Chavez proposes once again the indefinite reelection

Chavez just declared he would "accept" his party's proposal for a referendum that would allow him to stand for the presidency after 2012. He said he would be president until 2021 if God gives him enough health for that. BBC on that here. Afterposten on that here (they seem to think Zulia is particularly prosperous because of its oil, even if the central government is the one distributing all the money).

Just as a reminder:

  • Venezuela has a presidential system, a very presidential system since 1999, when Chávez introduced his new constitution. Before 1999 presidents could be elected for five years and then they had to go away at least for five years. After 1999 the president can be reelected twice and the term lasts for 7 years.
  • Chávez was elected as president of Venezuela when the oil price had been at an all-time low of $12 per barrel and the price started to climb from 2002.
  • Now the price is dropping.
  • Chávez says he is needed to protect the people from the opposition
Here some petro-high and lowlights together with the price of the oil barrel at that moment:

  • December 1988: Pérez was elected president after people thought he could bring back the times when he first ruled in the seventies (first oil boom for Venezuela)
  • February 1989: Big riots took place and many people are shot down by the military
  • February 1992: Chávez carried out his bloody coup and failed. He is put in prison
  • November 1992: Chávez's military friends tried a bloodier coup and failed as well. All will be release beforehand by president Caldera later on.
  • December 1998: Chávez was elected for the first time $12.28
  • February 1999: Chávez started his first term $17.48
  • December 1999: Chávez proposed a constitution (inclusive renaming the country), strengthens the already strong presidential powers, the constitution is elected $17.48
  • April 2002: Big protests took place and right-winged Carmona ruled for less than two days. Chávez came back to power. $24.36
  • December 2003: Venezuelans signed calling for a referendum to make Chávez step down. Thousands of people were sacked afterwards for doing that. The pro-Chávez National Electoral System created new norms for accepting signatures, postponed several times the decision about recognizing the signatures, makes hundreds of thousands of people go to sign again (Chavismo used the time to demand state employees to draw back their signatures) $28.1
  • August 2004: The referendum took place and the proposal was rejected $36.06
  • December 2004: Local elections took place, with the opposition in disarray. It lost most regions $36.05
  • December 2005: There were elections for the National Assembly and these were boycotted by the opposition, which did not consider the elections would be fair $50.64
  • December 2006: New presidential elections took place, Chávez won again $61.08
  • December 2007: Chávez's referendum for indefinite reelection and more power for him is rejected $69.08
  • November 2008: Local elections took place. Mixed results: the opposition lost many municipios, but recovers the most densely populated states $99.62

The question is now: how fast can the red-very-red National Electoral System organize the new referendum?
Mind: the oil price I wrote here is the average per year. It is more interesting to look at the price per month. The oil price has been dropping from an all-time high in July 2008 (when the OPEC price was $131.22). Also remember: prices of today are about payments in a couple of months.

Opec oil prices: here.

Another reason for Chavez to close Globovision

Tonight, 7 PM, on Globovision, the Spanish version of the FRONTLINE documentary "The Chavez show". DO NOT MISS IT!!! Then again Chavez might stick a cadena....
-The end-

Professor García

(This happened a few weeks ago)Its Monday and a friend of mine -philosophy undergraduate- is preparing an art exhibit at campus. He's wearing a black shirt, which I find unusual and carries a sad look on his face. I'm wondering why he doesn't show any excitement: he has been talking about this exhibit for ages. But as I help him to finish the last details minutes before the opening ceremony, I think that my friend's bad mood its only ought to a certain nervousness.
Then he gives a quick look at his paintings like he shouldn't be doing that at all and tells me all of the sudden: "Do you know what happened to Prof. García?...

He was killed during the weekend and Abelardo (his son) was hurt. I went to his funeral yesterday..." It all comes quickly back to my mind. I never met personally Prof García but by the constant comment and stories from the friends I have from the Philosophy school, I know he taught political philosophy and was very appreciated among his students.

Prof. García (according to my friend' story) was killed for committing the sin of trying to run away with his car from a thief. The thief apparently went mad about this not so nice act and discharged his gun against the car, causing the professor' death in the process; making him know - way too late - that you can't possible run away from the bullets since they are always faster than you.

Its Monday and a friend of mine opens his long expected art exhibit at campus, and speaks to an audience like me - unaware of the latest events or that they probably heard the news and did not pay attention to the details because we hear stories like that one a lot. He dedicates his paintings to his professor as he tries to paint a half smile on his face. The routine applause of this kind of events gives him the sign that life must continue.

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 3 - Yaracuy as the epitome of all that is wrong with the Venezuelan Political System

In the second post of this series I alluded to the possibility that Chavez has reached his plateau and that he will never again get a result as good as what he got last Sunday. The reason I advance is that the caudillo model he offers is reaching exhaustion: after the most brutal campaign he could come up with, he fails to recover his 2006 numbers, while the opposition grows significantly in some urban areas. Looking at the Yaracuy results where we see the ignominious end of another caudillo, Eduardo Lapi, we can see in that state the perfect mirror of a political system that I hope is reaching its end. Note: this article will be the longest of this series, I promise that the next two installments will be less than half the length of this one. Consider it a compensation for not having written on Yaracuy much during the campaign as I watched in horror what was going on.

The Yaracuy story: the decline of Eduardo Lapi

Eduardo Lapi was the very energetic governor of Yaracuy. Triumphantly reelected in 2000 he could boast of one of the best managed states in Venezuela. Even though representing one of the smallest states he did managed to get enough national recognition that he ended as a representative of the opposition during the difficult negotiations of 2003 sponsored by the OAS and the Carter Center. Incidentally, these promised to veil for the well being of the opposition negotiators and today all of them have felt into hard times, Lapi even being in exile, and not a word form the OAS or the Carter Center.

In 2004, during the hard campaign for the Recall Election of Chavez, Lapi was one of the biggest movers, even exposing his life. He did stir the locals effectively. And he became thus a Chavez target. That eventually Chavez won the referendum in Yaracuy did not help him much. Three months after in October Lapi failed to be reelected governor in questionable elections, but he accepted the results. Yaracuy had the lowest abstention that year, a witness of how Lapi was able to stir the electorate even in the post Recall Election depression.

Things went downhill fast. Soon the mediocre, Chavez appointed, drug addict governor, Carlos Gimenez, found some way to accuse Lapi. Even though no solid evidence was presented and even though Lapi was quiet at home in Yaracuy, he was arrested and jailed because "he could escape", said Gimenez. Fine, except that the trial was never started and eventually Lapi's life was put in danger and he had to escape jail. Presently he lives in exile. You can get many of these details by searching the label Lapi.

Of course the objective of these highly unjust and illegal actions was to get rid of Lapi politically. While Gimenez succeeded at that, he failed at running the state. In the barely three years he was in office Yaracuy became a beacon for crime while services started to fail, in particular the San Felipe Central Hospital which is now considered one of the worst in Venezuela. Gimenez administration has been so bad and so corrupt that he wears the dubious distinction of being the only chavista governor investigated for corruption charges. These charges were solid enough that he was removed form office. Yet, while he awaits the end of the investigation and a possible trial, Gimenez walks the streets free. Lapi, condemned and jailed without a trial for much less than what Gimenez did, lives in exile and fears for his life.

And then the elections came. Lapi, probably, I assume, resentful that Yaracuy did not protest strongly enough the injustices that were made against him, decided to vindicate himself by winning the election, even from exile. That was a mistake, at least in the opinion of this blogger because his candidature was just too easily subjected to any legal maneuver that would leave us without a viable option in front of the chavista challenge. Besides, Yaracuy is backward enough that a campaign has to be run by pressing the flesh. Quickly the whole scheme got out of hand when Lapi refused to participate in any opposition unity front. This resulted in a break up of the unity pact observed elsewhere in the country. Weeks went by and things got even worse as Convergencia and Lapi decided to launch their candidates anywhere regardless of previous agreements reached by the opposition: it was Lapi or nothing. As a state we were taken hostage by Lapi and judging from the results we did not like it.

