Thursday, February 26, 2009

Arria vs. Weisbrot at the American University in Washington DC.

This post from Gustavo Coronel is a pleasure to read if anything because it reminds us of what we are deprived of in Venezuela: DEBATE. But in the US where debate is the rule, grudgingly, on occasion, chavismo through some of its lobbyist has to lower itself to debate with opposition representative. This time it was Mark Weisbrot and Diego Arria.

Weisbrot in these pages has long ago been exposed as a cheap chavista agent/lobbyist (well, cheap I do not know for sure). He has been writing many articles in favor of Chavez where the statistics are the non verifiable ones coming from the ministry of propaganda (generic term including pretty much any ministry in Venezuela). We have even seen him at Congress hearings defending his client.

Diego Arria on the other hand is one of those Venezuelans who after a successful career in Venezuela (serving in bipartisan ways) became an international diplomat free of political attachments to the Venezuela establishment, and thus a noted critic of chavismo. He must have hit a soft spot in chavismo underbelly since he was even accused to be the prospective transition president for a post Chavez government. Mr. Arria apparently was so surprised by such a ludicrous accusation that he demanded in an open letter published in Venezuelan papers to benefit from a hearing at the National Assembly to listen to the evidence against him and publicly reply to them. Needless to say that the National Assembly never invited him... Not to mention that a farm that Mr. Arria retains in Venezuela as his pied-a-terre has been attacked and ransacked by a paramilitary group without the government doing anything about it. That is, every trip Arria does to his homeland he puts his life in danger. To his credit, that does not stop him from criticizing Chavez and call the regime a military regime, a qualification with which I fully agree.

Needless to say, after reading the eyewitness account of the A.U. debate, one is not surprised that Diego Arria undid Mark Weisbrot very easily, not to mention that Weisbrot had to resort to long and meaningless replies to avoid facing the facts. No wonder chavismo refuses any type of debate in Venezuela where it would be so much easier to trash its positions. Does anyone remember the last time that a Chavez minister was actually subjected to a real press questioning or even, god forbid, to an actual debate? I suspect that even these A.U. type of encounters will become rarer as chavismo economics start unraveling.

-The end-

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And one from the right

Courtesy of reader Martin, this comprehensive study on what Chavez means for world security. True, for some of you that it comes from the Heritage Foundation might not be to your liking. But nevertheless it is a great assessment, cold eyed and objective, about what trouble Chavez could be for the US and what can this one do. Long but worth reading. You should in particular scrutinize this graph on how the US and Venezuelan aid compare, and understand that the US has more resources to counter Chavez than what one might think at first.

Ain't that nice when conservatives and liberals coincide on Chavez?

-The end-

Journalists on Venezuela

We might be two weeks away from Chavez coronation and Venezuela end of democracy but that does not stop journalists to maintain an eye on the country. Let's start by a quiz: who wrote the following lines?

But Venezuela is also a country with indisputable similarities to some of the more unsavory systems of the 20th century. Its leader holds an almost cultlike status among followers, from ordinary Venezuelans to government ministers and lawmakers. Increasingly, many view his every word as gospel, his dictums to be obediently followed. Five state television stations regularly carry his speeches, rallies and frequent trips to the hinterlands.

Over the past decade, Chávez has taken control of the Supreme Court, the lower courts, the state oil company, the armed forces, and all investigative and oversight agencies, including the attorney general's office. The National Assembly is also under Chávez's control...


If you guessed Juan Forero of the Washington Post then you are a better judge of opinion evolution than I am.

Now, if you are tired of politics you can read what happens when journalists develop a real interest for the country they are posted at, contributing to its knowledge overseas more than what had happened since I can recall. This excellent report of Simon Romero over Cubagua, the first settlement in Venezuela, is a must read if you still ignore the rich, if unglamorous, colonial history of Venezuela. By the way, if you ever have a chance to visit Cubagua, do so, I highly recommend it even if there is nothing spectacular about it except for that overwhelming feeling of being at the edge of the world.

By the way, Romero gives us yet another example on how Chavez cares ONLY about the history that is convenient to him. Heck, we even got a representative at the National assembly asking publicly a few days ago to rewrite history books for schools.

-The end-

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Madam Speaker, the President of the United States

There is that fascinating US ritual, the State of the Union speech where the sitting president comes to Congress to make his report and lay out his plans for the next year. It never changes, it does not matter who is president, who has majority in Congress, it is always a very civilized activity where all who politically matter in the US set aside their differences for one evening to remind the country that there is something bigger than their own career. At any of these events if you could pile high the amount of virtual daggers that these people threw at each other in the past year there would be no room left for the assistance. But tonight Barak Obama is speaking to the nation while an all smiles Hillary Clinton crossed the floor before sitting to listen to HER president. Not to mention that Republican Senators gave a heartfelt standing ovation after the first line of Obama (1).

I do not care much for these speeches anyway. I have watched at least one per president since Reagan. Circumstances and men changed but yet we could always see that essence of US democracy: minimal perhaps but basic respect for the other side. Just for this occasion, and as usual, the parade at the entrance was quite something. For example we saw all the Supreme Court Justices dutifully take their seats, showing their silent respect, and supervision, to the other two powers. Justice Ginsburg fresh from surgery received a warm welcome from both sides.

We also saw the guests coming in, including the hero “du jour” the pilot of the plane who save his passengers and crew by splashing in the Hudson. The US is never afraid to celebrate its heroes perhaps in a corny but always sincere way. And it does not matter who the hero voted for president.

There are always interesting details, such as Secretary of Defense Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, following in line as the “President’s Cabinet” was announced by the usher. True, the guy might be counting the days until he can leave his office, but right now he is all smiles with both sides, fulfilling his civic duty to the best of his ability. The survival reflexes of the US politics is clear in this retention of Gates, as Obama’s administration has to deal first with an economic crisis if it has a chance to finish the wars it inherited without too much disgrace. Both sides agreed that at least for the time being the wars should be run as they were run on election day, with as much bipartisan support as needed. The US holds tight in front of crisis, a characteristic that has always been there, probably etched the hard way because of the Civil War.

The speech has started and on occasion the Republicans join in the applause, even standing up; on other occasions they seat down while euphoric Democrats cheer their man. It is more important than what you think, because Obama good poll numbers so far bring a real risk for the Republicans when they oppose him. But their duty is there, to oppose but approve when possible. They are not afraid, even if reluctant, to show both feelings.

And there is of course the speech itself. What can I say? Articulate? Sincere? Bombastic-less? Hand reaching? When was the last time I heard a well constructed presidential speech in Venezuela without any insult to its adversaries and proposals that actually mean something for all? 10 years ago maybe? More?

Of course, what this US ritual brings to me is how estranged from democracy Venezuela has become, how awful for us the ten years of Chavez rule have been, how long and difficult will be our road to civilian recovery.

The early referendum campaign brought us our version of the state of the union. Chavez used the opportunity to campaign for his single minded obsession, eternal reelection. He held the country hostage, literally, for almost 8 hours. All the chavista high ranking administration was requested to attend the speech. All powers were requested a show of submission, including one of them relinquishing her seat at the podium. All TV and Radio of the country were forced to transmit simultaneously the Chavez rant. For 8 hours all government was mandated to listen, all people not benefiting from cable TV had as their only choice to turn off the radio if they were sickened by the constant hot air. And of course, the opposition was not allowed a right of response to the Chavez speech, not even 5 minutes on state TV and our version of C-span, the infamous ANTV. In fact, if you listen to Chavez words, either that January day or today, the gist of his speeches is that the opposition is almost nonexistent, it is about to disappear and it certainly is not worth rescuing, we will be much better off without any opposition at all, unless one that sucks up to me as much as my PSUV were to appear by miracle.

Still, that opposition scored 45% of the votes two Sundays ago. Chavez even pretended that he would be willing to talk to them (an indirect admission from his part that he acknowledges the descent his numbers even as he still keeps winning). But Chavez conditions were so drastic, so out of order, so delusional that we all got the message: “I am asking you to talk to me so that foreign observers see me asking that, but you all know that our next meeting will take place a cold day in hell. Wait until they are all gone back home and worrying about something else and you will see how I will f**k you further”.

No, no. I am pretty sure that if Chavez were to watch the ceremony tonight he would pity Obama, thinking that he is an asshole, that he is unable to keep his people in line like he, El Supremo, does. Chavez would miss all the democratic content of the moment and see it as a self indulgent civilian bash where a real military like him would not be caught dead. Not for him a Supreme Court that stays quiet, stoic, never applauding a remark he makes. No, for Chavez the ideal country is the one where the High Justices of the Country are on record chanting “Uh! Ah! Chavez no se va”.

