Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"El Coliseo" ain't some sporting arena in Rome

What happened this Monday in the Uribana jail of Barquisimeto is yet another witness of how degraded has Venezuelan society become.  In addition it reveals what a spectacular failure is Iris Varela turning out to be even if some people like yours truly had dared speculate that her gumption and concern for criminals could allow her to reach at least some improvements in horrific Venezuelan jail system.  Of course, we were dubious very early own her tenure as her solution for improving jails overcrowding was to forbid sending people to jail. Since she has been muddling through, obtaining at least a modest success in that now transportation to and from tribunals has improved since graft has seized even that item and if you wanted to go fast to your trial (the more so if you were innocent) you had to pay.  But overall she has been a failure.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From rumors to panic?

It is Tuesday and we do not know whether Chavez is alive, cut up, sewn up, under test, etc, etc...  Rumors are flying of course and even Boccaranda the great is resorting to Brazilian "gossip" (I do not know what word to use at this point).

And not only chavismo is in panic (here and here) but now my distinguished colleague, pro Capriles to the hilt, is starting to panic slightly.  Time to get a 2 weeks supply of food and water before popping that corn and watch TV news?  For the record, I am not as sanguine as my colleague and even if I do not like Capriles much I have more faith in him than he seems to do.  Not only that, but even if Capriles were to be jailed, there are at least three leaders in the opposition ready to step ahead on the spot.  MCM for one would jump over a tank in a jiffy.  LL has proven himself under tear gas attacks (see recurrent VTV footage of 2001).  Etc....

At any rate, my advice remains the same.  Read as many rumors as you wish but do not lose sleep over them.  I for one only read those that come to my mail box on their own :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The tumbleweed state

Venezuelan administration?
Last night, as a form of protest, I decided to watch the Oscar's ceremony even though I had not seen a single one of the movies, because in Venezuela only a few of the nominees come to the theaters, AFTER the fact.  All of this, of course, courtesy of currency exchange control that forces distributors to bring only the most "commercial" crap available.  Not to mention that the Venezuelan public sucks but that is another story.

And it became a surreal affair.  Not only the French were sweeping 4 of the biggies but twitter coverage in Venezuela switched from the Oscars to the squatters taking over a few buildings in Terrazas del Avila.  See, professional squatters unleashed against the Miranda PJ authorities thought that people would be too busy watching the Oscars to come out and defend themselves on a Sunday night.  They should be more up to date, people that cannot watch movies can hardly root for them.  But I digress again.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 2012 primary results: part 4, the PJ sweep that was not quite a sweep

Certainly Primero Justicia is arguably the biggest political party of Venezuela.  But a closer look at the results of February 12 gives a rather nuanced story.  It seems that the votes of Capriles were more his votes than those of PJ (not surprising, fortunately) but also that PJ is still having more trouble than what one may think at spreading out of its Caracas area bastion.

Capriles votes were his (and only his?)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just when you thought it could not get much weirder....

Chavez left today for Cuba to have something removed.  I leave the "something" because it is the vagueness that micomandantepresidente likes best when we talk about what pain in the ass he suffers from.  Since chavismo is in so much trouble it was irresistible for them to organize a little bit of tribal cum Pentecostal delirium to wish him well on his trip.  So for the past three days Chavez has been doing cadena after cadena, several hours most of them.  And in these cadenas we only saw Chavez political party activities (trying to catch up with the opposition organization) and diverse religious activities for lack of a better word.  We need to understand  that Chavez may not be the deity himself but certainly he has gotta be the channel to that deity (preferably Simon Bolivar mesmo).

Friday, February 24, 2012

The 2012 primary results: part 3, the Leopoldo effect

The least heralded winner of February 12 is Leopoldo Lopez.  He has prudently, and wisely, and with class, stayed in the background.  His twitter is almost silent.  No way to tell if it is a political calculation or a sign of depression that he is not on top, but whatever it is, Capriles owes him big time.  Not for his victory which was a given since at least December, but for the margin his endorsement gave him, shutting up any protest, forcing a near enthusiastic unity around him, offering the national recognition as the undisputed leader.  In politics this is gold.

You call this a fine? Another facistoid moment...

