Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can Capriles campaign square the circle?

Well, he is trying but he will not succeed at it since like for the famous mathematical problem his own problem has its own transcendental π number that cannot offer a finite solution.  Capriles transcendental number is the chavista nomenklatura, too corrupt, too impregnated of Cuban nincompoopness and violence to be able to surrender power just through the ballot box.  Still, he needs to try and hope to find a good enough approximation to the solution and hope that it will pass.  The good news is that in my 10 days observation since I came back, he has made great progress.  At least as seen from his sweat drenched shirt today in Barlovento.

The game rules

It is not useless to remind folks what the situation is.  First, Chavez counts on 30% of the country who will vote for him no matter what, even if he were caught in an act of pedophilia.  It is a religion and Capriles is no prophet to turn that around in a scarce few months.  True, the opposition has a 30% faithful today that, even frequently suspending disbelief as I do, will vote for him.

The 40% of the country left either cannot be bothered to vote or is today, for all practical purposes, blackmailed by the chavista system into at the very least not to vote for Capriles.  Let's understand clearly the current economical situation.  People are painfully aware that there is no real jobs available out there, that the few ones are already taken and that the economy is not allowing the private sector to grow, the only source of real jobs. Granted, you and I understand that it is Chavez fault, and even Chavez plan all along, to make the country dependent on him, in an indentured state of tolerable poverty.  Within that 40% many, maybe most, sense that too but are not fretting as much about the causes as we do.  For them the reality is that their family stability depends too much on a single job in a government office, assorted with a couple of mision grants.  Not only losing any of the three is a real concern for them but even if they are sensitive to Capriles arguments they may still be more than reluctant to gamble it, no matter how much Capriles promises not to touch a single mision.

There is thus no other choice for Capriles but to promise to keep the misiones, to improve them and to spend even more money if necessary while not touching the sacred cows such as gas prices (and others such as today announcement that not even CANTV, the deficient phone company, will be re-privatized).

The hidden message

You and I know very well that increasing gas prices 10 fold will still leave us with a very cheap gas tank world wise, while freeing considerable resources to buttress the painful changes coming that neither Capriles nor Chavez will be able to avoid.  We know that the best thing that can happen in an age of cell phone is to return CANTV to the stock market, accompanied by a landline subsidy if needed. We understand that public sector ranks have to go down, if anything to remove the corrupt boss and the redundant administration so as to make some room for truly competent managers that will recover the state services.  We know that with a good severance pay, made possible through increasing gas price and utilities it is possible to get a grace period during which the fired creeps will remain quiet.  And more such "neo-liberal" measures that are unavoidable but which can be undertaken without the European trauma as long as oil remains above 100 USD a barrel. You and I know that Venezuela is not Europe and an eventual recession would be short lived if done right.

But we also know that if Capriles dares to mention any of these things, on October 7 he will not even get a meager 40%. So even if folks like me are scared that Capriles reckless promises are preparing us a reenactment of el Caracazo when the piper comes calling, we also realize that Chavez must go because a couple more years of Chavez and we will not even have food on our tables, without entering into the other damage to the country that will come along. Hence anything is fair game on the campaign trail.

On the trail

We must thus take comfort that even if we do not approve of Capriles campaign themes it is possible that he has no other choice and that fortunately he is carrying it rather well.  What serious pollsters indicate, beyond their widely diverging results, is that Capriles is stable with a tendency to grow while Chavez, in spite of the billions he is throwing in the streets, is not growing.  Granted, he is not going down either but at least there is a novelty this time around: money does not translate automatically in votes. This tells us that in spite of the massive attack on Capriles, his message still passes and threatens chavismo, hopefully pushing it to commit fatal mistakes.

The other thing that pleases me a lot is that as I predicted last year, the opposition will have to visit all 300+ districts.  Some made fun of me then, that it was not necessary, but the Capriles camp begs to differ and already they are heralding that they have visited 100 districts through their "casa por casa".  True, they will not reach the 300, perhaps not even symbolic Tocopero, but by October 7 Capriles will have reached the 200+ and the impact will be strong, in front of a Chavez that visits few districts, and from above his float, far from the howling masses (if present).

The other thing is that Capriles gets down and dirty on the trail.  The image today of him dripping in sweat in Barlovento tells us quite a tale.  First, he is alone in front of all that African-american population.  No handlers, no A.C. (Chavez carries portable AC around that blow on him whenever he is perorating at some table set for him, even before he became sick), just him and el pueblo.

And it is not that Capriles sweats in public, is that he manages to convey that he actually enjoys it.  He may not be a great speaker, he may not have boatloads of charisma, but clips like the one above from where this image is taken go down really well in the 40% he needs to convince.  And, why not, chip a few here and there among the 30% zealots.

It is still too early to make any prediction.  I will not start my arithmetical scenarios until late August.  But at least, after one week of watching Capriles, and comapring him with the hsyteria and abuse of Chavez on TV alone, I am looking forward the rest of the campaign.

We do have a chance, Capriles group just need to find a way to deal with their π, the corrupt chavista who know that they will not be able to avoid jail in a post Chavez era. This is what is becoming the real issue in the next months as Capriles odds of victory are becoming more and more realistic.


  1. Charly3:17 PM

    ".....who know that they will not be able to avoid jail in a post Chavez era".

    They will likely get a pass. Capriles strategy is to win without making too much waves. Once elected he will try to get this country back together again, at least that is what he is implying these days. Not only the corrupts will not go to jail, they will get to enjoy their ill gotten riches. Anything short of that will likely be considered as revenge. Sad but probably the least damaging path.

