Friday, December 28, 2012

A happy new year for the military in Venezuela?

I am facing a complicated week end and I may not be able to write much until next year. OK, next Tuesday....  Thus, just in case, I wanted to write with some leisure right now to wish you all a Happy New Year and to write some about what is in store for Venezuela.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Prosperity in the Maduro era

As usual the regime tries to throw cosmic dust at us to make us believe everything is coming up roses.  The more so now that we are in the electoral campaign of Maduro which is going to be a harder sell than the one of Chavez for October. See, in the Caribbean we did not know that Zombie voting was not only reserved for Haiti. Though admittedly Maduro has also Zombie like qualities.

On one hand the Central Bank assures us that the economy GDP last year grew by 5,5%, 0,5% BETTER than expected. Apparently without gagging Merentes assures us that the negative numbers are a thing of the past and that Venezuela has entered a phase of prosperity, the top 5 within Latin America.  He does acknowledge though that the growth is due to massive electoral public spending vote buying although he does not call it that way, just social investment or something like that. Of course, even though the year is not over and we have already the GDP 2012, we do not have the inflation 2012, and even less how that one contributed to the inflated GDP growth...  But I am such a nitpicker, sorry.

Now, today, Maduro, freshly invested with the power over the purse's strings, announces that it will be forbidden to fire people for another year.  This changes nothing, we have not been able to fire anyone for soon a decade. Not only that, but the new labor law announced last summer in great fanfare for Chavez reelection purposes made firing people awfully expensive so we thought that maybe we could start firing people legally even if we risked going bankrupt along the way (it is roughly about 2 years pay check penalty depending conditions).  But no, it is still forbidden to fire folks for another year (though for years we have been negotiating discrete firing with the workers for significant amounts of money, a true racket).

My question, and forgive my naivete, if central bank chair Merentes is right and we are booming at 5,5%, how come we cannot fire workers? Aren't we supposed after all to be hiring like crazy to satisfy the economic growth?  Why is there a need to protect workers against unjustified layoffs?  Am I the only one seeing contradictions in that?

I am sorry, I was not going to write this week but when I am at work in spite of the holidays and I read such idiotic contradictions of a regime in populist overdrive, I find out that I still have not lost my ability to wince.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

El Chávez multifacetico

Preparando el día de los Inocentes, me imagino

Según usted lea esta es la situación de Hugo Chávez hoy:

Se murió
Está gravísimo
Está estable
Presento leve mejoría
Su familia lo visitó en Navidad
Está ejercitándose y discutiendo asuntos de estado con el Vice

Escoja usted.

Lo único que si es cierto: el saco de ratas que es el gobierno está tan enrollado que no son ni capaces de tener una linea informativa consecuente, aunque sea de puras mentiras.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas letter to readers

I will be busier next following days and I may not be able to post a Christmas post on the 24. But also it is time for me to come out from an October 7 post as to the future of this blog. As anything in Venezuela, the clean cut scenario of a Chavez victory did not come quite true. Then I wrote that I had no interest in spending more years writing to the world why Chavez was bad and that the blog would not close but evolve into something else, something I care enough to write about, involving Venezuela up to a point.

Then again, under PTSSS on October 8 I wrote that I would try to follow the state elections but after that all bets were open. I did not cover much but I did cover it. Thus my contract with the devoted readers that followed until today has been fulfilled. Yet....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The recovery of the opposition is far from starting

If you think that after Sunday 16 the drubbing of the opposition is over, think again.  Some of its past decisions are going to come to haunt the MUD. Actually, it is already starting.

The scenario right now, at least if we interpret the cryptic messages from chavismo, is that Chavez may recover but not for January 10. There is already in preparation yet another constitutional coup where the limit date for swearing in of January 10 may be pushed over. Or said swearing be held in a Havana hospital. Then again we are a Cuban colony and this does not trouble me at all, it is logical.

