The scenery gives you the scenarios for Venezuela

Maybe it is time to take stock before a new wave of speculations hits us.  The best way is first to look at what we have in front of us, understanding the players so as to be able to understand better what they are up to.

These days we can divide the country roughly in 4 groups which are vying for the succession of Chavez.  Whether they want to go into the fight is irrelevant, but only one group with the more or less grudging support of another group will be able to prevail, at least for a brief time.  I think we can classify the country in 4 groups today because each one contains a radical wing and maybe a not so radical one but they are motivated by the same interests.  Thus the four groups of motivation, three chavista and 1 non chavista (I abstract the vaunted NiNi since they all can be included in some form with the not very motivated portion of one of the different groups).

The take no hostages, we are all in this together, we sink or swim all of us

This is the smallest group of the 4 but the most motivated one and the most dangerous one because it may control the big weapons.  But controlling weapons does not mean you control the people that will fire these weapons.  This group is small because it includes all the people who made obscene profits either through corruption or through drug trafficking , influence peddling, etc...  They are the ones that had no problem in selling Venezuela to Cuba and sponsoring all sorts of shady activities around the world.  They are those that are the most likely to find their way to jail in a post Chavez area, or at least into exile if they did not kill anyone or did not rob more than a couple of million dollars.  We are talking here some of the high dignitaries of the regime who either robbed or allowed other to rob under they watch, from ministers such as Giordani or Ramirez, to folks like Diosdado Cabello.

And then there are those without any redemption, those who have been busy making Venezuela a narco-state, mostly in the military high ranking.

These people are the more dangerous ones because they are the ones with the most to lose if Chavez leaves the scene.  They simply cannot allow it to happen unless some form of generous settlement comes their way.

The faithful

The next two groups are of undetermined size.  The "faithful" are the members of the sect.  They include the poor, the misiones members, that have made Chavez their savior.  But it also includes the "ñangaras" and other assorted fellow travelers that believe in communism, Castro and other such passé ideas.  For these people the loss of Chavez, cancer or vote wise, is a real tragedy because a whole system of belief is questioned.  The trouble with cults, nothing new there.

They may be dangerous because they include the militia, the street gangs, the Lina Ron wanna-be and other assorted characters who may decide to take matters in their own hands, maybe supporting the above group even if they hate many of them for the corruption they represent.  Or they may decide to stay rather quiet and start waiting for the second coming of Chavez or something else from the mother ship.  That also happens with cults.

The "transactional" chavistas

This group represents those who benefited from chavismo without committing much crime besides the occasional bribe or the juicy subcontracting with the big players of the first group.  They range from the nouveau riche class of "boliburguesia" to the modest public employee.  For them the disappearance of Chavez is not necessarily a threat, and even if they see it as a threat it may be one they can live with.  After all they are the group that realize that the country is not doing well and that they may lose their benefits even if Chavez remains on stage.  Among those people you may even find some that think that perhaps a few years in the opposition may be a good thing to clean up the corrupt faction.  I would not go as far as calling them democrats, but they are certainly the group within chavismo more prone to understand democracy's benefits.

Per se these people are not necessarily dangerous.  However they could become very dangerous once the successor of Chavez is in office (no matter who) because they are in position to do all the necessary sabotage to kick him out as soon as they feel their interests threatened one way or another.  In other words, whomever succeeds Chavez, from Capriles to any coupster of your choice, that person needs to assuage this group long enough to assert its authority, or else.

The non chavista world

The paradox this time around is that Chavez has managed to unify all the people that oppose him.  Clearly these people understand now that the only way to recover Venezuela is to get rid of Chavez in a peaceful and democratic way.  There is no choice, and it is such a powerful knowledge that they are all, from PPT to Diego Arria, under the same umbrella.  Once Chavez is out for good it certainly will splinter fast but right now the unity seems solid enough to hold until sometime in 2013.

