Three more idiocies for you today, directly from Chavez himself

In the last post I gave you two chavista idiocies.  Coming back home tonight I can add three from the big man himself.

I will start with Chavez calling CNN "imbeciles".  Just like that, directly, because they passed a documentary he did not like,  This is important because Chavez calling some one an imbecile is quite something considering what comes next in this post.  He is such an imbecile himself that he repeats recent idiotic words of Fidel about general education in the US.  Chavez cannot even be original in his insults.

Fortunately TeleSur is way more sympathetic than the imbeciles at CNN.  They report that Chavez is going to ask a law for urban agriculture so that cities can produce their own food from their wasted spaces and surroundings.  I wrote recently about how Chavez is so full of nothing that he cannot even read a map, suggesting that oil will be exported from La Guaria.  Well, this law is equally stupid, in particular for Caracas (amen of other cities that grow in desert areas such as Maracaibo, Punto Fijo, Coro or Cumana).  With at least 5 million people the metropolitan area of Caracas (and around Caracas, let's toss that in) lacks the arable land, water, soil, whatever, to feed, even in the best of cases, half a million people.  Unless of course Chavez decides that national parks should be put to produce food...  and even then, once you have cut down the Avila, Guatopo and maybe Henri Pittier, I doubt you could feed a couple of million people, even assuming that by some miracle chavista agriculture becomes efficient.  Unless you force people to move?

If Telesur did not realized the imbecility of Chavez words, we did got quite an clear the finally declared intention of creating ration cards, Cuba style.  Of course, Chavez thinks we are imbeciles and calls them  "cedula del buen vivir", ID cards of the good living.  That is, special cards which will allow you buy just what is just for you to buy.  ABC of Spain, for one, is not fooled and put in its article title "tarjetas de racionamiento", rationing cards.  Like in the good old days of war time, or peace time in Cuba for that matter.

There is only one true imbecile here, the one that believes the other guys are more imbecile than what he is.

Idiocies du jour

You can tell that chavistas are losing it from a mere glance to papers to Chavez own stupid mistakes during cadenas.  Two little gems for you today.

The communist party wants to sue the opposition.  Why?  Because they are calling them communists.  I kid you not!  And for this they sent as spokesperson with the very Venezuelan name of Carolus Wimmer with a thick foreign accent.  If the opposition were to have a spokesperson with such a foreign accent, what anti imperialist insults would that one receive!  What accusations of betrayal to the fatherland/people would be thrown at it!

The other item is actually more serious as the universities minister, Edgardo Ramirez, keeps his campaign of trying to control education in autonomous universities.  That is, the government cannot tolerate that the autonomous universities of Venezuela whose autonomy is guaranteed by the constitution are, well, autonomous in deciding the curricula.  Well, you could say, the government has the right to demand that, for example, the universities produce more engineers than lawyers.  This, no one disagrees, but this, any civilized person will object:

Necesitamos que las casas de estudios ofrezcan un currículo que respete la pluralidad, que sea incluyente, que sus principales características sean la justicia social, el amor a la patria y la defensa de la soberanía e independencia de la nación”  " We need that the houses of study offer a curriculum that respects plurality, that be inclusive, that their main characteristic be social justice, love to the father land and the defense of the sovereignty and independence of the nation."

Lysenko would have it that easy.....  Because this is exactly what we would get with a university to Ramirez wishes, a place where the only valid science is the one that supports the theories of the bolibanana revolution.  We would not even have bananas anymore.....

ABN is down so I could not have more details on Ramirez words.  Besides that Tal Cual article I could only find this lame news from Venevision, the network that sold out to Chavez and that practices happily self censorship to spare Ramirez to look as bad as his words.  Nice example there.

Yoani Sanchez on barrio adentro

Do not miss it.  Even in Cuba they know what Barrio Adentro is all about!!!  Barrio Adentro, Corazon Afuera!

Death and Venezuela's military regime

Head of the current Parliament, Cilia Flores, said the opposition shows "necrophilia" with the way it talks about the horrible murder rate in Venezuela. At the same time, the military regime decided to exhume the bodies of Bolívar's sisters in order to prove the bones they exhumed some weeks earlier were really those of Bolívar. One of the obsessions lieutenant-colonel Chávez has is to prove Bolívar was murdered by US Americans in collusion with the Colombians.

As I wrote in Spanish a few weeks ago, the Bolívar Bone Project, as I call it, is part of the circus the regime has to motivate people. Romans had panem et circenses, Spaniards have pan y toros and Venezuelans arepa and Bolívar. My predictions are becoming true, even if two weeks later: the regime announced "important findings" (without declaring what) and the regime has now exhumed the women's skeletons. I am sure before 26 September it is likely to announce "something". The regime probably does not know what it will announce, but it will be something, anything that could put it as being good to the mythical figure of Bolívar. Meanwhile, over 95% of murders happening in Venezuela remain unpunished.

Yesterday, Brito García, a man who was on hunger strike protesting against the way the regime had violated his rights, died.

One day justice will be made.

Bolivar's sisters

A bitter day for us civilized people...

Brito is dead.

The country is collapsing as the latest scandal is exploding due to Chavez own idiocy: spotlight on the awful mismanagement of state public hospitals.

Their is a renewed wave of electrical power outages while we are told, cynically that it is all over, that Guri is full.

The other scandals keep apace, from crime to lack of food and clear proof that food production has been dropping sometimes catastrophically.

And what does the regime do?

It unearths the bones of the sister of Simon Bolivar to check out on their DNA to make sure that Bolivar is the guy really buried at the Pantheon.

Fuck you!

He died; and I passed by

About a year ago, probably a bit longer, I had a job interview in the same building where OAS office is located. I noticed a man at the left corner of this building entrance, laying on a stretcher, covered with blankets and surrounded by posters that explained why he was there. I read them at a glance, something about lands, and private property, another rough poster that declared he was making a hunger strike. I thought on talking to him moved by curiosity but I didn't do it. Then I thought maybe he was sleeping under those blankets. But I didn't do it because I was too shy to approach him, or too coward. I passed by, entered the building, and had my job interview. I didn't got the job so I didn't know what happened to that man, until a few weeks later when he appeared at the news. Then I knew his name: Franklin Brito (read about him here) He died today. I passed by when his fight was only starting, when I had the chance to say something. I went to this crappy job interview instead. I'm so sorry. My prays go to him and his family.
- there is no rest -

Franklin Brito is dead, another crime to condemn Chavez for

Chavez has officially, inescapably, his first un-washable blood on his hands since he is president of Venezuela (he has a lot of un-washable blood from 1992, but that is another story).

Franklin Brito, the courageous farmer willing to die of hunger strike for the law to be applied correctly to his case is finally dead, in the custody of the government military health services, without them, according to twitter, allowing his relatives to claim his body as I type.  Soviet style of disposing of dissidents, call them crazy and sick, inter them, and kill them slowly.

Tal Cual summarizes the hard fight of Franklin Brito for his rights, and how the military goons of the regime took him away into custody at the military hospital of Caracas where in the indifference of the bureaucracy of the regime he died slowly  but surely, never surrendering his will.  her was 49 years old and so strong was his conviction of his right that he even cut himself one of his fingers to draw attention from the regime's bureaucrats.

Accomplices in that murder is the Vice President Elias Jaua when he was INTI chief, and his appointed successor at the INTI Juan Carlos Loyo.  Both will need to answer to justice one day because it was their duty to find a solution and they did not do it because they were too afraid of making Chavez look bad.  Now the three have blood on their hands.

PS: at least in the Netherlands they opened a blog for condolences.  Please go and sign up.

Venconomy on the Chavez political apartheid

Following the flack from Chavez telling Petare inhabitants to drop dead, I should post below the editorial in English of Veneconomy today.

