Monday, February 25, 2013

Diego Arria or the 47%?

I was watching with interest Diego Arria participation in the Globovison opinion talk show "Alo Ciudadano" (1).  He may be infuriating or be considered a Delphic oracle, the point is that he stirs up stuff and gets into necessary controversy within the opposition. Tonight Mr. Arria pointed his guns towards the opposition mistakes in last year campaign, or more exactly on how poor was the reaction of the MUD after the defeat of October and the disaster of December. I am not going to disagree on principle with him since these pages have bemoaned quite often how wimpy Capriles has turned out to be, or worse, lackluster in his creativity. It is not that we are expecting Capriles to take a gun and storm Miraflores, but we could have expected from someone that aspires to become president of Venezuela to possess a better sense of political timing, a more forceful line when confronting the regime. In all honesty he has made progress this year but the damage is done, I am afraid.

Mr. Arria has never stopped stirring to the point that actually Capriles attacked him, pointing out his poor score in the primaries. This of course was yet another mistake of Capriles as we all know that the quality of the message is not linked to the numbers of messengers. As Arria pointed out tonight, if we were to follow Capriles implication, Chavez being the top vote getter we should all remain silent. I will be simpler in my appreciation: Capriles only looked ridiculous when he attacked Arria, and did him a great favor.

Unfortunately for Capriles since that last spat, and more importantly for Primero Justicia, the electoral report that was made public a few days ago puts squarely some of the blame for the loss of October on Capriles and PJ (2). Arria stated tonight that PJ hijacked the campaign, moved away from the common program agreed for the primary and basically did their campaign on their own, ignoring and thus demotivating other political actors. I may add myself that it looks more and more that the real objective of PJ was to become the main political force of the opposition rather than actually defeating Chavez. But of course, I love dramatic statements (3).

What Arria is actually putting on the table, even if he did not articulate it quite that way, is that the next election is going to be about ideas, about a transition and no more about pothole fixing. In short, the political situation, and the economical one for that matter, is completely different today than it was a little over a year ago when the primary was run.

When I wrote in the post election funk of October 8 that there was a 47% of dependent citizens that had to vote for Chavez I was attacked by some idiot leftist that did not get my point then. Whether those 47% in Venezuela are simple profiteers or are blackmailed into submission by the regime is really not the point (4). The point is that the societal structure of Venezuela after 14 years of chavismo has transformed a large portion of the political body into a dependent submissive corps that will not be swayed easily as long as electoral conditions are not modified, as long as the opposition message remains pothole fixing in its core. As such, if Capriles is again the candidate in putative elections this year and if Capriles repeats his 2012 campaign Maduro will win. Period. Even if the economy crashes because that effect will be sensed in full by the people after the election, in the second half of the year.

For the elections that are almost certain to happen by July at the latest the opposition needs to make some crucial choices. It could  for example, chose to lose because of the economic near cataclysm that will come and that will sweep away Maduro if he wins. Probably a game that many in chavismo are already playing as Maduro is far from benefiting of unanimity.

Another option is to retake the 2012 campaign. If it picks Capriles again as its standard bearer and if it does not speed up the revision process that the electoral report makes necessary, the same result may be expected.  The more so that it seems that the MUD is not willing to take on the Electoral Board, CNE, which we are sure is already planning even more cheating to help the flawed candidacy of "Vice President" Maduro.

Perhaps a more combative approach but with the same premises than in 2012 could be more successful.  But in that case my concern is that a difficult Capriles victory will be without mandate and within a few months he could be swept away.

Or, without accepting some of the Arria offers, we could at least make a campaign stating the truth on Venezuela even if we know we would lose. First, we may not lose after all, people maybe responding to truth serum for once as the devaluation and scarcity will support our point. But even if we lose, it would make us an unavoidable option, with a mandate, when the inevitable happens. Amen of participating in a transition government to avoid collapse of the country.

The point is not to discuss whether Arria or Capriles are right.  The point is that the political moment has changed and we do not see clear signs from the opposition group MUD that they are aware of this. I'd like to think that I am wrong, that they are not clueless, so why not show it?