The danger inside that group is for chavismo because the show of unity has started revealing the deep fault lines within chavismo.  Chavez disease as simply made them clearer to see as the succession war has started.


Well, they abound.  But basically what you need to take into account is a combination of two of the above groups.  True, the fourth one, the opposition group, may be today's majority but it lacks weapons and resources so it is at least partially neutralized even if it were to win a clear victory at the October polls.  If they are held, but that is already a speculation.  Ignore.

You can start from the following premises for your speculations:

Chavez does not make it from Cuba.  Group 1 and 2 get at each other throats to gain power for the transition period.  Elections are postponed until chavismo gets a candidate.  A coup may be avoided, then again it may not be.

Chavez comes back but too weak to run for office.  So he tries to supervise the choice of successor and tries to do his best to make him win (it will not be a her, too macho a system; unless they feel lost so they may try a her-stunt but I seriously doubt it).

Chavez comes back but not too good, just good enough to run in October.  A variation of the last scenario except that he wants to get reelected.  If he succeeds he changes the Constitution to make his vice president permanent, names it and retires or croaks, whatever comes first.  The aim is to guarantee 6 more years of revolucion.

Chavez comes back and will be healed enough to win and maybe rule for a couple of years (nobody gives him more than that, not even himself if you listen carefully to his tone).  A variation of the above scenario in that he will feel strong enough to do deeper change in the Constitution and enshrine a system that cannot be removed anymore.  The problem here is that there is another factor that will start playing as early as next January: the bankruptcy of the country.

The possibility of the opposition winning is not included because with Chavez disease the word election is followed by a question mark.  So we must limit ourselves to the scenarios of Chavez strategy as indicated above and you will include at will the possibility of group 4 prevailing in some election to be held at an unspecified time.

So there you have, pick your starting point and in your mind make the four groups play among themselves and you will get your very own scenario which will be as good as anyone's else.  The only thing you can bet on is a lot of political instability for the next couple of years.

APOLOGY: the above post came up last night as a draft.  I do not know what happened but lots of editing were lost and even a paragraph.  Sorry.  I suppose it has to do with how slow is my Internet sometime and I go to bed trusting the corrections did come through....

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

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

Yet we cannot totally blame her because for her to succeed would have required a commitment from the regime that this one one year before elections with a Chavez sick was not going to make: money for more jails, for improving guards pay checks and working conditions.  Not enough votes to gain there I presume; or even more disdain from the high criminals in the regime who may look down on those that did not manage to reach their exalted position (I have in mind the narco generals, just to cite one group of people that should be in jail right now instead of running Chavez succession).

But even this rather pessimistic assessment of her tenure needs revision after last Monday.

In Venezuelan jails controlled by the "pranes" which are top dogs among the inmates and who are the ones that decide what really happen in the jails, in cohort with the Nazional Guard it seems at least in some cases, there is a curious way to keep order.  See, overcrowding generates infighting as anyone studying caged animals know.  Primates are no exception.  So the pranes have found a way to control order and maybe even make a profit along the way: they organize "coliseos".  These are programmed fights, public in some exercise area, where people who have differences resolve them with fist and knives with the inmate crowd jeering.  Why this charming practice has received a name reminding of the Roman Colosseum I leave it to your feverish imagination.

What is most remarkable is that coliseos are programmed, jail "authorities" know about that (though I doubt a memo circulated), visits are suspended, etc, etc...  For a while we did not talk about coliseos, supposedly due to Iris Varela appointment as jail minister and the El Rodeo disaster.  Well, recess is over and at least 128 injuries are reported at Uribana jail.

What next Iris?

From rumors to panic?

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

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

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

Ölpest in Venezuela: schon wieder, nun beim Guanipafluß

 Noch einmal ist eine Pipeline in Venezuela geplatzt, diesmal im Bundesstaat Anzoátegui...eigentlich hat das Problem schon vor zehn Tagen begonnen. Der Guanipafluß ist 320 Km lang und mündet in den Golf von Paria. Betroffen sind vor allem die Kariña-Indianer.