The Perversity of exclusion

On Thursday, August 26, television viewers and some of those present, including the Minister for Health, were astonished to see how Chávez refused funding for Pérez de León Hospital in Petare, with the false argument that “I’m not going to approve funding for a mayoralty, much less an escuálida (belonging to the opposition) mayoralty…”
What happens is that this public hospital is located in territory governed by Enrique Capriles Radonski (governor for Miranda state) and Carlos Ocariz (the mayor of Sucre municipality), both members of the democratic alliance. As the President sees it, that makes it “enemy territory” that has to be strangled by any means, regardless of the consequences for the inhabitants, which in the case of Pérez de León Hospital is Petare, a large sector with scant resources.
It does not matter that, a few hours later, the President reconsidered this withdrawal of privileges and ordered that the funds that had been requested be allocated to the hospital. Nor does it matter if this backtracking was due to the negative repercussions generated at home and abroad by this clear demonstration of the political apartheid that the government is imposing on Venezuelans, in violation of their human rights. Or whether it was due to the fact that Chávez understood, belatedly, that the Pérez de León Hospital for which the funds had been requested is the “new” building that has been 10 years under construction and is the direct responsibility of the Executive.
The point here is that the President’s reaction makes it quite clear that what he is aiming for is to concentrate all the power in his hands and that his strategy to achieve that is to strangle the autonomy of the local and regional governments, as he did with Greater Caracas Mayoralty and the state governments of Miranda, Carabobo, and Táchira.
Unfortunately, this type of political discrimination in the regions will get worse with the approval of the National Budget for 2011, owing to the elimination of the Inter-government Decentralization Fund (FIDES) and the amendment to the Law of Special Economic Allocations for the States from Mining and Hydrocarbons (LAEE).
FIDES was an inter-government autonomous entity that allocated between 15% and 20% of revenues from VAT to the regions equitably, based on the size of their populations and their requirements. Now FIDES has been replaced by the Inter-territorial Compensation Fund, which comes under the Federal Council of Government, via which it will be the President who will award the funds directly and at his discretion to the communal councils at the expense of the states and municipalities. Meanwhile the amendment to the LAEE snatches from the states and municipalities 50% of the revenues from hydrocarbons to allocate them directly, and at discretion, to the People’s Power ground-root organizations.
Taking an optimistic view, one of the priority tasks for a plural National Assembly will be to restore regional decentralization and the system of allocating funds to the regions based on the criterion of equality and in proportion to the size and needs of their populations, with no political overtones that have adverse affects for the inhabitants.

The 2010 election predictions: Llanos

This is deep Venezuela, the large central plains, a chavista area and in some states perhaps even a bastion.  The reason is quite simple and goes beyond the Llanero origin of Chavez: the wave of land grabs, the expropriation of a considerable amount of large farms have created a generalized impoverishment of the area and thus an increased dependency of the people from state alms.  More than anywhere else we can see the contrast between the few urban areas of the Llanos which still can on occasion show an opposition presence, and the rural districts which have become a terre de mission for opposition candidates (missionary lands, french political vocabulary).

The smallest in area and population of the region, Cojedes, illustrates quite well what has happened to the area.  There the opposition has been all but erased, conserving barely the state capital San Carlos with a meager 46% of the vote.  And yet it should have done much better.  After all the rule of the 2000-2008 governor, Yanez Rangel, was pretty bad.  Not only he was an incompetent military, but he was a vindictive and corrupt one.  Associated to the infamous Antonini case, he was also quite close to all sort of suspicious and unfinished business of the Olympic village when San Carlos held the National games.  And more.  There was not a single project of the state that did not go directly though Yanez Rangel hands or his associates.  And if there was a need to silence critical voices, printing plants of local papers were conveniently burnt down.  Since 2008 Yanez Rangel has kept a very low profile since even for chavismo quite low standards his corruption was a tad too much to stomach.

In 2004 it was Yanez Rangel that led the first big wave of ranch and farm land take overs, with the famous El Charcote intervention.  Needless to say that today El Charcote is a wasteland, as is an increasing area of Cojedes including what was taken away from Hato Piñero.  Amazingly no Venezuelan newspaper has run a major research article on the fate of these ranches!  Just an occasional note...

But for chavismo the result is good, its voting share has kept high in spite of everything.  In all elections since 2004 chavismo has kept an advantage of at least 1.3.  That is, for every vote the opposition got, chavismo always got at least 1.3 votes, to the record 2.8 in 2006.  Needless to say that I do not see how the opposition can get more than one seat, from the list vote.  And even there, the distinct possibility that chavismo could double the opposition makes it a possibility of a clean PSUV sweep (2-1 ration in 2009!).  Very optimistically I will speculate that Cojedes has been hit enough since 2009 that at least the voting ratio will be below 2.1 and thus at least one seat will go opposition.  Maybe if San Carlos has a slide of 10%?

Total Cojedes: 3 PSUV, 1 leaning opposition.


That state is also a rather surprising bastion for chavismo since it is more developed than the other Llanero states, to the point that some like to discuss it together with Lara rather than Apure.  I confess that I do not understand much that state.  Of course I can look at the evidence that the MAS had already managed to pick it up before Chavez, that probably a significant "tradition" of agrarian wars existed brought naturally by the intensive agriculture developed in certain areas.  But still...  Then again as far as I know Portuguesa who has voted chavismo diligently seems to have been spared the brunt of land grabs from the government.  Its two term governor was an African American woman, Antonia Muñoz, who run as a maverick for the Constitutional assembly in 1999 but eventually found its way in the second circle of chavismo.  She does not seem to have been particularly more corrupt than other chavista potentates, though she did not escapee charges of nepotism.  Thus Chavez had no trouble in parachuting her successor, his ex tourism minister Wilmer Castro who got in easily.  Facing that, today the opposition has no other tool but to bring back former governor Ivan Colmenares, duly beaten again by Muñoz in 2004.  I have the feeling that this will not do.

Portuguesa was also the unlikely scene of a dispute between chavismo and PPT in 2008.  Bella Pretizzo did run a spirited campaign but felt quite short with only 14% of the vote.  I am not sure if the Falcon effect of Lara can carry with the PPT in Portuguesa but it might be enough to split the anti Chavez vote in two and manage the miracle for the PSUV of getting the two list votes of the state!!!  Considering that the opposition feeble vote of 2008 almost did manage to double the PPT vote I doubt that Bella Petrizzo now running for representative will win, but a spoiler she might be.  To add woes to any opposition hopes there, the 2009 referendum was a disaster: in 2008 Castro got 185,000 votes but three months later Chavez was taking 72% with 250,000 votes.  Case closed.  The nicest I can be for the opposition there, even taking away 10% to chavismo, is a single one "too close to call" for the list vote that could even go to the PPT.

Total Portuguesa: 5 PSUV, 1 too close to call


Our next stop allows us for more opposition hopes.  Barinas is Chavez state but the excessive nepotism shown there which has made the Chavez family the largest land owner directly or though figureheads has finally created a backlash.  Amen of the other problems inflicted on the country that reach Barinas too.  This very AD state in the past (Chavez father was an insurgent politician of sort when he worked for COPEI) did not make his conversion to chavismo as fast as other llanero states.  Maybe they knew the Chavez family better?

Chavez will not have any of this rebelliousness and the representative that accused the family of all sorts of corruption has been recently dismissed of his seat and barred from running again in Barinas where he was probably a shoo-in for reelection (a brother also was murdered on, supposedly, an unrelated matter).  Now the scene is more complex and indeed there is the possibility of some upsets there for the opposition even though I am not too sure about the candidates this one chose.

A little bit of gerrymandering was also used in Barinas, you know, to spare the embarrassment of Chavez that his representative might not be a chavista.  For example next door state, Portuguesa, has single districts only, just as Zulia has become.  But Barinas received a dose of Caracas gerrymandering and now has two districts, 2 representatives each, conveniently adding chavista areas to opposition ones and diluting that vote.  See, if the state capital had become a single district the opposition could well carry it since in 2009 it got 47% for the NO.

Thus the 2008 results are rather pertinent here since they are the starting point of a local feud between the Chavez clan and the unlikely coalition of true dissidents from chavismo (the Azuaje group) with old AD et al. opposition groups, never minding the dispute between former allies Reyes and Azuaje which has created a break with PODEMOS in this state as it runs its own list.  In other words at this point one is never sure who is with whom in Barinas, not even within chavismo as another splinter group has joined the PPT.  Surely as election day approaches we might start seeing a rearrangement of the situation.

Meanwhile we need to make a prediction.  Here the 5% drop in chavismo rule works and should hand out to the opposition the state, that is, if a PODEMOS agreement is reached. The problem seems to be that once Azuaje was out PODEMOS demanded the top ticket in a district, based on their heated defense of Azuaje (rumored about to join PODEMOS).  I think the opposition MUD should comply.  The situation is already tough enough in the Llanos to risk losing two seats there that would be almost certain gain for the opposition.  And in my opinion, if chavismo loses the assembly there is the possibility that in a not so distant future some chavista might want to make deals with the new majority and a PODEMOS group in the assembly will be the essential wedge for that.  But I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here.