What was going to happen did happen. Apparently Lapi was high enough in polls that the high court decided that he could not run after all, a few days before the end of the campaign. I personally do not think he was that high in the polls. I think that all along chavismo had threaded a web in which Lapi got trapped. By letting him run, the CNE ensured a deep opposition division. And by removing Lapi a few days before the end of the campaign the TSJ made sure that there was not enough time for the opposition to repair the damage while weakening the Lapi camp. It worked: irresponsibly Lapi did not accept any unity deal and put his lame brother to run the show. The stupidity of the other side of the opposition not to understand what was at stake at this point, the refusal to swallow hard to salvage at least a few town halls, did the rest of the work and you can appreciate the consequences in the table below. This tasteless naked ambition display for people that are in fact in the supplicant line made me angry enough that for a few days I even considered not voting!!!! I voted eventually, but some did not, or not for Lapi.

The governor results: the undeserving winner

The table below shows without any doubt that not only Lapi strategy to take all of Yaracuy failed, but in the process he probably contributed AT THE SAME TIME to a weakening of the opposition and a strengthening of chavismo. Since Chavez is the one that runs the campaign of the guys he appoints to be elected governor, I call his alliances through the years "Chavez votes", in red. Since Lapi is equally as arrogant a caudillo as Chavez is, though more efficient administrator, I call the opposition votes "Lapi's votes" in blue.

I have put all the results for Yaracuy since 2004. It is easy to see the decline of the opposition electorate since then. In fact, perhaps alone of all states (Lara is special), the opposition FAILS to recover its 2007 number of SI!!!! This is even more dramatic when we look at the Convergencia vote, Lapi's movement: from being stronger than Chavez MVR in 2004, it is now 1 to 3 compared to the PSUV. The result is clear, the political destruction of Lapi has been successful, and was helped along by Lapi's own arrogance and errors.

Why such a catastrophic decline? Yaracuy is a relatively backward state, and a very dependent state now that Gimenez administration brought a considerable economical decline. Yaracuyanos voted in a pragmatic way: the lower classes know very well that a Lapi victory will not bring them much benefit, no matter how much they might like Lapi and miss the good old days when services sort of worked. The PSUV candidate was the only sensible choice if you live in the country side and have very little possibility of independent income. Chavez strategy of rendering the countryside dependent from the central state for its well being has beautifully worked in Yaracuy where considerable farm land invasions have destroyed agricultural production and impoverished the state. Take a drive through the state and it is for all to see. Even the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal did special numbers on Yaracuy agricultural destruction!

In addition in the few months since Gimenez has been ousted, a provisional administration supervised by today's governor elect had time to repair in part chavismo image and deflect all the blame on PODEMOS from where Gimenez came from. When things are awful, any small improvement looks really good, and better than what it really is. A Stockholm syndrome of sorts.

The only problem in here is that the winner of the governor's mansion is Julio Leon Heredia, a sectarian ideologue, the perfect man for Chavez to do all the dirty work still to be done to destroy once and for all whatever is left of the old Yaracuy. Not that there is much left anyway, nor that there is much worth saving here, Lapi himself was an iconoclast of sorts, busy ensuring his power by ways not too dissimilar to Chavez if more civilized. But Julio Leon is not even liked by the local chavistas. He failed at previous attempts to gain office, any office. His most stinging defeat was when he run for the National Assembly in 2005 when a dissident chavista, Ricardo Capella, beat him with only 12.748 votes! The only case in the whole country as the opposition had withdrawn from the ballot. Julio Leon comes to office because the Gimenez administration was so bad, so many people were so involved with its fraudulent ways that Julio Leon escaped the damage because no one liked him at the start. An apparatchik man that manages to pass as a new comer!

As additional information I included the numbers of PODEMOS. Gimenez was from PODEMOS before he went to the PSUV. You can see the effect on PODEMOS, when this one went from 12,2% in 2006, to 0,3% last Sunday. Nice job! All were Chavez votes after all.

The Mayors results: how Primero Justicia sabotaged the opposition results?

Primero Justicia should not escape the blame for all that went wrong in Yaracuy. Four years ago Primero Jusiticia seemed a good fit to recover what was a possibly mutating Convergencia. After all both can trace their origins to COPEI brand. Rationality would have even indicated that Primero Justicia should have fused with Convergencia in Yaracuy. But it seems that Lapi would have none of it and that Julio Borges, a caudillo of sorts himself, decided that he could pick up the remains of Convergencia on his own. Well, not only it did not work out, but Yaracuy was surrendered in full to chavismo: all districts went red this time around! Primero Justicia will be held responsible for the disaster and UNT who has stuck with Lapi will probably become the Yaracuy visible face of the opposition. After a fast rise from o,3% to 3.1% between 2004 and 2006, its fall to 1,8% last Sunday is a bad omen for Primero Justicia. A look at mayoral results will illustrate better what I mean.

The results of San Felipe are in the table below.

The first thing to look at is the Chavez vote. It is in ascent but dips badly in 2007 where the NO makes a surprise strong showing. But then it was the worst time of the Gimenez administration. However the recovery of 2008 is noteworthy in that chavismo fails to recover, by far, the 2006 vote number. Furthermore, cross voting was important when you observe that the chavista candidate, Francisco Capdevielle gets ONLY 37.4% of the vote while Julio Leon gets 52.6%. The opposition does not have much to brag about anyway since it also fails to recover its 2007 NO vote when you combine the Lapi and non-Lapi oppo vote. Even Primero Justicia does not escape that cross voting, a clear sanction to its choices. Miguel Ponente a decent candidate whose main endorsement was Primero Justicia did manage a second position and got more than half of its votes from Primero Justicia. But at the governor level for San Felipe PJ votes drops from the 3979 gained at the mayor level to 1827 votes at the governor level where it did not back Lapi. Considering that San Felipe should be by far the starting point for a P.J. conquest of Yaracuy and seeing that it barely brought half of its state wide votes, clearly, whatever strategy Julio Borges had went horribly wrong with the voters. Leaving many like me really angry at Primero Justicia for having brought us the curse of a total state loss.

For Convergencia the result is equally bad. The imposed at the last minute candidate de la Cruz came in third, ruining the chances of Ponente, a decent candidate. Not only that but de la Cruz fails to get the Convergencia vote: at governor level for San Felipe they get 7393 while at town hall level they get only 4617! I regret that exit polls are scant in this country because there would be a fascinating story of voter sanction to be written in San Felipe. True, the appearance of a slimy third party candidate, Salame, who had the most visible local campaign (paid by whom?) could explain a lot; but one thing is certain, if the opposition had rallied behind Ponente who could only afford a discrete campaign, the dynamics might have pushed him above Capdevielle.

A Ponente success was possible because the PSUV candidate was a very poor choice for the PSUV as the result plainly show. Francisco Capdevielle used to be the editor of a local rag, Yaracuy al Dia, and thought that this was enough credential for politics. Whenever he run he lost, and bad. You can see in 2004 when he run as a dissident chavista how little he got, wrecking the chances of Gamarra to get elected in a year where the opposition abstention was heavy. The PSUV named him because they probably did not think he would win anyway and also because he worked in the local state government to try to recover some the mess left by Gimenez. Now, thanks to the PJ/Lapi fight, we, in San Felipe, are stuck with a nightmare mayor, delusional about his worth, and without a mandate, which probably will radicalize him even more.

For illustration I am also showing an even more pathetic case, the one from Independencia district which is in reality the Western part of San Felipe. There mayor Parra Barrios was running for reelection. This Convergencia mayor was barely elected 4 years ago benefiting from a chavista division (Gimenez had been such a bad mayor that his sister came in third). This time, Gimenez out of the way, the dissident chavista of 2004 comes back as the official PSUV and carries the district. Unfortunately for us Parra Barrios was considered possibly the best mayor of Yaracuy in the last 4 years, and you can see it by the cross voting where a lot of supporters of the "other" oppo option went to vote for him anyway.

What is very damning for P.J. in this case is that its total votes that went to Pastora, 135, would have been more than enough to put Parra Barrios over the top!!! Did P.J. not realize that Parra Barrios was ahead, that he was a good mayor, that he deserved reelection, that Pastora had no chance? The loss of Independencia is solely attributable to P.J. insistence in supporting a candidate that had no chance whatsoever!!! We, the people who are goign to suffer the possible negative consequences of this, are not going to forget the dreadful role of P.J. in Yaracuy. At least in Independencia I got a better feed back from Alvarado than for Leon or Capdevielle.....

To complete the Yaracuy survey and to illustrate how strongly the cacique Chavez has managed to impact the traditional political culture of the country side I include the results of the Veroes district. This district is the low lands close to the sea, the site of old sugar cane plantations and slavery. As such it has the highest proportion of African American and agrarian conflict. Chavez should get there 70 % of the vote, and he does.