Enough said!

1) Technically it is not a State of the Union since there has been a change in president, but for all practical purposes this “address to Congress” works exactly as that ritual speech.


-The end-

Friday, February 20, 2009

The consequences of the 2009 vote

You cannot have an election and win or lose it and not suffer or benefit of its consequences. In a strange paradox this Venezuelan election might be a unique example on how all will suffer from its consequences, victors and losers alike. To make my point clear I will start first by the moral or psychological meaning of that election. And at the end I will try to speculate on what this election means on more mundane matters, such as what the opposition is supposed to do.

The new Venezuelan political map

Forget about which states went red or blue or white or green this time around, this is truly inconsequential. This election was defined mainly by the nature of the electoral campaign which, I need to remind the reader, has been lasting since last summer. This has been the most brutal campaign that we have seen in Venezuela history. The abuses and vituperations of Chavez during the campaign have been there for all to see. As a consequence we have to accept the fact that the 54% of the population have condoned, accepted, approved of a campaigning style, and a governing style, which clearly is meant to be a “us against them” and thus “we must destroy them before they destroy us”.

Besides the obvious conclusion that democracy is dead in Venezuela what we have now is a rogue regime which is going to be diligently pursuing the ultimate elimination of its political opposition. As such we must accept, no matter how hard this might be conceive, that the 54% of people who voted for Chavez can be divided into two groups: a group that seeks the destruction of any option that is not the one they support and another group that might or might not agree with the method but who is decided to turned its gaze elsewhere as long as they are not reached by the splatter. Or if you prefer it more crudely, they do not care that, say, blogger Duquenal is dragged out of his home as long as their public sector job or their little social grant is not jeopardized. True, once Chavez runs out of money and stops providing as he ahs been doing they might decide to oppose him, but they will never oppose him actively on ethical or moral principles when their neighbor is dragged out, or expropriated, or forced to leave the country, or fired from a governmental job for expressing his or her opinion in private. Chavez has succeeded brilliantly at least in one thing: he has neatly split Venezuela in two.

Why the need to break apart the country? Because this is about the only way to have a real chance to remain in power until he dies. Why does he need to remain in power until he dies? Because his ego is immense, but more importantly because he knows that if one day a real judicial system returns to Venezuela he will finish his days in jail.

Those who disagree or do not understand this are absolutely unable to understand what is going today in Venezuela, what is really at stake, not only for Venezuela but for the world. For the world because regimes like Venezuela cannot fail to fall into supporting subversion, conspiracy, drug trafficking, slavery and what not. Enough evidence of this is already being collected around and making its way slowly but surely through the proper channels. Or has anyone forgotten about the Miami Maletagate? That Venezuela has become under Chavez a major drug transit point? Is it not evidence that Venezuela moral decrepitude is spilling all over?

Any political action that is undertaken ignoring what I have written above is simply destined to failure. Chavismo does not play by the rules of civilized world, it plays by the rules of Mafia sponsored street gangs. That does not mean we must treat him with the same “rules”, but it means that nice conventional rules of civilization do not work against him, like they did not work against Hitler, Mussolini, Peron, Mugabe, etc…

Why was the election won/lost?


Very simple: Chavez and his people went with all they had, set a trap on a financially broke opposition who helped along by acting like a deer looking at a car lights while a brave student movement tried to have the deer jump in the ditch. As such the improvement in vote counts for the opposition is NOTHING to cheer about, it only means that there is a potential to beat Chavez someday if the right strategy comes into place. But as one can write that Chavez probably will never again obtain 6 million votes in a free and fair election, one can also write that with its current strategy the opposition will not be able to grow further. The students did all what they could. Now, they need to go back to their books, and prepare themselves to assume power in a decade or so of they keep playing their cards right. The next decade is for Chavez unless finally the political opposition comes up with a way to ditch him.

Students in other countries have been able to create miracles (Serbia, even Ukraine) but they failed in other (Azerbaijan for example). The reason is very simple; a student movement has a chance to triumph in a country that is culturally ready to understand their message of freedom and personal responsibility nurtured by hope for a better future. Venezuela as the 54% result tells us is a country not interested in personal freedom but in charismatic leaders and what they have to give away.

A troubling observation is that the opposition failed in one crucial item, in reminding people that if the NO vote won Chavez would remain for still four more years. It seems that too many SI voters actually believed the Chavez lies that the revolution would be over, that the Barrio Adentro modules would be closed as soon as the NO was declared the winner. If on one thing as simple as elaborating a message upon this chavista lie failed, I personally fail to see how they will tackle bigger lies of Chavez.

Why no one wins?


The opposition obviously lost and lost big. It does not matter that it gained in votes: the first polls of December were giving the opposition 10% ahead. In one and a half month of campaign Chavez reversed these polls. This is almost unheard of.

Then we must also acknowledge that it was in the cards last November when it came brashly victory when the popular vote had gone for Chavez. True, symbolically the victory was quite good, but it was far from a smashing defeat to Chavez. He knew it very well and his amendment move was to make sure that the symbolically defeat of November 2008 would be forgotten or blamed elsewhere.

But Chavez is no big winner either. He might have won but he did not recover his 2006 number even though this was a flash presidential election in all but name, even if he threw the baby, the tub, the water the soap and even the lotion. He is wearing out, no matter what the opposition does and there is nothing he can do about it because it is called “too many years in office” and no democratic regime can survive this exhaustion unless it crosses the line toward authoritarianism. So right now he looks like a winner but some oil workers just went on strike this week, and other strikes are promised elsewhere. No grace period this time around.

But what is worse for Chavez is he risks to take this victory as a mandate of sorts and thus he will feel free to go further and thus commit bigger mistakes. His reelection in 2012 is yet to be ensured even though he has already started his campaign for it. In fact, it is quite possible that his inability to manage the coming crisis could create him big problem with his own base as early as the end of 2009.

What is chavismo going to do?


Now? Whatever Chavez says. By allowing Chavez to run again in 2012 they have castrated themselves. Now, more than ever, the magic finger of Chavez will decide who figures and who does not. People like Henri Falcon must have felt a cold chill on their neck when the result was announced. We in the opposition are already used to see Chavez as a dictator, now chavismo is going to learn. Until now they thought that it was a transitory period while the revolution triumphed. Now that it is installed they are going to find out that there was nothing transitory about it.

What can the opposition do, or rather, should do?

Since this is going to be in part the type of things that will be discussed in the “new look” VN&V I am going only to give a brief summary of what I think it should do. Details as weeks go by.

Although since Sunday I have not bought a paper or put on TV talk shows I still did cross them as I surfed for mindless entertainment (reruns of Two and Half Men were particularly welcome this week). One night there was that journalist in Globovision saying, I kid you not, that the “opposition is sooo democratic”. Well, it is not. True, it is way more democratic than chavismo, no comparison, but it is far from being an example of democracy and that is costing them a lot. For example no political party has held a real serious internal election where tendencies clearly clashed and where the new “buró politico” is a fair compromise of the results. In 2008 although I agreed that primaries were not the panacea, the opposition was unable to come to terms with it and do them promptly in problem states such as Bolivar. I bet you that if primaries had been held in Merida, Tachira and Bolivar in September we would have carried the three states and picked up an assembly majority in Tachira. Maybe it would have been good enough a victory that Chavez might not have dared to push his amendment.

Thus the first thing for the opposition is to establish clearly its democratic nature so that people can compare it clearly to the undemocratic nature of the chavista side. Maybe enough will finally get the point and start voting against Chavez. How to do that? Very simple, come up NOW, TODAY, with a democratic system to nominate all the candidates to the municipal elections later this year. Even doing that fast and well will ensure at best a third of the seats at stake, courtesy of the unfair electoral system, but if the opposition does not do that fast, it might even fail to gain the majority in the Sucre district of Miranda where the NO did handsomely well last Sunday.

The second thing to start working now is to create a collective leadership formed by the elected officials of last November. They need to stick together to resist better the onslaught that Chavez is sending their way. And they are the natural spokespeople of the opposition: they are elected, for God’s sake! Forget about all the minor players: the ones that count, the only ones that should matter are the governors and mayors elected. This of course goes along creating a unitary government base in order to present something better than “No es No”.