However, that is not the lone opposition problem.  It seems that the state machinery of the PSUV is way more efficient than the one of the dissidence or the outright opposition.  When you look at the difference between legislative and executive vote in 2008 you find what is always the pattern in Venezuela, a significantly lower list vote.  That is, the less educated people are the more likely to cast a ballot for the cacique candidates (governor, mayors) than for the state legislative candidate.  Maybe an innate/ingrained understanding that in Venezuelan politics lawmakers count for little?  Barinas is no exception and the PSUV dropped 18,000 votes in its legislative votes.  But the dissidence dropped 36,000 while the opposition retained its meager 15,000.  What happened?  One, there was certainly a crossover voting, of people distanced from the Chavez family but not ready to go all against Chavez.  Two, the opposition knowing that it would not win voted only for Reyes, saving its list vote in the understanding that it would not help sending legislators in the Chavez homeland.  But Reyes did not have a structured party and thus he was not able to educate the voter to make sure they did cast their list vote too. His possible victory would have left him with a PSUV majority at the state legislature (which is also, by the way, what happened in Tachira where Perez Vivas was not the favored opposition candidate, proving that chavista electoral cheating does pay of).

All of this makes the prediction more dubious as clearly it is difficult just to add up the dissidence of Reyes and Azuaje to the traditional opposition and thus the 5% rule might not apply anymore.  The more so that 2007 and 2009 had reasonably good results for chavismo.  Thus I think that for the political future of the country the result of Barinas district 1 will be a bellwether as to that ability of the opposition to organize and win in the future, and not only in Barinas.

The only thing we can be sure is that the list vote will be split between a chavista and former chavista Reyes, who I will qualify for lack of better words "other opposition".

Total Barinas: 1 PSUV, 2 leaning PSUV, 2 leaning opposition, 1 other opposition


This very  large state and relatively little settled (3 districts only) is a very interesting case as it is the only other state outside of Lara where the PPT has a chance to do something.  That is, if it manages to make a pact with the opposition because divided, even with a calamity like William Lara as a governor, the PSUV can still get it all.  Because let's face it, currently Lara has the highest probability to win the award of worst governor of Venezuela.

It is difficult to imagine a less fit candidate to run an agrarian expanse such as Guarico.  A city creature of effete speeches Lara is in the country side of Guarico as much at ease as I would be at a PSUV rally.  In fact, I suspect that I would be more comfortable because at least I would be interested in what is going on whereas Lara displays signs of anxiously awaiting his recall to the power center of Miraflores.  At least people in his similar situation such as Tarek Saab in Anzoategui have decided to try to make the best of their exile.  Why was Lara sent there?  Chavez had no candidate for Guarico and wanted to punish Lara's incompetence by sending him away to run the provinces.  Chavez does not fire people, he puts them to do his dirty work.  The incompetence of Lara is no object because Lara knows what he needs to do to return in Chavez favor: be a radical agent.  As such Lara is more chavista than Chavez and he himself, personally, participates in the diverse land grabs he presides over in the state.  On the other hand he does not preside on such things as road repair, for example....

There is a case to be said that Chavez, in his egomania, has decided to punish the Guarico voter who voted previously for the PPT led there by a certain Manuitt of clear thuggish manners.  When the PPT decided to go solo and run behind Manuitt's daughter, Lenny, in spite of PSUV pressures, the fate of the state was sealed.  Chavez sent a typical "resentido social" over and he is applying XXI century plague methods.  They must be efficient for the goals sought because the opposition manged to barely win the state capital, San Juan de Los Morros, just to see the new mayor promptly defect to the PSUV, a rather very rare occurrence.  Still, it did not do much good for Gamarra to do so because the mistrust inside PSUV is congenital and soon enough Gamarra was in turn leaving the PSUV to join the PPT and Falcon.  Probably ruining his career for ever.

How does this leave Guarico?  On paper it should be good for the opposition. The agriculture is a wreck in this agrarian state and the farm hands who might have welcomed cautiously the land take over by the state are realizing fast that they were in better shape under their old capitalistic boss: they might have been insufficiently paid but they were paid, something not always happening under the new regime.  Yet the leadership of the opposition has been wiped out under Manuitt and his rough methods and only now it is trying to revive at the hand of a few farmers.  The PPT did not fare much better as Lara purged or forced public conversion of whomever was even suspected of PPTism.

Yet, applying the mere 5% rule, which I think is the very least that chavismo must lose there, district 2 (Altagracia de Orituco) and district 3 (Valle de La Pascua) should go opposition.  But only if PPT and opposition find a way to work together.  Otherwise even a direct transfer of 10% from PSUV to PPT will not be enough for this one to get seats.

The PPT has high hopes there, after all it put on the top of the ticket list vote its president, Jose Albornoz.  I suppose they will send Falcon to campaign there on occasion.  And Lenny Manuitt is on the second spot of the ticket and running at the same time for district 1.  But Lenny is in a tough fight as she needs a transfer of at lest 20% PSUV to PPT to barely squeak by in that district, considering what she got as a governor candidate in 2008.   It is possible, the state has degraded enough under Lara, in particular in Calabozo that he carried comfortably in 2008.  But I am afraid it will not be enough.  SO, unbelievably, notwithstanding William Lara, I must put all of the state leaning PSUV hoping that by the end of the campaign PPT and opposition will do an agreement there.  My suggestion is letting Albornoz win the list vote, unite between Lenny in district 1 and let the non PPT opposition carry district 2 and 3.  This is no idle chat: if PPT and oppo retain their list vote candidates the PSUV can get double the votes of either one! and thus carry both list seats!  Only this way can Guarico give 4 of its 5 seats to the opposition.  Otherwise:

Total Guarico: 1 PSUV, 3 leaning PSUV, 1 too close to call


And thus we go to the last one of the Llanero states, Apure, half owned by the Colombian diverse guerrilla groups.   Apure is also the mythic Llanero state, the birth place of our local cowboy variety, a state half under water during rainy season, parched as hell during the dry one, fortunately with enough rivers coming from the Andes so that cattle can still drink some and the guerrilla hide in the evergreen forest that borders these rivers.  The only economic activity that might prosper there is cattle ranching and some eco tourism/ bird watching.  Chavez has been diligently working at destroying both.

Difficult in access (far from everywhere, a lone bridge in San Fernando to get inside) it is thus difficult to control and difficult to campaign in.  The more so if guerrilla groups control areas where you should campaign. Leopoldo Lopez of Voluntad  Popular did go to a small town in Apure, El Nula, which is reputed to be the guerrilla capital of Apure.  Leopoldo himself wrote on his visit to El Nula, where all activities are controlled by the guerrilla, from sending kids to school to snitch on other kid's family activities, to gas distribution.  The local authorities are just there for show since none of them can call upon the Nazional Guard to do its job, or the army to bring to heel the guerrilla.  When one reads his words the question here is how come the guerrilla actually let him complete his visit!  They certainly did not expect a politician to go there, and I am afraid that none other will have the guts to do so.

Thus Apure is close form being a lost case.  As long as chavismo supports guerrilla activities it is nearly useless to vote there, from council man to representative.  And yet Apure has many reasons to vote for the opposition, besides wanting to end Venezuela's ties with the Colombian guerrillas and the associated narco traffic: the present governor is yet another incompetent military that is enjoying life to the fullest.  I read on occasion that some people do not remember the last time he was hanging around in the state.  Maybe for the campaign he will show up more often?  But the guy has an excuse: he is only the front man of the regime, all real power is in Apure in the hands of the border guards and their pals of the guerrilla.  Nothing big in Apure  happens that is not approved by the army.

In 2008 thus Aguilarte was reelected.  But with almost exactly the same number of votes he had gotten in 2004 in spite of a significant increase in voter turnout.  The opposition low score is in part due to the extraordinary dispersion of candidates (a dozen!).  As such Aguilarte percentage in 2004 was 66.8% and dropped to 57%  in 2008.  I expect that now the real number of PSUV are going to drop.

There are three different districts in Apure.  District 3 is the state capital, a not too big district where the opposition could organize itself reasonably well and pull off an upset.  The PSUV mayor was elected with only 43% of the vote and if I have not heard anything bad about him I have not heard anything good either.  As for the local chavista representative to the state legislature, she only got 39% of the vote.  This time around the opposition is not as dispersed and I think district 3 should go for the unity candidate from Proyecto Venezuela.  Then again the 2009 referendum was won by chavismo with 62% vote.....

The other districts are rural, and guerrilla influenced.  Predictions are hazardous.  Only the PSUV can organize enough of a political machine to bring in the vote.  Optimistically I am going to put one for the PSUV and one 'only' leaning.  As for the list vote I think that it splits even.  Maybe things would have been different if Leopoldo could have run there....

