost, Proyecto Venezuela did manage to retain the control of the legislative assembly of the state. This time around, due to division, Proyecto Venezuela might have won the state but it lost the assembly. True, there is the unjust way into which seats are allocated, but as we can see in Carabobo #1, single districts were also lost because of division.

I have also shown some other glaring losses such as Cumana and La Cañada. There is no point in going further into all the losses, the point is made (Tal Cual counts 26, but it might reach more than 30 districts lost due to divisions, no to mention the losses at legislative level). We must observe that we are already paying a high price to that division. Let's imagine for a moment that in addition to all that the opposition won it also had got Valencia, Cumana and Bolivar. It could have got these three prizes with exactly the same number of votes it got. Do you think that Chavez would be bellowing these days his amendment if he could not brag on these three victories?

Conclusion

There is a powerful lesson in the districts lost by the opposition due to its division. True, a stinging defeat of Chavez in the amendment might change things a lot but it is too early to think about the consequences of an hypothetical victory. Right now the opposition MUST find a way to forge unity candidates. The opportunity comes in 2009 for the municipal delegates elections which will be held in a format similar to the state assemblies. Many ways to reach this goal are possible but that is the subject for a post by itself. But whatever way is selected, it must be thought as the one that will also be used for the legislative elections of 2010 which could bring the end of the chavista majority in the National Assembly. Because economic crisis or no crisis, if the opposition does not unify better by 2010 it will have a hard time to reach even a third of the new assembly.

-The end-

Monday, December 15, 2008

Schizophrenia at Miraflores: doing what it takes to keep that seat

This week brought an almost radical change in Chavez actions. Polls numbers must be percolating in the situation room of Miraflores and new strategies must be designed fast.

First the visit of Raul Castro. No cadenas this week end! (that I know of anyway) No Alo Presidente with Raul!!! Clearly, Raul does not bring votes the way Fidel could. Or could it be that Raul was told that he needed to cut down his expenses and in reprisal did not want to be in the Chavez show?

Then Jose Vicente Rangel, ex vice president and specialist in Chavez image improvement, discarded in 2006 when he warned about closing RCTV (as the rumors goes anyway) was called back to duty. Chavez gave him a TV interview with easy questions to reply. Nothing spontaneous there.

We learned that better relationships with the US are sought. Yeah, right....

We learned that Chavez wants a rapprochement of sorts with the opposition. Well, the victim section of it, the one that has allowed itself to be brain washed for ten years, you know, people like me that never got a chance to see the revolution for the good it does to the middle class. According to Chavez if it were not for RCTV, Globovision, El Universal and El Nacional the revolution would be supported by 90% of the country. It seems that we never learned to use our remote control and that we always reach the newsstand when only the unsold issues of Tal Cual et al were the only items left. Apparently we are retards....

Of course, today we were quickly reminded that all of these sweet words were hogwash. We never believed him anyway as we have seen him and his lies for ten years now. For example the newly elected governor of Tachira had to go today to the high court so that the chavistas in San Cristobal finally accept to give him his job. Even though the CNE has long decided he won, the defeated PSUV candidate and his accomplices are refusing to accept the vote and ask for a new election. I mean, they recognize they lost but surely a new election with people less brain washed will give them their due. Some democrats... And not to be left behind, Carabobo's Salas Feo swearing in was annulled and he will have to be sworn again....

But as usual the inner beast of Chavez cannot be tamed. As I am typing this Chavez is doing a new cadena tonight where he is busy insulting the newly opposition governors accusing them from being coup mongers and wishing they were there to solve people's problems. Can I venture to predict that Tachira vote will be duly annulled? Today Miguel Angel Rodriguez denounced that he was a government target. Huh? The star anchor of the morning RCTV news show is a threat that needs to be neutralized? Was RCTV supposed to be dead? Or are people stupid enough to buy cable TV to keep watching it? It makes sense, if people go out of their way to watch "La Entrevista" then the anchor must be neutralized for their own good.

But comic relief is always at hand. We need that to withstand these ten years of pseudo bolibana revolution. Chavez again today said that Venezuela is the victim of an international conspiracy. It is now qualified as a psychological war. I kid you not.

And I saved you the best for the end: Chavez said that the journalist that threw his shoe at Bush had a lot of courage. This is really hilarious. Whether you like or hate Bush you must admit that he was relatively unruffled and kept his spirits and the press conference. Think for a minute about what would have happened if Miguel Angel were to throw a really nasty question at a press conference (note that he could not, he is barred of them like RCTV and Globovision and most Venezuelan media). He would have been promptly arrested by dozens of body guards, many Cubans. Conspiracy would have been decreed. The National Assembly would have spun in over drive with words such as golpista! magnicidio! and what not. Chavez would have done a couple of cadenas where he would have narrated his heroism in withstanding the brutal assault. Suspects would have been named. Troops would have been sent somewhere. Etc, etc.....