And while all of this is going on the opposition MUST also create a better electoral machinery to make sure that at least chavismo does not abuse of its power at voting time. It is amazing the stories we have been hearing this week, how people’s vote was not what they voted for (printed SI when they voted NO), how people were carted to voting centers, how the military threatened anyone who complained about the abuses of the voting officers, how some were even briefly detained because they refused to back down in their just protest, the number of centers with 100% SI, etc… Even if only 10% of the voting stations are not monitored by the opposition that is enough cheating possibility for chavismo to swing a national close vote. The opposition must find ways to be everywhere…

Only after all of this done can the opposition consider fighting for parliament or president. Before that it is simply a waste of time and people like me as of now will start considering staying home as a valid electoral choice. People like me are starting to get tired of hearing pre electoral newscast that the opposition has monitors everywhere just to learn that my friend was left alone at El Junquito to fend for herself against a bully military violating rules.


And to en on a personal note: I did call to a number sent to me to offer material help to voting stations attendant. I offered to buy a cell phone and a 100 BS call card. Well, I am still waiting for the return phone call….. I am not upset about the student who kindly attended my call. But she was clearly overwhelmed and alone. She probably simply did not have the material time to link me to a Yaracuy opposition witness. It was not her fault, it was the fault of the local Yaracuy politicians who ruined the opposition chances here for at least a decade. Maybe I should switch my registration to Valencia or even Caracas for next election where I can do some good.


-The end-

The State Department and Chavez: "chivo que se devuelve se desnuca"?

The State Department gave an initial statement congratulating Chavez for his referendum victory (1). That should not have been necessary since supposedly a referendum matter is something discussed by the people, not an imposition from an individual. But we chalk it on the account that the Obama administration is new, that it does not want to antagonize Chavez while it finds its bearings and that soon enough it will get around to really face Chavez down.

But it turns out that the statement was ill worded, and not rejected so far even though it does not correspond to earlier clearly expressed opinions of Obama on Chavez. I am not in agreement with all that Krauthammer writes, however I cannot remain neutral at what seems clearly the first indications that the new US foreign policy has lost temporary its North Star. Either that or what they found on arrival was so bad that they decided to trim down fast the amount of potential conflicts hoping for the world recession to take care of some of them. That might work for Venezuela if you think of it: kiss him God's speed after the referendum while waiting for oil prices to undo Chavez once and for all.

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

1) Clearly, at state they watch only VTV

QUESTION: Do you have reaction to the result of the referendum, the fact that Chavez has won and now he can stay in power almost indefinitely?
MR. DUGUID: Well, it's my understanding that the referendum took place in a fully democratic process, that there were – although there were some troubling reports of intimidation of opponents, for the most part, this was a process that was fully consistent with democratic practice. However, democratic practice also requires that the government govern well and govern in the interest of all of the people of the diverse interests that are present in Venezuela.
QUESTION: But what about the result of the –
MR. DUGUID: It was a matter for the Venezuelan people. And as I said, the process was held consistent with democratic principles. Therefore, we have always sought to have a positive relationship with Venezuela. We will continue to seek to maintain a positive relationship with Venezuela. But their democratic processes need to be taken into account on our part. But also on our part, we look for governments who have achieved a positive democratic result to use that in a positive manner.
QUESTION: Do you think it's healthy to be able to be reelected indefinitely?
MR. DUGUID: I don't have an opinion on the democratic practices of Venezuela. In the United States, we have term limits, but that's our practice.

This small olive branch to Chavez will certainly be welcomed in Caracas, as Chavez takes a victory lap, but one hopes the State Department's tepid response to Chavez's bid for unlimited power and the sad demise of pluralism and individual liberty in Venezuela is not a harbinger of things to come at higher levels.


-The end-

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Antisemitism in Venezuela: troubling findings

While working on election coverage one must not forget other pressing issues. The one I have in mind is Antisemitism in Venezuela. I am not going back on the Synagogue attack who very conveniently was "solved" by the government in a rather strange and expedite way that does not make sense. And just as it was the case with the Anderson crime, the culprits have been supposedly arrested but we do not know who gave the order for the crime. I propose that we wait a little bit more to make up our minds on the lame Chavez explanation becasue there are interesting little items that are coming up.

Today American Thinker posts a fascinating research on the activities of Martin Sanchez, Aporrea founder and know some sort of itinerant bolivarian propaganda man who goes from consulate to consulate position. As the files of Aporrea are examined more and more items are found that reflect at the very best sloppy editing at the site. At the worst, of course, a direct acquiescence of Sanchez towards the antisemitic writings found at Aporrea.

The ADL comes up with quite a lot of antisemitic declarations gathered through Venezuelan state media. Fascinating read. And I suspect that more is yet to come, or created as a Chavez drunk on victory will not watch his tongue as carefully (not to mention his sycophantic court).

We must keep pursuing these people and expose them to the public. If indeed Sanchez supports antisemitism then as a Venezuelan diplomat he should be expelled from the US (or any civilized country) A.S.A.P.

And if he does not, then that these articles have been published he should come out and clear his name. Even the pages of this blog are open to him if he wishes it so.


-The end-

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The 2009 results, the hidden meaning

The good news is that I can do the whole analysis in one single post: after all, the 2008 analysis still mostly applies and what we need to understand is simply why Chavez managed to mobilize better his base. After all, the opposition does not have much to complain: in spite of a rather weak to dismal campaign (it depends on the areas) it still manages to increase its share of the vote once again.

Thus this post will be organized in small, parts to address simply the main points.

Why Chavez increased his vote?

Very simple: he made a campaign blitz as we had never seen before, forcing all public administration employees to hit the streets all the time, threatening, blackmailing, and what not. Of course, state money use was no object. And yet the rather dismal campaign closing show of Avenida Bolivar indicates that the SI vote was one of lassitude rather than one of certainty, as if many of his supporters thought "well, we are stuck with him, he will never give up, we might as well give him what he wants to see if he leaves us alone for a while".

The machinery in the country side was spectacular as people were carted and monitored all along. I have a friend who happened to be the president of a voting "mesa" in a pro Chavez district, even though she is opposition. She told me that:
  • at 5:30AM she had to start her day with an argument against the military in charge of the security because there were plenty of chavista supporters trying to hide their support with hats that simply had a red star on it or some other allusive item. She threatened to put a white hat herself to finally force them naked head.
  • as the vote proceeded she had to fight back attempts at voting "in company" as the military in charge said he did not see why people could not take a "trusted friend" along to vote. Even the CNE representative had to side with my friend, rule book in hand, to explain once and again that only physically handicapped people were allowed to bring someone along.
  • then she counted at least half a dozen "returning voters", as in people that had not voted in years who suddenly appeared, all expenses paid from wherever they had moved to in Venezuela, to vote for the SI.
Thus, if this was a table where opposition had a determined leadership, you can imagine what was allowed in rural areas where the leadership of voting tables has long been taken over by chavismo, courtesy of the CNE.

So in fact the question might be: with all this display of brute strength how come Chavez got ONLY 54%?

Free and fair elections?

No way, not at all. Those who pretend to the contrary are simply either uninformed or are plain liars. Your choice. If you still think otherwise, well, you have not read what I just wrote above.

Why the opposition lost


Very simple, it could not go beyond the No es No slogan, never replied to the charge that it was going to kill the Misiones, even though these are working less and less well, killed by chavismo inefficacy and corruption. In fact I suspect that the students are solely responsible for the opposition maintaining and increasing its vote count.

If to this you add the grotesque abuses of Chavez, well, there is no mystery.

Again, as long as the political leadership of the opposition does not unite behind a clear message and at least a clear shared leadership, Chavez will win. Even if there is an economic crisis because Chavez will always have more money than the opposition and will not be afraid to use even worse tactics than what he has done so far. Period.

How the vote moved

The interesting fact of this vote result is that both chavismo and anti chavismo increased their vote counts, a rather unusual event in elections. On this respect my very cautious and not optimistic predictions went down anyway. I made three predictions: that the opposition would get at least 4.763.000 votes and it did, which is score one for me; that the NO would win narrowly, thus score 0 for me; that chavismo would get more than what it got in November which it did but no more than 5.188.000 while it went almost a million above, big score -1 for me. However getting back to check my predictions I realized with great horror that this 5.188.000 number I reported was wrong, not what I had calculated in my tables (it should have been the 5.300 of 2008). Oh well, too bad, I am screwed anyway. I need an editor... but then again none of you caught my mistake!

How did this play out at the national level? I did use the CNE results of the first bulletin and for the table below I did not bother checking how these had changed with the third bulletin , it would not matter much for what I have to say (by the way, is it that not EXTRAORDINARY that the CNE has the nearly complete results of last Sunday and we are still waiting for the 2007 complete results? Am I the only one bothered by that at this point?)