Total Apure: 2 PSUV, 1 leaning PSUV, 1 AD and one Proyecto Venezuela.

PS: with the Llanos we have now discussed more than half of the contested seats for September. The half moon graph is now balanced between PSUV and opposition, courtesy of the Llanos trend.  No need to put it up yet, it will have to wait for the next post of the series.

Chavez, rain maker!

Sycophancy in the bolibanana revolution never stops reaching new heights.  Now it was the vice-president Jaua at the Guri damn this weekend to open as a formal ceremony what is normally a routine operation: the water gets too high?  you open the flood gates....  But according to Jaua it was not the rain alone that allowed this miracle (never mind that there are still two months left of rainy season in the Guayana highlands), it was the wise polices of electrical rationing of our beloved El Surpemo forgetting to mention that the miracle was due to the closing up of aluminum and steel industries of Bolivar state).  He also announced that the regime would reopen that production (forgetting to explain why they did not do that already since it was clear that the water line was going up steadily.  Could it be because of the juicy bribes associated to the importations of steel products that we stopped to produce ourselves?).  Praise for the witchcraft of cloud seeding form Cuban specialists was included.

It s a sad day when an exhausted regime has no other achievement to offer the country than a good rainy season....

...whoever draws the short straw at State and gets sent to Caracas

Read this and enjoy! I do not have a Wall Street Journal subscription but I have friends:

The Wall Street Journal

Our Man in Caracas
Good news: Chávez doesn't like him.

Should Hugo Chávez be allowed to choose the next U.S. ambassador to
Venezuela? He seems to think so, as he is protesting President Obama's
nominee for the post.

Larry Palmer is a career diplomat with experience over two decades in
the likes of the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador. In
2002 George W. Bush named him U.S. ambassador to Honduras.

The Senate is expected to confirm Mr. Palmer for Caracas after its
summer recess, but some of his confirmation answers have riled the
Venezuelan caudillo. Answering a dozen pointed questions from Richard
Lugar of Indiana on human rights and the like, Mr. Palmer went way out
on a limb and said U.S. policy should work to "bolster regional
cooperation to support democracy and human rights."

He also suggested that José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the
Organization of American States, should use his office to do the same.
He said time and events would determine whether "OAS member states
decide to honor their commitments under the Charter and stand up in
defense of democracy in Venezuela, or wherever it is threatened." This
kind of thing infuriates Mr. Chávez, who has been trying to dominate
the OAS and has rolled over Mr. Insulza like fresh asphalt.

Regarding the Venezuelan military, Mr. Palmer referred to its "clear
ties" with guerrillas fighting the Colombian government, a decline in
its professionalism due to politicization, and concern that "Cuba's
influence within the Venezuelan military will grow."

That was all too much for Señor Chávez. "How do you think, Obama, that
I am going to accept that gentleman as ambassador? It's impossible,"
he said on his TV program. "He ruled himself out, breaking all the
rules of diplomacy, having a go at us, even the armed forces. Probably
you will withdraw him, Obama. Don't insist, I'm asking you."

Sorry, Hugo. Mr. Palmer's answers merely reflect U.S. policy. Perhaps
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should break the news to Mr. Chávez
that whoever draws the short straw at State and gets sent to Caracas
will carry the same portfolio. She might add that the U.S. doesn't beg
countries to accept its ambassadors. If the post stays vacant, so be


"whoever draws the short straw at State and gets sent to Caracas"

you gotta love that one....

Chavez tries to backtrack on his "drop dead!" to Venezuelans living in opposition managed areas.

I am sorry for this not very eloquent or fancy title.  I was letting you last Friday that Chavez had revealed himself his hatred of whatever he does not understand, does not agree with him, etc, etc...  hallmarks of course of people with overall little education (they call them fascists too as curiously commie leaders tend to be a tad more educated, or at least well read like Fidel).  He simply said, but with anger, that he could not approve of health care funds for hospitals run by not PSUV people.

Of course such a despicable attitude raised a sea of criticism and 48 hours later he had to backtrack fast.  I am putting the video below and not translating any part because I simply have no time and his words are actually not that important (same cliches, same cheap and unjustified attacks, accompanied with the usual defamation that woudl land him in a court of justice on the spot if there was justice in Venezuela).  What is worth noticing there is his rambling speech, that he cannot hide his discomfort at having to do an apology, such apology of course coming out not convincingly at all, making the situation worse!

I prefer coming back to when he said that he was not going to fund the Perez de Leon.  There was a moment when his minister of health was trying to explain him something and he simply refused to listen to her and went ahead with his now infamous declaration.  I have the feeling that the woman realized that he was going to make the mistake and tried to stop it, but Chavez has reached such a level of autism that he simply could not let the woman speak!  Saturday in that video below he says that she is not there becasue she is ill.  I sense that once Chaevz realized what he had done he went up in rage against the woman and she might be about to be fired or already quitting the government on her own.  At least that is what she should do if she has any dignity.

The 2010 election predictions: The Andes

The Andes region, Trujillo, Merida and Tachira states, used to be seen as a common entity, from their high mountain physiognomy to their political similarities.  Not any more.  Tachira is now decidedly in the opposition camp while Trujillo has truly become an unconquerable chavista fortress.  Merida remains mercurial but then again it is the largest of the three, the one with the most flat land, the hot and humid region of El Vigia, the one with the highest peak of the country. Let's start with the simplest one: Trujillo.


For some reason this northerner of the Andean states has become a bastion of chavismo. In 2008 Hugo Cabezas was dropped out of nowhere by Chavez and still managed to win with 170,000 votes, the double than its next rival from the coalition opposition. And if opposition was in the hope of better days, it should keep in mind that the candidate of the Communist Party and PPT coalition (Trujillo was the rare division within chavismo) got 38,000, half of what the opposition won.

Cabezas has been a bad governor.  In Valera people have been protesting.  Abuses are committed all the time there.  And yet I cannot see how the ensemble of opposition candidates could get together  100,000 votes, which would be already an increase of 40,000 votes from what they got as state legislative vote in 2008.  This would leave chavismo with still a potential comfy 130,000 votes.

And to make things worse this is one of the few areas where not only the PPT could be a spoiler, but could do so at the expense of the opposition.  Indeed disaffected chavista could be tempted to go PPT because the ex governor of Trujillo, Gilmer Viloria, booted out of the PSUV is now on the top of the ticket in Trujillo.  There is no lack of people to claim that Viloria tenure starts to look good compared to the tenure of the current Cabezas.  Thus many an opposition voter,  missing star appeal in its ranks, could be tempted to go Viloria too.

I do not know enough about Trujillo, but I have read, in English, The Hacienda and I certainly think that this book explains a lot why chavismo has taken such a hold there.  I do not know how much better Viloria might actually be from Cabezas or whether this is all just a cocks fight, but I have the suspicion that out of the 5 seats the opposition has only one leading its way from the list vote.  And in fact I should give it leading to the PPT.  At any rate, the only race worth watching there, the only district with a remote opposition victory, is district 2 with Valera the main city of the state and its commercial center.  Although chavismo still won there recently, a small defeat this time around will confirm a general chavismo retreat. 

Total Trujillo: 4 PSUV, 1 PPT


Here the situation is a little bit more complex, less favorable to chavismo, but the opposition proves once again that the Human animal is the only one that stumbles on the same stone twice,  thrice in Merida as they are running Williams Davila who lost already three times for governor.  I do not know anyone in Merida that likes him among the opposition I know.  And if they vote for him it is because, well, he is the "unity" candidate.  So having him on top of the ticket again is a good way to lose some of the potential the opposition had there.

Williams Davila lost his reelection bid in 2000.  In 2004 he tried again and lost again without even reaching 22% of the vote.  In 2008, in spite of a mediocre rule of 8 years by Florencio Porras (though better than the average chavista military governor) Davila still only got 44.7% of the vote of the unity ticket.

I mean, when are folks going to realize that Davila is done, over, Pudrevalized?

And yet it is too bad because the new governor, Marcos Diaz Orellana  who had awakened, erroneously I already said then, hopes of not being a radical chavista seems to have cast his lot with the hard core.  As expected we are told that Florencio Porras tenure of 8 years does not look that bad in contrast.

Thus my predictions for Merida are not very optimist.  Yes, William Davila should make it through, and district 3, under the influence of the new Mayor of Merida city Lester Rodriguez who made it with 54% and seems to be growing, should also be a shoo in for the opposition.  But the other three districts are a different story.

