Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chavismo in crisis, unraveling next?

On April 14 the real story was how suddenly maybe 700.000 chavista not only did not vote for the appointed heir, but crossed the line. We are talking here of almost 4% of the electorate.

If you have any knowledge in electoral and political history you know that a 4% that voted for you consistently since at least 2004 are not going to come back to the fold just like that. At best they will abstain from voting but will not come back until the other side has had the chance to rule for a bit and mess things up on its watch. It is simply the law of political exhaustion that makes even successful governments peter out and lose power in the end. In general those who postpone such fate are ruling in a coalition which allows for more political regeneration, if anything because voters swing through coalition partners, until eventually they try new pastures.  One of the most successful electoral democracy careers were the Social Democrats in Sweden, holding office for decades, with an arguable success. And yet, eventually, percentage point by percentage point, they eroded until one day they were ousted.

After 14 years of Chavez rule it was clear that this one was suffering similar erosion.  It was somewhat hidden due to the personal cult of the leader, but also to a blunt clientele system allowing for vote buying, blackmailing and outright cheating as needed. But nevertheless when you plot Chavez “personal vote” you can see that slowly but surely that one degraded.

In the graph below I have plotted the percentile result of elections when Chavez was himself on the ballot, including the one from last Sunday because, let’s face it, it was all about Chavez inside chavismo: loyalty, heirlooms and whatnot. In addition to presidential vote I have also included the referenda vote because all of them were special requests of Chavez himself.  I  added a trend line.
Chavez percentile variations in 14 years

First, your may be surprised by the bump in April 1999. We could argue that this was the peak of chavismo even though that referendum to request a constitutional assembly was basically unopposed (1). I suppose that we would not want to include that point but the only change it would do on that graph is to flatten slightly the trend line. No matter what, according to that trend line next election the opposition is going to win. Period. Unless the opposition self-destruct though this applies equally to chavismo.

What is also interesting in this graph is that we have what we could consider two plateaus. Once Chavez was reelected in July 2000 he kept a safe 60% until 2006. Other elections in those years certainly reflected this. But after the fiasco of 2007, Chavez lost a portion of the electorate, some migrating to the opposition (PODEMOS). His new plateau at 55% made him more vulnerable and he did poorly at local elections where he could get solid majorities only through crass gerrymandering. Last Sunday we experienced yet another cataclysm for chavismo, probably worse than in 2007, and this time around the plateau may well drop more than a mere 5%.

But this is not the only problem for chavismo: a little bit of unity could minimize losses and ensure a short stay in power for the opposition, at worst. Unfortunately, deprived of its leader to herd the sheep, it will become clear that there are different breed of sheep, and maybe even a few goats in the herd.

Chavismo has always been an alluvial formation, where new layers are deposed where old layers are washed away. For example in 1998 and 1999, a large portion of the middle class did vote for chavismo, but by 2004 the middle class had been lost. Until 2000 at least, Chavez had not secured the massive support of lower classes which kept voting in part for AD in local elections, until the 2003 misiones put an end to it.  But after 2007 educated lower classes, those with trades, started deserting chavismo, a trickle maybe, but a steady one.

Certainly there is no way to measure the different groups within chavismo. In the graph below I tried to represent the chavismo cloud and what is inside it, hidden from view to the casual observer. There are 4 major groups of power, two large ones, fascists and communists which originate from “resentimiento social” (social resentment) and doctrinaire left which has been growing through the years, courtesy of Cuban training. Although there is an actual communist party inside the coalition this one has failed to grow while inside the PSUV there is a radical left that truly wants to end private property, etc.  Those two I label communists while fascist are those who simply like to exert their power and prerogative. There is a subset where both cross. Yes, they cross, in what I will call the naked totalitarians like Diosdado Cabello.
The chavismo cloud composition

The other two power group are the army. A portion of it is outside that cloud of course, as there are some “fascist” outside of that cloud too inside "the opposition". What I represent here is what is a rather small group, after all, but with the true power. Except that they cross over to fascism, totalitarians, communists (probably the least, but what do we know?) and some outside there but inside chavismo. The bolibourgeois, those who have become immensely rich under chavismo, have a spearhead that goes into fascism, all the way to touch totalitarianism, in their willingness to preserve their privileges (drug traffickers?).

Finally, there are those who are not ideologically formed, who are inside chavismo by accident or by need, hangers-on and what not which I list through the cloud outside of the power groups because they really count for little except at election time when they are courted, bribed, blackmailed, rewarded, whatever.

Certainly we have not access to the actual proportions since to begin with no one is going to recognize that they are fascist even if in the facts, from Jorge Rodriguez to Diosdado Cabello they fit the bill. But I think that I do get somehow to a representation of the power “balance” inside chavismo. Thus you can appreciate the complexity of chavismo coalition that only Chavez could maintain because he had a unique knack of being a little bit of something to everyone. 

These days are over. Now chavismo has entered into a deep crisis which explains the erratic, threatening, violent pulses that we have been seen since last Sunday. It is going to get worse as the Cubans at best control the Communists when they used to control all through Chavez. I am not sure they are realizing this. The result we are seeing it played under our eyes this week, a fast unraveling, that can be stopped, briefly only, through some form of coup.