No Hugo, the one in trouble here is not Bush, it is you. He is done and will go into a nice retirement (if undeserved). We are trying to find ways to send you to jail and that is what keeps you awake at night. No amendment is going to save you from having squandered the wealth of a country in unsustainable programs.

-The end-

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 5 - Dissidence: are you for real?

There has been much talk about the dissidence effect on chavismo vote last November. And yet, nothing came of it except perhaps in Barinas where there are even rumors of cheating in this most important of states for the Chavez “famiglia” as Teodoro Petkoff calls it these days. Yet, for all its victories chavismo has not much else to cheer about as the price paid for having forced these dissidents to run might be a lower score next February, losing votes where chavismo does not need to lose them.

The dissidence: definitions

Definitions is in plural because there are many ways to define the dissidence. The first definition is that the dissidence was all with Chavez until 2007. Then PODEMOS left and it took it a full year until it finally was able to make some electoral agreements with the opposition. The toll has been terrible for PODEMOS which has lost its two power centers of Sucre and Aragua. Yet PODEMOS still managed to get some votes that can be useful for future bargains. Also, by being hit so hard PODEMOS sorts of pays an atonement and next elections it will be able to negotiate better deals with the opposition while attracting disaffected chavista voters that could vote for PODEMOS but never for, say, AD or Primero Justicia.

The second group of dissidents is more recent and not as complete. It has two sources. The first group of dissidents is the PPT and the PCV. These two party gripe is that they think they represent more electoral weight than what Chavez is willing to give them. In all fairness he is not willing to give them anything anyway, but let’s not go into details. Thus PPT and PCV after having refused to join the PSUV did sort of manage to pretend to be allies. But Chavez was furious and refused. As a consequence the PPT and the PCV some times together, some times separated decided to launch some of their own candidates although on occasion one of these two groups did file with the PSUV. Neither can they be considered allies of Chavez but neither can they be considered as having broken with chavismo. I suspect that the final break will come eventually for the PPT, but the price it will pay will be far worse than PODEMOS, without the possibility to make occasional arrangements with the opposition.

Finally the third dissidence is really confined to the state of Barinas. There the abuses of the Chavez family who have treated their home state as their personal property have really upset many of the natives. There a real dissidence movement was created and almost beat Adan Chavez himself. The reason was that this type of dissidence was able to attract many opposition voters.

The results

To try to make sense of this issue I have limited myself to the governor votes. IF we look at the district level it becomes quickly very complex and not that much more telling anyway. In the table below I have shown the Chavez vote since 2004, in red. The opposition vote since 2004 is shown in blue and in orange the dissidence vote this time around. Since alliances do shift you will note that in Aragua, for example, PODEMOS is red in 2004 and 2006 but blue in 2007 and 2008. By state, click to enlarge, as usual.


Aragua

This was the big loss for PODEMOS who held that state through Didalco Bolivar since 1995. Such a long tenure did have a price and when the very well financed campaign of Isea rolled in including distribution of refrigerators, Henry Rosales could not recoup. There was also the mystery of why Didalco did not participate that much in the campaign. If that was a strategic decision then it was a mistake. If not, maybe Didalco wanted to rest his old days (he is rumored to have cancer) and did not want to have Chavez perturb his retirement.

If PODEMOS loses half its electoral base, it is also noteworthy to point that PPT/PCV who there supported the PSUV candidate did a very meager 2.54%. Clearly the PSUV has been sucking in all the “left” vote as people now identify PSUV and Chavez, “the real thing” of sorts. Still, a near 40% for the opposition in difficult conditions is not a shabby result, it is in fact a solid base to build on since it is difficult for Chavez to progress further in Aragua. I have the feeling that Isea is just another crook and he will not do very well in Aragua. The opposition can hope to repeat its 47% NO next February, after all it is starting from 40% when in 2007 it was starting from the paltry 28% of 2006.

Trujillo

This was a state where for a while the dissident was heralded, and imploded. Then the opposition guy was given good chances but in the end the PSUV run over all opposition. PPT/PCV decided to go it on their own. Why? Who knows! Because neither in 2006 or 2004 they had numbers that would allow them to dream of conquering Trujillo some day. Apparently it was the dissidence of sitting governor Viloria that opened the door. But clearly Trujillo wants chavismo, and wants it bad. In fact, even the opposition drops some respective to previous elections which might indicate that some did buy the argument that the PPT/PCV could win. Still, the bitter defeat of the dissident option allows us to hope that the NO vote will be maintained next February, through we cannot hope to reach 40% there.