The first observation here is that I cannot just use my -5% rule for chavismo because Merida has a very erratic voting record.  That is, Merida was able to reelect Chavez brilliantly and yet voted NO to both of his constitutional referenda!  The table below will illustrate the point better.

As a matter of fact the rather strong variations of voting numbers over a mere 5 years is one of the best arguments as to the CNE playing fast and loose with the electoral registry.  Either that or the mountainous and agrarian nature of Merida really determine the voting pattern as to the weather and harvest time....  But I digress.

Clearly in 2004 a divided opposition was easily trounced and that division could explain why Porras was reelected comfortably but not with a high number of votes: why go to vote when we know who is going to win?  In 2006 I remember writing somewhere that I was surprised at the large Chavez victory there as I thought that Merida could go to its neighbor Rosales.  Well, he lost at home too, end of discussion.  And yet 2007, barely ONE year after, Chavez loses 70,000 votes, nearly 35% of the votes he got even though the opposition lost about 10% but won anyway.  In 2008, as I pointed out above, Davila being a lousy candidate explains why the opposition was not even able to recover the 2007 vote while chavismo almost got the 2006 vote!  And now comes the big surprise, right after the opposition defeat of 2008,  the reelection amendment is defeated with he best score the opposition got in Merida since Chavez reached power.  Only 3 months after chavismo won the governor's mansion!

It is not the scope of this post to analyze in detail the fascinating electoral data of Merida who with more municipalities than most states, where a wide variety of broken land from the flat tropical humid suffocating land close to Lake Maracaibo to the alpine tundra could explain such a fickleness.  However there is something clear, Merida results over all depend a lot on how its state capital located in the Libertador municipality votes.  For example in 2009, lead by its popular mayor, Libertador voted 78,000 No against 46,000 Yes, carrying by itself the state (The numbers are for district 3 which is Libertador and small Santos Marquina who also voted NO).

Thus in the case of Merida I need to also consider the 2009 results as the -5% rule alone will not help much in predicting the final outcome.  I think that district 3 will go, no doubt, for the opposition UNT candidate.  District 2, the most rural North, close to Trujillo with similar background will go without a doubt PSUV.  District 1 which includes very chavista El Vigia, the second largest city of the state, will very likely go PSUV.  Only the very rural mountainous South, closer to Tachira than Trujillo, where the recent wave of expropriations might make a difference, which also probably suffers from a drop in tourism, and whose opposition candidate comes form PODEMOS, could also go opposition. At least in district 4 if I apply my -5% rule on the 2009 vote I find out that it goes, barely, opposition.  After all district 4 dropped 5,000 chavista votes between 2008 and 2009, in barely 3 months! while districts 1 and 2 did a better job of retaining their 2009 number.   Something went wrong in district 4 and I am taking a risk and call it already for the opposition even if at this point it should be a too close to call.

The vote list should go 1 and 1, no problem there, no matter how awful Davila is. At least if Davila is elected representative they might finally get him away from future gubernatorial ambitions.

Total Merida: 3 PSUV; 1 Podemos, 1 AD, 1 UNT


Now we come to another state that chavismo desperately wants to take back but that resists and resists.  Chavismo wants Tachira because it is the Colombian border and thus becomes a natural haven for their FARC buddies.  But with the FARC come all sorts of economic problems and crime and the people get quite upset, you know.  Never mind that Venezuelan dirt cheap gasoline is smuggled across the border by gangs apparently controlled by no one else but the local Nazional Guard leaving the local gas stations without fuel for the locals!.  The loss of Tachira in 2008 was extremely painful for chavismo and this one has been trying to sabotage the rule of Cesar Perez Vivas in any possible way, the more humiliating the better.  Which of course has a negative effect on chavismo as Tachira is after all, a proud land of Venezuelan presidents, from Cipriano Castro to Carlos Andres Perez (the presidents need not be good, they just need to be presidents from Tachira).

Analyzing Tachira is not easy because it is the state with the most municipalities, about two dozens, and thus all sorts of micro leaderships that may or may not affect outcomes (some municipalities do not even reach 2,000 electors).  The more so that San Cristobal, its capital carries a quarter of the electorate and is decisively against Chavez now while the rest of the state is of a more varied rejection to support.  Thus it was very tempting for the CNE to do some gerrymandering "light".  Still, the heavy hand f the CNE is obvious: with the 2008 vote the new 5 districts would be carried 4 by the the PSUV with a margin average of about 10% while the opposition would carry San Cristobal with, you guessed it, more than 50% margin.  Just as it was done for Maracaibo.  Why did the CNE not merge San Cristobal with its suburbs like they did in district 1 of Caracas to make it a two seat district?  I wonder..........

But this gerrymandering will probably not work there for many reasons.  First, the insecurity and FARC problem is becoming more and more annoying for a population that feels taken hostage.  The constant bickering with Colombia is now really taking a big economic toll and the government is not doing anything to help, letting it now that as long as the new governor is not "removed" Tachira will not improve its lot.  And also, the deliberate victimization of Cesar Perez Vivas has, I understand, upset many chavistas who find it totally unfair and unnecessary as they must suffer the consequences too.

Chavismo is feeling the tide turning decisively in Tachira.  For one, Iris Valera, an infamously violent and vulgar representative, avowed FARC supporter, has decided to drop her single seat constituency and is now running at the top of the ticket on the vote list, a much safer seat, so Chavez will be sure she is elected as he wants to radicalize the next National Assembly.  Because if Perez Vivas election was not as easy as planned (he certainly ws not the best nor most popular candidate and got to run just because the very popular mayor of San Cristobal was barred from running for technicalities, the infamous "inhabilitaciones"), it still came on the 2007 referendum for the opposition where Tachira with 57.3% was the biggest NO margin.  And in 2009 the opposoiton managed to improve the 2007 score.  In other words the opposition totals have been growing in Tachira

2007  227,000 votes
2008  240,000 votes
2009  293,000 votes

If I apply just a 5% drop in chavista vote Tachria this time around on the 2008 results the state will all go opposition except district 3.  But if I apply the 5% on district 3 2009 results, the opposition gets it too!  Thus there is an excellent possibility that Tachria will go all the way to the opposition, the more so that things have been getting uglier since 2009.  Thus I will put all districts for the opposition and put district 3 as too close to call.

There is really no need to go into further details of this state.  We just need to underline that Tachira held three primaries in total and that the winner of the San Critobal one is Miguel Angel Rodriguez, star journalist of now defunct RCTV.  The vote list will be split anyway and awful Iris Valera will manage to retain her job, even not from her original district.  Though with Rodriguez on top of the opposition ticket and the baggage carried by Varela and chavismo there  we can consider the distinct possibility of a major upset to happen and the opposition sweeping ALL districts.

Total Tachira: 1 PSUV, 1 too close to call, 1 AD, 1 Independent, 3 Copei


With the Andes and Zulia commented we reach almost half of the seats of the new National Assembly and thus we can indulge in putting our second half moon graph.  As you will see Copei and UNT have benefited from pour visit through these states, and PSUV has lost control of the assembly.  But we are moving next to the Llanos where chavismo will do better and reset a little bit the electoral clocks.  Also we get into more AD and PODEMOS lands as we move to the Central states and Oriente.   But this will be a cheap feel good graph, even considering that I have been conservative in my analysis.

10 states prediction vote

Measuring death in the government of Chávez

Crime is one of the main problems facing Venezuela now. In the last weeks a series of events have brought the discussion to the forefront: propaganda minister Izarra laughing on CNN about murder statistics, more protests from everybody about the persistent crime and recently an apparent leak of an official report that shows the murder rate may be higher than previously thought.

I have been blogging for years about the problem. I have been particularly puzzled by the very unprofessional way in which many organizations deal with the issue: the regime has kept blaming it on previous governments, numbers are thrown back and forth, only now people try to talk about actual murder rates and almost no one has demanded from the govermnent to publish the real numbers. No newspaper in Venezuela seems to see any use in charts to represent trends and only lately did they see fit to compare rates with that of other countries.

I have kept a count of murders for Carabobo, my region, for several years now. I owe it to Notitarde. I never used to read Notitarde until I came to Europe but I decided to read the grim crime section at least once a month because Notitarde keeps a monthly report on statistics. The report is based not on polls as other sources, but on the reports from the state police and the and the mortuaries. There are isolated articles referring to specific murders and with that you can verify numbers do add up. Here I present the latest figures I have.