Pobre hijita de Papi...

Es que hay cosas....  La ultima nos viene de La Habana donde nada más y nada menos Maria Gabriela Chávez nos pide respeto a través de su cuenta twitter.

Respeto a la familia y sobre todo respeto a mi pueblo.Basta d mentiras! Estamos junto a papá,VIVOS,luchando y recuperando la salud.CON DIOS


Primero, si de mentiras se trata entonces es muy sencillo: digan lo que está pasando con Hugo Chávez. El será el Papa de Maria Gabriela pero como presidente de Venezuela perdió todo derecho a su privacidad en cuanto este se refiere al interés público. Un presidente enfermo tiene la obligación de informar, de garantizarnos que en verdad la enfermedad no está afectando su capacidad de gobernar. Los rumores terminan donde empieza la verdad.

Segundo, si hay un país respetuoso es Venezuela porque no puedo imaginar ninguna democracia donde las instituciones y los ciudadanos se calarían la grosería de la viajadera a Cuba de centenares de acompañantes pagados por el erario publico. La falta de respeto aquí viene de esa niña que cree que su cuenta de ahorro esta en el Banco Central de Venezuela.

Tercero, no hay tercero porque me parece un insulto a la inteligencia exigir respeto a la gente más irrespetada en Venezuela, desde los que padecieron por la lista de Tascón hasta Luis Brito. Los irrespetuosos son el clan abusador de Hugo Chávez que ni siquiera respetan a sus seguidores.

Escrito esto, le desamos una pronta recuperación al presidente para que pueda enfrentar las consecuencias de sus acciones destructoras del país. No te preocupes M.Gabriela, estamos contigo aunque sea por otras razones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's next for the Venezuelan opposition?

OK, we have been defeated in October 7 and trashed last Sunday. That those defeats are incomprehensible when one considers the state of the country makes the whole thing harder to stomach. Thus, the first thing the opposition needs to do is to try to understand why is it that the blackmail of the regime was so effective in coaxing people to vote again for them in spite of crime, inflation, constant power outages, lack of real jobs, etc, etc...  It is crystal clear, I hope, that satisfying ourselves by saying we will be more efficient than Chavez is not going to work out, ever. Well, not before the country collapses but do we want to be in charge then? Can anyone even be in charge then when we return to African like political "culture" which is where chavismo is taking us. Guinea Equatorial anyone? Or Guinea Bissau if you prefer?  Congo will do if you go for bigger countries.

Unfortunately we do not have much time to craft a new message that combines the few successful themes of the campaign that ended in October with a more assertive language where we start putting it down clearly that voting voting for Chavez is voting for your doom.  Still, there is quite a few things that should be done ASAP.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Afiuni judicial story

Still in its wrapping.
Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was put into jail on Chavez orders and is still waiting for a fair trial even though the regime has been unable to put forward a sustainable proof of a misdeed from her. It is still in the memory of the decent Venezuelans and of all serious international Human Rights organizations the infamous moment when Chavez asked in cadena for her to be put in jail for 30 years, just after she was arrested, without even being officially indicted of any putative crime.  Since then, December 10 2009, judge Afiuni has been languishing in jail and eventually in home arrest when her medical condition and international pressure forced the regime to pull back some of its rage at her.

I bought a couple of weeks ago the journalistic account of the whole ordeal, not only of Judge Afiuni, but also of the other victim, Eligio Cedeño, whose freedom cost Afiuni hers. Freedom of course being a very relative term in Venezuela since Cedeño, informed that Afiuni had been arrested not even within hours of his release went into hiding immediately and now lives in Miami  in an exile that shall be permanent as long as Chavez is alive. No trial for him either, pure vendetta from Chavez  pure totalitarian working of the Venezuelan judicial body.

Is there something worth rescuing from yesterday's debacle?