In the table below what I simply did was to highlight the results where one side increased its vote, at every level, from one election to the next (red chavismo, blue oppo). You can observe by yourself the interesting phenomenon that in 2007 ALL went down for Chavez, in 2008 all went up but in 2009 actually some went down again! The opposition shows a more "coherent progression where all states more or less keep increasing their vote, albeit slowly. Clearly, the quality of Chavez leadership at a given election is what determines how he scores, the opposition benefiting from a more steady progression (rounded votes, X1000).


Interesting details

There were a few noteworthy items worth remarking. In no particular order.

Tachira, Libertador and Miranda: the revenge of the victims. In these states where chavismo has been particularly brutal in not recognizing the victory of the opposition the people have paid Chavez back. In Tachira chavismo drops by 20,000 and the opposition grows by 40,000. Cesar Perez Vivas can look forward a rematch where this time he will win easily if they dare annul the election, with state assembly victory as a bonus point for him. In Miranda chavismo grows (a state particularly sensitive to the Misiones) but Capriles grows as much. In fact the district of Guaicaipuro (Los Teques), whose newly elected chavista mayor has been sort of appointed as the chavismo face in the state, has lost ground. Winning with 50% in 2009, Guaicaipuro goes NO this time around. In Sucre (Petare) the poor district insulted by Chavez who said it was full of golf courses, well, Ocariz led the NO to victory with 166 to 129. Even in Libertador the SI victory was very weak ensuring that Caracas at large voted massively for the NO, validating Ledezma rule clearly. Note that in Libertador (also sensitive to Misiones and public worker blackmailing) the NO gained 100 000 votes from 2008 whereas the SI had a progression of only 60 000 from last November.

Aragua and Sucre red tide. There the demise of PODEMOS implies the loss of its electoral machinery and the amazing take over of chavismo. Even Maracay who was barely lost by PJ last November is now taken over by the SI with a 112 to 105.

The dissident 2008 vote. It seems to have spread evenly betweenabstention, chavismo and opposition as we can see for Trujillo, Portuguesa and Guarico. But in Barinas chavismo returns triumphant.

Primero Justicia is punished. In the states where the maneuvers of Primero Justicia led to opposition division in 2008, this one does not improve much as chavismo advances decisively. Clearly a demoralized opposition did not have the heart to campaign hard (as I saw personally in Yaracuy). Yes, I know, I should not single out PJ for that division but in these three states at least it was at the heart of the maneuvers and lost its shirt (Bolivar, Aragua and Yaracuy).

Rosales is not the absolute kingmaker in Zulia? In an interesting twist in Zulia the SI lost by less than chavismo lost in 2008. Could it be that an eternal reelection of Rosales was not to everyone's liking? However there might be another less palatable explanation: many Rosales supporters might not have voted NO, but SI to retain their man. We certainly see that phenomenon in Nueva Esparta were the reelected governor is probably already starting to plan his third term campaign.

Merida and Lara: where the opposition had really the wrong man in 2008. In these two states the opposition improved greatly its votes from November 2008. Then in Merida clearly the defeat was due to a lousy candidate for the opposition. But in Lara it was because many in the opposition went directly to support Falcon who suddenly realizes that his ample victory was not as strong as he might have thought at first.

Is there a hidden message in all of this?


Definitely: Caucaguita. As I wrote in an earlier post analyzing the results of 2008, the popular and poor district of Caucaguita inside of Sucre municipality is still going heavily Chavez but the opposition is creeping slowly and continuously. I have updated my slide from then and you can observe it by yourselves.


The vote of the E and D sectors are not all locked up for chavimso. I truly think that last Sunday Chavez reached his last real victory. In votes and in percentage he has gone down from 2006 and in spite of all the advantage he had he could not repeat his 2006 number. Short of forcing people to vote for him at gun point I do not know what he can do to improve his latest score.

Which of course does not mean that the opposition is going to win anytime soon. If it wants to wait for the natural attrition of chavismo, this one as a few good years still ahead.

The future?

With Chavez regained power to stay in office his ability to blackmail and threaten his own supporters to follow him are renewed. That is, for the lifted term limits for all, within chavismo at least they all know that without Chavez blessing NONE of them can go for reelection. Now for the next 4 years at least they all need to outdo each other in sycophancy to be allowed to run for office again.

With the display of power abuse we have been witnessing since last summer leading to that paroxysm in January you know that free and fair elections in Venezuela is something that does not exist any more. Next election will be even worse.

Only economic collapse can maybe remove Chavez from office. And even that is not certain as we see how Mugabe and Castro tactics are kindly observed by chavismo.

My friends, we are in a military dictatorship. Oh, a "legal" one for sure, validated by some form of voting scheme, but a dictatorship nevertheless. Watch as it turns ugly.

Epilogue

And thus I conclude what is probably my last election coverage. There is no interest anymore for me to cover future elections as they will be even less free and much less fair than this one. The CNE as it stands is totally sold out to Chavez and it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time for the last "neutral" member of the CNE to either give up or be expelled, something that Chavez has already publicly demanded. If it is true that the voting moment by itself could be qualified as "normal", as long as international observers refuse to notice the amount of fraud that takes place BEFORE the vote, elections are simply useless. The inner logic of the political regime is to be more and more repressive and soon even the voting act by itself will not be acceptable.

I must say without false modesty that still to date my electoral evaluations are the most comprehensive ones you will see on the web, and probably even in Venezuelan papers who lamely repeat the numbers without bothering to look for what they really mean. And I do not even have access to the polls that these people read all the time... As I wrote before, the only guy that really would appreciate these posts of mine is Chavez himself who is the finest politician in Venezuela even if he is totally gross and repulsive. If anyone knows the Venezuelan electoral map and its pulse, it is him, just as Mitterrand knew in France and just as Sarkozy seems to know (they are the only examples that I can come up with of people who knew their electoral business as Chavez does, better than their entourage; Speaker Tip O'Neal was also excellent but he had no presidential timber).

I will write one or two more posts related to electoral interpretation of last Sunday and then move this blog to its next phase. Thus enjoy the graphs above because you are not going to see much of them anymore.

-The end-

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Post electoral readings

Two items to read.

First, a very short and to the point note at the Wall Street Journal which starts with "Mr. Chávez can now move toward his goal of becoming President for life" and ends with "Mr. Chávez needs Mr. Obama's public approval far more than the U.S. needs Mr. Chávez's diplomatic cooperation". No further comments needed.

The other item is more "scholarly" and it is very gratifying for me to read it becasue it is something I have always argued, or sensed. Namely this nice research by Joshua Partlow for the Washington Post covers how the new constitutions of Latin America countries were written in part by a team of Spaniards who deliberately set to create a document who would damage the current structure of the country to bring to power a new elite that rallies around a single leader. Hence the title "Latin America's Document-Driven Revolutions".

It will go a long way to help those who do not know how lengthy and wordy constitutions are in fact a tool to enforce the power of a populist executive. To encourage you to read the whole thing I will give you an excerpt:

The final products are sprawling documents. While the U.S. Constitution has seven articles and 27 amendments, Venezuela's constitution has 350 articles, Bolivia's has 411, and Ecuador taps out at 444. Each document spells out a lengthy list of rights.

"It makes it almost impossible not to vote for them, they are promising all these rights," Quiroz said of the government. "I think they are clearly populist types of constitutions. Some of their provisions are so difficult to enforce, impossible, that the criteria for enforcing such very difficult things have to be left to the executive and the president himself."
There are so many articles in the Venezuelan constitution that some actually remain untouched since it was published in 1999. Which did not stop Chavez from changing it and threaten it with more changes as his greed for power increases. Is it not ironic to read, by the way, that the Spanish team of Roberto Viciano Pastor is helping again to re-enslave Latin America ......

And one assinine report to skip: TIME. And excerpt to remind you how useless US magazines are in general compared to their great papers:
The Sunday vote had a 32% abstention rate, and election watchers assume most of the no-show was on the opposition side.
Clearly, research and interpretation are sloppy, to give it a kind word. They could benefit from reading blog analysis. But you know, it is the TIME and they do not need to read blogs (or the NYT for that matter). In fact, this article of the TIME can be called disinformation.

-The end-

Monday, February 16, 2009

My second reaction

Here, at Pajamas Media, more professional. I think it would help if some of you would put a message.

-The end-

My first reaction

Readers might be surprised at reading the following but I am surprisingly at peace tonight. See, the game is all over, the masks have all fallen.