The tumbleweed state

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

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

The fact of the matter is that since last night I have that image of Venezuela having become a gigantic tumbleweed adrift pushed by who knows what inconsistent wind.

Chavismo Housing Policy?
First, the squatter problem is always a recurrent problem in Venezuela, and particular around election time when the perceived change in authorities is assimilated to a accrued weakness of the system and thus a good opportunity to steal stuff without consequences.  That it was merely primaries and that any change in authority is a year away is not processed by these people.

Chavismo certainly did not invent that tradition but it has turned it into a state policy, the more so that Chavez is incapable of solving the housing problem of Venezuelans.  See, to build houses you need the materials which are now in short supply courtesy of nationalizations.  You also need people to be able to pay for at the very least the upkeep of the house if you are giving it for free to them.  And the more so if you charge them a nominal price.  For that purpose people need, say, stable jobs which are not around anymore.  Since creating conditions favorable for a housing market boom mean the reversal of 13 years of crazy economic policies the best thing is simply to steal homes from people that can still afford to have them built for their usage.  Add to this the thousands and thousands of climate refugees that chavismo has accumulated  SINCE 1999 and there you get, a time bomb.

Candidate for Squatter?
But what happened last night goes well beyond all of these considerations: what we witnessed is a faction of the regime playing hard and lose against the opposition and possibly other factions inside the regime.  In other words, the deliquescent state is losing any compass it may have had once Chavez left for Cuba.  It started last June and got aggravated last week when chavismo simply lost its faith in Chavez permanence.

I suppose that we will know the whole thing at some point but right now it would seem that the crazy Taliban civilian wing of Jaua et al., the current vice president but not for long, has decided to spice things up, to push back the military side taking over the regime, while at the same time naively thinking that they would sink Ocariz in Miranda state.  See, Ocariz won brilliantly his primary for governor and summing up his votes and those of Mendoza he is already the proud claimant of 446.000 votes when Diosdado Cabello in 2008 lost getting only 507.000 votes.  In other words, unpopular Jaua knows that he will never get even 507 in Miranda while Ocariz is assured of a boost of at least a couple of hundred thousand votes.  And probably more after last night.

And yet this is not the worst of it.  The part that struck me the most was this morning reading the dichotomy of news.  On one side there is the mouth pieces of the regime claiming that the Nazional Guard is the one that protected property and resolved everything last night, that Ocariz people were never present. On the private media the story was completely different.  The Nazional Guard arrived late, did as little as possible and it was eventually the police of Miranda and Sucre that settled matters.  Interestingly AVN and El Nacional use the same picture for a totally different coverage.

I am sure she will find housing
How can the regime lie so blatantly when we could even read the tweets of the locals that went down to block streets in protest until the squatters were expelled?  Note: the squatters came on motor bikes and buses and were trying to move in brand new buildings, in the finishing stages, for people that payed for them.  We are not talking abandoned housing here that landlords refuse to rent.... plain robbery, "micomandantepresidente"!

The story of the regime cannot fly.  Already Miranda state has been subjected to a wave of "invasiones" since February 12, duly denounced by Ocariz and local authorities.  Invasiones are also taking place in other places at an alarming rate, reflecting the anguish among chavismo that Chavez might not be around to fulfill his promises (not that he would do so, but I digress again).  To this you can add that Jaua himself said that no harm could be done to invasores, 'cause you know, they are victims (of Jaua and Chavez but that he forgot to mention).  Not to mention that the level of violence in some of these "spontaneous" invasiones has reached a level of violence justifying long ago the Nazional Guard to intervene and disarm these guys.

And today the Nazional Guard seems to have taken matters more seriously and I hear reports that they are indeed making the recent wave of squattingness in Miranda recede.   How to interpret this?  Jaua was disowned by Chavez from Cuba?  The army decided to intervene on its own, putting Jaua in its place?  Jaua was told to do so because the regime wanted to look good putting order in the streets?  Jaua sabotaged his own run in Miranda because he knows he will lose badly? Insert you r own hypothesis here.