If you examine this table carefully you will also notice that when Lapi was managing himself Yaracuy and the campaign, he was getting reasonable results in Veroes. But once he is out, the Convergencia apparatus dwindles fast and limits itself to urban centers as they do not have the guts Lapi had to seek votes even in Veroes. Caudillos share this characteristics: be it Chavez or Lapi they have the gall to speak their mind and go where it takes to win (though Chavez does that less and less). That explains the extraordinary decline of the Convergencia vote. One thing we can also note there is the stupendous decline of voting in 2007! Veroes is a true Podunck backwaters area interested only when there is a need to elect the Cacique. Other elections simply do not register there. And P.J. 49 votes, well, I need not explain... As long as it cannot have at least 300 votes in Veroes it can forget about Yaracuy.


Yaracuy is the perfect example on how the caudillo/cacique qualities of Chavez have managed to conquer the rural areas of Venezuela. The more urban areas resisted better but any encouraging result was made impossible when you found also another caudillo pretending to impose his will. When Lapi was in charge he could influence enough rural votes to be reelected because people sensed that they could vote for him and still keep receiving whatever services they were receiving. Besides the cacique Lapi was next door whereas the cacique Chavez was in Caracas. Lapi was more scary...

But these same people knew perfectly well that a Lapi in exile, even if he won, could not guarantee access to whatever they had access to today. Never mind the brutal campaign of Chavez that was really scary for people hanging on a thread for their daily bread. The large and undeserved victory of Julio Leon Heredia is at least in part explained by this social reality since it cannot be explained at all by his inexistent charisma.

The good news here is that Lapi is now politically dead and probably buried for good. In his arrogance he took such gambles that now he is left with no one to speak for him in Yaracuy. No one elected that is, with some political clout to keep Lapi in the martyrdom news. You do not get fame or win future elections through a battery of lawyers fighting a judicial system staked against you: you get fame by confronting the abuses against you by being there yourself. Lapi's arrogance left him worse, much, much worse than what he was a few weeks ago. Not only politically but in the mood of the people who will blame him for 4 years of deep chavismo, in case, as it almost certainly will be the case, the new mayors fail. He probably will remain in exile for years.

We got rid of one caudillo. Now we need to wait until the drop in oil prices coupled to more arrogance from Caracas teaches us not to trust in caudillos ever again. With this thought at least the results of last Sunday have a silver leaning for Yaracuy.


The recovery of Yaracuy for the opposition has been made tremendously difficult. Not only it will have no district where to base itself as a showcase of good administration, but its only and lone leader is politically dead. The only ones that could have replaced him are also out such as Parra Barrios. Convergencia only gets a lone representative at the Legislative council. There is nothing she can do when you consider the well known sectarian nature of the incoming administration who will try to find ways to silence her from day one. Obama it ain't.

I think that Convergencia days are now over and the party should examine itself closely, say bye bye to Lapi and seek new horizons with an out of state machinery that will help them launch a credible challenge in 2012 where it should be able to recover at least San Felipe, but not much more. Yaracuy is in PSUV hands safely until at least 2016. Even a bad Leon Heredia administration will not hurt chavismo considering that the disastrous Gimenez rule did not stop the PSUV from increasing its vote count! By wrecking the independence and self respect of the state the Gimenez administration has been at least very successful in one thing: giving Yaracuy tied up to Chavez.

AS far as I am concerned Convergencia should dissolve itself and go over to UNT. There is no UNT leadership yet in Yaracuy, so the good Convergencia local leaders could get the UNT nod without too much trouble and get help from Zulia. Going to P.J. would be a huge mistake as this one needs first to clean up its act, to apologize to Yaracuy. But I do not see Borges doing that, if you ask me, he showed too much contempt for us last month. Too many people in what should be the starting blocks of PJ in the state, San Felipe and Independencia, are mad at PJ. This one would be better advised to go elsewhere to invest politically. This blogger, for one, who gave 2 of his 4 votes cast last Sunday to Primero Justicia will probably never give his votes again to P.J., or at least as long as Borges is its leader. If UNT people want to contact me, I am open to propositions.

-The end-

Back to April 2002? Now it is Chavez the blatant fascist

Political remakes, when twisted around, are always ugly. What Chavez has been doing these past week is truly awful, damaging himself more than one could think it possible.

In short, neither does Chavez recognize the small gains the opposition made, nor the democratic ways it showed when Chavez campaigned brutally against it like the low life thug he is at heart. Yesterday he announced that he will not work with the newly elected governors of the opposition, and asked his people to oppose them at any step. He will cut their funding and name a parallel government. His supporters are also emptying all what they can from the state offices to be taken who knows where. That is, chavistas are looting state property. Chavez went even as far as saying that the new governors are already destroying his misiones and firing people when THEY HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN SWORN IN YET!!!! I mean the guys cannot even walk into their office yet and they are already busy firing chavistas, conspiring against Chavez and mounting a coup 2002 style funded by the CIA and what not. You can read it all from a softer version here, to cruder ones here and here.

The problem here is that Chavez thinks he is rallying his red shirt when in fact he is showing what a thug he is and how incompetent he is. After all, when any of these red shirts get a rare moment of lucidity they might start wondering how come these new elected governors are not rotting in jail if they are that dangerous.

But the more interesting reflection at this point is to notice that when Chavez once again drags in the tired 2002 coup arguments he does not realize that he has behaved much worse than Carmona and that all that he has done since then has done more to destroy Venezuelan democracy than what Carmona attempted to do. Oh! Chavez did it all "legally" but the consequences are the same: when the head of a state behaves like Chavez behaved yesterday in Vargas you know that there is no check and balance left in the country and thus democracy is likely dead.

For the fun detail: Chavez even announced that he wanted to change the name of the state because Vargas, the first civilian president of Venezuela, because was not Bolivarian enough (read, not a military thugs like all of his heroes besides Bolivar). How long until sycophant Garcia Carneiro satisfies his wishes?

-The end-

And more good news: The New York Times on US future policies toward Latin America

I do not know whether the New York Times read the letters to Obama sent through diverse blogs, but if they did not do so we can write that "great minds think alike". Today's editorial is a must read for any person that Obama will hire at State. I enjoyed this paragraph a lot:

Declining oil prices, and the declining stature of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, will also make Mr. Obama’s task easier.

We have no patience for Mr. Chavez’s corrupt and autocratic ways. But the Bush administration did enormous damage to American credibility throughout much of the region when it blessed what turned out to be a failed coup against Mr. Chavez.

Obama will not be cursed with that albatross of the coup blessing. It needs to be repeated by the way, that no matter what the Eva Golingers of the world say or what cute things Chavez invents (the last thing was that US helicopters landed at Maiquetia on April 11 and the "people" forced them to leave), there is no proof that the US was actively preparing the coup, not even that it knew much about it before hand. NOTE: I am not saying the US is nice, its involvement in too many other coups is well established, but the April 11 fantasy intervention is still that, a fantasy intervention propagated by paid agents of Chavez with new and more extraordinary acts of heroism and resistance as years go by. Only the "blessing" exists, courtesy of Condi herself.

And as it is accurate with Venezuela the editorial is also accurate as to what Washington needs to do about Latin America. The last paragraph is priceless:
IF there is still a question about the need for a new policy for the region, consider these facts: Latin America provides a third of the nation’s oil imports, most of its immigrants and virtually all of its cocaine. And, oh yes, it’s right next door.

-The end-

In the good news department: two blog awards worth noting

Reader Alpha who got his inspiration reading anti Chavez Venezuelan blogs to open his own blog, Free Opinion Venezuela, has been voted the best blog in the readers awards of the Deutsche Welle. He won in the Dutch language blog category with a 26% vote share, which is almost double of the runner up. This is noteworthy result as there is only one vote per IP address. Please, do visit his blog to congratulate him and encourage him to continue. We will need all the help we can get to tell what happens in Venezuela next, now that Chavez seems determined to close Globovision.

We will notice that this got him his first radio interview of what I hope will be many as consistent and rational bloggers do reach the main media. We will also notice again that as usual no one is a prophet in his own land as people like Miguel or me get more notoriety outside Venezuela than inside. Not that Spanish language blog writers in Venezuela get much media exposure either at home........

But the news gets better as Yoani Sanchez from Cuba won the jury prize as best blog of the year. Period. It is important to remind readers that the extraordinary freedom that Cubans experience force her to send through e-mail her posts to friends outside so that they can publish her blog. When will Venezuela News and Views start being published through e-mails? With the imminent closing of Globovision the time might be closer than what you think.

