Saturday, September 11, 2010

The 2010 election predictions: Oriente

Oriente, the North Eastern part of Venezuela, used to be Accion Democratica land.  As such it had no problem to become chavista land within a few years.  In 2008 chavismo took everything but the small island of Margarita, a sweep that left me quite surprised.  After all, we are not talking here of a region with particular affinities for a Llanero president: people of Oriente are a little bit different than the rest of the country, speak faster, swallow the ending of many of their words and look at Caracas like some alien city.  Since the Monagas brothers, if memory serves me well, the 4 states of Oriente have only given Venezuela one president, Lusinchi, in 1983-1988.  Their last attempt was the disastrous candidacy of Alfaro Ucero from Monagas that did so much to bring Chavez to power.  That does not mean Oriente has not participated in Venezuela history: it has its shares of heroes, ministers, writers and artists.  But perhaps there is some lingering effect that the Spanish province of Nueva Andalucia was attached quite late in the XVII century to Caracas and Orientales like to stay among themselves.

Old AD was prompt after 1958 in transforming Oriente as its bastion, getting only limited challenges from COPEI and the MAS.  In 2000 it managed to retain Monagas, though Anzoategui defected chavismo a couple of years later.  But in 2004, chavismo won it all but the smallest state of Nueva Esparta, the lone opposition possession with Zulia.  By 2008 with the previous defection of Sucre it seemed that maybe the opposition would recover some lost ground but it was not to be: Tarek Saab got a strong and unaccountable reelection, Sucre was conquered fully by chavismo and Monagas reached among the highest chavista numbers for a state that barely a decade ago was among the highest AD vote getters.  I have to admit that I was shocked at the extent of chavista victory in 2008 in that area.  I had given up on Monagas but I was hoping that either Sucre or Anzoategui would return to the opposition camp. I supposed that up to 2008 I had failed to measure the full extent at which chavismo had been built at the expense of AD, something that Chavez is very careful to hide and that AD never brings to discussion as understandably too embarrassing.  Maybe Orientales sensed better than the rest of the country that Chavez was just a more autocratic, more corrupt form of AD and had no problem going along with it.

Fortunately there are now clear winds of changes.  If PSUV will retain a majority of parliamentary seats in that area, there will be enough losses to start open the way to a future change.  Even if it means a partial return to AD.  The PSUV problem today is that it seems to have taken for granted 3 of those 4 states, having no qualms in imposing some of the most severe electricity shortages in the area, some of the more roughshod politics over the few opposition that still existed.  As such chavismo has been collecting a lot of enemies there, most of them coming from the ranks of the 1999 chavismo first wave.  The Piper might not arrive yet this year but he will send a few scary collection notices.

Nueva Esparta

The archipelago state includes the tourist mecca of Venezuela, Margarita island.  As it is usually the case in Venezuela, the more urban, the more globalized an area is, the less likely it is to vote for Chavez.  Margarita  is no exception.  From my recent visits I have figured out that all the tourist zone of the Eastern part, from Juangriego to Porlamar have suffered a lot from the current recession and crime wave, less imports to fill up the store shelves to attract tourists, more crime to scare away tourists.  In addition chavismo has been promoting land invasions in tourist areas such as Juangriego.  I wonder if the votes they might gain from the mainlanders they brought in to overcrowd the island will be able to compensate the "native" backlash.

Above I put native in between quote marks because the Margarita original population has been diluted a lot, first by emigration before mass tourism, and then by mass tourism as many people decided to settle in Margarita where life was very nice, at least until a decade ago.  The average Margarita voter today is not born on the island or has at least one of its parents born outside of the island.  The 2000 chavismo victory was an accident and Chavez took Margarita granted from the start as he does not understand at all tourism as an industry and thus had no qualms in trying to tax the island more than what it should if it needs to attract visitors.  In 2004 the backlash was loud and clear as Margarita bucked the national trend of all going to Chavez, reelecting pre Chavez Governor Morel Rodriguez who had no trouble in getting reelected in 2008 in spite of a massive personal effort from Chavez.  For this year vote I do not see much effort from Chavez there, though he never writes off anything,  and thus the 3 out of the 4 seats at the very least should go for the opposition.  In fact, if it were not for the Macanao and Punta de Piedras areas who live much more of the misiones than tourism, Nueva Esparta could well give its 4 seats to the the opposition as this one vote could double the PSUV total.  I doubt it would but I would not be entirely surprised if it were to happen as chavista workers at Porlamar malls and the surrounding resorts around can see the drop of tourist numbers and the difficulty their employers are facing to keep them on the payroll..

