Thursday, April 11, 2013

What if chavismo has overreached?

I am back in Yaracuy after a two weeks absence as voting duty calls me (and my business of course  even though these days there is little business to do, but that is another story).

The first thing that caught my attention is that there is no Capriles ads left, not even from last October still hanging here and there. Posters have been removed, walls painted over. If you visit San Felipe today you would be forgiven from thinking that there is a single candidate for next Sunday, Maduro. Coming from Caracas, where Maduro posters are overwhelming  you still see enough evidence that he is not alone in the race. Here, in my local boondocks, no.

After an initial shock, rather depressing, I recovered quickly thinking first that Capriles has not had the time to visit Yaracuy recently. Well, he tried but arrived under pouring rain and decided wisely to move on to Carora in next door Lara.  But I recovered  further realizing that this overwhelming display of Maduro may actually play against him: there is the possibility of an overreach of his campaign that in the final days may backfire badly, maybe backfire enough to have him lose the election.

I am starting to wonder if the carefully laid plans to ensure a post Chavez era may have made a few serious mistakes. The strategy would been roughly the following. First, make as much profit as possible from Chavez demise. Second, have him die when convenient, once Maduro has become a credible power substitute. Third, prepare as much cash as possible, as much electoral material as possible, secretly,  so as to unleash it against the opposition before this one has a chance to print its first poster, if it can print any. And fourth, make it a campaign short enough that the opposition will not have time to place its candidate as a credible substitute.

I am not going into the already well established blunders such as devaluation, twice, or mixing up Chavez death scenery lies. On a strictly campaign issue I am beginning to think that chavismo well laid plans are actually backfiring.

Let's start with the excessive campaign advertising, and the local efficiency of chavistas papering over even the last remaining traces of 2012 campaigns. Why would Yaracuy voters feel particularly excited to go and vote for Maduro since the streets clearly point out that he is a safe winner? How many chavistas will abstain out of sheer lazyness or self complacency?  And how many opposition will be so incensed by the abuse that they will campaign hard on their own and vote with a revenge?  Questions without answers, for the time being.....

But the other mistake on a purely campaign strategic point of view, is to have contrived for a too short electoral campaign.  I am sure that all parties would have agreed that the constitutional provision of a single month is simply stupid and adding a couple of weeks of campaign more would have met with no opposition from neither camp. But the decision was made to make it short because there was already evidence through December and January that Maduro was not all what he was cracked up to be, in addition of being the original plan.

The thing is that the decision forced Capriles into a gamble, but one worth taking. Instead of positioning himself as to why people should vote for him, he decided to go for the why people should not vote for Maduro. And so far it seems to be paying off as Maduro has been unable to articulate any reason to vote for him except because Chavez said so. Which is maybe by itself counter productive as Chavez always gave several reasons as to why you should vote for him.....

Capriles was right to take the gamble. First, he has gone all over the country in his preceding campaign whereas Maduro has just started doing so. Capriles has trusted people to remember why he was offering himself to vote for him, what he promised to deliver. Maduro, even when Chavez gave him the nod, delayed too much before presenting his case because he could not, would not, make it look to obvious that he was already ruling instead of Chavez. So Capriles fulfilled, willingly or not, one of the tenets of negative campaign: state first why people should vote for you before you state why they should not vote for the other guy.

That is one of the reasons why Capriles campaign has been so successful so far, obtaining its first success which is to mobilize in full his electorate of October 2012, condition sine qua non of a putative victory next Sunday. The paradox today is that Maduro is now the one needing more campaign time! He has not been able to find a formula, a good turn of phrase to counter the ones that Capriles has been sending his way, to the rhythm of almost one new punch line a day, from "mentira fresca" to "flojo"..... Maduro's "caprichito" is so lame that it is itself counterproductive as it proves perversely that the "flojo", lazy, is also mental....

The short campaign may have in fact benefited Capriles more than Maduro!

I do not mean to write that Capriles has won, there is still too much going against in in this more than unfair election, but I am willing to say now that Maduro is not going to get the mandate he needs to impose his authority inside chavismo, if he wins. And this by itself will be a success for the opposition as a weak Maduro will have no honeymoon whatsoever.

Yet, who knows? When so many mistakes are made in one camp  from general campaign strategy to the everyday blunder, Capriles committed and brilliant aggressiveness may pay off in the end.


  1. Milonga3:07 PM

    Dano: Another thing that may have backfired is the outlandish abuse by chavistas in this election. I have just heard an interview in Globovision with Alejandro Toledo (via Skype) about the letter ex Latin American presidents have signed asking for a fair and transparent election that should worry the CNE if they have a little shame (we know they don't but..). In the genre of "don't do what you want, the world is watching, especially Latin America". He went on to say that democracy doesn´t have a nationality, it belongs to all, and all of us must defend it!! Tibisay Baba's arm-band caught everyone´s attention!!

  2. Dr. Faustus6:12 PM

    "Why would Yaracuy voters feel particularly excited to go and vote for Maduro since the streets clearly point out that he is a safe winner? How many chavistas will abstain out of sheer lazyness or self complacency? And how many opposition will be so incensed by the abuse that they will campaign hard on their own and vote with a revenge?"

    A very interesting and powerful thought. One could also add the emphasis on polling in the media which shows Maduro far ahead of Capriles, which might not, in fact, be true. And finally, the passion of the everyday Chavista has clearly diminished over the past few weeks. There's no fire in the belly. When 'you' passed their booth on Sunday on the way to the rally in Caracas the rabid rojo rojitos seemed somewhat subdued and reasonable. Anyway, interesting post!

  3. Charly7:02 PM

    The pollsters called my cellphone all afternoon. What a joke! And imagine with a Colombian accent at the other end of the line. Schemel? Just move along.

  4. Anonymous7:08 PM

    Watching Capriles in Lara tonight, versus maduro in Lara last night, I would like to think that they are not only overreaching, but also underestimating. The difference is like night and day in size and also enthusiasm.


  5. Anonymous9:12 PM

    One tool that chavez used last year to build support was to attempt to address the housing deficiency with the casa vivienda mission. Too little, too late to actually construct the housing units promised for years, but what he did was compile a list of over 3 million voters applying for one of the promised units. These are poorly constructed units built by foreigners (as if Venezuelans did not know how to construct housing)that the tenents have use of (as long as they stay loyal) but have no title or ownership. One easily fulfilled campaign promise that Capriles could use to close out would be promise if elected to double or triple the units that are currently being built per month using money that is currently being given to chavez's circle of friends, and sign over title of the units to the families that will inhabit them. The housing has not been built yet, but the list is real. If given the choice of a possible house to use in a few years, or a house that is built in a reasonable amount of time and the tenent could call it his own, which candidate would you support. If that promise were to roll out tonight and be received before Sunday, you could expect a huge amount of that 3 million plus (voting family members) to swing vote. Take the casa vivienda list away from maduro.

    Tonight, Capriles will have an interview on Globovision wrapping up the campaign. This would be an excellent time to roll this or something similar out for a grand slam home run.


  6. Anonymous12:18 AM

    After watching two hours of the Capriles campaign closing interview on Globovision, I saw a man with a clear plan for the future of all Venezuelans. I don't want to think about waking up Monday morning to more of the same tired corrupt false revolution BS, led by the clown maduro. On an even playing field, Capriles can't lose. For Venezuela's sake and future, Capriles can't lose.

    Cudos to Globovision for their coverage during the campaign.


    1. Anonymous10:40 AM

      well for you. Go ahead and help our country


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