Guarico

Guarico was a stronger option for the dissidence. After all in 2006 the PPT was able to bring almost 20% of the Chavez vote. Even the candidate, the daughter of the sitting governor barred from a third term was appealing enough to dismiss the nepotism charges. And yet in Guarico the PCV did not follow the tainted Manuitt administration. Nor did the opposition for that matter: too soon. It is to be noted that the opposition in Guarico is particularly weak, with a peak of barely 28% in 2006. Thus even a good cross over effect might not have been enough. Yet, when we see the final result we do not know what the dynamic of unity behind Manuitt’s daughter would have caused. However one thing is almost certain in Guarico: the bitterness of the PPT loss there makes it a good candidate to increase the NO vote which was an already surprising 42% high in 2007. The PSUV victory does not seem strong enough and the new governor patsy enough that Guarico could well vote NO in February!

Barinas

That was the most exciting race in Venezuela, though it became exciting in the end once Miranda seemed gained for the opposition. There the dissidence almost made it and if the opposition candidate had had the good sense of retiring an upset would have been quite possible. In fact the cross over is clear: the opposition got 31% in 2006 and only 5% this time. That is 5 in 6 opposition voters went ahead and voted for the dissident candidate, who is today claiming fraud, by the way.

This is the kind of victory that shakes Chavez, the more so that in Barinas the PPT and PCV decided to be prudent and follow Chavez brother (not that it will help them much in the end but one can always hope, no?). But they made a mistake because there was also a cross over vote in their rank as this two parties went down from 7% in 2006 to 2% in 2008. Sometimes one is wiser to look more closely at the local conditions. Note that Barinas had a solid 44% NO in 2007. Expect a possible NO victory in 2009.

Portuguesa

This one turned out to be the least interesting of the lot. But it should be mentioned anyway. It is pretty much the same story as Trujillo except that this time around the retiring governor did help the PSUV and manage to bring in the victory. However good that victory is it bodes ill for 2009. If the SI is almost certain to take that state once again, you can expect this time the bitterness of the 2008 campaign to spill over into a 40%+ count for the NO.

Conclusion

The failure of the PPT/PCV challenges is due to two basic facts 1) they misread the numbers assuming that their share was untainted by the Chavez love of the lower classes that both PPT and PCV were also supposed to represent and 2) they assumed that the opposition was dead and that they did not need it to win. But the opposition not only was not dead but bet them in Trujillo and Portuguesa, creating further embarrassment for them.

Now both PPT and PCV faces the dire choice of trying to get inside the PSUV as second class party members with little or no future, or take the jump and break, at a much bigger cost than PODEMOS who has reached bottom and can only go up no. In other words PPT and PCV face at least two years of wilderness and the possibility of being excluded from parliament in 2010. My advice to them? Campaign for the NO in February so as to pay your dues as fast as possible and clean your image toward the opposition and PODEMOS with which you could actually create a “third way” that could get a 20% in 2010. Chavez is going to eat you alive otherwise, and the better if he pretends to be nice with you so as to get your support in February.

The Barinas case is much more interesting and a clear message to any PSUV politico that thinks of defecting. If you do it right, with proper timing, you can actually rescue your political career. The guy that lost in Barinas is almost 1005 certain to be elected to the National assembly in 2010, with the opposition vote to boot.


-The end-

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another cadena tonight

And Chavez keeps going on with his cadenas. No stomach for it through. Besides, it is going to be the same thing. Hinterlaces gave a flash poll: 32% only for the reelection. I think that the continuous cadena is not going to raise that number much. Is he going to make a cadena on the 24? Should we take bets?

Update: surfing my cable I fell for a minute on the cadena just as Chavez was saying that the 2007 vote was due to abstention. He simply cannot believe that actually some of his followers did not agree with the content of the "reforma". I know that he might be saying this for effect but watching him I suspect that he believes it at least in part. Denial ain't only a river in Egypt.

-The end-

Miguel goes to Washington

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to write this post just a few hours after the preceding on where I was discussing once again the pathological lies of Chavez.

It is refreshing, motivating, and even exhilarating to see that Miguel was invited by the US embassy in Caracas for a video conference with the President of the United States on Human Rights Day. As Miguel himself writes, he was in a distinguished company and by all accounts the one who suffered less from the exactions of tyranny. But this only means that the civilized world notices clearly the nature of the Chavez regime and its potential to become at any time just another third world tyranny. After all, when we see all the sabotage done to the newly elected governors and mayors of November 23 which are not even allowed to been sworn in, you get the point that chavismo deep down is not a democratic movement and that at any time it might cross the fateful line into final abjection.