I think there is really no point in discussing yesterday's results in detail. Eventually in a few days I may write an additional post about it, but whether PJ did well here and bad there, or whether AD resisted better than expected in Tucusiapon is totally irrelevant. The game has changed dramatically:  we are all waiting for Chavez demise and that is the game in town for the next 6 months. Unless of course Cuban medicine is finally shown to be all that is cracked up to be. One sure thing, the Chavez example is not going to be Cuba best medical advertisement...

The bad is overwhelming  no matter what punditry you can read or see on TV today. The opposition will be in a very diminished situation if elections come in a few weeks from now. No states to rely on for basic campaign logistics, no income, no reserves left after two expensive campaign and a regime that has shown yesterday that the times of nice Chavez are over: frontal electoral cheating is going to be the norm for the next elections if we base ourselves on what we saw Sunday. Diosdado Cabello is not about the niceties of Chavez.

Can we possibly see something positive?

The short answer is NO, but the longer answer points to some stuff that is not that negative.

Monday, December 17, 2012

No mas cuentos: perdimos, y feo

Estuve leyendo y oyendo toda clase de cuentos y veo otra vez toda una maniobra tratando de minimizar la derrota de ayer. Supongo que la mayoría de los comentadores de oficio, o por lo menos a los que se le paga o invita por sus comentarios, no quieren quedar mal. Pero la verdad es otra: salimos mal, muy mal, peor que en octubre.

Empecemos por un cuadro sencillo que acabo de hacer, con las cifras del CNE publicadas hasta el momento. En la primera columna los votos del chavismo de Chávez. En la segundo los chavistas disidentes, pero con Chávez. La tercera son los candidatos de la MUD y la última los disidentes de la MUD que son dos en verdad, el Gato y le gafo en Tachira cuya disidencia no costo nada, Cesar Pérez Vivas necesitando otra escusa para justificar su derrota. No cuento votos muy minoritarios de candidatos evangélicos y otros, polvo cósmico esta vez.

El total porcentual del chavismo y su disidencia sobrepasa el de Chávez en octubre. Por poco, pero lo sobrepasa. El oficialismo sin Chávez no salió perjudicado por su ausencia, no salió perjudicado por la división. Esos son 5 millones de votos super sólidos que tiene ya a su favor Maduro o Diosdado a partir de Febrero, cuando Chávez decida llamar las próximas elecciones.

Digámoslo en otras palabras: la oposición no perdió solamente por la abstención y el ventajismo del oficialismo. Hay también otras razones que explican su derrota y mientras esas no se analicen debidamente nuestro lado no va a ganar nunca, o por lo menos mientras los cobres del petróleo sigan llegando y los chinos prestando.

Adelanto algunas de las causas que hay que analizar y que casi seguro no se harán por temor a ofender a no sé quien, como si eso hubiese resultado en el pasado.

¿Es el mensaje de al oposición suficientemente contundente? Me refiero, por ejemplo, a eso de perdonarle demasiadas marramucias al CNE o rezar por el bien de Chávez cuando el PSUV usa esa enfermedad al máximo, y exitosamente. O eso de no hablarle claro al país sobre la realidad aunque eso resulte desagradable para algunos. Churchill y de Gaulle no ganaron por endulzar el mensaje.

¿Cómo es posible que en algunos estados los electores chavistas sean tan ruines? Me refiero por ejemplo a Monagas donde la mujer que salió a defender a PDVSA contra el Gato, tratando de obligar la gente de Maturín a tomar agua envenenada salió elegida y con la pelusa de 55%. Hay que explicar como delincuentes de renombre internacional tal como Rodríguez Chacin o Rangel Silva arrasaron en sus estados. Quisiera saber si la oposición piensa que se derrota a esa gente con buenos modales, sin mencionar las fechorías registradas que han hecho.

