Friday, October 18, 2013

A month and a half to play it out in Venezuela

For some, the local elections of December 8 are the last horizon. Crossing it successfully will mean the end of chavismo, at least as we have known it. For others all will be played as soon as the Enabling Law is published. Some think that a popular uprising is around the corner. Some think that it is all over. All are wrong, on these and other suppositions. That does not make me right because, well, I actually have no position. So, instead of trying to figure out a way out of this mess I should limit myself to try to evaluate the current situation. May the reader think whatever s/he pleases.
The almost daily morning line at Makro San Felipe. It is under the sun, people now carry umbrellas rain or shine.
This a short one. Sometimes it is 4X longer, reaching the main avenue downhill.
It is not the only line in San Felipe, but it is probably the most recurrent because Makro always get some item.

Whatever one thinks, one thing is certain, the next couple of months are decisive. Even if you think all has been played out, the coming weeks will decide the extent of the economic crisis and the extent of the repression we must suffer through 2014.


The general context is not too complicated, once you think about it. Chavismo is trying to resolve its internal wars and as such can only agree on the need to silence the opposition. The economic crisis deepens and the regime is unable to come to grips with it, and even less to find a faint solution. It seems that in spite of all of its efforts it cannot replicate previous election miracles of keeping the shelves full for at least the two months before the election so that people forget previous food shortages. But even if the regime were able to put food back on the shelves, the annual inflation for food items alone is around 70% so people will be displeased anyway.  Basically all economic indicators are going red. I am at ground zero and I can assure you that every day it gets more and more difficult to produce anything, ship it, cash it, replenish stocks, meet payroll. I have had to resort to barter with my competition for raw material so we both do not go under.....

In this context chavismo has decided that the December vote is lost and that their hope is the Enabling Law. Through it, it will be able to produce yet more controls certain to fail, settle issues within chavismo that cannot be settled, make a mockery of the December electoral result though new measures to promote "comunas" that will destroy the influence of mayors and local councils soon to reach the opposition hands; and for good measure start jailing a few opposition leaders. Maduro has already singled out Capriles and Lopez, has accused Machado to be the chosen head of an interim regime, which guarantees that she will be cell mate of the first two. And we cannot discard that some last minute commotion will be generated so that elections are "postponed". Already the lengthy list of missed deadlines by electoral authorities, CNE, seem to indicate that they know this will be the case.

The regime is so decided to pass the Enabling Law that it has already started illegal repressive measures against two opposition representatives to remove them from the Assembly and secure a 99 votes vote. Be it in Spain or in Argentina, nobody is fooled: the high court, TSJ, is clearing the way for the regime to approve an unconstitutional law. And yet it may not be enough. The nervousness of Maduro is palpable. He has stopped travelling outside the country, missing the IberoAmerican summit in Panama which would have been crucial to reinforce his international legitimacy. He spends an inordinate amount of time in military barracks, convincing the army of his authority. Not that there is a coup in the making, the military is too fat and too corrupt. What the military wants is a regime able to solve pressing problems, that can avoid a social crisis because the Venezuelan army is no mood to stain its hand in blood for the sake of Maduro and his Cuban masters. Times have changed and they want to be able to travel freely to enjoy their riches acquired through Chavez buy out of the nation's integrity. It is not far-fetched to think that the army wants to retain the power that it enjoys today but through a more capable president than Maduro, a better covering fig leaf for our lack of democracy.

The opposition seems hypnotized by the prospect of the Enabling Law. Some like Maria Corina Machado want an all out defense, at all cost. Some like Capriles and the MUD do not seem to be overly concerned, so certain they are their strategy of winning on December 8. An OpEd person was right in pointing out that when Capriles says he would not recognize a law voted by less 99 he implicitly admitted that as long as the 99 magical number of Assembly votes is reached, even through coaxing and blackmail, he would accept it. His response should have been sterner and once again Capriles projects a wishy washy image that diminish his leadership in a time when clear answers and positions are required.

All in all the opposition seems to have been on the wait since last April. The decline of the country is a given and indeed in a sense it makes sense to wait for Gotterdamerung. But it should also be clear that the regime will not fall on its own, and certainly cannot be left alone to the military and the narco-generals to decide what to do with it. The opposition has a real risk to be irrelevant in the transition for its apparent lack of ideas and distaste for real confrontation.

It is not a matter of communication, of having lost the last critical TV network available, Globovision. The reality of inflation and food shortages is an ever present element of our lives, reminding people that this is not normal and that before Chavez we never had such an episode of recurring shortages. Also, that the opposition is silenced has the unwanted paradox that even the average chavista turns off official news: once the excitement of the insulting match is limited to one side, why bother? The problem of the opposition is that one starts to wonder whether it wants to reach high office, truly.