I have noticed that some folks in the comments at Miguel's are bothered by Miguel talking to President Bush. Miguel replies perfectly well: it is not Bush, it is the president of the United States and as such his invitation cannot be refused. After all, the real reason why Chavez is so mad about the US might be that neither Clinton nor Bush ever invited him to anything while almost everyone else in LatAm power circles has his or her picture in Washington with Clinton and/or Bush. I agree with Miguel, I would talk to anyone who wants to know about the reality of Venezuela, even Chavez if he were willing to listen. But after last night cadena you know he does not even listen to his own followers.

Of the guest bloggers sharing the time and space of the event I would like also to point out my friend Val Prieto of Babalu who had a guest post here once. He might be Conservative enough in his outlook but I know that my Liberal credentials have never bothered him as we saw eye on eye what we were blogging for: freedom in Cuba and Venezuela. All the rest is accessory. But if Val might be to the political liking of George Bush, that is not necessary the case with the other distinguished bloggers invited for the event. Now that I think of it maybe I was not invited because I supported Hillary and then Obama....

Kidding aside, let's all bask in the feat of Miguel who shows us how far opposition blogging in English in Venezuela has gone. Be it Miguel, Alek Boyd, Quico or myself, just to name the four oldest bloggers, with only our key board and Internet connection we have have reached further than all the paid for propaganda machinery of Chavez. Perhaps contrary to the line from above given to the Chavez mill, the reason of our successes is that we fed from each other and thus constantly strove to be better, more consistent, more diligent. Money cannot spy for that and the world notices.

Update: it is starting to make the rounds. El Mundo of Spain mentions Miguel and Val.

-The end-

Systematic abuse and compulsive lies

I was too tired last night to write about it but I did not want to let a few things go by unnoticed.

Chavez yesterday did two, TWO, cadenas. I am sorry to repeat this once again but that means that twice during the day Chavez forced a simultaneous broadcast of his speeches on ALL TV and ALL radio stations of the country, for as long as he wanted, without anyone getting even a 5 minutes right to reply.

Readers of this blog have long know about these repeated abuses of Chavez but they should know that these abuses are reaching new heights. I missed the first cadena yesterday because I was at work (not that I am looking forward watching Chavez dirt, I learned about that cadena when I came back home). The second one started around 7:30 and lasted until 10:30 PM. 3 hours of prime time where people are robbed of their entertainment and the networks of their revenue. I tuned in on and off because I was writing an election post so I was interested to keep him in the background to see what was going on with his crowd.

From what I could gather the first cadena was in a military air base where soldiers where kept standing up for the length of the cadena
under a bright sun (a way for Chavez to show how much he controls the army?). From the excerpts I saw Chavez attacked vilely Antonio Ledezma, new mayor of Caracas Metropolitan area. He even accused him of wanting to be president as if that were not the wish of any professional politician. Chavez is trying to make Ledezma in a weird way as the leader of the opposition which it is far from the truth, and far from possible. Chavez also denied vehemently that there was any political prisoner in Venezuela, a spectacular lie for him to say at this point. But then again it was Human Rights days and mounting international criticism must be reaching him and people "serving" under him (the army, for example?).

But if the first cadena had at least an extremely distant relationship with state matters (by denying the existence of political prisoners even as a patent lie) the second cadena had no such redeeming quality. The objective for Chavez in holding the country media hostage for three hours was to swear in the PSUV folks that will be in charge of the campaign for the amendment to ensure Chavez reelection. The whole cadena was spent in defending Chavez personal interests, not on anything that could be considered a state interest. Unless of course you think that Chavez is the revolution, that the immense of majority of Venezuelans follow the revolution and thus that the permanence of Chavez and the integration of his interests with those of the state are a given. But since 2007 we know for a fact that this is not true.

There was a pathetic moment during the night cadena. At one point Chavez pleaded, pleaded, for the middle class and the professionals to join the revolution, not to be afraid of it, that it was good for them, not to allow themselves to be poisoned by the private media at the service of the empire. It was pathetic, truly pathetic to see the man still at this point unable to understand why the educated, working, professional folks after ten years still refuse to join him. He has no clue, he cannot understand how come he only attracts to him mediocrities who allow themselves to become sycophants. He does not understand, and he is probaly very afraid, of people that are self relying. At some level Chavez knows that all his failures are due to the fact he cannot get good help and last night I saw clearly that he is unable to understand why talent does nto flock to him, that his bloated ego has long ago obscured his perspective of reality.

But that pleading was for nothing since as usual later in his speech he undid any good he might have done. The way he went around was to remind the middle class that he is the only thing that will protect them form some obscure threat, namely the revenge of the poor, real class warfare. Self relying and educated people do not take lightly on blackmail, another thing he is unable to understand as his word today is full of threats and of blackmail to keep his sycophants in check. In fact, the contrary effect is achieved as middle class and many of the poor will resent such blackmail. Today as Chavez stamped the first signature for the amendment recollection he reminded all of us that he is the only guarantee of stability in Venezuela. He is now unable to pretend anymore, the blackmail is direct, not even through third parties.