Dangerous old lady
[Already updated]
In an interesting development the TSJ decided to fine Teresa Albanes 200 UT, which is roughly equivalent to 3.500 USD at the official exchange rate.  I am sure that Teresa has that amount in her checking account, so that is not the problem.  Not that she would pay it, the Unidad should foot that bill if worse comes to worse.  So, what gives?

Teresa Albanes is the visible head of the committee that that organized brilliantly the electoral part of the primaries last February 12.  As such she got quite a lot of notoriety.  Not only she never lost her temper in spite to all the banana peels thrown in her path, but she has become quite a national hero.  See, Teresa Albanes is our archetypal positive matron and most of us have had someone like that in our past.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chavismo is in a much worse shape than what you thought

Every media is abuzz with the news that Chavez is not cured after all.  The "Estoy cura'o" will join the long list of famous last words.
Capriles checking Miranda beaches

And yet you would be hard pressed to find careful analysis around, only people  too happy to quote and re-quote a few cable dispatches stating that Chavez still counts on this and that (mainly big bucks stashed away for vote buying).  Well, I do not agree: Chavez and chavismo woke this morning in a much worse situation that the mere idea of renewed cancer cannot explain alone.

To understand what I mean we need first to go back to the first semester of 2011 and what was chavismo strategy then, until one day Chavez disappeared in Cuba for weeks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wolf! Wolf! Oh shit...WOLF!!!!! (by Anonymous)

The title comes from a comment in the preceding post and had anonymous been less anonymous he would not have to share credit with the more prolific author of all times.

Stop crying wolf!

Yours truly does not follow on twitter gossip columns (for example, the only @boccaranda I ever read are those forwarded to me).  In fact, anyone that has a tendency to tweet too often is promptly "unfollowed", unless it is news source.  This being said, with all my precautions, I still could not escape the wave of rumors about Chavez health that swept this Carnaval holiday.  A word to the wise.

The 2012 primary results: part 2, the turnout

The biggest surprise of Sunday 12 was without a doubt the large turnout of the voters for a primary.  This type of elections are usually an affair between committed and not so committed supporters of a given movement.  Thus the turnout is usually in the single digit numbers and can raise, with a good fight, in the low two digits numbers (less than 15% to put a number).  The reason is very simple: in modern democracies the majority party rarely reaches 60% of the final vote and the abstention rate hovers at 30%.  Thus the theoretical ceiling of a primary vote would be a 40% turnout, a number never seen anywhere.  I am not talking about the US extensive primary system because it is now a tradition, because it varies among states, because it is set to provide a winner A.S.A.P. (though of late it has been failing quite a lot at that).  But when I lived in the US I remember political pundits being ecstatic at a given primary getting a 5% turnout!

For national primaries we have the recent example of France where the Socialists elected François Hollande with  less than 3 million participation.  That is, in France, more than twice the size the population of Venezuela, without any constraints or governmental interference, in percentage the turnout was less than half the Venezuelan turnout.  The French political class was duly impressed by the success of Hollande who has been on top of the polls ever since.  And yet the turnout was single digit..........

Thus, on mere international comparisons the Venezuelan turnout of February 12 is remarkable, a record participation say some, the more so that it took place amid constant attempts at sabotaging by the regime who feared a high turnout and thus did all what it could in "acceptable" scare tactics to keep it below 1.5 million voters.  It got twice that much and sent the regime into a tail spin of invective, fascist maneuvers and what not.  But the opposition in Venezuela should not be too happy either.  If it is true that its chances are greatly improved for October presidential vote, it is also true that the vote of February 12 does not necessarily translate by at least an automatic doubling of its count next October as it seems to be the rule of thumb elsewhere. There are two ways to look at that, the intuitive one and the number crunching.