Let the postmortem-s begin, idiocy, wretchedness and primaries

I was going to wait until tomorrow but three things made find the way back to the key board.  First, the CNE did publish at least the governor result (the legislative results are another thing, not all up and complete enough for a few more hours). Second, the response of the opposition through Capriles and Aveledo was a little bit more combative than last time. Apparently they have learned something from October 7. And third, idiocies like this one need to be addressed ASAP.

Coincido: pasar de ganar dos estados el 7O a cuatro es un logro, en estas condiciones tan adversas. Felicitaciones a la Unidad. A trabajar.

"I agree: coming from winning 2 states to 4 is an achievement, in such contrary conditions".

I will start by 3 if you forgive me. That someone who has such a high opinion of herself as frequent Globovision guest writes such an idiocy is dangerous  Besides comparing apples and oranges she is failing to read the result of today. We LOST states from 2008, and not insignificant ones: Zulia and Carabobo which Lara is far from compensating. The result of today is the result of 6 years of deliberate social dependency creation in the Venezuelan electorate. That Chavez disease was milked for all its worth by chavismo who survived massive abstention compounds the problem. I am aghast that already such self complacency has started!!!!

Electoral note 3: the results are truly awful

The results are in.  I did spend actually a rather relaxing day, no TV, little computer.  But I semi tuned in this evening and the wait with the CNE on TV, the general mess, the armed civilians as if it were for war, remind me that we are becoming ever more of  the 4th world. That sort of did me in a little bit before any result was published.  Oh well....

Around 7 PM from the chavista headquarters here in San Felipe we could hear quite a few fireworks so I knew that as expected Yaracuy was a loss for the opposition.  No surprise whatsoever.  The surprise will come if Biagio Pilieri makes it to 45%.

I did not watch CNE's head Tibisay on TV again: I cannot stomach her anymore so I waited for the thing to pop up on the net to write this. I even kept Twitter in cool mode ...  So there we go: an unmitigated disaster for the opposition. Abstention was worse for our side than for chavismo as I expected since the electoral machinery of chavismo would give it an edge in this scenario.  The little bit of extra voting in late afternoon was too little  too late.

My "opposition defeat" 3+1 scenario was actually not good enough: we lost even Tachira, due to opposition divisions even though we won it against Chavez.  Mendez in Tachira has some serious accounting to do. We also lost Monagas were we went divided and the MUD would have to explain why the primaries of Monagas were iron clad but why in Miranda Capriles was allowed to push away Ocariz to get a very, very meager 4% margin. At least, since we must find silver linings wherever we can, for better or for worse the leaders of the opposition are now Henri Falcon and Henrique Capriles. Good thing it seems they get along fine.

I was very pessimistic in my forecast but this is even worse...  What happened?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Electoral note 2: cheating and less abstention

Did I not tell you that electoral cheating would be brought up a notch today?  Coming back from voting I learned through twitter and the web that the vicious Vice held a "press conference" which had to be condemned by the lone CNE ranger still with some ethical positions.  Maduro stopped his TV apparition but we are told that maybe there will be a communique from Havana in a few minutes.  Now the dead not only vote but call to vote for them....

On other matters. I went to vote, THE LAST one of my close family, including those who are now in Maiquetia waiting for their flight and went early this morning to vote. Then again I wanted to go late to see what was up with the local participation  I am pleased to tell you that in my voting center, perhaps the most anti Chavez of Yaracuy, participation was reaching 50% and people were still trickling in. This is actually "normal" and proven that the abstention talk is mostly a parlor game of the idiots in Caracas.  Let's hope I am proved right.

Electoral note 1: abstention galore

As promised, no election day post, no continuous coverage in deep. But still, an occasional electoral note like this first one.

The news so far is a massive abstention at least in urban centers allegedly favorable to the opposition. There is also abstention in chavista areas but let's not forget that they have a "bring in the vote machinery" that should allow them to bring in more voters than the opposition. In other words, at noon we are in a 3+1 scenario for the opposition (see previous post).