The fact of the matter is that what we have seen since February 12 until last night is a confirmation that the regime has been sent into a wild spin, leaving us, the people, as a mere bunch of tumbleweeds pushed here and there.  Last night was just graphic.......

PS, added a few minutes later: the ineffable but how so right Chigüire just published its version of the events.  The image of Jaua Googling "Jaua panfilo"  is one that will stick for a while.....

Autocrat Chávez, pity and the election gambit

By analysing the following chart you can see how Chávez's disease can be "benefitial" to his campaign.

Henrique Capriles, the newly selected candidate for the alternative forces, is hardly known outside Venezuela by anyone but those a priori interested in Venezuela. Chávez is known by most kids in Belarus or Russia. It is natural Capriles has fewer twitter followers (over 600 thousand) than the military caudillo (who has about 2.6 million followers). Still, in the last couple of weeks Capriles started to get more followers per day than Chávez...until the day when the latter announced yet again that he had "a lesion where his cancer was". Now Chávez is capitalizing on the pity effect, as Duquenal documented.

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

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

Capriles votes were his (and only his?)

The best evidence of Capriles vote not been enough for coattails is found in Anzoategui race for governor where Barreto Sira won over the Capriles supported PODEMOS Paraqueima (note that PJ had few candidates of its own in Anzoategui).  Ernesto Paraqueima got 61K votes while Capriles carried the state  with 106K. a dramatic gap if you ask me.  Indeed a lot of explanations may be offered but the fact of the matter is that the winner, Barreto Sira, in spite of not being supported by Capriles, of being old AD, of supporting Perez (who got only 43K) did win his own race with almost as many votes as Capriles, 98K, double than Perez who was supposed to do good in that state of AD tradition.

Times have changed in Anzoategui, a state now up for grabs, just in case Barreto starts thinking he owns the joint.  After all he only needs to look at the local district election to realize that PJ did much better than AD, carrying with its associates at least 7 districts to the 6 districts of AD and associates.  Never mind the 2 that went for Voluntad Popular.

Another example not as clear but still telling is Carabobo.  There Capriles carried the state with almost 78% of the vote.  And yet, of the 4 districts that were on the table PJ managed to carry only 2 of them with slender relative majorities of 28 and 35% whereas PVZL carried the third one with 63% and Ad the 4th one with 40%.

PJ starts leaving the Caracas area but with trouble

From the above you certainly did get the idea that PJ has been picking up districts even if it did not do as well as Capriles.  That is, the progress of PJ is undeniable and I do not mean to tarnish it.  My point is that it is not as big as one would deduce from the mere Capriles numbers (PODEMOS by the way did not benefit much of Capriles numbers, losing its biggest prize, Anzoategui and barely making it in the second prize of Caracas).

The only state governor candidate that PJ can claim, and brilliantly at that, is Aragua, which is still next door to Caracas.  There Richard Mardo, who was denied probably through electoral fraud the district of Maracay in 2008, kept working hard, becoming its representative in 2010 and is now the undisputed governor candidate with a stunning 88% of the tally!  Capriles "only" got 76% in Aragua......  however in Aragua those are Mardo votes and not necessarily those of PJ which gets only a victory in one of the mayoral districts.  So yes, having the possible next governor of Aragua will help PJ in the future but the conquest of Aragua is far from a done deal for PJ.  After all we can call Mardo the representative of the left wing of PJ, the more hands on, close to "el pueblo" and that would explain why Mardo has made such an impact in that state, though he still needs to beat the chavista machinery in December, another deal far from done.  Still, for chavismo the stunning victory of Mardo against the heir of the Didalco machine (with an embarrassing paltry 10%) has to be worrisome.

