Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Unidad presidential debate, for 66% of the country only

The five candidates who want to hold the unity banner against Hugo Chavez gathered tonight for their first debate (first, I write optimistically as there is no certainty that further debates will be held).

The good news is that there was no clear loser or winner. That is, all accounted for themselves, more or less felicitously, but all demonstrating that they can be a better president than Chavez. The debate had a clear amateurish feel because it was organized by student movement. As such every student union of the major universities that oppose Chavez was allowed to send a representative to ask on the subjects of education, personal security and employment. We are talking a dozen universities here, which contain among themselves 90% of the best and brightest. That was good.  What was amateurish is the set up and the moderator. But still, it all worked out in the end.

The individual performances, in no particular order.

Diego Arria

His wa the most puzzling. He squarely pressed for his program which is to call for a new constituent assembly because even if the Unidad candidate wins s/he will not be able to rule as the rest of the “institutions” are going to do their best to sabotage. Also he took bravely the personal risk to publicly accuse the army to be directed by a group of narco-generals and Chavez for letting this happen. As a grand gesture he also said that on November 21 he would be deposing in the Hague tribunal a law suit against Chavez. One almost had the sense that Arria is not worried whatsoever about winning the debate or the primary: he is a self appointed Cassandra willing to risk his hide for his message to be heard. Whether you agree with him, it certainly forces one's respect.

Henrique Capriles Radonski

If we must at gun point name a loser it would be him. He did not say anything bad but his message was not the one you use to win a primary election, unless you assume that chavista are already going to cross lines on February 12 2012. Certainly tonight he did not win any vote in the hard core opposition, and he might even have lost a few when confronted to the stern message of Arria or the direct willful one of Maria Corina Machado. And as I have already noted often, the campaign for a primary election is not the same as for the general election: the first one is won on the fringes and the second one in the center. In other words, the oatmeal he served tonight was not very helpful or convincing on his abilities to defend us against the evil machinery that Arria was exposing next lectern.

Pablo Perez

If there is a winner tonight it probably should be him because he was expected to be the one performing the worst. By not making any blunder, by appearing more forceful than HCR even though serving a similar oatmeal version he acquitted himself well and thus did himself some good at a time where many are questioning his abilities. His campaign seems to have understood that a little bit of chili might turn the oatmeal into a more meaty beany concoction.

Leopoldo Lopez

In a way he was a little bit of a disappointment because he suffered in reverse the Perez curse as the one expected to do best. By not outshining his opponents he did not help his cause even if he was the one better able to tie emotion, convictions and articulation of ideas. All the other ones were good in one of the three, maybe even in two, but he was the best one at managing these three pillars of debate technique. I think his error was here to soften his stump speech hoping to take a few votes away from HCR and PP. He even stopped saying that Chavez is afraid of the Unidad (or I missed it).

Maria Corinna Machado

At the beginning of the debate I had the sense that she was going to win. She probably scored more points than the others, in particular in her unambiguous defense of private property (missed mostly by the other guys, or very subdued) or her handling on the real causes of Venezuelan violence. But if her convictions and ideas came across clear and loud, the implementation part was less convincing. Even if the other guys did not say much on the “how to” they were better able than her to fool us into they having a plan.

Thus the reasons there is no real winner. PP should keep his numbers and maybe gain a couple of points. MCM should now appear in polls with 5 to 10 points. HCR should be going down to PP levels, and Leopoldo should stay where he is right now. Arria I have no idea if he will gain with his performance no matter how right he was because people who think him to be right might go to MCM anyway as younger. Such is the cruelty of politics. 

Thus no dramatic changes are to be expected in poll numbers, but maybe a change in trends. We’ll see soon enough.

And for the bad news now. The first one is a bad-good one in fact. Chavez did do a cadena but he had the good sense to stop it before 8 PM. His ego is unable to tolerate that tomorrow he will not be front page news and he had to make waves. But that of course will hurt him as even fervent chavistas will find it odd that he could not resist talking his ass off on a night that in all fairness belonged to the opposition If anything, this obvious drive to shut down the opposition can only make disappointed chavista want to listen to whatever they are offering on the other side.