So right now we have twitter filled with people begging oppo folks to go an vote. I do not know how many chavista twitterers of doom are there since I do not follow that garbage and no one has retwitted them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The December 16 electoral post

I suppose I should write about the Sunday elections. After all, this blog has probably written some of the most comprehensive coverage of Venezuelan recent elections. Maybe not the best but certainly most comprehensive, from pre-electoral numbers to detailed analysis. But times have changed and after realizing how wretched a country we were on October 7, I really had little stomach for more.  For those new here I suggest that they review, for example and corresponding to next Sunday, past work on the 2008 regional elections and the analysis of their results. I know how to do it, if I wanted to or if I thought it important or necessary.

And it did not get better. In addition of the 55% of Chavez we must add a good chunk of opposition idiots, true idiots, who think that we should not vote anymore until the CNE does not guarantee us clean elections. That is, in my current mood no more than 20% of Venezuelans should have the right to vote, and this after passing a test where in, say, 5 simple questions they should be able to say something about each major candidate and the issues they cover (1). But I should stop myself before I get even more accusations of elitism, anti democracy, etc, etc... thrown at me. Those critics, many by the way who are ready to swear that Venezuela is a democracy (just wait for my review on the Afiuni book soon to come in these pages).  But I digress and I should write about Sunday's vote.

December 17

Simon Bolivar and allegedly Juan Vicente Gomez died on a December 17. Will El Supremo and his sycophants push that far?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Post Chavez scenarios

It is merely impossible to attempt a likely scenario for the outcome of the current situation.  There are too many factors playing against each other and it is too early to honestly decide if any parameter is destined to become the game throwing item. Besides of course the expiration date for Chavez which I understand did not pass to a better world yesterday. Thus I have designed this little slide, cut to the bone, which summarizes very roughly what a rational mind can make of the current situation. As you click to expand a read keep in mind that Tarot card reading is as probably as reliable.....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Who is Nicolas Maduro?

I suppose we should talk a little bit about the heir apparent. He deserves his 15 minutes of fame or whatever time Chavez agony lasts.

Besides this fabulous cartoon of Rayma which says everything about how Maduro reached the summit (?) I can say that Maduro has been making occasional appearances in this blog.

There was a post dedicated to him in 2006, a rather scathing one if I dare say so. But reading it again today there is little that I would add or even change. I suppose that 6 years as a foreign minster must have taught him a thing or two and maybe he could be an improvement from the current quandary. I also would like to pat myself for some of the prescience that I wrote then. But then again I should not congratulate myself too much because,  well, such regimes are in fact so predictable.

The other noteworthy thing about Maduro is his wife/companion, currently the republic main lawyer, a former chair of the National Assembly herself. Together they form the perfect "power couple" of chavismo, those willing to say anything, do anything to please their master.

We should also not forget the accusations from the ex justices on the run that would indicate that Maduro was actively involved in giving orders to the judicial power so as to put in jail given individuals regardless of their guilty status.

To finish this brief  we can note that Maduro has been one of the longest serving ministers of Chavez, probably the second longest serving one after Giordani. As such Maduro is responsible for such crimes as the alliances with Qaddafi,  Assad and other unappealing potentates who have become quite dear to Chavez since 2006.  His latest mission was to try to convince the military in Paraguay to make a coup to bring back Lugo from his defenestration.  In short, Maduro has been an international thug and the only interesting thing to solve is how much of the initiative was in the hands of Maduro.  In other words, was Maduro a simple executor of Chavez and Castro's initiatives or was he also a truly active ideological participant. That answer is the perhaps the biggest key to understand what is in store for us if Maduro indeed replaces Chavez.

Maduro is quite a piece of work and reading comments these days such as he could be more "polite" or "democratic" or "affable" than Chavez leave me quite cold.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worsening of economical instability in Venezuela

We must cover the economic problems coming for Venezuela separately from the renewed political instability.  Usually these go together but in a system based on autocracy and personality cult they somehow can be treated separately.