Valencia is a municipio that has more than 1 million inhabitants. Different governments have tried to split it into two municipios, but there has been resistance. The North is generally speaking better off and the South is very poor, even if there are some low middle class areas in the South. The military regime has split the municipio only for gerrymandering and completely inconstitutional purposes. Most murders in Carabobo take place in the Southern part but the statistics don't show this, so it is hard for me to prove here how the poorest are by far the more affected. Carabobo's Municipio Libertador, though, is home to mostly poor people. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, there are about 186222 people living there. In the last 12 months, 254 people have been murdered in Libertador. The murder rate for the last 12 months is thus 136.4 murders. Municipio San Diego is mostly middle class with a couple of slums and its government is led by a rather efficient opposition mayor, Enzo Scarano. The murder rate there is 25.71, still high but among the lowest in Venezuela's urban areas. The murder rate for the whole of Carabobo (July 2009-July 2010) was 89.94 murders per 100,000 persons.

I think I have a fair impression of how crime is in Lara, in Greater Caracas and a couple of other regions, but I do not have the hard facts. All in all, though, the numbers I presented here very much correspond with what is finally coming out from such studies as the ones Miguel is talking about.

The Venezuelan military regime will keep blaming it on the others. Propaganda "journalists" such as Maurice Lemoine, from Monde Diplomatique, will write about conspiracies whereby most of these murders are product of Colombians and right-winged paramilitaries trying to topple the military government of Hugo Chávez.

Murder per municipio in Carabobo

In reality not every parish in Valencia is affected in the same way. Northern Valencia is not as affected as poor Miguel Peña. Most people in San Diego are middle class. Most people in Libertador are poor.

When we were happy and did not know it: Nestor Zavarce is dead

Anyone of us born in the 50ies and the 60ies in Venezuela was raised with "El Pajaro Chogüi", Nestor Zavarce biggest hit besides one of the very few original songs ever written for New Year "Cinco para las doce" (as much as I like Chigüi I dislike Cinco. But apparently I am an original on that....)

Zavarce's songs were these of a Venezuela awakening to democracy, where everything still seemed possible, when we barely were ten million people and Caracas had still a spring like constant weather. The "Pajaro chogüi" in spite of its dreary topic still manages to be effervescently optimistic for some unexplainable reason.  That was Venezuela music then, not the drab or trite or alien stuff we hear now which has very little of Venezuela if you ask me.   Not that today nothing good happens, the Onechot video I posted a few days ago certainly proves that essential stuff can still be produced, but it is a competley different world.

Not to sound like and old gizzard, but the Caracas of my childhood in the 60ies bears no resemblance with the hell that it has become today.  Nor does the music.  Zavarce was still a link to our musical past, with Torrealbla, Romero and many others whose traditions you would be in deep trouble trying to sieve for in today's scene, even within chavismo who pretends to return to our sources but whose supporters en masse have probably little idea who Zavarce was.  Never mind he was also an Adeco...  Now what people want is escape and party music.  They might be right, but I ain't following.

Now, at 74, Zavarce died today. A page is turned.

PS1: listen to the words and think about whehter such a song could be written in today PC world.
PS2: the video sucks but the sound track is OK, which is what matters since by the time Zavarce retired TV MTV did not exits yet.

Chavez to people going to opposition run hospitals: drop dead!

If you were wondering how morally low Chavez could fall you were in for a treat yesterday.  He stopped his Alo Presidente of Sundays for the campaign bet he retook his cadenas last night.  And he said among other inane and awful things something truly despicable: he will not give the necessary funds for Hospital Perez de Leon because this one is managed by the opposition mayor of Petare, Carlos Ocariz.  In other words, you are served notice, if you get sick you need to make sure you go to a hospital that is managed by a PSUV municipality.

I do not know where to start on how despicable Chavez has become, on how ready he is to bring the country to a civil war just for him to have a chance to retain power.  These words are a clear indication of his mental state, on his long ago taken the decision that the only way he can hold onto power is through extreme division of the country.  As such he is the faithful follower of the totalitarian tradition of the Castro brothers. As such he will not have any trouble in starting killing folks through lack of hospitals while he gets ready to kill them though direct shooting of protests. 

Humboldt (and Venezuelans|und Venezolaner)

Alexander von Humboldt wrote the following at the start of his long visit to Venezuela in 1799. The place was Cariaco, now a third-rank town that was an important "city" in Venezuela back then.

"We met in the city many people who through a certain lightness of behaviour, through a wider scope of ideas and - may I say - through a strong preference for the form of government of the United States, showed they had a lot of links with the outside world. Here we heard for the first time under these skies people pronouncing the names of Franklin and Washington with excitement. Next to the expression of this excitement we got to hear complains about the current situation of New Andalusia, images, often exaggerated, of the natural wealth of the country, and passionate, impatient desires for a better future"

Alexander von Humboldt hat folgendes am Anfang seines Aufenthalts in Venezuela 1799 geschrieben. Der Ort war Cariaco, eine wichtige "Stadt" im damaligen Venezuela, jetzt einfach ein Kaff.

"Wir lernten in der Stadt viele Leute kennen, die durch eine gewisse Leichtigkeit des Benehmens, durch umfassenderen Ideenkreis und, darf ich hinzusetzen, durch entschiedene Vorliebe für die Regierungssorm der Vereinigten Staaten verriethen, daß sie viel mit dem Ausland in Verkehr gestanden. Hier hörten wir zum erstenmal in diesem Himmelsstriche die Namen Franklin und Washington mit Begeisterung aussprechen. Neben dem Ausdruck dieser Begeisterung bekamen wir Klagen zu hören über den gegenwärtigen Zustand von Neu-Andalusien, Schilderungen, oft übertriebene, des natürlichen Reichthums des Landes, leidenschaftliche, ungeduldige Wünsche für eine bessere Zukunft."

Miss Universe and Crime

I wanted to write about the latest silly controversy that occupy Venezuelan minds but AML sent me that article in Investors Daily and most of the work is done for me.

See, In Venezuela this week we are not discussing crime, Pudreval, the Colombian invasion, and what not.  No, the two issues that are pressing us are 1) how come Miss Venezuela was not in the last 15 finalist of the Miss Universe competition last Sunday and 2) what did the outgoing Miss Universe meant when she waved a Venezuelan flag with 7 stars instead of the official 8 star flag.  IBD does a great job of linking her silent protest (?) with the crime wave that kills us, literally.  I just need to add a few precisions for those who might not get all of the story.

In Venezuela the biggest spectator sport is watching the Miss Venezuela and then, of course, the Miss Universe pageant.  We are the country that won the most of them, and in addition we did made the unthinkable feat of winning it two years in a row, 2008 and 2009.  It has been years I have lost interest in such competitions, joining my feminist friends long ago on that.  But in Venezuela you cannot escape that as the front page of El Universal and El Nacional will let you know even if you do not want to know.  No matter how hard I try to ignore it I end up reading about insider scoops that the Venezuelan candidate this year will be in the top 5, that she ate a quarter of toast with dry tuna for lunch, with 25 cc of skim milk for dessert, that she dropped her boyfriend to dedicate herself to the job, ........

This year the whole country got into a frenzy as to whether the candidate would be able to make the "triple corona", three Miss Universe crowns in a row (we have yet to hear of the alien candidates landing on earth but what kind of detail is that when Baseball holds world series with the US alone?).  Even the candidate believed that she had a good shot at it.  After all if Chavez can be president for life why should not Venezuela hold the crown of the Universe beauty for life?

Well, not only she lost, but she did not even make it into the final 15 Girls!!!  Needless to say that Twitter went berserk in Venezuela and today all sort of opinions from Venezuelan celebrities appear in newspapers, including El Nacional (I learn that this old lecher of Donald Trump as the organizer gets to pick up 6 of the final 15).

But there was a story in the waiting to distract us from such a loss: the outgoing Miss Universe is from Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez.  In her last catwalk in Vegas she decided to unfold a Venezuelan flag, not on protocol.  But that was not all and in Venezuela we noticed that her flag had ONLY 7 stars instead of the official 8 (video here).  Sure enough there are already chavistas accusing her of all sorts of conspiracy and the poor woman might want to think about it before coming back to Caracas.  Certain things happen in Vegas that cannot stay in Vegas.

The thing is that even though there are some merits about considering adding a star to the Venezuelan flag,  the problem is that it came form a personal decision of Chavez, or rather an imposition form him as when the news was announced many historians protested, justifiably.  That was yet again a divisive move because during the 2002.2004 period chavismo had lost the flag to the opposition and by putting on it an eight start it became the chavista flag.  Now, apparently, if you wave in public a seven star flag you could get into trouble.