I do not want to speculate on what is going on inside chavismo these days that Chavez needs to put out so many cadenas, needs to browbeat so much his supporters, needs to insult and threaten so much his opposition. If you ask me it is a sign of increasing loneliness, the telltale signs of a scared man. We will know more about Chavez angst if he dares to jail Rosales today.

-The end-

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Amendement Jitters?

I do not know about you but I have the strange feeling that Chavez is slowing down slightly his amendment drive for his eternal reelection. Or if not slowing down he seems to be considering an escape route. See, if one thing is certain is that the Venezuelan tax payer is shelling for lots of polls reaching Miraflores Palace. If there is a Venezuelan president that has waltzed to the tune of polls it is Chavez. And the polls we know of are not good for the amendment.

Today we learned that the National Assembly will give its second discussion on the amedement on January 5. The N.A. could have done its second discussion earlier but that it is on January 5 seems to me odd. To begin with, that there is a discussion on the 5th does not mean at all it will be voted that week. In other words we know now for sure that the referendum will be in the second half of February since it has to take place 30 days after the final vote of N.A. and formal submission to the CNE. There are already many voices within chavismo (CNE) who mention that a reasonable date is the second half of March. Interesting, no?

I do not know about you, but these extensions sound to me like gaining time to see if polls numbers get any better. If they do not, well, through January there will be plenty of time to find an "elegant" way out, such as the TSJ ruling the amendment invalid for any arcane reason and letting thus Chavez off the hook for what could be a very damaging defeat. A simple cadena postponing the redaction and/or vote will suffice to save Chavez face. Or so he will chose to think.

Note: I am writing this note knowing full well that it will take a lot to make Chavez desist, but there is such a thing as reality and on occasion Chavez offers glimpses of grasping it, even for such a messianic cult practitioner.

-The end-

The XXI century Grinch who stole Christmas

Procrastination pays. I have been meaning to write more in detail on the damage that Chavez is doing to us (and himself) by taking away from us our Christmas break and traditions. His egocentricity, his insecurities, his megalomania are all into play when he could not even wait for three weeks before announcing his plans for reelection. He will pay dearly for that, I am sure, as many of his followers also would like to spend time with their close ones on Christmas instead of campaigning again and again.

Today in Tal Cual there is an article worth translating by Miguel Angel Latouche which will save me the required time on writing on this topic. There you go:

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

El Grinch [sic]

He has already made public his determination to steal Christmas from us, not to let ourselves enjoy the presents, nor the fraternity hugs, or the good wishes for prosperity, nor the displays of goodwill.

According to him, the enjoyment of family and friends, the reconnection with the intimate, with the the private world, must be for some other time. A permanent campaign has been declared: he has called on his followers to remain on the streets.

He has decided that we forget about parranda and aguinaldo, gaitas and carols to busy ourselves to ensure (or avoid, as the case may be) his own permanence in power (1). These days we have had to see him every day, to listen to him daily.

He preaches the need for citizens to put aside their private needs and turn tot he publuic sphere to preserve the revolutionary entelechy .

Worse still, we have been confronted to an intolerant speech, which defines politics as an arena for structural confrontation, which leaves no loophole for reconciliation and concord, for the aggregation of interests, for discussion of differences. We have been told in endless cadenas, that we are irreconcilable enemies, as if we did not share the same homeland, as if we did not share the same history, as if the permanent brawl, the easy insult, the brutal disqualification could be understood as the elements from which one can build the nation as a collective project (2).

On the other hand, we find ourselves in front of a permanent disqualification from the citizenship. The electoral process is understood as a legitimating mechanism, if and when the results are favorable to him [Chavez]. Otherwise, the electoral act is invalidated, accusing the people of being immature: they are described as being unable to understand the content of the proposed social project, the benefits they should know how to wait for and that will arrive at an undetermined future of which none has heard of. In that sense, a crisis of governance is promoted defined as the absence of public resources for opposition ruled districts, in their being ignored as factors in the political game, in their disqualification as partners, in the disrespect made to the popular will , and the unrestricted use of the mechanisms of power and public resources to bolster a political project of exclusion.

From the power seat the intention is to hold hostage society, making it homogeneous, undifferentiated. The intention is to reduce the ability of individuals to make decisions for themselves, to act autonomously, with freedom to define the contents of their interests and their systems of preference. The intention is to confuse us, to make us believe that he [Chavez] is equivalent to the people, that he interprets the people, that he represents it in its entirety. The authoritarian temptation leads him to try to steal Christmas.