Other apparent victories of PJ are not so.  For example in Falcon PJ claims to have gotten the nod, but the winner there is a certain Graterol who has a life long allegiance to COPEI only recently passed to PJ.  Interestingly it is a case where maybe Graterol had better coattails than Capriles who did one of his worst scores in Falcon with a mere 55%: Graterol did get 60%!  Still, PJ cannot complain, it got 4 nods in Falcon including the all important district of Punto Fijo Caribudana, thus doing better than in Aragua.  For the History, COPEI did run a third candidate in Falcon which for some reason it considers its land.  That candidate that shall remain nameless got a paltry 14% which tells us that Graterol made the right move.  In other words Falcon is also the poster state on how PJ slowly but surely will absorb what COPEI was.

Another apparent victory of PJ is in Cojedes, which is in my book an embarrassing victory.  Alberto Galindez, former AD governor of Cojedes, who has been trying to retake the state 4 times and failed four times decided to switch to PJ and now won the primary with a stunning and undeserved 78%.  Capriles, by the way, got only 64% which may mean that after 12 years of awful chavista governors the days of Galindez may suddenly look "halcyoner" than they were.  In fact, when you look at the local districts it seems that Galindez had zero coattails since PJ got the nod in only 2 of the 9 districts at play whereas AD did get 4 even though their candidate got only a quarter of the votes Galindez got.

Miranda, the missed sweep

To finish this overlook at PJ I cannot fail to focus on Miranda state, its own base, which I had thought would be a clean sweep for PJ.  It was not.  An excellent result for "el trabuco" (a slogan that I never quite figured) but not the expected one.  True, the Caracas area was swept with Baruta, Sucre, El Hatillo and Chacao almost certain PJ mayors (though El Hatillo must be run again as the PJ winner died in post electoral surgery).  But outside PJ did encounter the occasional, and even surprising, defeat.

The big fail was the mayor of Los Salias, running for reelection and who came a lousy third, at 17%.  We can safely call this the end of the political career of Ovidio Lozada.  And he probably contributed unwillingly to the defeat next door in Carrizales where PJ got second place, leaving the winner to also an UNT.  The Zulia party probably cannot believe its good luck in picking up 3 of the Miranda districts and possibly yet a 4th one since the Guaicaipuro vote must be run again in the area of Paracotos!  I do not know if it compensates for the unfair loss of Baruta but it is still a decent consolation prize.  The more humiliating for PJ that it did not pick a single district in Zulia, that I know of.

It should be noted that AD did manage to pick 2 seats in Miranda and Copei 1.  This indicates that the transfer of AD is  going to UNT, just as Copei is being absorbed by PJ,  whether people like it.....

Conclusions on PJ future

It is starting well and strong but it is still too much of a Caracas party.  It also tends to make bad alliances.  If on occasion they may look as offering rewards (Cojedes) sometimes the lack of PJ organization on the ground make them tie the knot with totally unsuitable people which leave PJ totally humiliated.  I will remind folks the Yaracuy results where Capriles did get 60% but where the PJ candidates for governor and San Felipe mayor got a trashing of 15 and 34% respectively.  The San Felipe case is particularly telling because the winner was a newcomer for Convergencia, Jose de la Cruz, who managed to defeat the old hand of San Felipe town hall, Miguel Ponente now PJ, by 4% (the end result  is probably going to be 7 districts for Convergencia and 3 for PJ).

In this respect the national gains of PJ might look spectacular compared to those of Voluntad  Popular (see previous post of this series) but they might not be as solid as those of VP.  Then again, Venezuela been the land of lambucios, a few years of a Capriles presidency and even chavistas will pretend that they were always with PJ.....

The Chinese are going for gold in our jungles

中国中信集团公司, get use to it

Chávez himself has given a concession for a hugely important gold mine - Las Cristinas - to the Chinese corporation CITIC with shortly before leaving for Cuba to be operated yet again. Las Cristinas is located close to El Dorado, not far from the border with Guyana, in a territory the British invaded in the mid of the XIX century.