The other bad news is that at least 33% of the country did not have access to the debate. With Chavez onslaught on the media to watch the debate you had either to live in Caracas or Valencia, or subscribe to cable TV service everywhere else in the country. Let’s of course forget about the state TV which would never accept to represent the opposition under any favorable light. But the lone private networks that have a nation wide coverage did not show the debate. Certainly Venevision can now be considered pro Chavez, but I was disappointed that Televen did not promise at least a rebroadcast at 11 PM (or I missed it). This speaks volumes on the success of Chavez in closing media and imposing self censorship: only Globovision networks and some small local TV did show the debate. Food for thought, my friends, that at the very least a third of the country could not listen to the debate while through the previous cadena 100% were forced to watch Chavez unless cable allowed escape.

PS: I did not report live on the debate because my internet sucks.  Also I had to pass an invitation to report live from the place because I had some obligations that I could not avoid whatsoever.  I was planning to try a live tweet thing there but it shall be for some other opportunity.

And you have no idea how difficult it was for me to get this little window of Internet for this post.....  A little bit more and I was in the 33% that had no access to the debate!  and I am back in Caracas.

PS2: if Venevision and Televen could not be bothered with the debate it seems that the news is big enough for CÑN


  1. My impressions from videos and your analyses( which are usually my favorite)...

    DA, I don't quite get your puzzlement here.It would seem to me that the only power capable of truly combating the Narco State would actually be a self appointed Cassandra, willing to risk all to expose it.

    Capriles Radonsky:

    Oatmeal is a 'kinda' unpleasant, comfort food, good only for cold days when we are too sick to eat proper food, or as baby pablum, very soft on the stomach

    LL : the KID, even if charismatic

    mcm for me is highly intelligent and brave....but.......but.... somewhat too self assured due to youth or perhaps overcompensation from being the only female.Maybe relying too much on her guaramo

    I receive un -explained bad vibes here....won't go any further into it.

    All in all I am glad each one of them did what they could !Good for all of them.

  2. Of course,good analisis from you Daniel. Following the format:

    Diego Arria, i'm 23 years old and i've barely heard his name around. i'm sure most of the people i know of my age don't know him at all.

    Capriles Radonski, he's stuck on Miranda and his accomplishments there. Everytime i TRY to hear him he's talking about Miranda and Miranda and how much he's done in MIRANDA. A lot of what whe should do but not HOW we should.

    Leopoldo Lopez, i get this weird chavez vibe when i listen to him.Seems to centered on what he's been through and not on what WE will go through WITH HIM as president. A little more advanced than Capriles.

    Pablo Perez, i don't like him,i don't like UNT, i don't like AD now, i don't like seeing his face huggin children on my city,and he seems to have been trained by dinosaurs to act like them. Reaaaaaaaally bad vibes with this man.

    Maria Machado, she's my favorite so far, shes not afraid of saying things that need to be done.She probably won't be afraid to do them.And as firepigette said, maybe her youth is a problem here. I don't think being the only female has troubled her so far.

  3. Juan Cristobal7:14 PM

    "HCR should be going down to PP levels ... Thus no dramatic changes are to be expected in poll numbers, but maybe a change in trends."

    Daniel, not to pick nits, but if HCR were to go down twenty points to PP levels, that would be a dramatic development. Sadly for PP fans, HCR did not screw up enough in the debate to cause this. I don't think he lost that many points last night, and the fact that nobody landed a blow on him is a win for him.

  4. JC

    oooohhhh... we seem to have a HCRista in our midst.....

    kidding aside recent polls give less than a ten point difference between the two. PP up by 3 taken away from HCR and they are at the same level, considering the error in polling.

    do not rely too much on polls yet. i know over there you are poll freaks but cool down. at least i am on record that i will not take seriously any poll until their field work is dated the second week of november. and i wrote that before knowing the first debate date.

    that is way i stressed on trend change rather than number changes as of last night debate.