Perhaps, simply, his heart is, for some reason we do not know, too small.

1) parranda and aguinaldo, gaitas are Venezuelan traditional forms of Christmas music.

2) Cadenas are forced simultaneous broadcast on ALL TV and ALL Radio stations of Venezuela, for as long as the government wishes it so, of anything from a Chavez endless speech to any "institutional" message. The opposition is not allowed such privileges. This abuse is particularly grave at this time of flash campaign when the number of cadenas surpasses any record previously established by Chavez.

-The end-

Monday, December 08, 2008

Now Chavez wants to change the calendar!

Today Chavez gathered his new elected appointees for a good brain washing, oops!, brain storming session about what the new mayors should do for the pseudo-revolution. Nothing new, it already happened in 2004 to the results we know. Many highlights interesting to note.

First, he decided that the referendum date should be on February 27, in commemoration of the Caracazo. There is just one tiny little problem, it is during the Carnival holidays and even some of his sycophants dared to point that out. Chavez did not like it and started questioning who fixed the Carnival holidays! All offended by the thought that someone could fix the calendar and that this one was not him!!! Wait until he finds out that Carnival is decided according to Easter and that his good pals at the Church are the ones who decide that. A new schism in Christianity in the making? For the man who single handedly changed the legal time for Venezuela nothing is impossible!!!! Even to change the date of the first full moon of spring!!! Thus spoke Zarathustra!

Other details were cute too. A few chairs were empty and like your average schoolmarm he asked where these folks were, wishing for them to have a good excuse and promising a catch up training session as soon as possible. Amazing! The guy has lost all sense of ridicule!

He also demanded austerity from them. That is, no more body guards nor AC cars. Or some kind of crap to that effect. We are not holding our breath. Did anyone mentioned to Chavez that Disodado had 60 Miranda cops as his personal escort and dozens of car at his service while he was governor? I am sure that Diosdado is going to start flying coach and drive himself his car turning on the AC only when he goes to Maracaibo or Ciudad Bolivar....

I think it is time that Chavez changes his medication..................

-The end-

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 4 - The reason why Chavez is so upset

There has been that fake debate as to who really won the November 23 election. Chavez got more votes, but the big prizes were lost by him. You can go on and on with that (Chavez does, every cadena, reciting the list of town halls he won even if he did not). Or you can try to look for what makes Chavez so angry. One reason is quite easy to verify if you know where to look for: the opposition might be far from beating Chavez in urban popular districts, but it is growing.

Now, there must be a caveat with that observation: the popular districts where opposition vote grew in strength this time around are districts associated with more industrial and developed districts. Popular districts in more provincial cities do not show that shift, or at least not as clearly. To look at how true was the claim that the opposition is nibbling at Chavez strongholds I went to the biggest prize of them all, the Libertador district of Caracas.

Libertador is the biggest district of Caracas with roughly half of its population. As such it is the largest single municipal district of Venezuela. It is divided in parishes, the most famous ones of Venezuela perhaps as many of them have been the seat of major events, residence to famous artists or writers, and the scenery for interesting folksy events. But today as Caracas has become a huge constricted monstrosity, the parishes have long lost their charm and are simple areas where to pack folks. For the discussion required here I will divide the parishes in three kinds of districts.

There are the ones which are mostly made of “ranchos” (favellas, slums, shacks, etc…) and grouped together at the start of the table (ranked within each group from larger to smaller district). Such districts are not necessary only slums. For example Sucre has huge slums but it also includes the Catia district which is a lower middle class residential area established more than half a century ago. 23 Enero includes dozens of high rises but bad management and urban degradation has made some of these high rises barely better than glorified slums, joining in spirit the slums that grew around. We will call them R parishes, for “ranchos”.

As it is always the case in Venezuela, wealthy neighborhoods can be next to pauper districts. That reckless mix is one of the main characteristic of Venezuela urbanism. Even Altamira and Los Palos Grandes do not escape it. Thus the second group, parishes that are dominated by ranchos but that will have at least a very significant chunk occupied by middle class districts. Let’s say for the sake of the argument these lower middle to middle class districts can be between 40 and 60% of the population in these districts. We will call them RH parishes, Ranchos and Homes. This category is important for the discussion next because in such type of parishes you do have some mix of people living in the two worlds that you will not get in, say, Chacao. The hard core chavista voter in such parishes might be more influenced by non Chavez “values” than in an R parish.