Is the mood for a doubling of the vote in October?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The 2012 primary results: part 1, the scenery

Last night I got my hands on the actual numerical results and there is a lot to be written on that.  The more so that the ambiguity of many of these results offer so many interpretations....  See, the main salient feature is that the Venezuelan opposition voter has become a master at cross voting whereas the chavista voter punches whatever hole it is asked to do.  Let me give you a glaring example starting with my home state of Yaracuy:

PJ Capriles 27.583 votes
PJ governor 16.206
PJ mayor San Felipe 3.356

On the other hand

UNT/other Perez 16.206
Other "other" prez 1.868
Convergnecia governor 35.339
Convergencia SF mayor 3.832
Other SF mayor  2.754

Clearly, Capriles had zero coattails, or rather his coattails were not enough to compensate the bad impression that Primero Justicia left in the state after 2008 when it was the main responsible agent of the total loss of the state to chavismo.  We remembered and we were not ready to reward PJ whatsoever.

This example illustrate the different points that need to be analyzed out of the real numbers.  Right now, not only there is the actual coattails effect, but we can also look at other type of cross over voting, at the participation by region (5.3% in Delta Amacuro to, say, 24,9% in Miranda), at the surprising surge of Voluntad Popular considering that 2 years ago it did not exist and that its coattail maker withdrew 2 weeks before the vote, at the scores of PJ in some key areas, at a certain resilience of AD and Copei, etc, etc...  a few short posts over the days ahead as time allows me.

Fascistoid Bananarama in Venezuela

This week we got ample proof that we are indeed a true banana republic.  I will pass on the latest attempt at creating Tascon List III as I will come back on that later.  I will just point out that the attempt was so badly botched that I have to believe that they actually wanted to botch it because they really did not want to follow Chavez instructions.

I will pass on the series of cadenas since yesterday, where Chavez have spent most of his time insulting, INSULTING the opposition and its candidate.  The guy is certifiable, why insist?

I will pass on the latest antisemitic bout which is an omen of worse to come.  And if I pass on that it is because the alluded party missed today a great opportunity to criticize the Chavez foreign policy as the UN massively voted for condemning Syria's regime, Venezuela voting against the resolution.  Capriles is going to have to grow up as a candidate and realize that there are more things to do for a president than fixing potholes.

But today I cannot pass on the oil spill of Monagas which has left 3/4 of its people without access to drinking water for maybe a month.  An oil spill that could have been prevented, an oil spill that could have been controlled earlier but was not because the guys were off to Caracas to celebrate February 4th parade.  What does Chavez do?  Certainly not go there to support its people, and even less mention it these days in any of his cadenas.  See, Chavez could not care less about his people, he only cares about his political survival which now can only be gained though insults and blackmail.  And by the way Monagas is the state which voted the most for Chavez in 2006, with 71%.  Good for them!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I am barely recovering from a migraine that took me out 24 hours.  I missed all the action yesterday, from the burning notebooks to Capriles swearing in.  Be back sometime later today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The winner and loser list one must do

Blogger cannot escape their fate.  As I am waiting for full results, there is a brief winner and loser list from yesterday.

Winners (and whiners?)

Capriles.  No question, silly me!  His leadership probably surprised him.  Who would have said that the result of 13 years of bombastic leadership would have made bland the "nouveau chic politique"?  But do not be fooled, the guy today had his first Internationale press conference and chavismo is finding out that he has more guts than one thought he had.  Note: I repost as homage a picture of him taken over a year ago when I said that it probably locked his victory, that fateful walk in the mud.

Capriles in, AD out, Chavez shaking


The title summarizes quite well the momentous results of last night, and momentous they were.

The participation

With 3 million people finding their way to the voting stations the primary overcame all expectations, including the ones of yours truly who was the lone voice around saying that we were going to go above 2 million.  In fact in January 11 I was talking 3 millions but in front of negative reactions from readers and colleagues I went down to 2.5 millions (a bet I made last Saturday).  So folks, I take full credit for that prediction which I will call a victory for me, just as I predicted the 69 seats of 2010.  Datanalisis is my only challenger as of today (for that I eat some crow because I did not believe their 62% poll of last week for Capriles).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The primary day post

12:31 AM next day

The day ended in near disaster.  I was stuck in traffic at La Victoria while these asshole chavistas exited in a complete chaos the premises.  There my battery cell phone run low so I had to keep it for phone calls.

Then there was a multiple car crash at the Caracas entry in Tazon and I staid there almost 3 hours, running out of gas almost.  I had to save the last fumes by going down all the hill in neutral, engine off.  By the time I heard Perez excellent concession speech I had enough of it all and turned off the radio.

