The elections were not free
It is clear now that there were a lot of people that voted under duress. They were scared to find out at 3 PM that that the chavista electoral steam roller knew they had not voted yet. They got scared when they were hauled unto a van with other people that had not voted yet and were also found out. They were scared when they arrived at the voting center and saw strange machines and realized the privacy of vote was compromised. And thus they truly thought that chavismo would know whether they voted for Chavez or not.
Granted, with some preparation, warnings ahead, you could have gotten organized, voted early and voted for Capriles The fact of the matter is that many of these coerced voters would have voted for Chavez anyway. Yet, that is not the point. Nor is the point that the PSUV organized a "bring the vote in" operation as was never seen in this country, at a cost that must have been stunning. There is a difference between having an army of volunteers with their vehicles offering meeting points to carry folks to voting stations and going to their homes to drag them out to vote "or else", using people paid by the state, in vehicles paid by the state, with expenses paid by the state.
The point is that the Chavez organization was willfully manipulative, willfully coercive, willfully threatening and this is simply unacceptable.
As such the election of October 7 cannot be called a free election.
The elections were not fair
Making a complete account on why the elections were not fair would be a treatise. I will just limit myself to two very telling examples.
The media was overwhelmingly in favor of Chavez. It bears repeating over and over again that Chavez controls Venezuelan media because people outside either cannot believe the extent of the control, or are outright lying about it.
Chavez has been closing radio and TV stations, and neutralizing the others with threats, or offers of paid propaganda. I am not going into the inventory of what was closed: it is shorter to list what is still available for the Venezuelan population.
There is only one TV network were criticism of Chavez regime appears It is a CNN like network, Globovision, which has only open broadcast in Caracas and Valencia, the regime having forbidden it to broadcast anywhere else since 1999. As such Globovision reaches less than a quarter of Venezuelan population. The only way for people to tune in Globovision is subscribing to cable TV. And the state Cable TV system actually does not offer Globovision, even though by law they should offer it. Even if you take into account the TV cable or satellite systems, Globovision does not reach more than half of the country. That is, half of the Venezuelan people have only the 24/24 propaganda state system and a few private networks that only dare transmitting an occasional critical snippet at the 11PM news. If at all.
The situation in radio and newspapers is essentially the same Only in large cities where there is significant ad revenue can some radio stations offer critical talk shows of the regime. Small cities have a very scarce if not altogether non-existent offering.
The point here is not that the state system is 24/24 propaganda and that it is the only thing on TV/radio in many areas, the point is that you cannot use the media to have a successful institutional campaign to convince people of the secrecy of the vote, for example. That effect is actually worse for Capriles than the tiresome tirade of insults that the state media poured on him, at tax payer expense. The chavista crowd got the subliminal message that they better voted for Chavez, that it was their only option if they did not want to run into trouble.
To this you must add the endless Chavez cadenas, which this time around were also used to hide from Globovision viewers some important events of the Capriles campaign. A cadena, for those just crawling from under a rock, is the forced, coercive, simultaneous broadcast on all TV and radio stations of the country, by Chavez, of Chavez, for Chavez. That is, Chavez can launch a campaign tirade on all media at once, for as long as he wants, without anyone having the right to reply, certainly not though a cadena, and certainly not through the state media empire, even through the briefest of ads. Some folks have calculated that for 1 minute of media presence of Capriles campaign there was about 40 minutes of Chavez campaign. Except that Capriles often paid for that minute whereas Chavez never paid a penny.
The electoral board of Venezuela was nothing but the Chavez ministry for electoral matters. The Venezuelan electoral board, CNE, was obviously partial to chavismo. Not only the media abuse was endlessly reported to what is supposed to be the fair electoral umpire without any action from their part, but the CNE also knows of all the material abuses committed at state expenses by the regime. The CNE has not been able or willing to levy a single fine. In fact it announced frequent investigations on the opposition, more often that investigations on the Chavez campaign That none of these investigations will lead anywhere in the end is not a consolation, it is a mere excuse to justify the partiality of the CNE toward Chavez. In fact, the CNE was absolutely unwilling to force Chavez to tone down the direct insults he proffered all through the campaign against Capriles, racial and ethnic epithets galore.
With just these two items it is enough for any objective observer to declare that the conditions for a fair electoral campaign did not exist.
The election was not democratic
It is important to understand that democracy is not just about elections, it is also about the respect of individual rights.
However, if one wanted to strictly stick to elections as the symbol of democracy one could start by saying that Democracy is a day to day practice where the basic rights of the political minority are respected in a way that that minority has a fair chance to become a majority someday. This in Venezuela is not the case. Not only two Sundays ago we witnessed the vulgar abuse of the state machine, but we witnessed all though 2012 how that machine was used to crush those who oppose it. It was always made clear that Chavez was never going to play by the rules. The opposition had no other option but to try run the campaign because the alternative was to place bombs at strategic locations.
If we pretend to look just at elections we still cannot pretend that Venezuela is a democracy. When electoral results are adverse to the regime this one has ways to "compensate". No matter how rigged an electoral system there is always the off chance that there is a set back here and there.
In 2008 when the regime lost some substantial states, the regime took away some of the governors competences, those that could bring in some revenues or offer some limited patronage. And then it proceeded to starve them from its legal revenue by basically robbing them through the national budget. Governors not aligned with the regime had limited means to try to fulfill their commitments, while those aligned with the regime became even more subservient to the central power, if possible.
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This particular episode was for this blogger the opportunity to declare the Chavez regime a dictatorship since there was no more democracy tenets to be found in the ways the elections were held, nor in the respect of the electoral result.
It was important to review what was the past electoral baggage before the campaign for the 2012 election started: it was clear that when the seat of real power would be itself at stake, no stops would be pulled by the regime to make sure the election would not be lost. Let's see the highlights.
We saw the banning for some candidates to run for election though through non judicial means, administrative fiats from the regime would be enough. But that was not enough: the regime had the nerve to question primaries of the opposition going as far as Chavez suggesting the names of the candidates he would like to face.
When the primaries were organized, a strictly private and democratic affair within the opposition, the regime tried to interfere with. Once they were held, the regime tried to obtain the roll calls of those who participated to update its infamous Tascon list. The opposition had no choice but to disobey the judicial order and destroy the rolls before the regime could seize them through force.
It is important to remind readers that the Tascon list, named after the now deceased representative Luis Tascon, is a list based on the names of those who signed for a recall election on Chavez in 2004. That list having be made public was used by the regime to create a set of second class citizens which were denied their rights, from the right to apply to a public service job to simply obtain a passport. You can imagine what would have happened if the million and a half of the Tascon list were updated with the 3 millions that participated in the opposition primary.
And then of course was the general tone of the campaign until election day.
It is clear that the 2012 campaign never occurred inside a democratic climate, where a minimum respect for the adversary existed. Certainly as in any campaign both sides can be blamed for this or that, but in the Venezuela 2012 campaign I can assert with all confidence that for any undemocratic posture of the Capriles campaign there were at least 10 undemocratic actions from the Chavez campaign.
The elections were neither free, nor fair, nor democratic
The conclusion cannot be avoided: Chavez may be the legal winner but he is not legitimately elected. Some would argue that since 2004, but those were clouded days. Now, after observing what happened in 2012 there cannot be talk of any legitimacy for Chavez. All must assume the consequences.
This blogger, personally has ceased since 2010 to recognize any legitimacy in Chavez office. What happened this year simply confirms his position. It is now certain that peaceful ways to remove Chavez from office are not a viable option, but the only one available for the time being. Let's just hope that disease will spare us violence.
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