If Chavez indeed leaves power sometime in January there will be elections no later than April. That the Constitution says 30 days is irrelevant since there is no way to organize and run a campaign in 30 days unless we already know an official date of "resignation" by Chavez. April is thus a realistic goal that all will agree on even if it violates the Constitution.

Renewed political instability in Venezuela

The departure of Chavez for Cuba yesterday in what could well be a no return trip is sending Venezuela into a probable tail spin of political unrest. The reason is very simple: not only Chavez death is not a certainty and that by itself is already a majorly perturbing element, but both sides of the political spectrum are deeply divided.

Chavez left, hinting that he may not be back and naming a successor in the person of Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Had Nicolas Maduro  been an elected vice president then there would be no questions asked: we would be waiting for the demise of Chavez and Maduro could finish the term. But in the now well proven deficient Constitution of 1999 the Vice president is appointed and thus the only legitimacy it has is Chavez blessing. Granted, in what is become a religious movement this is a lot but it is not enough. To compound this it is clear that as long as Chavez is conscious he could well replace the vice president. The consequence is that all inside chavismo will pay a lip service allegiance to Maduro until Chavez passes. Then the real show begins. Let's keep in mind that inside chavismo we have powerful factions that are only herded together through Chavez ferule.  I will mention the main ones: the narco traffickers, the obscenely rich bolibourgeois, the talibanic left, the liberals who think that it is time to be more realistic, and Giordani.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Towards the end of Chavez, and the beginning of the Maduro era?

Tonight we learned one thing: Maduro is the apparent winner of the succession war. That Chavez was sick and that his coming end was a reality we already knew.  When he tells us that it is only a "few malignant cells to be removed" but adds in the same speech that if worse comes to pass people should vote for Maduro we are confirmed in our strong suspicions that it is a metastatic condition that ails him and the prognosis sucks. A few preliminary comments while we await for the new show to unfold.

First we should sue Chavez for the fraudulent elections he had the country go through. Metastases do not appear out of the blue. Signs were all along. If Chavez real debilitating sickness had not been extreme narcissism he would have had Maduro run for last October vote and campaigned for him. With Chavez actively behind he may have won.

Believe it or not but Maduro is not a bad option to replace Chavez for chavismo. For the other side all are bad but for chavismo Maduro is vulgar, radical and from "el pueblo".  In addition he is the live embodiment of "social promotion" possible under Chavez. From bus driver trade union to foreign minister and vice president the message is clear: it pays to be an amoral chavista. Who needs a real degree and a productive career?

And since it is late and I just got the news coming back from a night out I will just add that it is not all over for Diosdado and that Maduro should not be planning redecorating Miraflores palace just yet. Even if Chavez has all but admitted that he will not be available January 10 for his swearing in the day he finally croaks is not the true date for Maduro ascent. First we need to see the results of next Sunday vote and see which side of chavismo can claim victory. Second, if I have a feel that the "civilian" and radical branches are indeed behind Maduro (and our colonial masters Cuba), the military is the real elector. For the time being I am sure that they said yes to Chavez naming Nicolas Maduro his heir. After all, why rock the boat while Chavez is alive? Trump cards are always played as late as possible, preferably once the strong players have been brought down.

My only regret is that it seems that Chavez will never find his way to a court of justice to account for his crimes though I have no doubt as to the harsh judgment history has in store for him. I certainly would never wish his death and even less in his current option but I have to say that his departure will be a relief for a country that has been in downward spiral for at least 5 years. His passing will not solve anything but his departure is a must as no side or country could prosper as long as he was allegedly in charge. For better or for worse we need him gone.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Chávez lo volvieron vampiro

Dibujo bajado de Flicker, perteneciendo, creo, a
Tarlos Luz Martos Majenye
Con el regreso sorpresivo entre gallos y medianoche se van acumulando la evidencias que a Hugo Chávez los babalaos vudú de Cuba lo han vuelto un vampiro.  Veamos.