This blogger of course will only own a 7 star flag because it is our historic flag, it was never meant to be an additive one like the US one, and because he cannot accept that such an important thing is not done through a national consensus, but done at the whim of an uncouth soldier.  That is, if an all inclusive national group studies the arguments and decides we should go to eight stars I can accept that.

I guess I will end up in jail soon, from my  flag, my blog or whatever....  Never mind that my blog spots only 7 stars in its logo....

To my expats coffee mates

I know. I should be writing about violence - ¿Again? -. I have written on the subject before, so if you want to read about the topic check the label at the bottom of this page called “Insecurity”. I know, I should be writing about the upcoming elections, but I don’t have any particular topic on the subject to share. Instead, I’m going to talk about friendships. –Friendship? No politics, no violence, no Chavez, no campaign? No, I’m going to talk about friendship. Because even here, in a country filled with violence and political radicalism, one has friends. Or used to.

I know. We are getting older. We are not 18 anymore. We do not see each other every day at class and call at night to tell the news about this boy we like. Important news, such as if the boy actually noted our existence or if we were able to talk in complete sentences with him.

I know we have 8 hour jobs, which, added to Caracas traffic, became 10 hour jobs and we don’t have time for coffee during weekdays. I know it gets worse during the weekends, because we are adults and we have family and serious relationships to look up to. It’s not about that guy who looked at us or not the day we put our favorite shirt to class to call his attention. It’s about sharing toothbrush or plans to share the toothbrush any time soon.

I know we have let the weeks pass by, and weeks became months and soon we see each other only a few times a year for your birthday, one casual dinner, one day trip to the beach, my birthday and your good bye party which sometimes matches your wedding.

I know everyone must make the best with their lives and move on, and make decisions. I know we didn’t see or talk each other everyday so what difference does it make that you used to live ten minutes away and now we are in different time zones? We talked more now than when you were here. You feel lonely over there, and you use Facebook and Skype more often. You, the one who always criticize those who have “no life” update your Facebook status to let us know you just saw a bird outside your window...Like you didn’t see any birds outside your window when you lived in Caracas. And since even with Web cams we don’t have a street to look at anymore, a shopping mall to discover, a movie to share; all we left its our dialogues in Times New Roman font style.

I know I have friends. I have many good friends. Once you have reached a certain age, you have the friends you have, the ones who knows the worse part about, the ones you can trust, and you have to take care of that. But I only see must of my friends on Skype and no matter how often I talk about them; it doesn’t get any less weird. For some reason, I still prefer one random walk through a Shopping Mall discovering the new Zara Collection without talking about anything productive than those long talks on Skype about how life is over there, how is Chavez over here and our endless complains about work here and work or graduate school stuff there. I still prefer the old face to face style.

I know Internet its amazing. And it does have its own way to put us together. But it is not my daily life. My daily life is out there and does not always include a computer. More often than not, includes a simple place, a few tables, a waitress, a coffee, a friends and a dozen stories we heard before, but we want to hear again and again. I want to complain about silly acts my boyfriend makes, and even sillier prohibitions my mom takes. I want to criticize the brides maid dresses of last night Wedding that you also attended, not for the blurry pictures you talked in Facebook. I want a coffee talk. With just coffee, just ourselves. No cables, screens and microphones in the middle.

I know you are all happy and well. You all have great lives. Some of you found a great man to share your life with, and I’m so glad you picked a husband I could get along with because this is for life you know. Some of you are into graduate school and its so exciting to hear all those new things you are learning, and all the interesting people you are meeting. Some of you have found great jobs. You all tell me it is so quiet over there, so worry less. I don’t wish for any of you to have a life any different than the one you have now.

I know all that. But I’m not asking for much. I just wish you were available for a coffee on Saturday night.

You might laugh, but this long whine about all of you started because of something as simple as a coffee on a Saturday night. My boyfriend knows how much I love to talk to you, and he asked me why I haven’t had a “only girls night out” lately. “I don’t know” – I answered first. And then started to recount, to make the list of the people I usually call for a coffee. Out of five, there was only one left. Only one- Turns out, I did know way: most of you have gone. There’s only one of you left here. And I just wondering, what is it with this country that keeps pushing the ones I love away?

I know you are all my friends and you will always be. Since that, I know you will be in heart in the important events of my life for now on. But I don’t know if you can afford to be in person. Same works for me.

I have always dreamed about my wedding, just like any girl. After many years “in the closet”, I’m not afraid to admit it, of course it makes me feel a bit embarrass. I don’t know when this is going to happen, but I know someday it will.

I dream about a life made of two, because I think life should be made of two, three, and so on, depending in the situation. But I don’t conceive a life made of just one person. And of course, I dream about the event, the illusion and the excitement. Between the dress and the church and the party and the kiss, I have always had one particular dream, an image. I’m sitting at one café – months, or weeks before the wedding - and all of you are there, and we are talking about it. The already married ones are giving “experienced recommendations” but the whole atmosphere is filled by inside jokes. You are all there, flesh and bones, not just a small box in a computer corner. You are all really there. You are all smiling.

I know this whole sentimental letter is closer to hypocrisy than what I would like to admit it. Not because my feelings are not genuine, because they are. Neither is because my sadness isn’t real. It is because I will probably do in the future – not sure when – the same you did; at least for a while. I will be gone too. I just wonder, when I’m gone, will someone attend my good bye party? Or it would be another Skype conference?

I dream about a place where we all can be, we are all fit. I dream about shared moments in the old fashioned way: with actual hugs, not emoticons. I dream about here, with us smiling again.

And while I’m doing that, looking at the message you left in my Facebook wall; I’m hopelessly missing some real coffee breaks.

Back to the blogging world (Again)

Hi readers. I’m reopening my blog after being closed for more than a month. Back then, I decided to close it for a while because I felt it was unsafe for me to keep publishing. Here, you must trust your guts to guide your decisions. Our president chooses his targets very randomly. One day can be Polar and the next day he forgets about Polar and attacks the church. In any case, the fears that conducted me to close the blog proved to be unfounded; at least for now.

But I’m not reopening the blog because my feelings toward fear have changed. I’m reopening this blog because I couldn’t stand to see it closed.

I closed this blog hoping that would make me feel freer and safer.

It didn’t happen. It didn’t work.

I didn’t felt freer. I’m not behind bars or anything, I have never been close to that situation so I can only have an idea of what is it like. But not being able to speak out at least to some extent doesn’t feel any different.

I didn’t felt safer. I mean, I’m at risk because I’m a blogger and I’m an open minder (or at least I try to be one of those). But I won’t be out of risks if I stop being a blogger. The risks are just everywhere. The danger and the feeling of being unsafe didn’t stopped when I closed the blog.

So the plan is… I really don’t know. The plan is to keep blogging because at the end that’s what I am. I’m not a writer, I’m not a political fighter, I’m not a reporter, I am a blogger. If I choose to ignore it, I will lose a part of me. I don’t know if in the future I have fears again, strong enough to make me close my blog again, but I hope to learn to beware of those feelings.

The plan is to keep giving you a unique perspective on the Venezuelan situation. There are many incredible good blogs about Venezuela in English, written by Venezuelans, most living here like me (check my links section). I think each and every one of those blogs provides something new, valuable and different to the blogosphere. My contribution, which has been done with not a lot of constancy and loads of interruptions (at least two major ones), is to provide an first hand account of the Venezuelan situation, as I live it, and as I feel it.

I’m proud of what I have done in that direction so far. I’m ashamed of the way I interrupted conspiring against my own work. All it remains for me now is to be honest. And to hope my readers can consider that this blogger is as human as the blog she tries to deliver. Mistakes and hesitation do happen, more often than what I would want to.

This is my way to say, to who ever read this: I’m sorry. I will try to keep being a blogger. I hope you can still be my reader.

The 2010 election predictions: Zulia

For the past two days I have been stuck at home with all sorts of contract workers that could only come this week.  So in between bouts of supervision, checking work e-mails and some phone calls I have time to speed up my electoral analysis.  Thus we move on to Zulia, our very own "big enchilada".

Zulia is actually a good bellwether state even if the result there is predictable: the opposition, or rather the UNT, will win.  The only question is whether they will manage a grand slam or just a comfortable majority of the seats allotted.  And that is why it is a bellwether state because the more the opposition manages to progress in a state that already belongs to them, the more it speaks of chavismo degradation in ways that we cannot see in, say, Cojedes where a 10% drop in chavismo does not necessarily mean much.