The prediction is simple: the district of Porlamar and Pampatar is a shoo in for the opposition and the district of Macanao and Juangriego include enough anti Chavez areas that the opposition should win without much trouble.  The two list representatives will split evenly.  As such Margarita will confirm once again that it is kind of a maverick state, with a strong tendency to vote against whomever is in charge in Caracas.

Total Nueva Esparta: 1 PSUV, 1 COPEI, 1 UNT, 1 AD


Monagas is in many ways the opposite of Nueva Esparta.  It is a land locked state for all practical purposes, considered Llanero by some for its geography but still quite different from the Llanero culture that is found once you cross over to Guarico.  With significant native American population it is also different than the other Oriente states.  Basically what we have there is cattle ranching and oil, lots of oil and thus lots of PDVSA influence,  hence the probable explanation as to how Monagas went from staunch AD to staunch PSUV: PDVSA controls all the good jobs so you better be nice and accommodating if you want one.

There is not much for the opposition to expect in Monagas today, although a general fatigue of chavismo is certainly taking a toll on the PSUV there.  The good news for the opposition is the significant infighting of chavismo as many factions want a share of the loot.  The best the opposition can hope is to make sure chavismo does not double its vote share so at least one list representative goes to the opposition.  It is a sign of chavismo confidence in that state that they did not feel compelled to gerrymander the three representative district of Maturin, as it would have been fair to give a larger voice to the rural pauper South by including it within a "Maturin South" single district (which would have been won by chavismo anyway).

Another factor, probably not that minor, is that chavismo is running there Diosdado Cabello at the top of the PSUV ticket.  True, he was born there, but is he not just coming from being governor of Miranda state two years ago?  What kind of native son is that!?   Still, chavismo will carry the state, though with a vote drop of at least 10% as divisions and imposed candidates will turn off a significant share of its electorate.

Total Monagas:  5 PSUV, 1 AD


This state is the most populous of the lot, the more industrialized and developed. Still, compared to Carabobo or Zulia it lags quite a lot in spite of its oil wealth and oil industry.  There has been enough development in the area to have allowed trade unions to play a role in the local politics and those ones went PSUV after 2003, probably accounting in part for Tarek Saab election in 2004.  The governor was dispatched by Chavez from his Caracas circles because he was a native of the state and from El Tigre area, I believe, a representative of the large middle eastern immigration that went to Anzoategui.  Tarek wanted to be the poet laureate of the bolibanana revolution and showed a significant past of human rights activist.  But once at the right side of Chavez he was quick in adopting the maxim that some equal rights are more equal than others and became fast a hated figure for the opposition.

Tarek does not seem to have taken with pleasure his nomination for Anzoategui.  In normal times he certainly  would not have won but 2004 was a special year.  Making the best of a bad situation Tarek grew to like the joint and the feel f power, even if local.  He wasted no time in suing the former governor.  His reelection campaign was certainly more convincing than his first election one.   He has also become one of the most sycophantic governors you would be able to find around, probably hoping to return to Chavez inner circle after his 8 years exile.  But such power wielding does not go without some consequences and Tarek has alienated many chavistas such as the ex mayor of El Tigre, the third city of the state.  Ernesto Paraqueima is young and dynamic even if of questionable ethics (in Oriente ethics are particularity irrelevant I must say).  The fact of the matter is that he has become a problem for Tarek who had him barred from running for public office for 8 months, for a minor administrative technicality.  Eight months, how convenient!  Ernesto was considered an almost shoo in for district 1 which now elects two representatives instead of one.  Ernesto by himself would have brought two points for the opposition, even though they would come through PODEMOS.  So the opposition did the next best thing,  Paraqueima senior is running instead and Ernesto campaigns hard next to him, at every step, so you might be forgiven to wonder about who is really running.

