Monday, February 06, 2006

What to do with Venezuela: part 4

Part 4: Chavez electoral strategy

Before analyzing the opposition options it is useful to try to guess what will be Chavez strategy for December 2006.

Chavez realizes full well that releasing control of the CNE is too risky for him as his avowed aim is ten million votes. That aim is much more pretentious, and preposterous in a true democracy, than winning an outright majority. He will need all the help he can get. As he is already violating the constitution and the electoral law for his December bid, the urge of a complaint CNE is a sine qua non. Hoping thus that an eventual new CNE might be a little bit better than the Jorge Rodriguez combo is a complete delusion that all players should overcome fast.

After December 4, Chavez realizes that if he does not allow for an impartial CNE, abstention is his real enemy. In fact, it is such a powerful enemy that he might not even be able to get his Recall Election number (that would already require doubling the 12/05 result, no mean feat by itself). And we can suspect that Chavez is smart enough to realize that he will not be able to create a Frankenstein opposition candidate that will manage on his own to get at least 1 million votes: Chavez would need to send chavistas to vote for that guy (or rig the voting machines).

Apparently the strategy of Chavez will be in adding to the obvious (look at the list of presents from last February 2, already increased after Sunday 5 Alo Presidente, [5]) the US Venezuela 'conflict'. Argelia Rios publishes a good summary on that strategy in the Sunday edition of El Universal. Suffice to say that Chavez will try to link abstention as an US plot to sabotage his regime and use such an excuse to obtain legitimacy from his neighbors and associates, voiding the abstention effect as a necessary evil to secure National Independence.

Of course intelligent people will not buy such a crass plot, but these are not the intended targets of chavismo. His targets are those who get lavish cash flows from the Venezuelan state, so as to give them an excuse to remain silent and keep receiving fat checks to buy back their bad debt. After all, who thinks that Kirchner is worried about Venezuelan democracy? People like him just need an excuse as they have decided to apply some of the chavista strategies of power control at home.

It also prepares the country for an eventual repressive system if Chavez does not even get his Recall Election numbers. The new arms purchase that Chavez announced Saturday 4 are not to defend Venezuela against the US, they are to arm his militia to repress the opposition, a step he will have to take sooner than later. Or does anyone think that organizing “neighborhood squads” to seek voters and arm a 1 million militia with Kalashnikovs is to protect the republic against US missiles?

No, Chavez cannot get 10 million votes on his record alone. In fact, as the effects of mismanagement become more and more apparent through the electoral year, he might even grow weaker as months and scandals drag along. Thus the need to look for a strong issue to distract from his own failures and we all know since Samuel Johnson that cheap “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

The opposition has its work cut out.

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5) As a side note. On his Alo Presidente of February 5 Chavez announced that Cuba will “help” Venezuela in buying the 400 + million dollars it needs to “renovate” some hospitals. Now, I am sure that Cuba has experience buying stuff on the cheap going around embargoes, but the point here is that 3 days after commemorating 7 years in office, SEVEN YEARS, the bolibanana revolution apparently HAS NO TEAM able to do governmental purchases on the cheap. It is inconceivable that a president would acknowledge such incompetence from his staff. It is even more inconceivable that he puts up with such incompetence. And it is truly awesome to hear such a lapsus, such a confession of administrative failure.


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