    1. I think that this time around they are not going to get a pass. True, they may not go to jail but the extent of chavismo robbery cannot go unpunished. They will have scapegoats? They will be politely asked to move out of the country? They will be asked to return funds in exchange of leniency?

      The challenge is to make it look like justice and not revenge but I can assure you that if the new administration does not hang at least a dozen chavista not only it will have an even harder time to control chavismo crowds but it will lose fast support among its own ranks. If Capriles wants to reach 3 years of administration he will need to hang a few. A short list that should not bee too difficult to to condemn without major trouble includes Rafael Ramirez and a couple of PDVSA "managers", a couple of the current sitting "justices", a couple of bolibourgeois.

      Granted, they probably will need to let Diosdado and Jaua and even JVR go unscathed but they need soem blood somewhere. Times have changed. Before the AD and Copei had equal burdens of guilt but this time around it is not the case because chavismo has made the fatal mistake to split the booty with Cuba only, no crumbs for our side. Speaking cynically of course.

    2. I missed this when you wrote it, Daniel. Lots of great analysis, but I hope you are wrong that people would abandon a transitional democratic government which did not "hang" Chavistas. Or that "they need some blood somewhere". The blood of which you speak would simply become a grievance, a talking point, and a source of political power for the Chavistas who are defeated "por ahora", but hope to come back to haunt you.

  2. Lovely, rich commentary, Daniel. Thank you. Learned something I didn't know (squaring the circle).

    Capriles' sweat equity (literally plus figuratively) and seeming results (adherents, fixing the agenda of opinion so that Chávez responds to it), defines his mature vision and provides a mechanism to unify a country that has been politically and socially fractured for the past 13 years.

    If Capriles wins, and I very much hope for that, he won't be able to do much in 3 years. But even if he can make a strong dent to reverse the patterns of crime, food importation, and of course, education, this would go a long way towards rebuilding the foundation for the next administration - may it not be the immature chavismo anytime soon.

    What Capriles is doing may not be as monumental as what Nelson Mandela did in South Africa. But it follows a similar vision of offering peace and reconciliation, worthy of note. (I highly recommend the film "Invictus"

  3. Dr. Faustus6:01 PM

    An excellent post!

  4. Very good analysis.

  5. I think Capriles has carried an EXCELLENT campaign. Unfortunately, he is not helped by the MSM who attack Chávez without putting Capriles upfront.

    IMHO Capriles has a serious chance to get elected. The reason? Because Chávez cannot grow: his numbers are his numbers. In 2006 he still got some support from the medium class. I don't think that now he will get any.

    We'll see...

    1. And what is the "medium" class seeing in its crystal ball this time around?


  6. Island Canuck10:42 PM

    He's doing a terrific job & for the first time in years we have a real chance of winning with a comfortable margin.

    Esto fue en Las Mercedes del Llano, el primer pueblo visitado por Capriles en Guárico, hoy!

  7. Island Canuck1:29 PM

    Further to my comment yesterday here's more evidence of the erosion of Chavez support.

    First of all the appearance of Chavez yesterday in the rojo-rojito zone of El Valle/Coche was a total disaster. No one showed up (a few hundred at best), the locals had a cacerolazo (banging of pots & pans) in protest & after the appearance 2 gangs got in a fight that left 2 dead.

    In the meantime the soon to be president HCR had a great day with 1000's in the streets & a strong message.

    For Saturday Chavez is supposed to go to Petare, another Chavista stronghold. The word is that all government employees are obligated to show up. Not looking well for El Supremo!

  8. Good article, Daniel. I, however, tend to think that the religious pro-Chávez zealots are close to 40%.

    1. You say 40oes I say 30oes...

      Kidding aside. I used the 40% loosely but I am not so sure anymore. I think, watching the "quality" of the campaign that we may need to split that 40% into a group of "do or die" and a group of "I am too scared to look for something else and to recognize that I have been wrong all along; and besides I need my job and the corruption that comes along". that later group may not be ready to vote for Capriles yet but they are ready to stay home of needed. they did it already once, in 2007.

      My 30% is thus the chavistas that are going indeed to vote for Chavez. And I mean going to vote, and punch the Chavez button. that difference between 30 and 40% are those who have not decided truly that they will go to vote but reply to pollsters that yes, they will vote for Chavez if they go to vote on October 7. Maybe I am optimistic? But do note that I am giving Capriles that same 30% that will vote for him no matter what, thus recognizing the evenness of the race at this date.

  9. Anonymous3:27 PM

    One of the comments to the first link says there were 400 to 500 security guards in crowd.
    Add to that those government workers who were forced to attend.
    What about those who just watching the spectacle but are not Chavistas.

    Then how many people really were there just to support Chavez?
    Answer-Not many.

    1. Anonymous3:32 PM

      The above comments by Anonymous are in response to Island Canuck's comment three up.

  10. I understand the viewpoint of the oil money and the handouts etc, and I agree that this in part will make Capriles electric and charasmatic...however:

    Not a good tactic in the long run....too much temptation for the skullduggery to continue as the powerful will remain so even though under a different name.As long as people are voting for freebies and are lacking in consciousness,I see no real remedy possible.

    As time passes it only becomes more and more difficult to confront the status quo.

    Without a real change, the faux change will end up :"plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".

    is that the best Venezuela can do?



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