Meanwhile I also invite you to visit her blog, Generacion Y, and leave a congratulatory note. Her fight is also our fight as Chavez subsidies to that repressive regime keep it alive, barely.

-The end-

Will Chavez close Globovision?

Monday night in his "cadena" of spite, Chavez accused Globovision of having violated some CNE ruling on Sunday. He asked for severe punishment. One day later one of the CNE rectors said that no media broke any rule on Sunday, and that at any rate it was for the CNE to decide on this specific issue.

Today, CONATEL went ahead anyway and served Globovision papers based on trumped up charges. These procedures could close Globovision as early as next week. The president orders have been followed and forget about the separation of powers.

I am not going at this point to get into specifics: readers of this blog are very aware that Chavez has been looking for an excuse to close the network. .

The point is that closing a news channel available ONLY in Caracas and Valencia as an open broadcast is not the thing a triumphant president does. That closing is the best possible admission by Chavez of his impotence at forcing the country to submit to his will, his impotence at dictating his views as ours.


-The end-

And in Venezuela, state sponsored terrorism?

As if the news were not burdensome enough, Tal Cual revels that Diosdado Cabello has been linked to Venezuelan state sponsored violent groups (future terrorists?) and that the investigation has been silenced while the guy in charge was dismissed.

Disodado Cabello lost his governor seat of Miranda because he spent his 4 years in charge doing national politics, terrorizing political opponents (from within chavismo or the opposition, he is an equal opportunity thug), and enriching himself and his relatives and his own cohorts so as to be able to run for president in 2012. In his latest demonstration of what a jerk he is, during last week rains in Caracas, he forced out the Baruta rescue teams from disaster sites so that the Miranda state teams would be the only ones shown on TV. Soon he was seen giving away yet more refrigerators and washers to the "victims" of the disaster. But in spite of possibly the best financed machinery of any pro Chavez governor he still lost the state.

Let's hope that Chavez takes the opportunity to get rid of him, though it is always good when you rule like Chavez to have creeps like Cabello or Rodriguez Chacin to do the dirty work for you. This type of characters do have an advantage: they are evil enough that you need not to express yourself directly as to your wishes: on their own they know who to get rid of, what trick to pull, what financial deal to garnish your pockets can be made.

By the way, since yesterday we are bombarded with tales on how Di Martino is ransacking the Maracaibo town hall before giving it up to Rosales. He will get an empty shell. Such reports are also coming from Caracas and Miranda, though apparently things are goign a little bit better there. Still, outgoing mayor Barreto who had been allowed to have his own TV (disguised as the Caracas Mayor at Large information network, AVILA TV) will not pass that TV to Ledezma: the Minci of Izarrita has already removed all the equipment so even if it allows the license to remain in the hands of Ledezma, this one will have no way to access the airwaves of Caracas as a local station. Censorship in the nakedest form! So we see that the culture of violence and anti democratic values have percolated very well from Chavez to his immediate followers.

-The end-


Once again we are bloodied by religious fanatics. Once again we are faced with a group of people with whom dialog is impossible. Even the Venezuelan government was prompt this time in condemning the ultimate cowardly attacks on Mumbai where hotels guest were sorted by nationality before they were shot.

The timing was of course very well chosen because the leaders of these terrorist know very well other practices such as Thanksgiving in the US. They also know that any possible faint "appeasement" coming from the new US administration must be fought from the start. Obama has been served notice that attacks on America will not stop until total surrender in Iraq, Afghanistan and even India. Which of course will not stop anything as these fanatics will find new excuses to continue their attacks anyway. Modern day Jihad never ends. Multi cultural and multi religious splendors like India are a threat for these people and the Muslim in India must be reminded that if they do not rise to kill the non Muslim crowds, they will become target themselves.

-The end-

You lost an election? Create a new currency!

OK, now I have the final proof that Chavez knows he lost the election: he pulled out of his ass a new currency for the ALBA countries. A brilliant way to distract political analysts by bringing in economic analysts!

Of course, this will never work. The problem is not the currency of these countries, it that they produce nothing of significant value for the rest of the world, except for Venezuela's oil. In fact I suspect that Correa of Ecuador is trying to use this as a way to escape the dollarization of Ecuador which is a road block in his wishes to seize power the way Chavez did. After all, how can you create a punitive currency exchange system like Chavez did if your money is the US dollar? Of course Chavez loves the idea because Venezuela will be subsidizing it and with that he hopes to control further his client states, a group of miserly country that is not able to contribute to any currency scheme anywhere: Cuba, Honduras, Dominica, Nicaragua and Cuba (Ecuador is just an observer, the only one that could contribute anything if it were not so busy ruining its international credit by not willing to pay its debts). And in this time of crisis as the Moscow stock market gyrates wildly, he invites visiting Medvedev to join in.

I do not know if I should cry or laugh at this latest silliness of Chavez. No one in his entourage is going to tell him that he does not have the money for that toy? Does he know, I mean as in biblically know if necessary, that oil prices are around 50 USD?

Bonus point if you read this far. If Thanksgiving turkey weighs you down on the couch you can read the adventures of Sean Penn in Venezuela and Cuba and see how skilfully he has been manipulated to promote the agenda of Chavez and Cuba. Fascinating reading if you can stomach so much self serving prose that belongs way more to a blog than the pages of any publication. Then again The Nation is kind of a blog, is it not?

-The end-

I don't want to know

(originally written on October, 7th - 2008)
Today we were having lunch as usual. My mom, pressing her fingers against the table, told us in what it seemed to me like slow motion: “you know I’m never afraid of anything, you know I come back home at 3 in the morning and walk downtown Caracas but today I heard this story of a 53 year old lawyer, who lives nearby… some guys entered his house for robbing and killed him with a punch on his head, and then they hanged him to make it look like a suicide…but the thieves were surprised outside and that’s how everything was discovered…you know is not even about being worried because one of you is out at night… this happened inside a house, in the middle of the afternoon!”
I got the feeling that her voice was slowly breaking and that she would start crying any minute now but she didn’t. She just added “I’m afraid now” – And got off the table to went straight to her room.

My sister’ face looked like a funeral. But my brother in law and I reacted in a different way. Although it is not politically correct to say this, I’m ought to admit that I felt angry with my mom for telling us that story; because there’s nothing we can do about it so, What’s the point on spending a valuable time of our lives worrying and fearing disgraces we cannot stop or change?.

Can we protect us somehow? No, we don’t have the resources to install a wall and/or some security system at our place and there’s no guarantee of protection on possessing a gun, besides my family values (thankfully) would never allow them to do that.

Can we ask someone else for protection? Also no. We trust the police even less than the thieves and assassins out there and if you continue reading this blog carefully you will notice that the government has not moved one single finger to reduce the delinquency but quite the opposite: has allowed it to increase. And it doesn’t seem that another citizen request for security will bring anything besides an equally worse political retaliation.

Can we put our possessions somewhere else in a way that we don’t look as “robbery or kidnap material”? I have refused to buy an IPOD and prefer to stay with a cheap Mp3 and a pair of old headphones fixed with scotch tape, I never wear any jewelry except only a pair of fantasy earrings and avoid, specially if I’m using public transportation, to walk around the city wearing good clothes. With those rituals, my hope is to look as a “bad business” for the delinquents. But my light skin, my sort of Spanish look- like face and the bus stop where I get down shows clearly that I don’t belong to a poor neighborhood and there’s nothing I can do to hide that.

Plus; there’s a possession, the most valuable of all that you can’t perform a lot of tricks to protect: its called life and it seems to be stolen to equally rich, poor people, middle class, people who seem to have a lot of money but don’t even have a penny, to simply everybody in Venezuela. I think the delinquency is the most democratic thing Venezuela has at the moment. So the answer is also, no.

Is there’s anything we can do to avoid suffering the terrible ending that lawyer my mom told us today had? To experience the million of similar stories, one worse than the other that we hear every single damn day? No.