Zulia is our largest state and as such the one that sends the most representatives to the National Assembly: 3 list seats and 12 district seats.  And yet it is underrepresented.  The chavista constitution included a feature to over represent small states as a sort of compensation for the suppression of the Senate as of 1999.  Not only this fails to protect the small states as an alliance among big states could crush them at budget time, but it makes the Zulia voter a second class citizen.  For example in Yaracuy, my home state, 127,000 folks elect one representative.  In Zulia they need 255,000 electors!!!  That is, my Yaracuy vote is worth two votes of my colleague Juan Cristobal who would vote in Maracaibo if he were not writing his blog from the evilest Empire.

Although chavismo did not really do that on purpose in 1999 as it hoped that Zulia would be a chavista state (Arias Cardenas was governor then) it certainly serves them well now that Zulia has become an opposition bastion.  The question here is how come Zulia has become so anti Chavez in spite of all the efforts that Chavez has done to woo the state?  Because I have a sense that if we were to measure the amounts of cadenas, trips and Alo Presidente to  Zulia, the local voter will be more than over-represented in respect to voters in other states.

Chavez never got Zulia

Even though Chavez did win in Zulia in 2006 beating Rosales who was sitting governor of Zulia, the fact of the matter is that this is as much as he will ever get from Zulia (Chavez lost the reelection referendum in 2009).  The reason is very simple: Chavez does not get Zulia a state that represents in many ways all the opposite that Chavez stands for.  Hence his missionary zeal in trying to pry the open the soul of the Zuliano.

You need to understand that Zulia is the Venezuelan state that is most defined in its local culture and customs, in spite of a continuous immigration since the early XX century.  The other clearly identifiable state was Margarita Island but the tsunami of tourism has eroded a lot of that culture.  Zulia held because Zulia was always ex-centric geographically speaking, because Maracaibo was finally united to the rest of the country only in the 60ies when a bridge crossed the lake.  And because Zulianos always felt robbed as all the oil money  from under their feet was wasted by Caracas.  Now that Chavez has wasted more than his predecessors Zulianos are justifiably a little bit tired of been taken for granted in the name of the poor in Tucusiapon (never mind those in Cuba or Nicaragua).

That does not mean that Zulia is a separatist state (although a few more years of Chavez and it might do so).  It means that Zulia has a strong regional feeling, has an entrepreneurial spirit, has a sense of self empowerment lacking almost everywhere else in the country.  Thus Zulianos are fervent supporters of decentralization, private property, free trade (the Colombian border, you know), and of working your butt off if you want to get what you want from life.  All things that are alien to the Chavez credo.  And after all of these years Chavez still does not get it, still manages to regularly insult the Zulia soul.

That does not mean that Chavez is lack of supporters there.  If you combine the poverty coming from excessive disparate income, recent immigrants not integrated yet, and all sorts of adventurers, he does manage to have a few followers (the owners of Panorama as Juan Cristobal reminds us are a perfect example of those who put money first and Zulia's interest last).  To this we must add that Zulia had a story of strong trade unions who saw chavismo with positive eyes at first.

But whatever cards Chavez had earlier, he blew them up with his verbal excesses to which you can add the plague of the Colombian guerrilla at home in many areas of Zulia.  To protect them the regime had to deliberately weaken the local security forces and thus the overall crime rate of Zulia is staggering.  That chavismo in general dislikes/hates Zulia was proven recently when PDVSA refused to recognize the oil slick in Maracaibo's lake.  It is an established fact that the lake bottom is a maze of old pipes and that there were specialized companies that were supposed to do regular supervision and repair.  But PDVSA always short of cash to support populist programs, or Cuba, had no problem in dropping these contractors.

The litany of chavismo neglect is endless.  The surprise here is that chavismo is surprised at the negative reactions of the locals.  So they did what they do better: in spite of an already unfavorable electoral law for Zulia's interest, they went ahead and gerrymandered the whole state.

Gerrymandering Zulia

This was really awesome becasue Zulia had to integrate 3 of its list representatives.  So the whole of Zulia districts were affected.  What chavismo liked the most was the possibility of altering Maracaibo itself, a district electing as a block 4 opposition seats.  With the gerrymandering Maracaibo now sends 5 representatives but chavismo hopes to get two.  And the manipulation also carried to the other districts: now Zulia goes from 6 districts to 12.  In the table below I have used the data from the governor vote in 2008 as they would apply to today's new districts situation (note: at the end of the table I added the list vote for the legislative council where the difference is less; this is due to many small opposition parties trying their luck; thus that list vote is more of an UNT-PSUV contest and sustains my arguments in a way).  Also, for clarity and later discussions I have divided Zulia in three: the Maracaibo metro area which consists of Maracaibo and San Francisco, the "Perija" area which are all the hinterlands of Maracaibo to which I added a little bit unfairly the Catatumbo and Sur del Lago; and the Costa Oriental del Lago a.k.a COL.
The effects of gerrymandering in Zulia

What do we see:

  • Gerrymandering effect:  Maracaibo Metro now could get three seats for the PSUV
  • The opposition margin of victories, in particular in Maracaibo, are way higher than the chavismo margin of victory
  • But there is a tidbit of good news for the opposition: a mere shift of 5% loss in the chavista vote is enough for PSUV to lose districts 8, 9 and 10, while making 1 and 4 very vulnerable.  As it is often the case, an impolitic application of gerrymandering for short term gains can be totally counter productive as the PSUV risks taking only a single seat!
Maracaibo Metro area.  Here the people are particularly sensitive to the gerrymandering suffered.  They also do not like much a division imposed on them (though personally what I object is not the division, just the way ti was carried as I am against multi-seat districts as undemocratic). In addition, that the government did not recognize their elected mayor, Rosales, who is now in exile in Peru has not gained chavismo much favor.  If we add to this the economic recession and the disdain of chavismo for Zulia my prediction is that the opposition will carry 5 seats with the missing one leaning opposition.

Notes: the San Francisco new mayor is a fanatical chavista and anointed as the lone valid spokesperson for Zulia for Chavez.  He has been as confrontational as possible, going as far as expropriating graveyards.  Which did not stop him from displaying a much improved life style since he became mayor.  In contrast Rosales wife who remained in Zulia manages to project a reasonable life style and campaigns everywhere.  The San Francico seat, district 9, at a mere 0.9% chavista advantage should not be hard for the opposition to gain.

Sinamaica to the Catatumbo.  This is a much suffering area.  Infested with crime, FARC, drug trafficking, land invasion, kidnapping industry, what  was once one of the granaries of Venezuela has dropped a lot.

The North is drier and indigenous (Guajiros), and favoring of Chavez who allegedly supported native American rights.  But that is starting to fade as even for the natives it is obvious that the regime loves the FARC much more than what it loves them..  The more so with the constant opening and closing of the Colombian border as the Guajiros have relatives on each side.  An upset victory in district 3 is not impossible.  Still, I leave it PSUV for now.

District 1 is the Machiques granary, a land of long time conflicts between Native Americans, abusive ranchers and impoverished farm hands.  And yet chavismo won by only 12%.  As for district 3, the FARC and crime could push this district into opposition hands.  In fact I am putting it as PSUV leaning only, the more so that the opposition had the good idea to hold a primary there, always a motivational factor.

I do not see why district 2 and 12 should change hands.  If anything wet Sur del Lago has been further affected by incessant land invasions and destruction of farms.  I expect district 12 to vote with at least a ten points margin for the opposition.

COL.  The picture here should be very favorable for the opposition.  Already after the 2003 strike of DVSA the economic consequences had pushed Lagunillas (district 11) in the hands of the opposition.  District 10 was more sympathetic to chavismo but the expropriation of all the PDVSA contractors because Chavez refused to pay them their due has created a dramatic economic crisis in the region where plenty of chavistas are now without a job, and without receiving their worker rights compensation after being fired.  Long gone is the time where enthusiastic red shirted workers took over the contractors boats, most of them today broken down, at anchor, useless.  note: this is the only area where the PPT could have a spoiler role and jeopardize and eventaul AD win for the opposition.  I do not see it right now but I reserve my right to change my prediction for district 10.

The list vote.  No surprise there, the opposition should get two out of three.

Total Zulia: 2 PSUV, 1 leaning PSUV, 1 leaning opposition, 6 UNT, 1 PJ,  1 AD, 1 Copei, 2 other