Venezuela has voted for an unacceptable type of politics. As such it has proven that a large majority of its people does not believe in democracy true values. In fact, as Gustavo Coronel points out a little but too bluntly, the productive side of Venezuela has been consistently opposing the non productive part of Venezuela. This blog many electoral analysis have been chock full of examples on how the better educated, more productive areas of the country tend to vote against Chavez while the more backwards and dependent areas vote for Chavez.
There is no novelty on this. The novelty tonight is that as of now this is a permanent chasm, a profound division of the country that cannot be solved through democracy alone. Whoever is refusing to acknowledge this reality is only fooling himself or herself. Chavez is bent on destroying this half of the country that refuses to submit to his ego and as of now that half he so hates will have to fight back if it wants to survive. Or give up and join in which is intellectually and morally repulsive. Better leave for Miami.

The soft language of the opposition that "we agree with Chavez social programs but we can run them better" is never going to work. Today it has reached its limit. Ledezma and Capriles and other are doomed. La Piedrita is going to be thrown at them, or its new incarnation if necessary. It is time a new opposition takes a principled stand and tells the country the truth. True, as things stand telling the truth all but guarantee you a few electoral defeats, even if oil prices are low: people are simply too used to hope that the state will provide for them.

Thus it is a completely new game that starts today. Everybody knows that Chavez is a fascist and now everybody knows that half of Venezuela thinks it is OK. Criticizing these people, engaging them is simply useless. As we have learned over the years in this blog or in our street experience, we just think differently at such a basic level that mutual understanding is almost impossible. Toleration is our best hope and Chavez cannot live off that. We need to move in a void and forget about what they say or think. We need to construct your own language, find our own voice and wait for the inevitable end of the regime with a plan that people will finally accept to try as there is no other option left. For the long wilderness that awaits us we can take comfort in one thing: the crisis will come because Chavez CANNOT construct his socialist bullshit with 46% of the country opposing him, the 46% of the country that includes at least 80% of intellectuals, scientists, managers, writers, thinkers, doers, creators and what not. Our time will come but we cannot pretend anymore that we will weather Chavez if we are patient enough, just as too many thought they could weather Hitler, or Mussolini, or Peron or Castro until one day they found themselves on a raft in the Florida straits.

Now, this should not be considered as a call to arms although I am afraid that Chavez will force us down this path as the fastest way to destroy us. After all, what weapons do we have access to? Does anyone think that the military will betray Chavez any time soon as once again the people voted him in? Who is going to come to rescue us now that we have shown to the world that we are not a democratic country, that we like our leader to steal, insult, humiliate, threaten whomever he dislikes? Woe is us as we richly deserve what is about to hit us. No, what is ahead of us is an egotistical moment, focusing on ourselves and forgetting the rest, until we create a message that we can rally to and we can lead by example. Or why else do you think that Chavez does not want Walesa to visit Venezuela anymore? He certainly does not want us to learn about resolve.

-The end-

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The 2009 referendum post

11:41

For those who read Spanish you can visit the latest entry of Gustavo Coronel who tells it EXACTLY as it is, even if you do not like what he says (personally I do not agree with the fraud part, I think Venezuela is stupid enough to have voted SI, but that will come in a post later this coming week). And for those who do not read Spanish allow me to send you back to this post of mine more than a week ago.

10:34

And the first effect are for you all to see. There is cadena to "celebrate" the victory of the SI even if 5 million people voted NO. And the cadena hides strange movements of intimidating mobs swarming through Chacao and around Globovision. ah! We elected a dictator! Ain't that wonderful!

9:35 PM

The SI won. End of story. Good thing that I never trust polls and even less exit polls.

8:41

Jorge Rodriguez has claimed victory violating all the rules of the CNE. But hen again he might have just said that becasue, well, the followers around him were just a tad lugubrious. What is important to note is that if, say, Rosales would have declared himself winning, the Army would be arresting him as I type. Rodriguez is just doing fine, thank you!

8:31

I {heart} New York! SI 79 NO 617

8:28

Ah la la! La France, Paris, les petites femmes! SI 37 NO 199

8:04

Comando Angostura (the opposition umbrella for the NO) gives a result similar to the students AND they put the SI winning in Yaracuy. I feel better about that one.

7:59

A reliable contact tells me that the student exit poll is the best of the lot. I have my doubt because it gives Yaracuy for the NO. Of course I would be delighted to see my home state go NO but it went SI in 2007 and very much pro Chavez in November. Oh well, we must keep waiting.....

7:27

My El Junquito contact tells me that the SI won there, and better than what Garcia Carneiro won last November. Again, time to take deep breathes and remember that your friendly blogger predicted a NO victory by 150 000 votes only, which nearly guarantees a few tense hours ahead.

7:17

I have received a little bit ago the "student exit poll". I coudl not verify anything, and I am uneasy as it gives detailed results by state, including Amazonas and Delta Amacuro where I did not know there were enough students to even do an exit poll in the jungle voting booth. Well, any way, I will give you at least the main results: SI 47% NO 53%.

7:07

From Macaracuay, oppo stronghold. Mesa 1, NO 408 SI 42; 4, NO 381 SI 24; 5, NO 368 SI 33; 7, NO 383 SI 47; 11, NO 404 Si 35.... OK no surprise, just to let you know that the opposition voted a little bit more than in November and equally strong against Chavez. In other words, if the NO wins it will be because many pro Chavez did not agree on him in office forever and ever.

7:00 PM

Tenerife, Canary Islands. SI 86, NO 1168!!! Una pelusa!!!

6:01 TibiSI is closing the ballots. Now we have to wait.

One exit poll gives the SI ahead. So as expected, as usual, there was no reason in getting elated earlier, or at any point anyway. The only positive thing is that oppo leadership seems happier than chavismo. But experience tells us how easy it is to wipe a smile.

4:41 PM

A reader sends the view from Brussels. Hilarious! As if such a display would change people's vote on their way to the embassy!


3:56 PM

My brother reports 356, which is almost what they did in November and still 2 hours to go.

London final

NO 307
SI 22 (the embassy personnel?)

3:30

A New York reader went to vote and sends me this rather scandalous view of PSF promoting the SI vote at the door of the consulate, Cuban flag included. Click to see the gross details. In Venezuela the "plan Republica" would have put an end to it, no matter how pro Chavez they might be.


3:06

Table 2, London: 102 NO, 14 SI. No surprise.

3:04 PM


I am receiving exit polls. AGAIN! provisional, do not get your hopes up, I CANNOT VERIFY! The No would be ahead between 3 and 5% so far. Be aware that the chavismo machinery is ONLY starting to work right now.

2:55 PM

My brother reports 326, which is almost what he got on November at 5PM, proving once and for all that the 2 hours voting extension was simply a trick to allow chavismo to herd its voters at specific centers.

1:30PM

Voted. My center had already 50% participation which is more than what it gets at noon.

All quiet, no lines anywhere. I have not turned the TV at all today. What for? Though I got SMS that many voting machines are acting up.

11:49 AM

220 /527 41.7% participation. Note that on November 23 371 voters had voted by 6 PM which means the pace is to beat that number!

11:26 AM

First results. If you recall from last November, I have a brother working at a polling station. He transmits through blackberry the participation rate during the process. It is a center where Chavez got only a dozen votes out of 300+ last November, so we know what the result will be. However it is interesting to report becasue it is a sign on how motivated the opposition is to go and vote NO.
First results:
9:30 118 / 527
10:50 180 /527 34% participation, higher than November at the same time.

By the way, if anyone knows folks stuck at voting tables willing to transmit results, please, send. Though I suspect most readers are outside Venezuela...


11:17 AM

Those little things that make you gag on your coffee. I got Yaracuy Al Dia, the pro Chavez rag of the area which I rarely get. But heck, I am goign to get stuck at home all day but voting. Well, to tell you how mentally underdeveloped we still are, one of the front page headlines reads:

"Presidente Chavez dispuesto a respetar resultados".
President Chavez willing to respect results.

They are kidding, no? Does he has any other legal choice? After supposedly 60 years of elections and still peopel that shoudl know better like the editors of Yaracuy Al Dia still marvel at the presidential generosity to recognize the results!!!! You may read again my post of yesterday as this head line confirms a lot of what I wrote last night.

9:54 AM

Well, I got the papers and drove around a few centers. No lines anywhere, as expected since voting is easy. The chavista machinery is in full display, they have a tent about a 100 yards from any center I drove by. However contrary to November 23, there is a few people busy on cell phones under each tent. That is they are already fast at monitoring who votes.

No opposition machinery anywhere to be seen. It died on November 23 and without even a single town hall in Yaracuy it simply cannot mount an electoral machinery. The more so when the governor has no qualms in dipping in public treasury to finance the chavista machinery. Chicago's Daley would have had it that easy....