“So, mom” – I said to myself – “Why are you telling us all this then? Perhaps with this situation we will live for another day, perhaps we are lucky enough to survive and grow old as my grandparents did. But the days we got left, we deserve to live them maybe not with an unworried happiness but yet, with a certain tranquility. I deserve to feel excited about my boyfriend coming home to visit tonight and not feeling (as I end up feeling after my mom’s story) worried and guilty thinking that tonight maybe won’t be a great night with him as usual, but instead when he gets down of his car and walks to my front door, he would be surprised not by my kiss but by a thief I couldn’t notice, hidden in the garden…

I don’t want to move on with this imaginary story, sometimes I don’t know if I should just call him and say “hey! lets not see each other again because our dates could be interrupted with the insecurity ghost… lets continue with out relationship over the phone and “live” our lives inside our rooms, inside our houses, waiting for the thieves who can also come inside our rooms, inside our houses, took away our lives and make it look like a suicide…” I just don’t see the point of feeling fear if there’s nothing you can do to change the circumstances that created that fear.

That’s why I felt angry with my mom, because after another happy lunch, she filled our nerves with fear, tension, sadness, frustration, guilt, sorrow and a long list of etc. I know you will answer this story with things such as the free speech and the need for information, you will think about how is it possible that I’m promoting simply not to be informed about the events that are ought to be in front page of every single paper because of their cruelty. You will ask me “What about this lawyer? And his family? Don’t they deserved to make the world know what happened?”.

Dear reader, I’m completely agree with you. I’m a person who has repeated that couple of words (free speech) and has being mad to those who are irresponsible enough to simply not wanting to know what’s going on out there. I’m one of those who yells at others things like “as long as it doesn’t touch you, you are not going to care”.

It’s a paradox really. I know I need to know, I know I must know but yet I’m angry at mom because she made me know. And until that second she opened her mouth I was happy, I was so happy you couldn’t believe it.

I got a new and lovely part time job that allows me to keep working on my thesis.. I saw the news on CNN to find out the time the debate between Obama and Mc Cain was suppose to start and made it into the perfect excuse for asking my boyfriend to come over tonight. I was planning to spend the afternoon between a thesis chapter I must finish and my piano, right after lunch; then a long bath, then choosing the best clothes (nothing that looked too classy, because after all he’s only going to come over to watch a televised debate; but something that made me look at least decent), then a little make up and then to act casual until I saw his car stopping at my place. Then a hug, a kiss, a “how was your day at work?” I was so stupidly happy living my day and thinking about how great was going to be the rest of it.

Then came lunch, my mom told us a story about a lawyer killed inside his place for not other excuse than stealing lame less things. Then my sister’ funeral face. And all my happiness switched with an intense fear mixed with the certainty that I can’t do anything about it. My picture of a night laying in the couch watching a debate was changed for strange scenes of thieves and guns and who knows what else making me lose not only my money (I wish this were only about stealing money and that’s it) but the ones I love the most. I felt like crying. I felt like writing here. I forgot about the piano or the thesis.

And I just made a speech against free speech because life has remind me to build a commitment with the life itself sacrificing the commitment I had with ulterior things, such as the right to be informed.

Whenever I write about fear I think of this prelude of the first Cello Suite by Bach. Here's a lovely interpretation I found in youtube.

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 2 - is there a new chavista voter?

The answer is NO.

What has taken place is a decanting of the electorate into a client group that votes for Chavez, like it or not, and a more critical group that distances itself from Chavez more and more. This is nothing new. Already in 2004 I observed that the Recall Election result was a defeat for Chavez in Caracas area and many urban areas, with his margin of victory coming from outlying suburban or rural areas. You could see that even in relatively small cities like San Felipe where Chavez was defeated, though the result at large of Yaracuy state was a strong win for Chavez. This pattern was described again and again in 2006 and 2007 when I analyzed closely the results then. What we see today is the culmination of sorts of this separation of the electorate which results in the map that we see (that once again I lift from AM as he has the tact to put in light blue the states won by the oppo with less than 50%, and in lighter red the likewise PSUV victories, that way it looks less drab than the propaganda maps offered by chavismo).

Of course, such a political phenomenon is never complete and bears the seeds of its own demise as it takes shape, but I think that this election marks the high water of Chavez strategy to make two Venezuelas so as to have one chunk large enough to rule over the other until it either submits or is politically obliterated. Whichever comes first.

If the red expanse seems rather daunting, it is important to note that it corresponds mostly to relatively empty areas, the Llanos, Monagas and Southern Anzoategui, Bolivar and Delta Amacuro and even up to a point Falcon. Of the densely industrial settled areas chavismo only gets Aragua, by a not very large margin, and Lara by a whopping margin but with a Governor elect who is highly suspected inside PSUV circles. Indeed, part of his whopping victory is due to opposition voting for him. The densely settled agricultural areas are sort of evenly split between the two camps, Tachira on one side and Merida and Trujillo on the other. Yaracuy and Sucre are sort of hybrid areas between densely and not so densely settled areas.

I will get into the details in future posts but it is good to start by addressing squarely the difference between the more economically advanced areas of Venezuela (Zulia is both agricultural and industrial power house, by the way) and the less advanced ones.

The main explanation comes form the ten years of Chavez rule. Policies of land expropriation, of not really promoting actively independent production even at the small level, of economic insecurity, of crime and other calamities such as impassable roads have basically stunted any real growth in the large agricultural areas. And of course also stunting the growth of the cities of these areas who could have developed a vibrant agribusiness system, but did not. Not to mention the white elephants of corruption such as the vaunted gigantic sugar mill of CAEEZ in Barinas. In ten years these areas have become increasingly dependent of government subsidies, be they public administration jobs, misiones handouts or even agricultural subsidies. Some states, such as Vargas and Sucre have become so dependent on governmental handouts that chavismo got an unexpected victory in one and another one with an unexpected margin. Without such extremes this situation is also reproduced in Yaracuy, Cojedes, Guarico, Apure, Falcon, Monagas, Trujillo and to a lesser extent in Merida, Bolivar and Anzoategui. Aragua and Lara do have a leftist tradition which brings a supplemental element to this phenomenon.

To this you add the brutal campaign of Chavez, with threats, blackmail and all sorts of undue pressure. Now, you can do a simple math here. The public rolls, depending on how you calculate them, go from 2 to 3 million folks. Let's say for the sake of the argument that a third of them come from the "ancien regime" and still vote against Chavez. But what about the other 2/3? That is, at the very least one million of public servants are genuinely worried to lose their job if chavismo loses a given town or state. And how many people depend on that governmental pay check? How many votes for Chavez does that translate into?

Now, certainly this is not enough to explain Chavez victory. There is also the social grudges, the hopes, the dreams, the revenge, ideology, whatever, but my point is that in these states where chavismo won yesterday the margin of victory depended significantly on the threats directly mentioned by Chavez when he menaced to cut resources from states that do not vote for him. The campaign was effective: in mid September even this blogger was seeing a trend towards 10 states for the opposition. By mid November I had dropped again that estimate to 5-7, forgetting completely my "best case scenario".

But if I think that Chavez strategy was successful in rallying his troops, believers or not, I also think it went as far as it could go. In fact one or two weeks more of campaign and under such an assault the opposition would have united better and carried places it lost last Sunday, namely Bolivar and maybe Barinas. Getting Tachira or Carabobo for chavismo would not have really compensated for the symbolic loss of Barinas or the real loss of Bolivar. There is law in negative campaigning, which is what Chavez did, it only works if you also bring something positive from your side. By the end of the campaign the "me or chaos" of Chavez was getting thin on this respect.

I will go later into details to illustrate more or less directly some of the things I wrote above, but right now I want to state something: last Sunday chavismo got its last fear victory. The price it will pay for this victory, if we only look at number of states and votes obtained, is that the opposition survived a brutal onslaught, regrouped in stronger and more decided group and proved it can start offering something, and win on it. This is not anymore the defeated opposition of October 2004, not even the barely awakening opposition of 2006. This is now a real opposition, still weak, fragile, but there, present and growing. And it can thank Chavez from his foolish decision to turn the campaign again on a plebiscite on him to in the end pick up only a couple extra states. Ugly greed, no? That is why the victory of Chavez has a taste of defeat because as Teodoro Petkoff so simply stated, it was a "political" victory for the opposition, and it is perceived by all, even chavistas, as such. I cannot tell you how subdued was chavismo "celebration" in San Felipe compared to the one 4 years ago. And yet Julio Leon Heredia got a much, much better result than Gimenez in 2004.