Now the Chinese company that is building houses for Venezuelans who apparently can't build houses, the same Chinese company that has become one of the main providers of equipment for oil production, is going to be in charge of getting gold from the territory of the Pemon indians. They just got in time to get that concession from Chávez before that uncertain trip of his.

The military caudillo had expropriated Las Cristinas from Cristallex some time ago. Journalist Bodzin had written a lot about the mine (see for instance, here).
There was no Parima Lake with gold as Spaniards thought, but there is El Dorado and it only hurts and destroys

In 2010 Cristallex had made a strategic partnership with the Resource Subsidiary of China Railway Engineering Corporation, I suppose trying to get a "non imperialist player" on the game. That didn't move forward. The Russian Rusoro also had intentions to go into the business (dating back from 2009), but after yet a new empty declaration of "nationalization of mining resources" in 2011 it pulled out. I say it was an empty declaration because in reality there has been a law since Colonial times stating earth resources belong to the State and can only be given on concession...Rusoro may have really given up because they realised Chávez does "lo que le da la gana". For a time they did have some hope they could exploit Venezuela's most promising gold mine.

I had always a very bad feeling about the work of mining companies in one of the most delicate natural reserves of the world. Stay tuned. The Chinese are in.

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

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

This afternoon we reached a paroxysm of grotesque.  The descent from Caracas to the airport was lined, supposedly, by chavistas in a huge orgy of love towards their beloved leader.  On some stretches Chavez emerged from the roof of the car, shook hands and had a portrait of Christ taped on the windshield.  I will pass on the VTV anchors force feeding the whole country the declarations of love of chavistadom.  Yes, it was a cadena, the forced simultaneous broadcast of all TV and radio stations of Chavez activities. I wonder what people stuck in traffic, about to miss their flight, made out of the hysterical gibberish  coming off their radio....

None was much spontaneous however.  Chavismo in its descent towards imbecility forgot to control the images.  If indeed the close range shots suggested throngs of people saying good bye to the beloved leader (maybe even fooling Chavez himself), for us who have been observing such shows for years we detected more mistakes than ever.

First, for something so "spontaneous" there was an awful amount of red shirted people.  I mean, they carry one with them at all times just in case?

Second, the amount of flowers thrown at Chavez (kind of necrophiliac happy burial mood if you ask me) had to be prepared. Who paid for that?  Specially driving along the "ranchos" where florist certainly do not abound, nor gardens.....

Third, they dared to show aerial pictures, something usually carefully avoided 'cause it gives away the show.  Sure enough, we could see lots of buses parked nearby the crowds they brought and that the crowds were in fact placed densely at strategic points, nearby areas empty.  If the impression on close up was of lined streets, the aerial views told an opposite story.  I  cannot believe they made such a mistake!  Truly, chavismo is in such shock that they forget to watch out presidential imagery!!!!!

Tonight we also learn that the light Chritmas crosses across Venezuela in cities which are dominated by some mountain will be relit until Chavez comes back from Cuba....

There you have, the campaign of Chavez for October, run on emotion alone, play as much as possible on his diseases and the miracles of his recoveries even if they do not seem to last that long.....  Rationality is gone for good not only in Chavez head but his co-dependent and enablers.

The 2012 primary results: part 3, the Leopoldo effect

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

But perhaps the reason why people do not see Lopez as one of the big winners is because he had to pay a price to salvage his political future that would have been seriously damaged if had not reached 20% of the ballots or if, worst, MCM had managed to pass him (which we know now it would not have happened but we did not benefit from that hindsight then).  The price he paid was a weakening of his movement, Voluntad Popular (VP).  This one lost the only position it held, the Chacao mayor, but also lost the ally in Baruta leaving now Caracas as a Primero Justicia (PJ) fiefdom when it should have normally be an even split.  I do not know if reliable exit polls were made at least as to why Blyde lost in Baruta but his defeat was close and had Lopez been in the run until the end Blyde might have made it.  And yet overall VP did not come too badly out of the contest as it picked a few nice spots around the country making it the only party today, paradoxically, to have a true national reach.