The lack of airwaves media has had a positive effect on the opposition. Coupled to local elections which take cohorts of candidates stomping the voting grounds, they are making much better and direct the contact with the crowds at a time where the chavista paid electoral help have no explications for the shortages except the ritual ones that have ceased to convince.  When you stand for hours at the Makro of San Felipe, for hours, for at most 4 kilos of corn flour, and repeat next week, you may actually start wanting to see those dangerous marines to come. It cannot be worse than that these never ending lines..... And they will have dollars in their pockets, you know!

Whether we go to vote on December 8, whether we actually win, we may see this December as the final generational shift we have been waiting. Inside chavismo the "revolutionary" oldies will be confronted with the new base that was shunted in the candidate nomination process and that may be the single most important element in the electoral loss of chavismo in December. The silenced rank and filed chavista may actually be more democrat than the ones at the reins today, and as upset by the airwaves censorship as the opposition folks. Let's not forget that the official message does not reach much the hoi polloi since it is concerned more in glorifying Maduro than announcing real improvements in el pueblo situation. Constant propaganda has its limits.

For the opposition the generational shift is coming, even more if we have elections. There should be at least 50 new mayors and scores of new municipal council folks that have never held and elected office. It is quite possible that when the tallies are in at least half of the opposition new officials will be newbies, that developed their career skills under chavismo, that have just won their very first public office. And even many of those in charge today were unknowns in 1998. After December 8 the leadership of Capriles and the MUD will face a fresh new challenge just when it may have to get ready to assist the end of Maduro......

That is why I do not know what is going to happen exactly but why I truly think that the next two months are really going to be the real hinge between the Chavez era and whatever comes next. 2013 will have thus been the mere set up for the times to come, the necessary time to start forgetting the reality of Chavez, to learn for both sides that it is time to take back in our hands our destiny, or give up on it, as the case may be. 2013 was not a transition, it was an end. Transition is only starting, finally.

17 comments:

  1. As always, Daniel, it's a pleasure to read your analysis (if I can even use the word "pleasure" regarding Venezuela today). And though right now this might seem frivolous, I hope you sometime consider writing a book based on your blog posts over the last decade.

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    1. Thanks Guillermo.

      I also enjoy your blog and tweets whenever I have a chance, which is a rare occurrence. The situation in Venezuela kills in one any desire to see anything else, it vulgarizes all. I used to spend at least 2-3 hours a day listening to music and now the only thing I crave at the end of the day is silence, quiet, rest. There is no book, no opera, no poetry that seems to help. I need rest first and after a while, maybe, I can put some music, read something else than internet and work related stuff.

      If I write the above it is as an intro for a "future book". It is not really frivolous to think of a book for this blog. After all, with soon 4000 entries, I am sure I can come up with a couple of hundred that may be meaningful enough for inclusion. Link them with some comments and explanation and voila! Well, plus a few months of hard editing work, of course......

      Also this blog has tried to occupy the niche that all fear to thread, the one about meaning, between the hard core numbers and facts and the description of Venezuela as an entertainment feature for "désoeuvré" foreigners or exiled.and happy to be so. The blog was never meant as a vulgate on Venezuela and as such a derived book can only be for a few, for those who in an era of mass media still value personal meaning, a memoir narrative of the hard years. I do not think the time has come for it quite yet. I still have a business struggling to survive the choke of the regime's regulations, a blog narrative to write on the last months of chavismo as we knew it. And whether we like it people are more interested on what is going to happen tomorrow than the how it all came to pass. History is written long after the past and this blog is written as history and its eventual book, if indeed it is worth a book, will be a history book, after the fact.

      Thanks for inspiring my thoughts on that. Maybe I'll hire you as my editor when the time comes!

      Delete
    2. "I still have a business struggling to survive the choke of the regime's regulations." Some of the things you don't really go into in your blog, like your business struggles and your relationships, might add some valued context in a book.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous7:35 AM

    After the cne assisted vote manipulation in April, how can the opposition feel confident about December results? Or even in the positions retained or won when they will surely be neutralized by empowering more communal councils?

    I think the coming economic collapse will be the deciding factor. As long as the lines are for basic items, there are at least some items available at the end of those lines thanks mostly to maduro's efforts to stock the shelves prior to the election to give the appearance that all is well. Those limited items are not sustainable as there is virtually no production here and most needs to be imported. Maduro has run out of credit due to zero confidence in the survival of the current government. With the rate of inflation, sky rocketing parallel dollar rate due to lack of official dollars available and not even a hint of a plan to try to correct it...The end is close.