By losing 5 states, including the three bigger ones, by losing Caracas, the political and cultural center of Venezuela, by winning in popular Sucre district and gaining back Maracaibo the opposition can hide very well its other less good results while chavismo is at loss to explain how come in Caucaguita it ONLY got 64,6% of the vote when it should have gotten much more. In 2004 it got 71,3%, in 2006 72,4%, but in 2007 only 59,6%. In 2008 it did not recover these voters lost in 2007. It is worth putting up in a graph the results for Caucaguita since 2004 and think about their meaning.

Why look at Caucaguita? For people old enough reading this blog you will remember the famous political add of 1978 Luis Herrera when he went to Caucaguita, then a very recent slum in Eastern Caracas on the Guarenas road. There he talked to Aleida Josefina and empathized with her. That spot was one of the big hits of that campaign where Herrera defeated the AD machinery. Of course, once in office he forgot about Caucaguita and I believe that Chavez went there in 1998. I do not know whether he ever went back, but Caucaguita in spite of awful public housing built by Luis Herrera (?) is hardly better off than in 1978. Chavez did mention last Monday Caucaguita as one of the popular districts he won and I went to look at the date graphed above.

You can see if for yourself: Chavez HAS NOT recovered his presidential vote of 2006, and the opposition vote is not only more steady than his vote but it shows a trend to grow. Sure, the opposition will probably not win in Caucaguita for another 20 years, if ever, but that the chavista bases are weakening is clearly seen in those results. I am willing to bet that similar graphs can be drawn from all of the popular Sucre/Petare districts and that maybe in all of them the opposition vote has eroded the chavista vote. Yes, Chavez won in every popular district but he failed to recover his shine and the the ceiling has been reached in 2006, likely never to be reached again. Chavez can scream all what he wants to foreign journalists or even to his followers, they all know because they can either figure out data like what I show or because simply they live at Cuacaguita and know better.

That is why the opposition has a political victory if not the numbers victory, yet: it has shown that it can grow in Chavez city quarters and now it needs to find ways to grow in rural and suburban districts. We all know in Venezuela that a large share of Chavez vote is due to his material offerings. We all know that with a declining oil revenue that share could quickly go to abstention or to someone who promises more. How many may he lsoe next time? 10%? 20%? If he keeps this way probably enough to make next result a 17 to 5 in favor of the opposition....

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since according to my statistical counters 51% read me form the US, I must wish you a nice Thanksgiving. For those who have direct familiar concerns in Venezuela, you know what thanks to give tomorrow afternoon when you slash that roasted creature.

-The end-

Russian fleet in Venezuela: a message to Obama?

Juan Forero strikes against Chavez for the third day in a row, and with the Russian fleet in Venezuela. True, there is a message for Obama there (read the article) but the picture chosen to illustrate the article also tells us of fat and incompetent Venezuelan generals, more worried about looting the country, eating chicharron washed down with 18 years old Scotch than staying fit to fight back an invasion. Priceless!

Update: this Weil cartoon will go nicely to illustrate how Chavez has totally lost contact with reality.

-The end-

The 2008 Venezuelan results: 1 - Eating crow, eating cake

My broadband is returning but is very wobbly. I was able to start looking at the CNE result but they are incomplete, and at the speed I have I cannot be bothered. Since I do not have special contacts that can send me the CNE files, I will have to wait to start my post election analysis. That is, assuming that the CNE will give us complete results some day. After all we are still waiting for the 2007 final results....

But if I cannot analyze things I can at least score my predictions. Last Saturday I posted two graphics, one including major cities to watch for. Since the CNE is not complete I cannot score myself with that last one. But the second graph which was really my predictions, I can score.

The first thing I must do is eat some crow. When I designed that table I really did not think carefully enough about scoring it after. I tried to organize it from the state where the opposition would get the highest percentage to the state where it would get the lowest. But that worked for anything shaded blue or red. In a Cartesian fit I placed in the middle the states "tending to" dissidence but I did not place them really where they would have gone if I had thought about them some more. And Yaracuy of course I should not have placed it at all since I was not calling it. I should have placed it with the Alcaldia Mayor which I was not including in the series since it is not properly a state.

Thus I have packed all of these at the bottom of the chart, including Libertador that the CNE does not give numbers for yet, though Rodriguez has been proclaimed mayor elect already.

This being said. I predicted 6 sure for the opposition and I got 5. I predicted two tending, and I got one. I predicted three tending dissidence and I got zero. But Barinas was so, so close..... I missed Sucre, my biggest mistake of all. Maybe I really bought the confidence of the locals, the polls and the image of Maestre as being such a lout, a bad candidate, a failed mayor of Cumana. Simply put, logic could not allow for his election. And yet he won. But we will discuss the why in future posts. Merida as I mentioned in some comment I was reluctant, very reluctant to give to the opposition. In fact it is the only state tending for the opposition whereas I had more tending chavismo. In normal predictions one would have put 3-4 tendency (though some of course could argue that the dissidence is actually opposition so I would have put 4 and got 0). Then again I could say that I got all my pro Chavez predictions :)

But it was easy to predict the opposition winning. I can point out that in Cojedes I resisted siren songs and I always put it in the Chavez column. Same thing with Aragua which some were saying that Didalco would bring to our side. So, to make things a little bit more challenging I classified the states according to where would the opposition get the best and worse percentile. Which was a mistake of sorts that forced me to remove a few states to be able to evaluate, as I explained above. Once these states were taken out (Libertador by the way would not change much the result if I put it in since it would fall with Falcon) you get the graph above.

On the left column the way I ranked the states last Saturday. The second column the appropriate colors according to the convention of this blog. The third column is the percentile difference as of today CNE. Next column is of course the states classified according to that difference. In total there are 18 states classified.

In maroon 6 states that fall exactly where I predicted they would fall!!! 33% exact score. Note, two oppo states BUT 4 chavista states ranked accordingly. And three in the middle which is more difficult to place than on the extremes.

In mauve the states that are only one off their predicted position, not bad at all, 2 states.

In yellow the states that are" in their zone", that is within two spots of were they were predicted to fall. 5 of them.

And finally the way off mark, in red, three of them.

Thus out of 18 states I got 15 either in their right position of fairly close to it. If I dare say so, this is a rather good score. True, if I had included the 3 dissident and Libertador it would not have been as good as Trujillo would have been a wrench. I did the exercise tonight anyway and I still would get 16 out of 22 within three spots of their final rank, still 4 of them in their exact rank.

I am starting to know my Venezuela, no? Maybe not the success of 2007 in prediction but who did better than me thsi Sunday? OK, I know, it is pretentious to pat one's back but.....

-The end-

If Chavez were a conscious, serious, people loving president, he would apply article 185 of the constitution

It does not matter what Chavez berates for 4 hours or what the New York Times prints today: the opposition progressed, won very important districts, and the most symbolic ones at that. Or does anyone pretend to show that winning in Delta Amacuro was more important than the Sucre district of Caracas? For their locals maybe, but for the rank and file chavista living in, say, Guacara, Sucre result is more telling than Tucupita.

If Chavez really meant to rule for all Venezuelans instead of plotting ways to get reelected in 2012, he could simply finally apply article 185 of the Constitution which offers the perfect mechanism to bring ALL Venezuelans around the same table to approve the general lines of the country development and to study the biggest problems that face us all. Because what is coming our way Chavez CANNOT face it alone, not even with his PSUV. 2009 will be a rough year starting as early as late December when oil income will be halved within a few weeks. Today we are still cashing bills for oil sold above 100 USD a barrel but late December the bills cashed will be for oil sold below 100, and by March the bills cashed will be for oil sold at 50. We ave no other export to compensate for this loss of revenue. Our tourism industry is in shambles, and anyway foreign tourists will have less money to spend. We still will need in March to import more than half of our food with not even half the money we used to have. There is no escaping reality.

And if to this you add other problems that can only be solved through consensus, such as crime and the viability of the remaining private business who will go under if Chavez presses them further with taxes, we can expect some major trouble in the second semester of 2009 when the 17 states who voted red last Sunday start claiming for the promises made to them.

Article 185 calls for a Federal Council of Government, presided by the Vice President (see, Chavez does not even need to be seen sitting down with opposition governors for business). Its main function is to distribute the responsibilities of governing among all the parties that constitute the different form of executive governments in Venezuela. It is thus formed by the full executive Cabinet, all governors and one Mayor per state, plus a few invited organizations as needed such as trade unions, business groups and major civil rights organizations.

