Thursday, November 27, 2003

The fall out from the chavista recall election effort
A weakened chavista movement?

Wednesday November 26, 2003

The least that one can say is that the performance is less than stellar. With barely 24 hours form landing, I think I know enough to have a pretty good idea that chavistas have had all the trouble in the world to gather enough signatures to remove some assembly people that have incurred the wrath of Darth Chavez. A few tidbits to amuse you.

Evidence of vote buying are surfacing from many quarters. This is not a novelty in Venezuela of course. What is rather surprising is the rather brazen way that chavistas got around to implement this feature. Strategies range wide. One was pseudo hiring agency where a few thousand folks got some cash payment against a promise not to sign for the opposition (and presumably for the government). This scam was reported by the Daily Journal of Caracas. Other scams included lottery drawings of bicycles and TVs in my neighbor state of Lara. I think that if you went and signed against an opposition deputy you got a ticket for the lottery.

Other forms of pressure are more, shall we say, "subtle". For example anyone that has some business to do with the state, be it public employee or be it a business trying to get legitimately access to US dollars has been threatened or cajoled as the case required. I know personally two people that have been fired for signing up on February 2!!! I know of several others linked to co workers or relatives. And I know of people waiting for dollars that have been told to "behave". Incidentally the trickle of dollars emanating from CADIVI, our ineffable currency control agency, has almost dropped to zero in the last three weeks. What a coincidence that this happens when the government is making large payments to buy people right and left...

Meanwhile a big "accusation" of censorship against private media could backfire badly for chavistas. It turns out that a prepared TV chavista campaign was refused by TV networks on the grounds that the bills should be made to the State Oil company PDVSA. A little bit as if the French President would have his political adds paid for by the French National Railway System. It will be interesting to see if the investigation ever reaches a conclusion, or if chavistas will persist on that particular line of attack.

And the numbers are as chaotic as they were yesterday. The opposition claims that chavistas gathered at best 1 million supporters to bother signing. Chavistas are all over, from 2 to nearly 8 millions. Amazingly they cannot manage a real spokesperson.

But the best was Tuesday night "cadena"! The Chavez we saw, almost hysterical, dripping hate and contempt, excoriating the media, the opposition, the neoliberals, this and that, was not at all the image of a confident leader that won big on the popular expression a few days ago. He knows the real numbers and he could not hide his discomfiture and his anger. Chavez can always be relied upon to know what is really going on within his troops.

Ah! Long gone are the days when Chavez could fill up an avenue for a rally without even bringing free booze!

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