Lopez help to Capriles

In my own calcualtions of January Lopez was getting up to 500.000 votes, due to the not so subtle strategy of the regime to cast a doubt on whether he coudl take office.  In short, he was getting in the polls less than what we were expecting him to get due to his name recognition and clear popularity.  The man had worked all across Venezuela in a way that no other candidate had done.  He had built from scratch a national party of reliable faithfuls.  So he should have been competing for second place with ease, which was not the case.

Yet, his half a million potential voters followed him to Capriles and thus the February 12 smashing victory for this one.  Not all, as this writer did not follow Lopez and went MCM knowing full well she would lose: he is writing this just in the spirit of full disclosure.

The best proof of Lopez importance comes from Carabobo state.  There Capriles won with 77.5%, BETTER than the 76.3% he got in his home state of Miranda!  Carabobo was the state that Lopez was supposed to carry since he had the backing of the local guys, Proyecto Venezuela.  He should have normally gained that one with, say, 80 to 100 K  votes of the 268 K votes cast.  Do the math.

Even Miranda offers additional proof of Lopez importance.  Had he kept running there we can safely assume that he would have picked up up to 100 K votes there because he was supported by an ex mayor and he is also a "native son".  Another 100 K went  for Capriles.

Even if not that rich in votes we can also give Sucre state as an exhibit.  There Perez did run a strong 34.8% in a state where PJ has not done so well until now.  But VP had been working the grounds and its candidate for governor will be from VP.  Thus in Sucre we may not be talking about victory margin for Capriles, we may be talking victory.  Period.  Let's not forget that beyond the numerical advantage of Capriles, the fact that he did a clean sweep of all but Zulia is also an impressive political benefit to be exploited in the general election.  That clean sweep is also in part the gift of Lopez.

Voluntad Popular fares well enough

Let's look at how VP did overall.  The main problem it faced was that its candidate was having trouble but that did not stop the vigor at local level.  Then the candidate retired and, well, that surely had an impact as many may have just shifted to PJ.  Unfortunately without accurate exit polls there is no way to know what fraction may have deserted.  The more so that on occasion Leopoldo had to retain a certain ambiguity in his message as he could not jeopardize the chances of Capriles, the real objective.   We are left with strictly the results to speculate but they are good enough for that.

The thing here is that we cannot look at quantity but at quality.  VP as a new party founded two years ago could not aspire to make a smashing first run.  However if it claims it got the nod of the opposition in about 20 districts, many of these are good districts spread all over the country!  I would say almost wider spread than PJ which has been at it for a decade now and who only now finally placed a candidate for governor outside Caracas, and that in next door Aragua (Falcon is really a COPEI guy who sensed the wind early enough).

The big prize for VP is the candidate of the state of Sucre.  It is also a state where the current governor is so criticized that it is likely chavismo will seek to run with another name.  So Sucre is one of the states that has been so battered that finally it may wake up in try something else.  And VP will benefit from it.

Apparently the hard work made by VP in the area also gave them more nods in the area: the districts of Guanta and Piritu in Anzoategui and others in Monagas and Sucre.  If the Monagas is an uphill battles it is quite possible that a year from now VP may have three mayors and one governor in that area, an excellent trampoline for further gains.

But that is not all.  If VP was evicted from the Caracas metro area by losing Chacao, its ally of Baruta and the runner up of Libertador, it got as a consolation prize the nod for La Guaira mayor, which, believe it or not is for the first time since Chavez won in 1998 is not out of reach.

Perhaps what is even better for VP future is that it reached the top nod in two significant districts, one in Lara (Carora) and the state capital of Tachira, San Cristobal.  A good management of these districts, if won, can have quite an influence in future regional elections.  There are other districts of a more dubious future but which are spread in different states, witnesses of the national hard work of VP: Aragua, 3 in Barinas, a hopeless one in Yaracuy but a not so hopeless in Portuguesa.