The other district where the opposition has a good shot, in fact better than for district 1, is district 4 of Puerto La Cruz.  There Marcos Figueroa is running.  He run for Sotillo mayor as an independent in 2008 where he managed a very respectable 46%.  I think he should finally get the nod.

In the other districts the opposition has less of a chance.  District 2 is too rural and to PDVSA dependent to be challenged at this time.  District 3 which elects 2 seats includes the state capital, Barcelona.  On paper a 5% shift on 2008 results leaves the district comfortably inside chavismo, but in 2007 chavismo lost while in 2009 it won but below national average.  In a way it can be considered as a bellwether district: if the opposition picks the two seats on September 26 then the overall result will have been a very bad day for chavismo.  As for the list vote, it should split evenly, no surprise expected there.

Eventually the final outcome will depend on how upset people are in Anzoategui about the semi constant power outages, so much so  that you need to go to the Andes region to find people suffering more from these.  If in my opinion Tarek Saab is a terrible and vindictive governor, he has been good for chavismo, cultivating a populist aura, a close association to Chavez and a dynamic us versus them language.  As such his weaknesses compensate his strengths and he would not be such a negative for chavismo as it happens with other chavista governors.  In addition, even though the opposition has found a grudging unity, divisiveness is never too far from the surface and Anzoategui had to hold primaries in two districts.  Thus primaries there might help less than in other places in stimulating opposition vote.

Total Anzoategui: 2 PSUV, 2 leaning PSUV, 1 independent, 1 AD, 2 leaning opposition


This is the most maritime state of Venezuela, after Margarita of course.  It is also the closest in mood and culture to Margarita.  But unlike Margarita it has failed to develop a vigorous tourism industry (mostly limited to national tourism) and has no industry really worth writing about.  Thus fishing and agriculture (a large part of the state is too dry for any agriculture) has made it a state who easily became dependent of state handouts. It was not surprising then that the MAS managed to take Sucre before Chavez became president through the figure of Ramon Martinez, reelected in 2000 and 2004.

Ramon Martinez has a reputation of being a corrupt administrator, not alien to rough methods to get his way.  As such he was a darling of Chavez who loved his rather disgusting sycophantic ways.  But this did not prevent a break up in 2007 when Martinez could not take it anymore: he seems to be a democrat deep down.  The more so that Chavez is always eager to get rid of people he is indebted to: you would be hard pressed to find major political figures of chavismo in 1999, those who helped his election in 1998, still around today.

For all of its efforts Martinez failed to carry the state in 2007.  Chavez promoted the terrible mayor of Cumana to replace Martinez in 2008 who was not allowed then a third term and the Martinez sponsored candidate, ex mayor of Carupano, was not even picked as unity candidate.  Never mind that a divided opposition lost the state Capital, Cumana, where united they would have beaten the PSUV candidate.  As such it would seem that the chavista take over of Sucre was even more complete than the one of Anzoategui.   Now Ramon Martinez is in exile and was barred form running for the Cumana seat that he woudl have taken easily, believe it or not...... 

But the state might not be as safe as chavismo might think it is. Through Twitter I got a picture of the latest visit of Leopoldo Lopez in Cumana and I am surprised at the crowd following someone who after all is not the candidate for Cumana, and who looks very little like an Oriental in speech and ways.  Since this series of posts is rather dry, for once I will indulge and post an image.  You can see Leopoldo Lopez working it, messy hair and sweaty shirt (then again Voluntad Popular is running one of its lone candidates in Cumana, so he should work it out there).  But let's not be fooled by it: of the three districts of Sucre, the opposition only has a rather remote chance in district 3.  That might not be too bad though as it is a two seats district.