1) In April 1999, only 10% voted no to a new constitution  Considering the abstention that time it is quite possible that the 10% represented no more than 7% of the country. I am proud to have been in that group, those that have truly said NO since 1992 to Chavez. Who can match that, voting in Venezuela? :)

Goes to tell you what a long march the opposition has had to suffer.......


  1. Your analysis is spot on. Maduro and Castro also know this, this is why I believe we won't see any election in a loooooong time, if ever under Maduro

    1. Anonymous2:20 PM

      Agree with your post but there needs to be done more right now. Today I spoke to a member of the Iranian opposition and their case looks a lot like the Venezuelan on and we can learn something from them because they lost. He said the only thing we can do is to try and cause a divide within Chavismo and a divide between Chavismo and the army. As long as they are a coherent team, everything will stay as it is.

      What we do not want to do is keep discussing vote counts.. We are WAY past this point.

    2. Absolutely agree with that last statement. Discussing vote counts at this point is akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It is a pointless waste of time & energy surely to be exploited by the other side.

    3. The trick here is to discuss vote counts and other stuff. For primitive chavista, reminding them that the government does not want to count the votes it claims it has is at this point the only image that can stick with them.

    4. Daniel, you are looking at this with more rationality than can be expected from the "primitive chavista" crowd. I base this conclusion on first-hand experienced with the "primitive castrista" crowd. For this type of crowd, it doesn't matter what "the other side" says, their reality conforms to what their leader(ship) says. Our leader says we won, and therefore we won. This whole vote counting thing is a baseless attack on our leader manufactured by the other side and their evil allies. Thus operates the mind of this crowd...

    5. My unsolicited advice would be to forget about the recount, but not about the results already reported by the CNE, which show that nearly 50% of the voting public voted for change. This is the important message to hammer home along with the related question for the chavistas: "what are you going to do with that 50% that voted against your project?" In Cuba, we never had the numbers to show the size of the opposition. So the castros could always say "que se vayan!", which really meant, if you don't leave, we will either execute you (mostly in the early days of the robolution), put you in jail, or make your life miserable if you make any noise. Occasionally, fidel would have to take the "que se vayan" offer back when it became clear that he was losing people he could not afford to lose: professionals, trained tradesmen, etc. But there was never a one-time accounting of the size of the growing diaspora, so it was always portrayed as a tiny minority. After 50 years of robolution, we now know that approximately 20% of the Cuban population voted with their feet, oars, etc. Venezuela now has the proof, without a need for any recount, that 50% of the country wants a different course. The strength of the opposition rests on that 50% number. I seriously doubt that a recount will lead to a change in the outcome of the election, but the problem (for the chavistas) still remains: "what are you going to do with that 50% that voted against your project?". And this is the problem that needs to be exploited by the opposition while their numbers are near that 50% mark.

  2. Anonymous12:56 PM

    One question, exactly why are you proud of voting NO on the 99 Constitution?

    1. because i am old enough, experienced enough to know that a constituion is only as good as the people who apply it.

    2. Never mind that I disagree on many aspects of the Constitution which explain the other vote NO in December 1999.

    3. Michel Garcia7:18 PM

      Like me, who have voted aganist Chávez and anything related to him since 1998 (beat you, Daniel!). And not out of hatred or anything, but because I didn't like (and still don't like) anything he stood for or represented. Voted NO on the constitution (and the constitutional assembly) because I've always thought that the problem wasn't the Constitution, but the fail in it's application. I was turning 23 the day Chávez got elected.

    4. No, you did not beat me, I always voted against Chavez. Always.

    5. Anonymous11:29 AM

      Oh, that makes perfect sense, I thought you had something specific against the 99 Constitution. I'm a lawyer and personally don't have anything against it besides the extra possibilities it grants the president via "Habilitante", but you're right, this country would be exactly the same were the 61 Constitution still alive.

  3. He is proud because he recognized B.S. whe he saw it and the rest did not. are you slow?

  4. hey, props where its earned, well done Daniel, for seeing BS when its right there staring at you.

  5. I know that basically all parties are left of center. Daniel, do you think that the communist community is that big in venezuela or chavismo?

    1. Almost 2%. That is why I put the radical PSUV and the commies all together in the graph because there are more true lefties in the PSUV.

  6. Anonymous4:06 PM

    What's your take on the Cuban connection? Are there disagreements within the Chavista cloud about what the role of the Cubans should be?

    1. Diosdado and the army "in general" would have as little to do with Cuba as possible.

  7. Anonymous9:55 AM

    So, Daniel, do you think that the Army, while Chavez was still around, basically put up with the role of the Cubans in Venezuela, and now with Chavez gone and Maduro being 'the man', the Army will be less prone to 'put up with' the Cuban role in Venezuela??

  8. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Hi Daniel, what about an Opposition Cloud, just as you did the Chavista Cloud? It would be interesting as well.


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