¿Cuando fue la ultima vez que usted vio al presidente a pleno día?  Ni siquiera durante la campaña presidencial donde la mayoría de sus pocas apariciones eran nocturnas.

¿Tiene usted evidencia de que Hugo come comida normal? ¿Cuando fue al ultima vez que lo vieron tomando café?

Observe que sus apariciones se están sincronizando con los menguantes de la luna.

Ahora viaja a Cuba solo de noche y sin que nadie lo vea. Es mas, este regreso tuvo una transmisión diferida porque en VTV querían estar seguro de poder ver la imagen de Chávez en la vídeo. A veces las imágenes vampiricas no salen en espejos o películas y hay que calibrar bien el lente.

¿No se parece la cámara hiperbarica a un féretro?

Y ya ni hablemos de su inmensa capacidad a chuparle la vida a nuestra pobre nación....

PD: El "coven" lo empezó Fidel. Le está gestionando un papel a Hugo para la próxima película de la serie Twilight donde se tratarán gaitas y amaneceres, con La Sayona de artista invitada.

And he is back....

He came back at 2:30 AM.  Again, in the middle of the night.  Is that the only flying corridor time between Havana and Caracas?

And why is Chavez back? For electoral purposes of course. In his comments, according to El Universal, Chavez worried about whether end of year bonus had been paid (yeah, right), commented about the coincidental dates with previous elections (imagine that!), and had Diosdado say that the regime had a chance at the 23 governor seats (might as well).

I have only one comment: chavismo must feel in trouble to drag Chavez to Caracas in the middle of the night for an impromptu campaign stop.

Does it matter? Probably not much unless all morphine-d up Chavez manages a couple of campaign appearances this week. Personally I have always been split between two scenarios where the opposition gets as little as 3 seats and as much as 6. Thus Chavez return pushes it toward 3. Big deal. The only real saddening thing in all of this is that there are so many idiots that are going to be manipulated once again with such cheap theater. Because that is what it is, theater, all arranged, nothing spontaneous, all under strict control, away of free press, no verification of info.

PS: Tal Cual seems as nonplussed as yours truly: it titles its report "El Cuento repetido", again the same story, Fidel talk included.

Why Chavez succession has to be such a mystery?

Since October 7 Chavez has made only one single public appearance to receive his election certificate. He has done a half a dozen TV/radio appearances where he is either sitting or just in voice. He has been totally absent of the regional election campaign except for the decision process as to who is going to be candidate where. And since last week he is in Cuba where we do not know what is going on while the trip was made in the dark of the night. Amen of all the signs of pain pre October 7. Only one explanation can make sense for someone who never saw a camera he did not like to pose for: Chavez is either really on his death throes or he is so sick that recovery will be long and incomplete, at best. The end result is the same: there is a power vacuum and a struggle to fill it up.

If this is so obvious, why is there such mystery around it? Let ask a few questions.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

From the 1999 constitution to the exit of Norway and Chavez

There is a maxim that I have grown tired repeating over and over: "constitutions are only as good as the people who apply them". Venezuela is the perfect example of bad to really bad people applying a constitution already quite deficient in its elaboration. As a direct consequence we can read, for example, this week that Norway will close its embassy in Caracas and move its regional representation to Bogota.

Why would Norway maintain an embassy in a country that has become economically irrelevant and which does not even bother having a residing president? Colombia next door is booming, is politically relevant and offers continuously improved security.

There is one culprit for all that: Venezuela may have a new Constitution since 1999 but for all practical purposes it is not applied, or applied at convenience while all real power has been vested in the army which has gained more power than in an outright dictatorship without ever bothering to make a coup.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"el voto entubado" or how irrelevant our political system has become

Days keep passing and my pessimism does not lift much. In fact, even if the opposition were to manage about 10 states next December, I doubt it would cheer me up much.  To give you an idea why I remain so despondent let's talk today about "voto entubado", the latest gimmick of the electoral board, CNE, to favor Chavez camp.