These episodes today deserve a post on their own with the details that show how degraded a country we live in.

So no analysis tonight, I just heard some news while I ate a cold slice of pizza arriving home, left who knows when.  I may just finish me off through food poisoning....

1:45 PM

DO NOT BELIEVE ANY EXIT POLL OR WHATEVER!  There is no need for them, no one has money for them, they are extremely casual at best.  I am sure that some polling of sorts exist but it has to do more with motivation and market research more than actual winners.  Most parties have people at their tables and the atmosphere is friendly and good overall.  There is simply no need to invest in an expensive, unreliable and useless poll.  This because I already see creeps giving results!  There are none.  Period.  Do not believe any journalists, not even Ocando in Miami and perhaps him the last as who knows who is feeding him data.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trying to tie a few loose threads before tomorrow's vote

[UPDATE 2 and final]
Thus we are voting tomorrow and since I will leave for Caracas as soon as I am done voting,  there will be no "election day" blogging as I usually do, though there will be live twittering (more on that later).  This means that anything I have to say before voting starts needs to be said by tonight.  As such this post will be up all day and will be updated as needed.

Clear separate issue paragraphs so you can rad only what interests you.

The stakes tomorrow

Of course, what all have eyes on is the big prize, the presidential nomination.  Unfortunately there are also local races that could influence at the very least the margin of victory.  But since the Unidad Election board at times sounds like your average CNE, they will not announce any partial results until the trend is "irreversible".  For example the strong push of Mendoza in Miranda cannot be looked as a bellwether for how well Capriles is going to do overall: we will know about it after the fact, robbing us from any significant suspense on election night.  And giving me a lot more of work after election results to explain given messes.

A short note from Alek Boyd: Lopez as the king maker

I had a brief exchange with Alek Boyd about Leopoldo action, and asked him to put it as a guest post.  There it is.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

An endorsement, an apology to the MUD, and predictions with a review

Thus it is time to round up the primary 2012 series of posts, reserving the label for a few more posts until late next week, as results are commented.  Three items in this post..

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Special interview: A driven chat with Leopoldo Lopez

Catching up with Leopoldo Lopez these days may even be more difficult than before his withdrawal. Not only he is campaigning hard for Henrique Capriles hoped for victory, but he must shore up and comfort his party, Voluntad Popular, and campaign for its nominees. And yet, he accepted to grant Venezuelan News and Views an interview, but on his time conditions, that is, whenever possible. The tentative time was set one week ago, Monday night when I was summoned to a street meeting in the Bello Campo neighborhood. And then, at the end, it would happen in a mysterious way, not for secrecy reasons, just for a constantly rearranged schedule.

Grateron's speech
I arrived on time to watch a street gathering which even had chairs provided. It was in Bello Campo, one of the Chacao neighborhoods. The speaker was Emilio Grateron, its current mayor, trying to win over his voters for the February 12 primary where he is strongly challenged by Primero Justicia’s Ramon Muchacho. He must not be happy with the polls because I was impressed by his candid speech where he admitted his errors, gave some very valid explanations to the unfair attacks he is subjected to while managing not to make them sound like excuses. Never mind that a Muchacho truck drove by during the meeting with loud speakers full blast.

Then again his crowd was mostly a middle class crowd in its education and the message seemed to pass well (there is also a barrio nearby who could attend giving the required diversity). Still, Grateron if articulate is not the most exciting of speakers and the meeting closed with a rousing speech of Leopoldo which finished the convincing part. People do indeed remember their mayor of 4 years ago and his popularity is intact, at least in that group, in spite of recent events.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Voting for the pleasure of it

It seems that AIO, very occasional contributor, is dying to vote even if he is a gringo.  So I obliged with two polls on the right.  The first one, only for those readers who are actually going to vote next Sunday (please, do not vote more than once from different computers!!!).  And a second open poll for whoever reads this blog, as to who do we really, really wish would win next Sunday even though we may end up voting for another guy.  You know who you are, voting for Capriles but wishing Medina to win....