District 3 has another detail possibly favoring the opposition: the governor of the state, ultra vulgar and violent Henrique Maestre is running there his brother, Jesus Maestre.  Since the short rule of Maestre at state is as bad as his rule as Cumana mayor, corruption wise among other things, we can see chavista nepotism at play, putting all the famiglia at key posts.  After all Maestre was reelected in 2004 with only 47% of the vote in what was a banner year for chavismo (Ramon Martinez carried Cumana with 61%).  In 2008 he did carry Cumana after all, but with 2% less than the state average.  Maybe two Maestre for Cumana might be a tad too much for the locals?

But if Cumana with his little bit of economic activity, his major university, fits the mold of being less chavista than the hinterlands, the other two districts of Sucre are a lost cause.  True, at least district 2 must be getting tired of unfilled promises (the raid to Macuro was never finished) and must be upset at the end of fishing industry due to smugglers and drug traffickers who want no one but them on the waters as they ship cheap gas to the Caribbean and drugs wherever.  A few months ago El Nacional run a special report on how fishermen could not take anymore to the seas because their boats were stolen or sunk, and in the best case they would remain alive, barely, to tell the other to desist sailing, too scared to complain to nonexistent authorities, too busy smuggling gasoline to Trinidad.  As for district 1 I fear the situation there is hopeless, too poor over all, too dependent a district, even with a 10% drop in the chavista vote.

Total Sucre: 3 PSUV, 2 leaning PSUV, 1 AD


NOTE:  I feel like reminding readers that accompanied me so far that I am writing these analysis in the frame of early August, before the campaign started, before polling was done over the effect of Pudreval and other scandals.  Although I have made some adjustments based on local events, I am trying to stay clear from national events.  Once I finish my last post on Aragua and Carabobo next week, I will try to design some table to summarize these posts and will update my predictions there as needed.


  1. snook728:19 PM

    Not to take away from your post...but how about the string of bad luck for Chavistas. Two in bonaire and fire at another refinery docks. Karma?

  2. snook

    only the death of lara could bring a difference, some sympathy vote for chavismo. but he was truly unlikeable so i doubt it will make a difference one way or the other unless it starts as of today a succession battle.

    the rest is not even a blip in the radar.

  3. Excellent analysis, Daniel. Felicitaciones.

    A comment: I find it a tragedy the opposition has not recognized the importance of Maturín, a city with over 650 thousand inhabitants.

    I was reading a forum from Primero Justicia there and I saw the discussion they had were really stupid. One of the PJ guys from Caracas was sent there last year to put some order and discuss who was going to do what and the discussion that ensued was the typical "fulanito se ganó el liderazgo" and "Caracas tiene que reconocer quién (of PJ) tiene el liderazgo aquí". For a party that got 0.91% of the votes in Maturin 2008, talking about liderazgo of any one of them is rather stupid.

    As of lately I am convinced Proyecto Venezuela and Primero Justicia do not want to lavar ropa ni prestar la batea para nada.

  4. kepler

    prvzl is the worse though they did mellow some this time around out of necessity. pj can be quite accommodating on occasion and quite stubborn on other. but do not think that the other guys are generous: they are just more willing to deal but they can show their fangs as easily. i think that PODEMOS and Voluntad Popular are the more selfless of the lot, then again they are the ones with more trouble and need all the friends they can can get.

  5. Anonymous2:00 PM

    snook72: "Not to take away from your post...but how about the string of bad luck for Chavistas. Two in bonaire and fire at another refinery docks. Karma?"

    Karma? No. That's Simon Bolivar's utterly-pissed-off ghost who has decided to liberate Venezuela once more.

    And the death total for Chavista supporters right now stands as 5 (Tascon, Muller, Lara, the parlatino guy and the VEA guy). There's a poll going on about who's going to be next. I think Jaua is the leader with Godgiven in close second.

  6. Yorugua5:00 PM

    Daniel I have a high regard for your opinions, however, I think there is one angle that your left out. I search the entire post and did not find a single use of the word "fraud".

    Here you have an administration that is violating every rule in the book during the campaign and Tibsay comes out and says she does not see anything wrong.

    And you expect the counting to be legit?

    You've done this kind of analysis before. Many times. And where are we? Every time there is an election we take a step back -win or lose. Because if the ones we won ended up being meaningless in the long run.