1) Whether we like it or not "Alo Ciudadano" of Leopoldo Castillo is THE talk show of Venezuela, the only one that actually can influence opinion. The competition inside Globovision, "Buenas Noches", is a silly pantomime that I have stopped watching long ago, and no other network dares to have a talk show as long and varied in its guests as Alo Ciudadano. Now, of course  if you are into sycophantic presentations turn to any of the state media "talk shows" and listen to the same stuff glorifying Chavez over and over.

2) If you do not want to read the complete report of the MUD "truth on election" report you can read last Sunday column of Carlos Blanco in El Universal that lists what are on his view the main 20 points.

3) As I wrote about last October  Primero Justicia did not have much to brag about for a strategy of "me first", progressing by not even 2 points since 2006....

4) Of course, it was a mention of the celebrated gaffe of Romney that probably cost him the election.


  1. I believe the best way to go against Chavismo is one that I believe you also like Daniel. Say the truth upfront. Call Maduro for what he is. A corrupted vendepatria. Part of a system that has driven a rich country like Venezuela into bankruptcy ans scarcity. What does the opposition really have to lose? If they win they should keep on saying it on public TV everyday, using the same brain washing (or better call it, brain cleaning) as Chavismo has done for the last 14 years. If they loose, Let Maduro & Company deal with the mess without the God that Chavez represents.

  2. Dr. Faustus10:23 PM

    Pint 4 "The point is that the societal structure of Venezuela after 14 years of chavismo has transformed a large portion of the political body into a dependent submissive corps that will not be swayed easily as long as electoral conditions are not modified,..."

    This is your most important point. I am sorry to disagree with you here, but I feel that Capriles ran an excellent campaign. Yes, it could have been better, here and there. He could have been more specific, more forceful. All true, but... In the end, when all was said and done, I'm afraid he was destined to lose. It all relates to your excellent point 4. Chavez and the PSUV have turned national elections into a humongous patronage game. They've created a 'rock star' and a Santa Claus in the form of Hugo Chavez. A comical buffoon, no question. But it worked. "I will give you something material for your vote!" is what the Chavistas are saying to the average voter. Powerful stuff. A government job? A new fridge? Tangible stuff. Yup, it's a ponzi scheme of course. No question. It will crash down eventually, but by that time all of the actors will have left the stage. Capriles did an excellent job a few months back, but in the end he was up against a free spending monster machine. Billions of dollars from the state coffers ensured a victory for our bedridden megalomaniac last October, and the bills are coming due. Party's over. Let's be grateful that they weren't smart enough to lock down a six year term as another election appears just around the corner. Have faith! Perhaps sanity will be resored and the election results will come back with a surprise.

    1. Faust

      I am on récord saying that Capriles run a brilliant campaign. The problem is that he started on the wrong premises.

      During the primaries I wrote that I did not like his approach. But once he was the candidate I played the game.

  3. So, to win one must offer the maximum bribe:

    1. NorskeDiv11:51 PM

      Would it win though? How many Venezuelans are foolish enough to believe they are gaming the system right now, and would end up behind in an even distribution of wealth. I don't know, just musing.

  4. I too watched Mr. Arria last night. I liked his suggestion that the next candidate should come from "outside politics" and that the person should govern for 3-4 years, and with a Junta de Gobierno, if not de jure then de facto.

    His point is that we are so screwed up it is going to take more than one person to steer the ship of state to better waters.

    Another point he made, which to me is probably the most important one, is that the opposition needs to be more firm with the CNE, which he called the chavernment's "Ministry of Elections". He even criticized Vicente Bello for seeming to be too accommodating to the use of biometrics in the electoral process. Granted, Mr. Bello must feel like a bug in a hen house on that electoral board, but still.......

    I really hope that Capriles is not the candidate this time around. I would like to see my original pick, Henry Falcon be the candidate or Maria Corina Machado.

    Falcon because he can be a natural bridge between Chavismo and the opposition. He has followers on both sides and seems to be a "man of the people" who seems more "authentic" than "platanito maduro".

    Maria Corina because she stands for something. You may not agree with her, you may think she is not right about something but you cannot fault her fighting spirit. Every time I have seen her on TV she is able to talk straight, she is focused and she is passionate. The fact she is a woman may play in her favor against a candidate whose main qualifications seem to be insult as a campaign tactic. Against a "lady" there may be no traction........