Monday, February 06, 2012

Your little Monday poll: Capriles blowing the field out

"Capoldo" about to "landslide"?
Election must be close, finally major pollster are coming out with the goods, well, some goods at least.  I just received in my mail box the Datanalisis phone survey of the 8 largest cities of Venezuela.  I do not know whether it is on the web, so you are going to have to trust me on this one (and I can forward it to you if you wish it so, just write me). [Added later: the poll is on the net here] Before you read the rest keep this in mind, it is a phone poll of major cities and Capriles is expected to do better in that range whereas Perez is expected to do better in the Podunck polls.  Still, no matter what caveat one may want to put it looks like the endorsement of Leopoldo Lopez to Capriles has sealed the result.

The first slide has a little surprise: it measures whether people have heard of the candidates. They have, all at the same level more or less, which proves the debates have had following enough and thus were beneficial for voter education.  However that slide also shows the likes and dislikes and Maria Corina Machado, MCM, comes out the loser with the higher negatives.  Obviously a truth and reality based campaign is not of the like of the average Venezuelan.

The other primaries: the battle of the proxies

[UPDATED]I am late in covering the other primaries but the task has been more difficult than expected.  First, there is the myriad of alliances that do not match those made at the top of the ticket, and they keep shifting as MCM goes up or Leo goes out.  Second, there is a dearth of polls so really, it is difficult to get even a "trend" that we can trust.  And third, in recent weeks, all are jumping on coattails: even if opposing, candidates for the town-hall of Tucusiapon have their picture taken with Capriles.  One has a sense that if Perez where also to offer his picture with both of them they would probably accept.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

El 4F, un golpe reaccionario

reaccionario, ria.
(De reacción).
1. adj. Que propende a restablecer lo abolido. U. t. c. s.
2. adj. Opuesto a las innovaciones.
3. adj. Perteneciente o relativo a la reacción ( tendencia tradicionalista).

Esta es la definición que nos ofrece la Real Academia para una palabra que cada día describe mejor y mejor lo que ha pasado en Venezuela desde 1992.

No pensaba escribir nada hoy pero ante tantas baboseadas, abusos, y mas, me siento obligado a aportar algo personal a la fecha.  Yo no estaba en Venezuela el 4F, vivía en el norte, en un país democrático, trabajando en universidades, lugares cultos, intelectuales, lejos de las realidades venezolanas y también norteamericanas, donde creíamos que la racionalidad siempre termina ganando.  No podía entender que en Venezuela después de 34 años de la caída de Pérez Jiménez pudiese tambalearse la democracia tan fácilmente.  Desde que regresé en 1997 se me ha ido parte de mi vida en tratar de entender porque pasó eso, llegando a la conclusión que nunca fuimos un país democrático, que nunca nos interesó la democracia y que lo único que cuenta es el facilismo, vivido preferiblemente con un contacto personal con alguien de poder para que nos resuelva nuestros problemas.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Venezuela everyday more like Cuba, will smell like it soon

RNV not even hinting at Polar as a target of Chavez wrath
Yesterday Chavez gave yet another cadena of 5 hours where he said his usual inane stuff and then some more.  I will pass on his usual provocations such as the armed forces being chavista.  What I think was the worst this time around was his latest discovery that taxes and mandatory employee payment are not business expenses.  True, it maybe a provocation also but in this case I am afraid that there is more to it: either he truly does not understand how a business is run, or worse, he wants to end all private business once and for all and is not even waiting for October 7.  I became twitterless under the shock.

In Venezuela businesses pay a lot of taxes and are constantly audited so fiscal evasion is rather difficult, no matter how much you bloat your expenses.  After all the SENIAT (our IRS) only accepts bills that are made at the business name and tax number, and under strict guidelines of presentation if not they are deemed not valid no matter the amount.  The only small exceptions are some tolls, and food bills for very small amounts, considered in the global travel allocation of a given employee.  So, from personal experience, I can tell you that one of Chavez accusations is an outright lie: it is nearly impossible to over-report sales tax (VAT).  It is true that the system allows you not to pay all the VAT on raw material and services but you still pay a significant portion of it.  Thus if it is also true that the final customer pays the bulk of it, it remains that intermediate VAT during the process are genuine business expense.