Finally there is a third group of districts in Libertador where ranchos exist but are clearly in limited areas. However there is one very important thing to know about Libertador: there is no wealthy area of note. That is, upper middle class is limited to a very small area within San Bernardino. All the upper middle class of Caracas resides in Chacao, Baruta and El Hatillo districts. This is the unique feature of Libertador: it goes from underclass to middle/middle class, and that one is limited to parts of San Bernardino, El Recreo and San Pedro with a ghetto of sorts in El Paraiso. The rest is from lower middle class to indigence. This third group of districts we will call them H parishes because the majority of people live actually in a real designed homes with basic services.

Luck has it that there is enough of these parishes in each group that we can look for meaningful trends. The table below tries to describe the current political situation. The first column gives the rank of each parish according to its total vote cast (political weight, not population necessarily). The second column is the parishes divided as explained above, top the R ones, middle the RH and bottom the H (red highlight those won by Jorge Rodriguez of chavismo). Three even groups, each one including major parishes by population. The third column is the total votes cast in each parish.


The first observation is that indeed R parishes went red as expected. So did the RH parishes though we cannot fail to observe that in these parishes the PSUV had trouble reaching the 50% mark. In the H parishes the opposition fares better. Note that Catedral is a strange red glitch. Very few people do actually live in this parish which is the seat of ministries and institutions. Apparently most of its voters actually reside elsewhere and might be public employees or misiones folks that register there provisionally.

Now I have looked only at the party votes for the PSUV and the three opposition vote getters: Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo and Accion Democratica (AD of the pre Chavez era). Although there is a significant chunk of the rest of the oppo vote it is too dispersed to study here. Taken separately none of these opposition parties looks too good in front of the PSUV which has successfully sucked in almost any “left” vote. But that would be a little bit too simple. To begin with in only 5 of the 22 parishes does the PSUV gets more than 60% of the cast votes. In fact in 10 parishes it gets LESS than 50% of the votes cast, even if Rodriguez still wins in two of these. Geographically at least the PSUV advantage is not that overwhelming.

Next I decided to invent an index of opposition penetration. To make it more difficult I only added the votes of the two more recent parties, PJ and UNT, not AD. Then I looked for which parishes the PJ plus UNT total represented at least 30% of the PSUV vote. The reason is simple, if for three chavista you have one new opposition, in that district the opposition will have a basis upon which to build up. That does not mean of course that a parish like La Pastora with an index of 51% will vote opposition tomorrow, but it means that chavismo will have to start working at keeping districts where the index I made up reaches 30%. Some of these districts cannot be taken for granted anymore by chavismo. Only 5 parishes highlighted in pink have that penetration index below 30% and can be considered as pro Chavez safe for the foreseeable future. In all the other districts the opposition has of now a political base and thus we can say that indeed, the opposition has penetrated chavistas strongholds such as La Vega or Santa Rosalia. True, small amounts but real amounts and thus a new worry for Chavez.

Let’s note in this table that UNT ALONE is able to beat the PSUV in San Pedro. Note also that I marked in bold blue all parishes where PJ or UNT reached 12.5%, that is 1 voter in 8 which indicates also a creation of a political base for the political parties that reach that number. Note that UNT reaches that feat in La Vega and Santa Rosalia, two R parishes. Let’s also observe that in Macarao and Antimano which have perhaps the highest percentage of ranchos of Libertador the PSUV still barely make it 69% and 72% respectively. True, a good victory in absolute terms but a weak one as both district should be closer to 80% than 70%. Chavez does understand the meaning of that not so slight shift.

To go further in this study I simplified the above table by removing some districts, keeping only symbolic parishes in each category. In the next table I looked only at the difference between the 2004 and 2008 voices. In 2004 the opposition abstention after the post referendum trauma gives of course a very low result for Melo, its standard bearer. But Bernal running for reelection did have a poor result too: 192 K less votes than Rodriguez two Sundays ago. Stalin Gonzalez makes a very decent score and gains MORE votes than what Jorge Rodriguez gained from Bernal result. Not surprising perhaps but when you look at the consequences on the voter advantage you realize that these gains of Stalin are significant, the more so that I only included the vote of PJ; UNT and AD, to make things more challenging for the opposition to look good. If I include the other small parties that supported Stalin, the results would look even more favorable for the opposition. In red parishes where Rodriguez gained more over Bernal than Gonzalez over Melo. And in blue the reverse.



The last two columns of that table thus represent the advantage of the chavista vote in 2004 and the advantage today of the PSUV vote over AD/PJ/UNT. For example Sucre in 2004 had a 9,5 voter advantage for chavista voters. This advantage has now been cut down dramatically to 2,7. Good, very good even in a normal democracy, but still very worrisome for chavismo.