Breakfast time now. See you in an hour or so.

8:57 AM

A grumpy start for the day. Already at 4 a stupid truck started circulating with the military reveille which seems to have become a chavista tradition imposed on all of us, as if there was nothing else to do on voting day but go, vote and go home eat our nails. It is even more irksome becasue I moved to an area where Chavez does not reach the 20% so why bother here? The only result coudl be anti-Chavez folks pissed at not been able to sleep late and thus go definitely out to vote.

Now I have no school in front of me so I cannot tell you anymore how the flow of voters go as the day progress. I already walked the dog and now I am ready to go and get the papers. Now I need to drive to get the papers, there is no "quiosco" close by. So I will drive in front of a couple of schools to see how is it working. I suspect fine because it is really easy to vote, not the mess we had in Yaracuy last November with the opposition divided. See you later.


-The end-

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The stakes of a blog

I have observed that it has become fashionable to say that the referendum of tomorrow does not matter, that nothing will change and that what matters is the world crisis. I do concur up to a point with this view, and even expressed it in my rare electoral posts this time around. But I also think that tomorrow vote is much more important than what some people pretend it is. After all tomorrow we have a chance to validate one way to do politics or to reject it. I have also expressed it in no ambiguous terms: tomorrow if the SI wins Venezuela will be declaring that blackmailing, power abuse, corruption, insults form above and justice in the hand of a a single man are OK, are acceptable, are desirable even. As such Venezuela will reveal itself for what it might have always been and that we just chose to ignore: a wretched country where the people are always on the make, regardless of the consequences. We should have known better: Monagas, Guzman Blanco, Cipriano Castro, Juan Vicente Gomez, Perez Jimenez and now Chavez were not historical accidents, they were the expression of Venezuelan people, adapted to the times they lived. As such, the 1958-1998 period was the historical accident.

If the SI wins tomorrow, then indeed Venezuela deserved Chavez and they can enjoy it further. If the NO wins, well, maybe we will have a shot at another 40 years of relatively benign period once we resolve the exit of Chavez, and until a new one comes.

True, no matter what the result is tomorrow it will have marginal effects on the reality of the crisis coming towards us as the Western World seems unable to come up with any solution that might work some even in the 2012 horizon. The result tomorrow will only help fix the date at which Chavez will have to use outright repression before he gets overthrown by his own people. Just as it happened to the names in the list above except for Gomez who remained a grounded peasant all his life and thus died president. Chavez is not grounded so there is blood in our future.

I wanted to get this out of my chest because I have been meaning to write a post about the future of this blog since November 23 but the new amendment circus forced me to keep my nose to the grind. But before the results are in tomorrow I wanted to write something so nobody could accuse me of coping out if I wrote it later.

The thing is that I have been writing continuously since January 2003. That is right, this blog reached its six year anniversary last month and I believe that there has been at least a post every week since it started. No mean feat if you ask me. And I have been going places too.

But honestly: how many ways are left to me to describe what a fraud Chavez is? And when you read the editorial of the New York Times today, do I even need to keep writing? Who is left with a brain that thinks that Chavez is a great social democrat? It is time to change, my work is done here.

If the NO wins, I will get recharged, keep writing but this time about plans for the country because again I think it will be worth dreaming of a better Venezuela, that maybe in 2-3 years it will be possible to start more realistic policies and the input of all will be needed. It will be also a pleasure to narrate the slow demise of Chavez, slow maybe but demise at any rate.

And if the SI wins then why keep worrying about Venezuela? My divorce with my country will need to be pronounced as I will not feel at home anymore. The future will belong to my neighbor, a government contractor who has the chutzpah to put all sorts of SI stickers on his car and who probably 10 years ago was unable to hold a regular job. Not that I will abandon my country, but simply put it will not be my problem anymore: it will be time to think about me alone and find ways to avoid the nightmare to circle too close from me.

I did move a few weeks ago, a traumatic process, still not complete. However as I packed and unpacked I put together all the books that I have bought in recent years and have not read yet. I have the bad habit when I go to buy a book to leave the store with at least two other books in hand. Well, in the past decade I have accumulated nearly 200 books. Surely I need to read some of them.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a video of Jason Mraz and got the CD from someone travelling to the US. I forgot the pleasure it was to explore new music, clever words. The way life goes on in Venezuela, the amount of time blogging took from me, I had forgotten all these "cultural" activities I used to take for granted and went down the drain when CADIVI was created.

And when I came back from Europe last fall I wrote that "Mallarme and me" post. That is what I want to write about if the SI wins, get my mind busy on other matters, escape the mediocrity of Venezuela, wait for the storm to go by, for chavistas to one day understand on their own the error they made. True, who knows what will happen to me but, dear friends, if the SI wins there is nothing anymore I can do about the future of Venezuela: I have done over these past six years more than most Venezuelans have done, and more successfully if I look at my track record of contacts overseas with media and people. At home I am ignored, but that is fine, none is prophet in one's country, and truly, who do I want to associate with? As an INTP my normal life is made of Introspective Thinking with limited contact from reality (look on the right side of my blog if you do not know what INTP means). Blogging forced me to bathe in crude reality for too long. One S.O. (in Caracas today for Saint Valentine because we do not vote in the same city), half a dozen of friends, 200 books, 700 CD, Venezuelan artisan's work on display, what else do I need?

So that is folks. If the SI wins I will cover the results, explain them and then slowly but surely retire to the great joy of PSF and the like, probably some of my competition even. But the blog will not die, the archive will be up if someone is interested in knowing the truth about Venezuela. I might even do an index of the main points when I am bored. And more or less regularly I will write for the few that might be interested about a new Mallarme or Mraz moment.

And if the NO wins? We'll see; let's decide what to write about when it happens and depending on how it happens. There will be new stakes for blogging.


-The end-

The New York Times: Venezuelans’ Right to Say No

Sometimes the work of solitary bloggers finally is vindicated when a major newspaper comes out with an editorial who in full validates all what they had been writing for years (as reader Libertad pointed in a comment).

Without further ado I invite you to read today's editorial of the New York Times, which comes with perfect timing between the vote and the expulsion of Herrero, with methods in accordance to a fascisto-thuggish regime rather than a democracy.

Hugo, win or lose tomorrow, the word is out on you. All the money you sunk into internet and propaganda agencies like the VIO has gone to total waste. But so was most of the 10 years that went by.

Addenda: later today I also found Forero on Ledezma's problems. Not an editorial, but as good an exposition of the anti democratic nature of chavismo as the NYT editorial.


-The end-

Friday, February 13, 2009

A self assured, confident Chavez administration expels an Euro-representative

Chavismo must be very nervous. TibiSI Lucena, ooopps, I meant Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE has asked for the expulsion of a Spanish Euro Representative Luis Herrero that said things he was not supposed to say.

OK, let's look at this with a calm attitude.

Whatever indisposed TibiSI did not register with me. Representative Herrero said what this blog has been saying for weeks as to the nature of the blackmailing campaign of Chavez. And he said it nicer than what I wrote. Why is TbiSI not expelling me from Venezuela?

Herrero did not interfere into Venezuelan politics anymore than did Ecuador's Correa or Nicaragua's Ortega who came here as head of states to campaign with Chavez directly. Herrero came on the last day, for international observation, at a time and a position that would made whatever he could say almost irrelevant. TibiSI made sure it would be relevant.

OK, let's admit for the sake of the argument that indeed Herrero deserved expulsion. Why was that expulsion almost carried simultaneously with the announcement of TibiSI? And why not even allow him to get his passport before being carted off who knows where. Because the DISIP came fast, grabbed the guy, took him away and no one had for two hours a f...ing idea where the guy was. The Airport? Jail? The Spanish Embassy? It is, oh, all so fitting with the mafiosi nature of the regime, the police and the army having become simple executors of the sordid deals of chavismo.

I can imagine tomorrow's roar of Chavez promoting inoffensive looking Herrero as yet another tool of the empire, denouncing yet another conspiration and saying that Venezuela deserves respect. Just as the opposition will remind us about the hanger on of Chavez sucking up our money for their sycophancy fees.

There are thus several ways to interpret this.

Chavismo is losing and a nervous TibiSI is trying to score browny points before Chavez yells at her again. A flashy measure would seem appropriate.

Chavismo is losing big and TibiSI was asked to put up the show.

Somebody within chavismo is trying to sabotage Chavez, to make him look bad in Europe (and elsewhere). Because, between us, can the DISIP be that stupid not to let the guy even take his passport? We are not talking of a HRW person here, but a European Representative!!!! Is the DISIP not trained to act according to the individual or are they so deep in mafia practices that they stoppe dcaring?