This Council actually decides how certain amounts of money are spent to favor more deprived regions. That is, the regions who give the most to the central state have a said in which project their money will be spent to help the less favored regions. As a peace and unifying organization you can hardly have come up with something better than this Council, one of the few things worth rescuing of the 1999 constitution who today is more dead than alive, courtesy of chavismo constant violations.

But of course Chavez cannot accept this because such Council works for the decentralization of the country, for local responsibility, for cooperation within states without necessarily the hand of the central government. In other words, this great article of the constitution works against all what Chavez stands for: single man rule. By the way, by not applying it Chavez violates the constituion, but who cares?

If I am reminding readers about this article it is because some times I think I am one of the few Venezuelans left who still remember some of the good hidden in the 1999 document, even though I opposed it when it came up for vote. Chavismo from its side only remembers those articles that can be used to increase Chavez power. All the other articles that can protect his "enemies" from abuse are routinely ignored when not violated downright. I am under no illusion that this article would ever be applied but it would be nice to see a major newspaper in Venezuela remind Chavez that the said article exists.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

In Spanish the original article:

Artículo 185. El Consejo Federal de Gobierno es el órgano encargado de la planificación y coordinación de políticas y acciones para el desarrollo del proceso de descentralización y transferencia de competencias del Poder Nacional a los Estado y Municipios. Estará presidido por el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva e integrado por los Ministro y Ministras, los Gobernadores y Gobernadoras, un Alcalde o Alcaldesa por cada Estado y representantes de la sociedad organizada, de acuerdo con la ley.

El Consejo Federal de Gobierno contará con una Secretaría, integrada por el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva, dos Ministros o Ministras, tres Gobernadores o Gobernadoras y tres Alcaldes o Alcaldesas. Del Consejo Federal de Gobierno dependerá el Fondo de Compensación Interterritorial, destinado al financiamiento de inversiones públicas dirigidas a promover el desarrollo equilibrado de las regiones, la cooperación y complementación de las políticas e iniciativas de desarrollo de las distintas entidades públicas territoriales, y a apoyar especialmente la dotación de obras y servicios esenciales en las regiones y comunidades de menor desarrollo relativo. El Consejo Federal de Gobierno, con base en los desequilibrios regionales, discutirá y aprobará anualmente los recursos que se destinarán al Fondo de Compensación Interterritorial y las áreas de inversión prioritaria a las cuales se aplicarán dichos recursos.

-The end-

And when it rains it pours: the Washington Post

The nasty thing about the collapse of broadband in San Felipe is that I keep getting my newsletters drop wise. And forget about speed blogging! Thus I only now received the Washington Post newsletter which I usually receive about half an hour before the New York Times. It was worth the wait.

Apparently Juan Forero was not invited to the press show of Chavez. But he watched it and neither did he buy it.

The Washington Post also came with its editorial direct and to the point: HOW TO BEAT Mr. CHAVEZ. From that editorial you gather that perhaps the best result for the Venezuelan opposition is that finally it is getting credibility outside of Venezuela. Thus the last paragraph worth posting:
The opposition now has an opportunity to show that it can offer a workable alternative to Mr. Chávez's policies. Partly that will mean better crime-fighting and delivery of services, but the key element must be a clear and continuing commitment to democracy and the rule of law. If those principles survive in Venezuela, Mr. Chávez will be forced to leave office in four years. That's a long time to wait -- but by now the opposition should have learned that shortcuts won't work.

Added later: for good measure I went to read the Miami Herald (I cannot get a newsletter from them). Interestingly there is no editorial on Venezuela and their coverage is less sanguine than the NYT or WaPo. In a way I can understnad it: probably tired of hearing the Miami exile claims that Chavez is packing his bags the Herald Journalists point out that the gains are not that hot (maybe he had access tot he CNE? Maybe he has broadband that I do not? :) ). However the Herald is clear that Chavez road is not an easy one and that last Sunday did not strengthen his hand at all. Ah! And they were not invited to the press conference either. Poor Patricia! She must have felt quite lonely as the sole attending scape goat for Chavez last night. The Herald also moves on, reporting the Russian warships berthing in Venezuela. Adequately the entertainment page reports on Frontline coming show TONIGHT... Ah! the wonders of timing!!!

-The end-

Editorials that hurt: no holds from the New York Times

If Hugo was pissed off last night, imagine his temper this morning if they bring him the translation of today's New York Times editorial. I love, LOVE, the last paragraph.

He should heed the message. Rather than lash out at his opponents, Mr. Chávez must accept democratic limits to his rule. He should stop trying to extend his control — by hook or crook — over all of Venezuela’s political and economic institutions. He should abandon for good his push to change the Constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2013. Venezuelans deserve the chance to choose a competent government.

Here Patricia! Your cue for your CNN report.
-The end-

Simon Romero was not invited at Chavez press conference

But he watched it as he wrote his latest entry for the NYT. He did not buy Chavez explanaitions. And heck, he could also get coffee (and whatever could help him with the ordeal) so he surely was in better mood at the end than Patricia Janiot.

-The end-

The day after: a press conference from hell, and the real winner of Sunday

I have serious broadband problems, just in the middle electoral data harvest. With a CNE page which must be slow this week with all the hits, I cannot start examining results. However from the little bit I can gather there is a really bad result: chavismo gained many municipal districts, all of them in a few states which is going to make it infinitely harder for the opposition to maintain a credible presence there. I need of course to see the why of this negative result and how bad it is, but I can already point one of the main reasons: opposition division. That cost us all districts in Yaracuy and most in Carabobo, including Valencia. In each case the division was due to the arrogant nature of its leaders: Lapi and Salas Feo who must be fully blamed for that loss.

However the news this morning is the press conference that Chavez held yesterday. If you had any doubt about how much chavismo was hurt last Sunday you just needed to watch the show of Chavez who lasted at least 4 hours, with foreign journalists taken as hostages, including CNN Patricia Janiot who was dressed down along her absent colleague Glenda Umaña who was called a liar. The maintain of Patricia Janiot in front of the slew of insults and innuendos was a perfect study in class and professionalism, Chavez looking more than ever like the barbarian he is. By the way, Chavez was having coffee served while all the journalists were confined to their chair for the whole time, no peepee break.

The motive of the press conference, for Chavez, was to explain in rich details why according to him the Sunday vote was a big success and why the foreign press was lying when it said it was not. Maybe, but for the life of me I cannot recall any world leader that had to spend 4 hours explaining, pen and paper in hand, why he won his election. Note: the HIS is on purpose because the explanation showed clearly that Chavez thinks of his new governors as HIS, as in an object, not a supporter.

The press conference, to give it a name, was littered with irrelevant pseudo historical references, and clogged with April 2002 interpretation. Apparently the obsession of Chavez for 2002 is much more than an electoral ploy to motivate his supporters, it is becoming a neurosis of its own for Chavez. Because of course a press conference it was not. Chavez started it, then called a cadena which lasted more than an hour so the whole country could see him lecturing the foreign journalists in a rather scandalous way and then closed the cadena when he finally acceded to reply to a few questions. VTV kept showing the show and I watched it at times. Any reply of Chavez was of course a monologue lasting around half an hour, peppered with dares to Obama, compliments to Castro, and threats to the opposition. All journalists could appreciate at length and leisure how often Chavez betrayed his totally undemocratic nature. Fascinating!

But of course the aim of Chavez was not at all to inform the foreign press, he is smart enough to know that hey all made their opinions long ago: he was addressing us, trying to convince us that the opposition did not get the strength to stop him from pursuing his attempt at eternal reelection. So when he explained in exquisite detail why he won so many small districts, it was almost touching to see him considering the Cua district as important as the Sucre district won by Carlos Ocariz. That defeat must has been particularly stinging for him. He went into exquisite detail in explaining how the most populous districts of Sucre voted for Chavez. Of course, we all know that, but in his explanation Chavez undid his whole argument, unbelievably. What anger does!!! He told us that the emblematic district of Caucaguita voted 62% for him. That is, in one of the poorest areas of Caracas 38% of the folks voted against him!!! He cannot even understand what a defeat that is for him when a socialist government should get in such a district at least 80% of the vote!!!!! He cannot replicate the lopsided margins in HIS alleged districts that Macaracuay gave against him (90%).

This is indeed what hurt him the most even though he cannot quite articulate it to himself: Sunday he lost his ability to rally massively the downtrodden masses and he cannot deal with that. That is where his pseudo revolution is being exposed and he hurts. Ocariz did a number on him and thus last night he was crowned as Sunday's hero even if his name might have never been mentioned last night.