  5. It's nice to hope for an opposition victory, but I'm pretty sure Venezuela will be run by a military junta for the next few years.

  6. "if we were to follow Capriles implication, Chavez being the top vote getter we should all remain silent."

    Excellent point Daniel.In my opinion Capriles attacks when he should support, and supports when he should attack.It almost makes me suspicious of why?

    Is it a matter of expediency when the opposition is against those who speak the truth because they don't have the popular following that Chavez has?

    WOW!!! Just wow!


  7. Lucia4:06 PM

    Daniel, I urge you to read the Javier Corrales piece in Current History:

    One of the interesting points: "Chávez’s margin of victory was the smallest for an incumbent in Latin America since 1990."

    That's really worth thinking about carefully -- Capriles didn't just face an incumbent, but one with petrocash to spare. And then there's always this small matter of a very limited ability to disseminate messages via the broadcast media.

    I can see a number of ways in which the 2012 campaign could be improved -- but I would be careful about making too many assumptions about what worked and didn't work.

    A majority of Venezuelans trusted Chavez. They'll give Maduro less room. If you don't think the Capriles campaign scared the Castro brothers, take a look at what they've put their "brother" through -- all in an effort to postpone the election.

    1. Lucia

      It isn't that I disagree with what you write but there are several problems.

      First, it is subscription only so I cannot read the piece you recommended. ;)

      Seriously now.

      What is on the table is the report from the MUD post electoral commission. I may be wrong but I do not detect any significant aggiornamento inside the MUD, or PJ for that matter. I am not as radical as Arria but I cannot toss that away just because some political honchos think they know better.

      Second, your point on October result that it is better than one would think is not convincing. Comparing countries at reelection time is not very productive. Also, this blog is very aware of the pro and con of October results since no other one goes as deep in its post electoral analysis as I have done. Ok, I did not do the December analysis but was it worth doing? Isn't the December result proof that october was a fiasco? And while we are at it, that before the vote the result depended on abstention favoring Capriles, was not that a hint that the campaign themes had not worked?

      Finally, that the Castro were scared or that Capriles did not go to TV enough is not good enough, in fact almost an excuse for not having dared confront the CNE. The Capriles commando was too self reliant, too self confident and thought that Leopolodo was enough to make sure votes would be counted. That Capriles and the MUD were too scared to promote abstention by attacking the CNE is an error that we are paying dearly today.

      Yes, I know, I am just a blogger and it is easy to tirar piedras. But for one thing I am not running for office so it is not my job to figure out the best way to win. And also, never was I consulted by anyone, offered info, etc since after the primaries when Leo cast his lot with Capriles and I lost most contact with them. And yet, a lot of the problems the MUD/Capriles suffer today were said or hinted since late 2011. It is not that I should be on the campaign boards of PJ or UNT but if I could sense some of the incoming problems surely someone there should have sensed them? Or are we that bereft of intelligence in all senses of the term?

      I suppose that what I am trying to say is that a campaign run strictly on polls as the Capriles one was in the end cannot beat a campaign strictly run on politics like the ones of Chavez. As long as we do not come up with real political proposals that we are willing to gamble on we will keep losing for sure.

  8. Lucia6:44 PM

    I don't mean to suggest that Capriles or his campaign were perfect (although I think they represent a quantum leap forward from opposition days past).

    But really -- are you sure campaign messages were the real problem?

    Are you sure voters even had a chance to hear those messages?

    What if you missed the 3 (dispersed) minutes a day the campaign was allotted on tv?

    What if you were scared the ballot wasn't permanently secret?

    What if you thought current and future benefits from the government were potentially at risk if you didn't vote red?

    In other words -- are you sure that more specific/compelling policy proposals from Capriles could have turned the tide?

    And if so, what might those be? (A real question).

    Despite considerably more difficult circumstances (no RCTV, more fear from voters, donors), Capriles did a lot better than Rosales.

    Maybe building on his progress is the right answer, rather than assuming something/someone completely different is necessary.

    1. Lucia

      Really, if I get such a rap from a PJ supporter for rather mild criticism, I wonder what others get......