Finally, to see if really the opposition has made inroads, albeit weak in places, we need to look at the vote variation over recent years. Something by the way that few politicians discuss as all get out with egg on their face. I have kept the same parishes as the previous table since the question is whether opposition made inroads, not how many of those they did (I just have no time to look in details at so many districts). In the chosen parishes in 2004 the opposition wins only 1. In 2006, the apogee of Chavez, Rosales manages only two. But lo and behold! in 2007 seven of these parishes voted NO, as well as the whole of Libertador! This time around the opposition manages only 3 of these districts, still better than 2004 and 2006 (reminder: the opposition wins in 8, see first table above).



The story here of course is the clear evidence of a chavista vote who said NO in 2007 but who returned to the fold, in part, in 2008. But only in part, which is what bothers so much Chavez. Why can we say that? Chavez got a staggering 658 K in 2006. But in 2007 he lost an equally staggering 40%! We can say that this is a real loss and that many chavista voters crossed the line to vote NO because the NO vote is higher than the Rosales vote of 2006, by 11%. In 2008 Stalin fails to recover the Rosales vote (-4,6%) or the NO vote, which tells us that chavistas who voted NO did not vote opposition. But did they vote for Jorge Rodriguez? Maybe not: Rodriguez also fails to recover the Chavez vote of 2006 (-27%). Of these 180 K missing votes in the Chavez camp, how many are just plain local election abstention and how many are disgusted chavistas that actively stay home?

Conclusion

In the heartland of sorts of chavismo, in the slums to low middle class neighborhoods of downtown Caracas chavismo has won but the opposition progresses in significant ways. Also a large segment of the chavista vote is not reliable anymore for Chavez. Perhaps as much as 100.000 Caracas voters will think twice before voting for Chavez in any future election. They will likely vote NO for the next amendment. Or abstain, but not vote SI. The massive support that Chavez had in Caracas at one time does not exist anymore. We knew it when we saw how many buses were required to fill up chavista rallies. But when we look at the numbers in the table above we can see that the busing bill is not going to go down any time soon.

That is why Chavez is so angry. He knows how to read electoral results and he sees that his support remains strong but is weakening. But even worse than that, the Chavez support is becoming more conditional, high winded speeches are not enough anymore to drag chavistas to the polling station: real results are finally demanded by more and more chavista voters. It is these results, these trends that can also be found in other areas, that worry sick Chavez and demand he gets reelection faculties because without the possibility of reelection he will soon become a lame duck and become just a big ineffective scarecrow.


-The end-

Friday, December 05, 2008

With revolutionary students like these who needs conservative old farts?

Tal Cual brings us today one of these precious revolutionary moments that put a smile on our faces for at least a nice week end.

One of the chavista student leaders, Robert Serra, has announced without flinching that the amendment to reelect Chavez was good for the opposition since it needed to have Chavez in power to make sure that the poor 80% of the Venezuelan masses would not riot and take away all of their due from the rich.

Yes, you read it right.

To make sure that there is no confusion I am putting below the original Spanish words of Serra, according to Tal Cual:

Es el liderazgo del presidente Chávez el único muro de contención para que ese 80% de excluidos no se enfrente por otra vía a ese otro 20% de acomodados, de incluidos, de incorporados o que sí estuvieron en la repartición de las piñatas que se entregaban en este país.
This is just so wonderful, so rich, that one does not know where to start. So I pick at random the condition of Serra. Serra is an appointed student leader. All chavista "student leaders" are appointed, or something equivalent but we never see elections such as the ones that elect the opposition student leaders. I am not saying this to besmirch Serra, he is entitled to his opinions and to a fat check form Chavez if he can get it. But it is important to note this because Serra does not speak for the chavista students, he speaks for the regime. I am pretty sure that the chavista students are much more revolutionary than Serra, if you ask me.

A second thing I could harp on is the numerology of Serra. Surely he has not read the same election results that we did because if indeed 80% of Venezuelan people are dirt poor to the point of being ready to go and pillage the other 20%, then how come the opposition now is above 40%? You can forgive this type of speech from your average political hack, but Serra also points out in his declaration that day that he is a lawyer from the UCAB, which is allegedly the best law school of Venezuela. And a private school at that so he does not come from the 80% downtrodden masses that can barely afford public elementary school. Besides, if after 10 years of chavismo there are still 80% poor, then what is the use of keeping Chavez?

I will spare the reader discussing on the poor legal judgement Serra emits. But I will not spare you from discussing the challenge to debate opposition student leaders on the amendment. That ship has sailed Robert! Not only the opposition student leader debated enough to help sink the 2007 "reforma" but some of them run for election and some whee elected. They are way past wasting time with you. By the way, I have not heard much about chavista student leaders running for office two weeks ago. In fact, one of the noted ones is currently working at Miraflores. Can we debate him?

Poor Robert, he has become a Conservative old fart and nobody is around to point that to him.


-The end-

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