-The end-

Excellent interview from The Guardian

Again, listen to Mr Carroll here on Venezuela

The crowded bubbles

Here you can see the new Venezuelan political map (counting only the governors of each state, not the mayors, I will try to work on a map based on those results as soon as I got them). It is quite obvious that Chavez' party won and won big at most of the states, leaving us only a very few blue areas. But the ones who are busy celebrating that our country is still totally revolutionary, must look at those tiny blue areas: the states with most population, most industries and therefore with more strategic importance that the other except for the case of Bolívar or Anzoátegui that still belong to them; are now in opposition hands.
They are bubbles, crowded bubbles, trapped and alone in a world that still belong to the revolution, surrounded by revolutionary states, exposed to the constant threats of the government but still offering not only resistance but maybe proper alternative political projects to the country.

Things doesn't look as good as I wanted, and it makes me sad to see Venezuelans of those red states voting like sheeps for the Commander and Chief desires. It makes me sad to see that a huge part of Venezuela, probably the most part, think that the Revolution is actually good for us. I don't care if people like the Revolution or not, my point is that the forces are not even close of being balanced and the Revolution has way too much power in part because a lot of people wanted that way, and still do.

But things can get better, with time. The mayors and governors who are going to be at the offices that once belong to the Revolution have a lot of work to do, in most parts the Revolution has proof to be nothing but unneficient in its way to rule. In Caracas, from having only three mayors out of six, we have five now so I trust this brings some changes to my city that has become dangerous, dirty and depressive under the Revolution command. Lets just wait and see if the life inside one of those crowded bubbles proof to make some difference.

The view from abroad

With my morning tea, my bleary eyes read Simon Romero NYT summary and WaPo's Forero account.

Simon Romero considers the vote a victory for the opposition. Since he is based in Caracas I assume that he saw the campaign, that he understood the extraordinary unfair advantage of Chavez in the whole context and thus he can appreciate that what the opposition got was more than just a mere question of numbers: it was a feat by itself.

That does not mean that Forero did not get it either. But based in Bogota he cannot be as aware of all the abuses committed. One thing is to know about he abuses, he does, another thing is to be fully aware of the consequences of these abuses by suffering them on a daily basis. Thus he scores the result as sort of victory for Chavez but with crucial gains for the opposition.

Both are right in fact. Romero senses that Chavez has now more obstacles to his race for life presidency, and that is crucial enough for him that yesterday was a serious set back. Forero senses that Chavez still has power and that 17 states, no matter how small these states are, is still something he can use. When you read both articles then you have to agree with what I wrote last night: once again there was an election and nothing was solved.

-The end-

Three matresses and a washing machine

We got 5 states out of 22. That is less than we wanted but far more than what Chavismo had said we would get (1).

I should have followed my gut feeling and just had dropped the Llanero states I had - with a lot of doubt, as I wrote - put on the side of the opposition: Barinas, Guárico and Cojedes. I will go back to what happened there later. The cool thing is we got Miranda back and the Alcaldía Mayor. The opposition is now in charge of the state governments of a little bit over 40% of the population.

I want you to listen to this from The Guardian's excellent journalist Rory Carroll. He talks specially about Petare, Venezuela's biggest slum, now anti-Chavez. Now on the background, very low, at the end, you can listen to a lady who still supports Chavez to the end. It is a poor woman from that slum as well and what you hear is "three mattresses, a washing machine". Those are the things she got from the government to secure her vote. I can understand her in her conditions even though I know what she loses is more: to have a country where tolerance and transparency, sustainable development and better education are the norm.

Expect Chavez to start closing the money tap to those regions from now on, as he already have threatened. Expect that to be much more than when El Pollo (opposition) was governor in Carabobo in 2000-2004. More so now that the oil barrel is below $50

"Dulce de lechosa" moment

I was about to go to bed neither happy nor sad when I decided to surf a little bit. Well, I also got phone calls so we did scan together. When I saw the bitter declarations of Isturiz as to his defeat in Caracas I knew that the opposition victory was better than I thought at first. McCain concession it was not. And then the silly words of Muller Rojas gave me the full measure of what chavismo had lost. Well, they are not democrats at all so any loss is one too many for them. But such bitterness? Such a a lack of grace? Having nothing else to say but that the only reason the opposition wanted to win Sucre and Miranda was to conspire? Gimme a break! Grow up! Fess up to your shitty administration! If giving away thousands of washers and fridges did not buy the election, then there must be a powerful reason behind it, and not a conspiracy! Jerks!

OK, now I go to bed with a smile.

-The end-

The first communique

Some things are strange but overall it is what I had previewed so I guess I cannot complain.

The opposition so far won Zulia, Miranda, Nueva Esparta and the very symbolically charged Mayor at Large of Caracas. So already we are plus 2, and two big ones, compared to 2004.

Two states are still too close to call, dixit CNE, Tachira and Carabobo. I still think that they are going to go opposition, and Globovision agrees with me.

Chavismo won the rest and swept away the dissidence (that is the part I have a problem with though I can understand that the opposition did not want to vote for the freshly minted dissidence, a lesson full of sinister forebodings).

My two failures so far are Sucre and Merida, though Merida I had predicted leaning, not for. After all I wrote that Davila was a lousy candidate and that his victory would be due to mayoral victories in Merida's capital and El Vigia. I did think a lot about Merida and only in the last minute I reluctantly put it in the oppo column. Next time I should listen to my gut feeling more.

Too early to evaluate the results of course. If Tachira and Carabobo go oppo, the opposition can be happy and Venezuela is different. A good victory but Chavez can lick his wounds. Though a constitutional change will be now much more difficult if the trinity Zulia-Carabobo-Miranda go oppo in the end.

To really measure the worth of this result we need to wait for the town hall results. Winning Aragua, for example, is one thing, but if Maracay goes opposition it dims the luster of the victory a lot. We will see tomorrow. Now it has been a long day and I am off to bed. Not happy but not sad either. Let me remind the readers who are reading this late at night that the opposition made too many mistakes to think that in one simple election it could reverse all of them at once. It is a good step on the road of recovery. At least we got real fighters in the new positions, Capriles, Ocariz and Ledezma, right at Chavez door.

In other words, as it happened in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and now 2008, an election was held and nothing was solved; the fight for the next election starts tomorrow. But here is a good piece of news: we got rid of some dead wood and some lousy leaders whose future is now very bleak: Diosdado Cabello, Jesse Chacon, Aristobulo Isturiz, Claudio Fermin, the Lapi dynasty, Andres Velasquez and Rojas Suarez, William Davila, Galindez... True Chavez will recycle his debris, but he must be happy that they will not be a challenge for him now. Expect the complete downfall of Disodado soon....

-The end-

The tiny one (Updated with some results!!)

This picture proves that I actually voted. It was quick and painless: was just about pressing a few bottoms and then end up with that finger painted with that nasty purple ink that will stay with me for a couple of days... nice...

I have looked election after election that finger and can't help but thinking on how akward this practice of marking us like cows is. But the purple mark has become a certain symbol of prestige, and those who don't have that finger painted tomorrow will recieve killer looks from others. Same as the ring proof you are engaged or married, this purple fingers proof I'm a citizen; or at least I try to.

Some students groups of my university make out of this finger issue, a slogan for calling people to vote. "Mójate el chiquito" - "Wet the little one" - said the slogan in that fun and irrevent and obviously second sense way.

Well, in the meantime I'm waiting for the results and trying to not listen to many rumors circulating, they say that someone won this and someone won that... at the end mostly are only rumors. I will update this blog as soon as I got official results. But that's probably not going to happen till very late at night... the Electoral Center never let us sleep on days like this.

UPDATE!! The CNE finally (at 12:00 am) gave the first result. We are still waiting for the results of three states. The opposition won at only three states so far: Zulia, Miranda (mine) and Nueva Esparta. If you do the math that means that at least 16 states remain in the hands of Chavez' party. I don't know what to do with those results, if to cry, if not, if to trust them or not. I think I need to sleep now, knowing that even counting that seems like I still live in a Chavista (pro-Chavez) country, at least I don't live in a Chavista state, that's for sure. But the winner of Miranda is Capriles Radonsky, not exactly the guy I wanted even if he's from the opposition. The one I wanted was Mendoza and his political rights for running were denied by the general attorney. So thats how our "democracy" works. I just need to sleep right now and will come tomorrow with more clean thoughts.