Chavismo is losing big and they are simply a buch of Monty Python characters.

Or more charitably, chavismo is losing by the narrowest of margins and someone came up with this sketch to push the cheap nationalism pedal.

Whatever it is, tomorrow in European newpsapers Venezuela will come up as a country of savages and Chavez as "el gorila militarote" he is. We are a joke.....

-The end-

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Venezuela 2009 vote II: The Venezuela News and Views prediction

Will this be enough for Chavez to win next Sunday?


This blackberry picture is taken Avenida La Paz of San Felipe, around 10 AM Tuesday. In it you can see a PDVAL truck distributing selected food items at bargain prices. This scene repeats every morning, with people standing in line every morning to get whatever item the truck brought in that day. This has been going on now for weeks and the reason why I decided to take a picture is that they have added boldly the SI sign that until now was more discretely placed, since it is forbidden by the CNE. This picture encapsulates perfectly well what the Bolivarian revolution has become: a system to reward the faithful, to teach them to stand in line patiently, to express adequate support if they wish to keep receiving subsidized items, and without any institution to enforce the rule of law, or rather selective as to whom the law is applied. In short: a society of consenting beggars.

The question this time around is whether this crass populism will be enough to carry the day next Sunday? Because after ten years of such strategy we can start to wonder how long until people start getting tired of watching their leaders driving by in expensive SUV with SI written on their windows in washable white while they stand in line for food.

But how to evaluate this exhaustion? The polls during this latest campaign have been contradictory, and I am talking about the serious polls. There seems to be a slight edge in favor of the NO but this is dubious as no clear trend can be seen. The NO started high and fell on the harshness of Chavez campaign. But when this one started using violence against students, and blackmailing the country, the NO did not prevail again but the SI stopped growing. In other words this election has become the most emotional of our elections since 1998, as if it were possible to become more emotional than 2004 or 2005. Probably the fate of the election will be settled on Sunday as people reach the voting station, a cheap truism come true.

I have been trying to predict the result but after many complex and fascinating tables I realized that it was in fact quite simple. Thus I will divide my predictions in two sections: first the reasonable approach to it based on what I have been writing since the previous elections and then take a few wild guesses as to the emotional factors that may change my numbers.

The raw reasonable numbers.

The advantage this time around is that we have a very fresh result, the regional elections of November 2008, and a not so fresh result but a result very related to the actual vote, the December 2007 referendum result. I have added up what I consider the opposition vote and the chavista vote. I rounded them up and did not pay attention to the occasional mini candidate so my numbers might not quite match those found elsewhere. All numbers in thousand of thousand.
In 2007 the opposition got a clear 4505 (and probably more if the CNE had published the results, still not done). In 2008 there is a weak retreat to 4382. It is lower than what can be seen elsewhere because I did not include minor stuff. This is improved if we add a few minor candidates and also by the dissidence of chavismo, 362, one step away from opposition to Chavez. Chavismo did better going up from 4379 to 5570. As such we can have our starting point in the third column for 2009: Chavez has 5570, the opposition its vote share plus half of the dissidence for a total of 4563 since it is difficult that the bitterness of Chavez onslaught on the dissidence can be easily forgotten. I estimate 2 million abstention votes up for grab as those still “missing” from Chavez from 2006. The other abstention I consider chronic abstention which is unlikely to be much motivated this time around, thus I base my “potential vote” on 2006 presidential data.

That 1007 votes advantage for chavismo perhaps looks good but it is not. In previous discussion of the 2007 result I calculated that the abstention within the opposition was compensated by about 500 000 votes from chavismo that went NO in 2007. In November 2008 a lot of these folks either stayed home or went back to chavismo, but there is absolutely no guarantee for chavismo that they will not go again for the NO. On the other hand a more energized opposition who has been able to score a few successes since 2007 is less likely to suffer from abstention. Thus the first question is how much of these 2 million votes still missing can Chavez recover to compensate for what he is going to lose.

In one of the tables I did I calculated the states where Chavez had recovered the most versus the states where he recovered less of his 2006 votes. I also recall that I wrote that the result he got in November 2008 is a peak for him, considering the intensity of the campaign and how he involved himself into it. So yes, there might be some room to improve a little further but in some states where the recovery was lower. But even pairing it all up I still calculate that Chavez can only add 318 votes to what he got last November. His potential grand total, or maximum vote he can get Sunday will thus be 5570 + 318 = 5888. But to this you must remove a natural abstention of, say 200, and wonder about what would happen to the 500 that abandoned Chavez in 2007. Clearly, many of them might have got back for the regional election but many will vote again NO. Let’s estimate this total at 350 that will go to the opposition and 150 that will abstain. Thus I predict that chavismo SI will not go above 5888 - (200 + 500) = 5188.

The opposition starts with 4563 once we have speculated as to where the “chavismo” dissidence might go. It will not lose 500 this time around as it is more self confident and thinks that voting can actually achieve something. So let’s just assume a 150 abstention. And to this we can add the 350 that comes from chavismo that says NO. The total is thus 4563 – 150 + 350 = 4763. Thus my second prediction, the NO will get at least 4763 votes. The difference between the potential NO and SI is suddenly much less daunting. But chavismo wins by 400. But that I am not predicting.

The subjective factors.

As such if we use rational election follow up chavismo would win by 400. But will it? This election is marked by two factors: an emotional content beyond what we have ever seen and an opposition which has found again, for all its still permanent failures, a reason to fight. Besides with 3 new governors and the Caracas Mayor it gets more media exposure and spokespeople. To this you add an obscene campaign and unbearable pressure from chavismo and there is no telling how that rather meager 400 000 votes will in fact play. I for one think that watching how ungraceful chavismo was in its Miranda, Carabobob, Tachira and Caracas losses might provoke enough chavista to stay home, or even vote for the new governors and mayors as a way to force the government to listen to them and cooperate in solving problems. All polls reflect an exhaustion of the electorate of the constant fighting, pretty much a union factor among all political tendencies. Also the undue pressure on public workers will probably make many of them get their revenge at the ballot.

How all these very subjective factors play, it is rather difficult to measure. For once many serious pollsters are talking of a “hidden” voter, as they confess unable to really give reliable numbers. The atmosphere in the streets seems to go for the NO (not in Yaracuy where the political suicide of the opposition last November allow me my third prediction in that the SI will win here with 58% of the vote). Still the only campaign we see is the SI as it even appears at Globovision. But the NO campaign is there if anything by news of students arrested in Barinas, Tachira, and Carabobo.

I think that the Chavez campaign has been too much for the country and that it will backfire and that the opposition will get much more than the 4763, enough to overcome the NO but in yet another close result that will not settle anything. In the tables I tried to do to account for these speculations I came up with this result: a NO victory by less than 150 000.

I did calculate that almost two weeks ago, just three days before the Datanalisis poll that put the SI/NO on statistical error, meaning that the SI was winning by the narrowest of margins. I am sorry that I had not published my calculation then because Datanalisis would have agreed with me and I would have scored big. Oh well… However my numbers explain very well why the opposition message in the closing days of the campaign is for all to go and vote and stay to count the ballots. Clearly a 150 000 lead must be watched and nurtured as much as possible because it would be very easy for chavismo to cheat if given a chance.

But I do not want to sound pessimistic, I think that the opposition is going to do better than expected in all the states it won last November, and probably carry Barinas and Caracas/Libertador. As such the victory of the NO could be as high as by 400 000 votes which would represent a 4 to 6% respectable spread. But I am conservative in speculations and stick with my first call of 150 000, with more votes for each side than in 2007, as my final prediction.

In truth, of all predictions I gave in recent elections, this is the one I feel the least good about, meaning that anything can actually come out from next Sunday ballot. Clearly, if my predictions are proven wrong by the NO winning by 400 000 or more, I will not be upset. After all the dismal show of chavismo in Caracas today gives me hope that I might be dead wrong :)

As for what it will all mean, you will need to wait for my Saturday post.

-The end-

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A classic "red bait" campaign: right wing Chavez

Long time readers of this blog are familiar with my thesis that this is not a revolution but a reactionary movement harking back to supposed values of Venezuela's past. Well, this 2009 campaign is quite a throw back to the past, an almost classical reference to those campaigns in the 50ies and 60ies, the "red bait" who served all the way until Reagan was elected in 1980 and Mitterrand in 1981.

What is the Chavez campaign doing this time around?


  • Gassing students protesting, beating up marches of students walking hands painted in white and raised above their heads.