      You offer us 7 question marks. 4 of them can be addressed by the fear of the MUD to confront the CNE. When did we see in the campaign and official march to the CNE to protest for real unfair conditions? Did really Capriles and the MUD thought that they would increase their votes by using a soft approach so as not to scare them away? Considering how meek were our actions then can you imagine what the CNE has in store for us? By the way, Capriles meekness for most of the campaign toward the CNE does answer a fifth question mark.

  9. Such a rap? I don't get it -- I'm just asking you to dig deeper, think harder and more carefully.

    For example -- "the fear of MUD to confront the CNE" -- this is silly. MUD has zero carrots, zero sticks. A march to the CNE to protest! Yes, those have been SO effective in the past. Do you really think a march (or several) or a tougher rhetorical line would have resulted in fairer rules? You can't possibly believe that this regime is authoritarian (or on its way) and believe that to be the case.

    It's not irrational that Capriles chose to focus much more on jobs and crime and other daily issues instead of the CNE, a body which he in reality had zero power to influence -- no matter how large the march, how angry the voice, how vociferous the protest.

    1. Lucia

      You may ask me to dig deeper but I must ask you to open your eyes. Besides, my comments have been longer than yours so I think I am making an effort instead of dismissing you with a sleigh of hand.

      Now, remind me again how well the Capriles strategy has worked out for us in October, and in December....

      I am not saying that marching to the CNE is the solution to all of our problems but not doing much, not even trying much, has not helped. Note that I have not used until now the card of the speedy acceptance of Capriles of his defeat. He could have waited, say, a day more. Also I am not holding against him that he went back to Miranda instead of campaigning around for the other guys as many of his critics bitch about it these days. I think that was the right move for him and that Ocariz would have lost Miranda making the situation even more dismal than it is now. While I do not think campaigning for the other guys would have helped them much except perhaps in Zulia. Most in the blog, by the way. I should deserve some credit at least for that even though indeed lately I have trashed PJ whenever I felt like it.

      What you fail to understand is that perception that I have got of Capriels and PJ that is turning me off, even though I am a reasonable thinking pundit and I will vote for any yellow dog, even Capriels, and will campaign for him without a doubt if he runs again. But if I am as turned off by their antics, imagine what is happening with other people that do not understand as well as I do what is at stake.

      At any rate, to close this comment, pothole fixing campaign has gone as far as it can go. I already said in this blog BEFORE the primaries that it was wrong of Capriles to win the primaries on pot hole fixing because it left his presidential bid without any additional idea, without any room to grow. That is, he should have been more hardcore in the primaries and more soft core in the general election. What he did was to be soft core in the primaries and washed out in the general election.

      I need to remind you that even in my most delirious optimism I was giving a razor thin victory for Capriles IF, and I stress the IF, there was a significant abstention in chavismo. I have been proven right, unfortunately, even though I was taken quite aback by Chavez margin which I never put above 5%. And December I did not want to guess shit because I felt that we would get 5 states at best and I did not want to write it down that bluntly.

      In other words, I even got more credit to Capriles strategy than what he got in the end......

      Lucia, the point is that my political icons are De Gaulle or Churchill or even Reagan who were not afraid to lose on ideas because they understood in their deeper self that ideas will always triumph in the end, even if we need to wait for people to eat shit first. Only then you can win, and MORE importantly you get a mandate to change things. What Capriles and PJ offer is Pablum and with that it will take another ten years to win, at least,until people start getting tired to eat shit for so long, without a mandate and a totally destroyed country. Good luck to them then!

    2. PS: I assume that you are pro PJ. I may be wrong but your words led me that way. If I am wrong, please correct me.

    3. And if I may jump in, Lucia, I think that while marches on the CNE would not have changed their minds much, if at all, it would have been a message to the electorate itself. A message that showed there was some steel underneath the silk.

      Capitulating so quickly also, IMHO, turned many off to the vote in December. There were a lot of folks who felt let down by this.

      Taking the MUD platform and switching it out for a PJ platform pretty much took some of the sails out of the other parties that had spent MONTHS in meetings to "sharpen the pencils". You do not inspire leadership by doing that either.

  10. Why am I reminded of the fact many some people are terrified of the enemies they secretly admire? Sometimes it is so secret that they don't see it themselves.

    Honesty is the only way out and when we are honest we speak without fear.Hopefully we will reach a point where people become tired of lies.



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