    As mentioned by Daniel, the opposition better be ready to come out strong and offer a clear and united plan forward. Narco general military control, or other chavismo faction will only prolong the agony.

    concerned

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  3. I have a question somewhat related to the above observation. Why are lines long for a good in shortage? They are either there, or not there, unless they are being doled out very slowly with negotiations between each customer. I mean, if there is nothing there, why stand in line? Perhaps there is a small resupply a few times a day and you have to be there? Or perhaps the people at the end of the line don't get any of the goods? I trying to figure this out. In Soviet Union lines meant there was something THERE and one queued up by gawd to get it! It's an interesting question.... any input appreciated.

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    1. Anonymous10:39 PM

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queuing

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queuing_theory

      A rather complicated subject. Note the statement "In economics, queueing is seen as one way to ration scarce goods and services".

      Mike

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    2. I didn't read the article but I can see it from the comments Soviet people would make...
      also subsumed in the language of Cervantes by the saying
      "paciencia, paciencia, y en el culo resistencia".
      Those with the largest arse would get the flour.

      Delete
    3. Stefan5:31 AM

      The Wikipedia entry on "Shortage economy" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortage_economy ) is also instructive: "In a market economy such a situation would generally, but not always, be eliminated by price adjustments."

      Queues can occur in functioning market economies, as well, when a seller decides to sell a certain desired good at below-market price. Imagine an electronics chain selling all their computers and mobile phones at a 50 percent discount. Will there be long lines of buyers? Of course, there might even be fights and the need for police. If it is forbidden to sell goods at market price, queues are to be expected. The length of the queue makes up for the difference between the price tag and the market price: It actually makes the good more expensive because you have to pay for it not just with money but with your TIME. If a good is rationed but nobody takes your ID or fingerprint, you´ll even have an economic incentive to stand in the same line several times a day. This incentive is strongest for people who assign the least value to their time, so you may find a lot of unemployed who stand in line not just for their own needs but for friends and relatives, or in order to sell the good on the "black" (i.e. the real) market.

      Delete
  4. Island Canuck8:21 AM

    "Perhaps there is a small resupply a few times a day and you have to be there?"

    That.

    Daniel also said:
    "but it is probably the most recurrent because Makro always get some item."

    Another phenomenon is that a truck will arrive at a store with TP, arena PAN, chicken, milk or some other scarce item & within minutes the texts go out & the line-ups form within minutes

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  5. Half empty and Canuck

    Maybe I will write a post on this. There seems to be a need....

    Canuck, write me, I will be around your waterways soon.

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  6. question: if people are now besieged by ever-longer cues for staples, will they want to get in another long line-up to vote on 8D?

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  7. If I may, I would like to propose my take on the current situation. In my point of view evererything is going as planned for the officialism. My thoughts on this derive from a simple look at a few policies that the officialism implanted on the years of the economic "bonanza" that Venezuela was going through in the Chavez's years. I put "bonanza" in quotes because to me it was staged. That "bonanza" was implemented by currency controls coupled with massive money printing and massive handouts. Through cadivi the vast majority of the population had access to cheap dollars. (It was never as cheap to travel), while through Sitme vast amounts of fortunes were made with which the government bought people's consciences as well as the military. While this bonanza was going on, Chavez made it ilegal for people to be thrown out of rented homes. Now it is the time that this policy is going to become more handy than ever with the eventual dismission of cadivi (which is at the moment a very important part of the Income of many Venezuelans). The scarcity is making it neccessary for people in general to used to stand in line in order to get home staples. Standing in line is not only for those buying products from Mercal, now it is becoming more pronounce to the point that it is going to be ubiquitous. This happens slowly so that people swallow little by little until they end up swallowing the whole thing. Now then what would be the perfect idea for the population to have in order to keep enduring like sheeps the hardships of everyday life?. I'll tell you which. The idea that the government is going to collapse because it is incapable and stupid with a president that multiplies penises and falls down from bycicles.

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  8. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Daniel, what type of risk would someone be putting themselves in for handing out flyers identifying the lies of the current regime in one of these lines.

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  9. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Chavez was portrayed as a Christ-like Savior.
    But in the end he could not rise from the dead.

    Now that the psychotic spell is over, reality rushes in.
    Now the dirty secrets come out.

    And it is major disappointment after major disappointment.
    The marble edifice was held together by chewing gum and baling wire.

    It is not just markets that are bubbles.
    Human reputations can inflate like a bubble and burst.

    Chavez ate steak.
    Maduro is making a dirty stable.

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  10. Anonymous2:53 PM

    http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920730000390

    Earlier, Venezuelan authorities uncovered alleged plans for another attempt on Maduro, in an operation codenamed "Operation of the Baby".

    LOL - what idiot comes up with this?

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  11. Anonymous11:09 PM

    I am most impressed with the clarity of your blog. I am interested in what is happening in Venzuela and it is hard to get an honest idea of the situation from the media in America. I too hope you continue to share your thoughts. I think that you are a talented writer. Please stay safe

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