  • Calling political opponents traitors, accusing them of conspiracy to surrender the country to foreign powers.

  • Blackmailing the country with the argument that the sitting president (political party) is the only guarantee of peace for Venezuela.

  • And the classical argument that all in Venezuela is getting better, that what lags behind is due to sabotage and simply to a lack of time to do all that needs to be done.
Now, does that not ring a bell? Were not those the arguments offered by all sorts of right wing political parties in office in Europe and elsewhere to delay as much as possible the arrival of the democratic left to power?

Amazingly, the campaign of Human Rights, of progress is held in Venezuela by the opposition while Chavez manages a classical old style right wing campaign.

Update: a couple of hours after writing the above lines I saw this perfect Weil cartoon to illustrate the harsh right wing campaign Chavez is subjecting the country.




-The end-

Monday, February 09, 2009

Daniel at Jewcy

I was posting less last week after the flurry of posts over the Synagogue attack in Caracas. One reason is that I was writing a note for Jewcy, a site of interests for Jewish people and their friends (I am a gentile, and agnostic at that). I had been asked long ago to start collaborating there and last week I could not demure anymore. Please visit and say hello to show your support, not only to this blogger.

On a related topic there is this great editorial in the Miami Herald who wonders why Europe and North America condemned so strongly the Synagogue attack while the rest of South America kept an obscene silence. The most damning silence is the one from Cristina K. who until now was very vocal in support of Argentina Jews. Goes to tell you how dependant financially (and mafiosili) she has become of Chavez….

-The end-

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Venezuela 2009 vote I: you call this an electoral campaign?

So Chavez in his immense hubris, and his fear of leaving office someday, decided to launch the country in yet another mad electoral contest. He has on his side all the power of the state whereas the other side at best can have the power of reason and ethics, which they do not use that well anyway.

I have covered previous elections in as much in detail as I could, but this one, well, not only I did not have the heart to cover but I did not have much time for it anyway. But I suppose that I must cover it at some point as I am running out of excuses. After all, what better excuse to avoid discussing the grossness of our political landscape than to lament a synagogue attack? Thus today I will offer you my view on the campaign and tomorrow my electoral predictions.

The Chavez camp

What can I say that has not been said already? Well, at least we can point out that it is worse than ever.

The CNE partiality has been worse than ever.

All the electoral trickery from chavismo has been accepted, from the illegal timetable to the referendum question which hides what cannot be hidden. In fact the very worst violation of all is that the referendum question allows the National Assembly to rewrite as it pleases 5, FIVE, articles of the constitution AFTER the vote. That is right, we are going to vote on amending 5 articles and WE DO NOT KNOW what the text of the new articles will be. The CNE apparently has no problems with that.

The use and abuse of state power has been worse than ever.

The propaganda blitz for the SI (even in Globovision!!) has left far behind the extensive campaigning of last fall with distribution of washers and refrigerators included. SI posters, stickers, t-shorts are hurting our eyes even though in January the government has tried to soften the edges by including some green pastel and yellow to its color schemes. This week at 11 AM I was stuck in traffic in San Felipe, where there is normally very little traffic, because public employees were marching for the SI in main street. In fact all chavistas elected last November have not started to rule their new territory: they were conscripted from the start to campaign for the reelection. They were even asked to give one day salary to the SI camp…. But for me the most insulting moment was to find SI advertisement in my Gmail page. Who paid for that? What kind of anti US revolution advertises in the most globalized tool of the world?

The idiocy of some of the Chavez supporters has been worse than ever.

I am not going to go into the details on how ridiculous the chavista arguments are to justify the eternal reelection amendment. Even Sweden was called to help because, well, the Prime minister can be voted in as long as people wanted. Of course in that particular example they forgot to mention that Olof Palme was assassinated going to the movies, on foot, because the social compact of Sweden is, well, very different from the one in Venezuela, allowing for a long term Prime Minister to live without body guards. Chavez has more on duty body guards than there are members of the Swedish parliament… If someday as a sitting president Chavez goes to the Sambil movies with a couple of body guards only then maybe I might not object so much to eternal reelection.

However there was a particularly offensive moment: when Robert Serra in an interview to El Nacional declared that he was fine in trusting his entire future to Chavez. That is right, a freshly graduated student of the chavismo camp (who I am told by UCAB friends has already body guards) thinks it is fine to surrender your thinking process to a single man for life. Some pearls of his January 25 interview:

-- [...]Chavez is the fatherland...

--Something positive with the Venezuelan opposition? --Nothing

--The revolution mistake? --Lack of authority in letting the opposition do as it pleases.

--What movies do you chose when you go out? --I have no time to go. All my mind and my time are always dedicated to the revolution. [sic]

--Do you remember how long was the president speech January 13? --Seven hours and a half.

--And the one of Barack Obama? --I did not listen to it but I believe it was shorter because he had nothing to say in front of all the achievements that Chavez had to show.

--Would you obey any order from Hugo Chavez? --Any one, as a faithful soldier.

--What would happen to Venezuela if Hugo Chavez loses the amendment [vote]? --Sadness for the revolution and its opposition… Chavez is the only guarantee for peace in Venezuela.

There you have it, the intellectual content of the SI campaign in full. No wonder the opposition students can stir the masses, produce crop after crop of leaders while chavismo student body leaders seem to be as recycled as the cabinet seats of chavismo.

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you’re free

The opposition camp


The opposition started with a major handicap: it was flat broke after the expensive fall campaign for mayors and governors. Chavez does not have this problem. Could be one of the explanations of why Chavez moved so fast on what he perceived as a meager electoral success of November 23.

However the opposition had a major advantage form the start: the moral high ground. No matter what the campaign of Chavez tried to pull, the fact remains that the reelection of Chavez was refused in 2007 and people know it. In fact numbers were negative enough for Chavez that he was forced in January to include everyone as benefiting of the reelection. On that and his absurd campaign he managed to improve his polls until apparently the race became too close to call one week before the vote (more in next post).

But the opposition did get some mileage on the cheap form this stunning change of Chavez who until December refused to extend reelection to anyone but himself.

The only bright light in the opposition campaign is the demonstration that a new generation of student leaders, perhaps even brighter than the 2007 one, has come to the front. Folks like David Smolanski are more articulate than the Guevara or Goicochea of the 2007 duel. And again the students offer the intellectual substrate for the opposition campaign that the politicians seem unable to provide.

As such the opposition campaign had to be low key, few posters, the TV advertisement financed by the CNE. It is more of a door to door affair with the students offering the street action that seems to terrify Chavez who was not afraid to order the best quality tear gas to repress students. That latest abuses of chavismo seems to have backfired badly as the growing tendency of the SI in polls seems to have brutally stopped forcing suddenly a new tender and loving Chavez, willing to talk on the phone with ex student leader Stalin Gonzalez.

Listen to the music of the moment people, dance and sing
We’re just one big family

Conclusion


The opposition started ahead. The massive campaign of Chavez was able to impress a few (though polls are weary of a “scare” factor strong enough this time to obscure results). But the violence of chavismo in mid January was too much for some and the favorable trend for the SI seems to have stopped just as polls were getting even. A such serious pollsters advice, the election is too close to call (and I agree as you will read in next post).

However one thing is absolutely certain, this election and its brief campaign will divide Venezuelans more than ever. Those who will vote SI will vote deliberately for a paternalist state where the only beneficiaries will be those who obey Chavez, as Robert Serra so eloquently tells us. They also vote for violence and accept Chavez blackmail. I cannot speculate on what motivates such people since I am allergic to any form of militaristic undue authority, of failed leadership who retains its appeal only on emotions. I suppose that chavistas have their reason besides what I detailed a few weeks ago, and at least I dearly hope so.

And yet, the election again will not solve anything. Chavez will not get the crushing and definitive victory that has eluded him in ten years (in his mind he needs 80% of the vote to feel at peace, I suppose). But the opposition will probably not get the 10% margin victory it needs to weaken decisively Chavez and bring back more democratic manners in Venezuela, such as allowing opposition governors and mayors to fulfill their electoral promises.

Again we will vote and nothing will be settled while chavismo corruption will keep bleeding the country. However this will be the last time chavismo can cruise to victory relatively easy because the economic crisis coming will sorely test the sustainability of chavismo populism. The final battle cannot be that far.

In other words, we need to forget about Chavez threats, about our anxiety and go and vote NO as every single vote, even if we lose, will be a stab at Chavez ego.

So please don’t, there is no need
There is no need to complicate
‘Cause our time is short
This is, this is, this is our fate



-The end-

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