Capriles asking all for Primero Justicia
In the US elections are complicated and the political culture is deliberately oriented towards a two party system, tempered through a vigorous primary activity. Since in some counties even the dog catcher is up for election so it makes sense that complex voting machines have a lever which pulls the votes for all the nominees of a given political party. Not that I approve of the measure but it sorts of forces the voters to assume their responsibility to either make their educated choice for all spots on the ballot, or support their party through and through, or just decide the top of the ticket is alone worth their care.

But in Venezuela this does not apply because the political aim is for diversity and thus the electoral system is supposedly designed to introduce a dose of proportional representation.  This constitutional provision like so many others has been undone. I am not going to go into the details on how this was achieved, plenty of posts exist on this respect. One, for example, was to have a proportion of Representatives at state level elected on a proportional basis guaranteeing that any group with, say, 20% of the vote, will get at least one seat. Furthermore the winner of the district seats were penalized at the level of state wide list seats to make sure minor groups would get a vote in the elected assembly. This has, again, all been undone, the CNE allowing fake political parties and alliances by majority groups to squeeze out minority groups, amen of extensive gerrymandering and what not.  Thus now, the opposition has been forced into alliances to make sure that they would at least get a few guys elected while Chavez party PSUV is constantly trying to absorb the fringe left into this fold, through good will or electoral shutting up.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Chavez and the December 16 elections

It is certain that the sudden departure of Chavez for Cuba (on a stretcher?) has to have implications for the regional elections of December 16. So many parameters are affected that these elections are perhaps more unpredictable than ever.  And also the hoped for demise of Chavez makes me realize that I should pay more attention to things and that maybe my writing days are not over. But I digress.

First things first. Let's look at what factors are affecting the current campaign and then let's make an educated guess at possible scenarios.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Diego Arria's memoir

Diego Arria published a little bit before the October presidential vote a memoir of his life, past and recent, which also doubles as a memorandum about Venezuela's today. I was asked to review it but there was so much to write before October 7 and so much depression since that I did not read the book even though it had been sent to me courteously on a PDF form before it was released. Eventually I preferred to go and buy it and I am glad I did because reading this book this week is more profitable than at any reading I could have done before October 7.

Reading memoirs, and reviewing them, is always a little bit dicey. After all no one writes a memoir to delve on past mistakes. And when such mistakes must be faced, usually there are self serving motives or detailed explanations on how the other aspect of that person's life amply compensate the wrongs. In short, the real reason why one reads memoirs if for the gossipy aspect inevitably linked to them. It is thus fair to warn the reader: there is little gossip in Mr. Arria's memoir "La hora de la verdad". His life has certainly provided him with a wealth of gossip but we will have to wait for his real memoirs: this is a book from a man still determined to work as long as he can to bring something to his country.

Certainly, Diego Arria must start his book with a summary of his life, conveniently forgotten by the Chavez regime but also by most inside the opposition. His was a stellar career  in politics and international diplomacy and Mr. Arria has the merit to summarize it as briefly as possible in the first third of the book, a little bit like an extensive visiting card that gives him the credentials to write about the current situation of Venezuela. Yet we gather the "Arria Formula" used often in UN conflict resolution; or more importantly for today's Venezuela, we are remembered that in 1998 there were plenty of people that already saw the potential Chavez election as an oncoming catastrophe for Venezuela. Diego Arria reminds us that there were plenty of now forgotten debates then, such as the one he participated with Hiram Gaviria, then promoting Chavez election and now one of his opponents. Diego Arria had already enough experiences to know better but those were the days of Cassandras and he was one, ignored if not ridiculed but now so bitterly proven right. Still, we should note that Mr. Arria insists that his book is not a "I told you so".