    And every time there is an election we hear "we MUST vote". And I love this one "we MUST DEFEND our vote" - whatever that means.

    Aren't you tired of this? I am beginning to think that you get a kick out of many of your readers telling you how smart you are by your excellent analyses. And they are. They are well written and well researched blah blah blah but when are you going to face the fact that Chavez and "Chavismo" are here to stay until they are taken out by force.

  7. yoruga

    i am not mixing up issues. things are already too complex to treat them all in single entries.

    thus in these posts i discuss the electoral perspective of public opinion and normal voting as I perceive them, as if votes would actually be counted. discussion of fraud and what to do about it is for other posts, when the time comes.

    besides, look at my archives and you will find quite often that we are dealing with a thug regime, so i am quite clear on what is really going on. but that is no excuse not to keep acting as a democrat and of not covering all the issues, be it wishful thinking as these posts be it appeal to arms if it were to come to that. i do not know how to shoot, i have never killed anyone nor i plan to do so. what else can i do but vote and try to remain at my voting station to make sure all votes are counted? since i have no aspiration whatsoever to hold public office, it for those who want to reach miraflores to play hard and lead us, not me.

  8. Boludo Tejano9:52 PM

    From Commentary: Venezuela on the Brink.
    The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.

    “Our new baseline of at least three years of economic contraction suggests the risks to Venezuela’s ability to honor its international financial commitments may be on the rise,” wrote Daniel Volberg and Giuliana Pardelli in a June report, at the same time predicting that GDP will fall by 6.2 percent in 2010. “While most of Latin America, in line with the globe, has been in recovery mode since last year, Venezuela has seen an intensifying downturn in activity,” they added.

    This is old news to VN&V readers, as is the rest of the article, such as imprisonment of political opponents- or someone who says something that does not present good news about Thugoslavia. But at least it is being presented to readers in the US.

    An aside about the Oriente. I once had an online conversation with a blogger about our respective memories of Anaco, which was the blogger's home town. The blogger said that as Anaco was a "small town" - at least compared to Caracas [not to MY home town of several thousand]- that the political divisions were not as polarized as in other places. I also recall her saying that the Chavista representative for Anaco was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

  9. Yorugua12:15 AM

    Daniel thanks for your response. In case you were wondering, I have never killed anyone either.

    So how does a pacifist deal with a
    thuggish regime?
    Hope that there are some "good" non-pacifists out there to do the dirty work. That's how.

    In the meantime you still want to help, great! why don't you start a hunger strike like your hero Ghandi did. Do anything but please
    stop promoting a "democratic way" that not only has proven time and again it doesn't work but gives the "thuggish" regime a democratic cover internationally.
    It might make you feel great, it might make you feel intellectually superior, but it is prolonging this hell a lot longer.

  10. Anonymous12:15 AM

    Boludo Tejano, my memories of Venezuela are primarily in Anaco as well, the few contacts I've maintained have recently mentioned how the Mayor of Anaco has had his wife leave him, and a fair bit of money at his disposal was spent on his mistress. As opposed to going towards some of the Chavista people waiting to be paid... It's doubtful these people will ever be paid now as the money's long spent. I don't know if this has happened enough to piss off thousands and to have them change their voting...

    marc in calgary

  11. yoruga

    you got me! i am doing this to feel intellectually superior, not becasue i might actually believe in the ethics that i promote. nice catch! my cover is blown up!

  12. snook7211:16 AM


    Has the opposition come up with a plan to try to defend the vote of the people. I know it's hard, but have they announced what kind of action they are taking to prevent any "funny business". We all know that Chavismo will do whatever it has to to win and hold on to power, but the oppo can't make it easy for them either.

    I know you said it should be for another post, but with two weeks left ids there enough time?

  13. Daniel:

    Thanks for your insightful analysis. If the election is fair, I can see a good chance of divided opposition outnumbering Chavismo in the Assembly.

    Btw, did you hear they are going to lay off 500K people in Cuba amd I thought socialism guaranteed employment for all.


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