Friday, August 19, 2005

Two Tough contests

Note of the author: because this is an article about a contest, I do not want to give away the names of the winners too early in the text. For this reason, most of the references that I traditionally include as hyperlinks are cited at the end.

The other day I was discussing with some Venezuelan friends about who they thought was the worst figure in the Chavista government. I am aware that the term “worst” is a bit subjective. It depends on which measure is used to assess “badness”. One could interpret it as the one figure that has been most damageable to the country, or the most incompetent, or the one that uses his/her power in the worst way. So there are many definitions to pick the “worst” figure but, regardless of the definition, the contest is indeed quite tough because the competition is very stiff.

The Chavista government is indeed rich in figures that are incompetent, arrogant and cynic, that have damaged the country permanently and that are unusually vulgar, even for the low standards of Venezuelan politicians.

Attorney general Isaias Rodriguez and Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel were really popular among my friends, and I must admit that they are hard to beat. And who could be indifferent to the charms of Assembly members Tascon or Iris Varela (1) (R5)? But, after some thoughts, I picked two different candidates.

I picked them because of their arrogance, striking even among all the other Chavistas. They systematically forget what it means to be a mayor representative of a democratic institution. They perform their role as if the institutions they are in were their own, with total disregard for anybody that is not identified with their party and their views. But, among all, I picked them because they have two key positions that are the foundation of any democratic system and their lousy job as keepers of the democratic way will make an impact for generations to come.

My first runner up is Chavez’s major puppet in Congress. I am aware of being a bit harsh because everybody in the current government is Chavez’s puppet, but this is a very important puppet. My first runner up uses the thin government majority in congress shamelessly; he does not even understand what it means to respect the voice of the minority, even within his own party. When a law has to be passed because Chavez wants it badly, like the Civil code modification or the Central Bank law, he asks for a blind vote and does not even admit a discussion within his own caucus, let alone the representatives of the very important opposition (R1,R2,R5).

So, my first runner up is definitely Nicolas Maduro, the president of the National Assembly.

My winner is, in my opinion, the most intelligent Chavista in the current government. One may argue that that is not a very difficult achievement given the kind of government figures that are running the country. As we say in Venezuela, “en el pais de los ciegos, el tuerto (2) es rey” (in the country of the blind, the one eyed is king). But my winner is no “tuerto”, he has both eyes and he knows how to use them. No wonder Chavez has chosen for him what is probably the most important position in his government. One may not like him, but the guy can think.

He transformed a vibrant democracy where people believed in their system into the twilight zone we have now in which nobody has any trust in the voting process. A twilight zone in which people see the abstention as the only way to protest what is happening in Venezuela. He did it by the sheer use of his arrogance and probably, his professional knowledge (3). When the opposition raised doubts about the validity of the results of the Revocatory Referendum of August 2004, he systematically refused to provide the voters with the only proof that the system still worked: the manual counting of all the ballot boxes. When Sumate claims that articles 95 and 106 of the Ley Organica del Sufragio have not been respected, he just disregards Sumate claims and says that Sumate may have confused the law with a law in the United States. When Sumate indicates that the electronic notebooks compromise the secrecy of the vote, he disregards it again.

Why do I say he is the most intelligent Chavista of the bunch? Because his strategy is brilliant:

1.- Stand in your position and forget the impartiality that the keeper of the most sacred democratic process should have.

2.-Disregard complaints and public opinion to discourage opposition voters.

3.-When necessary, accuse the opponents of the same ailments of which you are being accused.

So, it is with great amazement that I recently read that he claimed that Venezuela’s current electronic voting system was the most secure of the world and attacked the “cheating” of previous governments that used manual counting (R3,R4). That is brilliant because Sumate is asking for manual counting to insure that Venezuelans trust their system again.

Sumate is his pain in the neck (R6,R7,R8, R9). So by attacking manual counting as a cheating system, he not only wants to pass as the champion of transparency but also attacks Sumate in its quest for clean elections.

So, my winner is definitely my “tocayo” (4) Jorge Rodriguez, president of the CNE.


At the end of this discussion, I asked another question to my friends.

“And, what is the Chavista that you like the most?”

They looked at me as if I were an extraterrestrial. It was the classical question that could only had one answer. In fact, they unanimously said


I insisted and they kept telling me that there was absolutely no one in the government they could agree with or think good about. I do not accept defeat too easily, so, in the end I changed the question:

“OK, maybe I should not be asking about the chavista that you like the most but rather about the one that you hate the least… ”

They thought very hard about it and one of them, the most virulent anti-Chavez of the group, jokingly came up with this very surprising answer:


Even as a joke, I jumped from my seat in disbelief. He added:

« Why not? Remember, Jorge, En el pais de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey »

They meant that the Chavistas are so bad, that, ironically, Chavez himself might be the best of the bunch.

I have been thinking about his answer for a while and found out that I profoundly disagree with my friend. This has been exactly the strategy Chavez has been having lately, his government is so bad that, for his followers, he is a saint that has to put up with those very inefficient ministers. And, for his enemies, his government is so bad that he stands out as the best chavista.

Sorry Hugo, but I am not fooled that easily. You are bad, really bad. I am even tempted to move down Jorge Rodriguez to second place but I want to remain loyal to my original understanding of the term “chavista figures” (that excludes Chavez).

Call me a purist. I told you noneles that this was a difficult contest.

And as for Jorge Rodriguez…

My dear tocayo, in my mind, you are second only to Chavez himself. And, by the way, all my condolences for the ugly tricks that the “mano peluda” (hairy hand) (5) was doing with your book. But you know, tocayo, that will teach you a very important lesson :

When you are the author of a book, YOU SHOULD READ IT FIRST!

Jorge Arena.

(1) Iris Varela is known for some amazing declarations like the infamous “porque nos da la gana” referring to the fact that even with a very thin majority in Congress, the Chavistas will pass any law, no matter how absurd or unconstitutional, “porque les da la gana” (because they feel like it).

(2) In colloquial Venezuelan Spanish a “Tuerto” is a person that lost one eye.

(3) Interestingly, Jorge Rodriguez is a psychiatrist.

(4) Also in colloquial Venezuelan Spanish, people with the same given name are called “tocayos”.

(5) In Venezuela people often refer to a “hairy hand” when unexplicable things happen at the political level.

Articles and references:

(R1)“Maduro sin metro”

(R2)“Otra vez el Codigo”

(R3)“Rodriguez: no hay sistema electoral tan seguro como el de Venezuela”

(R4)“Jorge Rodriguez: credibilidad del CNE aumenta 6%”

(R5)Tal Cual 22/6/05 page 3 “Porque nos da la gana”

(R6)« Estamos haciendo algo importante con Sumate : la estamos ignorando »

(R7)« Sumate introdujo ante el TSJ recurso contencioso electoral contra el CNE »

(R8)« El 7 de Agosto no habra elecciones limpias »

(R9)« CNE confia en decision favorable en Sala Electoral » El Nacional, July 22, 2005, A1.

(R10) “CNE : libro sobre RR tiene erroes, omisiones, mentiras y tergiversaciones”

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