  5. Island Canuck7:47 PM

    Talking about polls here's a doozy.
    Good old Jesse Chacon at work again. He must never get out of the 23 de Enero. Ha, ha

    GIS XXI: 56% votaría por Chávez si las elecciones fueran hoy

    Acerca de la valoración del desempeño del presidente Chávez dijo que 62% la valora positivamente. Explicó Chacón que mientras más baja la clase social mejor es valorado Chávez.


  6. "But if her convictions and ideas came across clear and loud, the implementation part was less convincing. Even if the other guys did not say much on the “how to” they were better able than her to fool us into they having a plan."

    Well, isn't that Politics 101.. Since the dawn of man: name certain prevailing social issues, condemn current problems, --i.e. the stuff most people don't like or would like to see improved -- to then offer implausible, magical cures and intrepid solutions.. In 93.2714% on the cases worldwide, ever since those precocious Ethiopians started lighting fires, or the Egyptians, Greeks or Republicans, adecos y copeyanos, the a-la-mode mantra has usually been a vague promise of "change", "cambio", always works beautifully, since no one has ever been 100% satisfied with any status quo..

    No wonder, it's a lot easier to point out the problems, pin the guilt on someone else, that it is to actually assume power and effectively fix them.

    In Vzla right now it's so easy to play the perpetual game of politics as usual: the major issues are obvious: public safety, unemployment, housing, health care, private property, capitalism vs. "socialism", inflation, libertad de expresion, and so forth. Every opposition candidate is gonna blame Chabruto, of course. And may God bless them for it. But they will be hard-pressed to offer realistic, pragmatic, concrete solutions to each specific problem. It will be a shyt-load of hot air, as always, for the most part. Just like 80% of the crap every candidate from any party has ever promised in the USA or in Europe for centuries.. What puzzles me, is that most people still buy a vast amount of this political crap, election after election. They though Obama was gonna balance the budget last week. Or they'll think Leopoldo or MCM will restore absolute peace and safety in Caracas' streets, stop inflation, and get'em millions of jobs and viviendas and all. When in reality, the political machinery os so complex, the corruption levels run so deep, that you can't realistically expect more than 10% of the crap they promise to come true.

    Of course, some politians are even worse than others, so I guess we should pay attention and vote..

  7. Good read of the panorama Daniel, as usual, your eye for the electoral is second to none.

    There's no real winner. Indeed. I don't think they went in to be winner or losers. I think they all know the kind of monumental fuck up of a State they will inherit, and so, I particularly liked DA's mention to a constituyente. As you know, it will be impossible to govern Venezuela with chavistas running all institutions. So only a double down of Chavez constituyente is, perhaps, the only way of moving forward.

    As per the candidates, I'd go for MCM and DA. From the other three, I'd go for Pablo; he's a got a track record as good as that of HCR, and is no sifrino pretending to be a man of the people -as the other two, way more genuine in my opinion, although I heard him parafrasing Rosales and his "la palabra empeñada..."

  8. Juan Cristóbal10:53 PM

    What recent polls? I was told Consultores 21 from October has him more than 20 points ahead.

  9. So many variances on opinions. And that's good. Looking forward to the next one. In the meantime, thanks Sledge. Enjoyed the reality bite.

  10. JC

    there the polls mentioned in talk shows that are not published and there is IVAD. all equally reliable at this point since all of them seem to be fast polls in urban districts. the consultories XXi was done when HCR was running alone and thus it was certainly inflated though i certainly agree that he lead at the the time. but times are a'changing...

  11. jc

    there is also a recent datanalisis somewhere.

    but as i told you, i am not paying much attention to any poll published before december 1. their discussion should be limited to the mundane.

    let me put it this way: arria and mcm managed 200 000 signatures to run and yet do not appear in polls. if i am not mistaken 200,000 signatures should give them at least 2-3 points each, no?

  12. 33%, not 66% nationwide, Daniel.
    Most people cannot watch Globo, do not have cable nor do they live in Caracas or Valencia.

  13. kepler

    read my post, some local TV participated.

  14. Consultores has him 14 ahead in October


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