Overall for Lopez and VP it is a mixed bag.  They did influence clearly the February 12 outcome but right now it is difficult to cash in.  Then again if Chavez is reelected there will be nothing to cash so they should not worry much.  The objective here is to get rid of Chavez and if we succeed VP will sit at at the table of the big players now, not as a tolerated guest at the MUD as it is the case today.

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

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

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

Her success and established probity is in stark contrast of the shady characters in the CNE (Socorro Hernandez) who have managed to make people like Tibisay Lucena acceptable...  Whenever the CNE gets up to renewal Teresa Albanes is now an unavoidable candidate, and chavismo knows that.  Thus there is an urgent need to tarnish her just as chavismo is always in the lookout to tarnish the reputation of anyone in the opposition (look at the recent attacks on Carpiels, which were removed from the site of the National Radio when the international scandal exploded).  And let not me start on how chavismo treats its own defectors.....

Thus the attack to her, punishing her for an alleged illegality and as such possibly barring her from any position in the state as long as chavismo holds the high court, TSJ.  But it does not fly.

First, she has been sentenced without a trial.  Even the TSJ of Venezuela is under the obligation of receiving her defense before emitting a penalty against anyone.  In other words, Teresa has been submitted to a "express trial" where she never had a chance.

Second, she is not the only offender in the alleged crime.  The crime, see below, was committed, if there was a crime, by several people.  Hundreds of them actually.  Why her alone?  There are many reasons you can guess but one comes to mind right off the bat: a bitch slap from Luisa Estela, the top bitch in the judicial system of Venezuela.  See, Teresa is the antidote to all the bitches that serve Chavez , "cachifas", from Luisa Estela to Luisa Ortega et al., women that are the pretense of shared power by the regime but who are there only to obey Chavez whims.

Third, Tersa Albanes acted properly considering the precedent of the Lista Tascon.  She had promised the 3 million voters that their identity will remain secret and that all the voters rolls would be burned within 48 hours.  For those new to this game, the "Lista de Tascon" was the list of all those who signed for a recall election and became second class citizens once that list was illegally published, at Chavez own request.  From that fateful day in 2003, about 3 million of Venezuelan citizens plus their realtives were barred from many public services, were fired from their state jobs, etc, etc.... Clearly the Unidad Electoral commission was not going to let that happen again and as early as February 14 we sensed the resolve of many of them to go to jail if necessary.  The clumsiness of the regime and the idiocy of Carasquero trying to grab the lists created a whole bunch of instant ethical  heroes, even if outlaws from chavismo point of view.

Now, it is quite possible that actually Luisa Estela does not approve of the regime getting access to the voters list.  The crime of 2003 is still haunting us and maybe Luisa Estela does not want to be sullied more than necessary.  Hence the rather ridiculous fine to Teresa Albanes.  If this is the case I suspect that word will come discretely from the TSJ to the Unidad for her to pay the fine and move on.  But at this point I personally think it very unlikely that such a "leniency" would come from Luisa Estela Morales Lamuño.

UPDATE: certainly the regime was expecting some flack from that fine.  The AVN, the "official " news agency publishes a note, hold tight, to say that the AFP had mislead the reader (tergiversar) in its reporting of the fine.

I mean, the state official news lowers itself to do things that established blogs have long ago stopped doing......  And if an established blog were to indulge on such an exercise (it happens, we are weak after all) the said blog would have the courtesy to link tot he questioned bit of news.

PS: A suggestion for the Unidad, if word does not come from Luisa Estela.  Organize a pot collection where everyone can only put a single bolivar, and a book record on the side (I, for one, would have no problem in signing as I am sure will be 16.000 of other Venezuelans who know they are already in the Tascon list and who already suffered from its evil) .  Weigh it as to whenever the sum will be reached and use a truck to carry the coins to a state bank and force them to count all the coins and emit a deposit.  Then organize a march to the TSJ to deliver the receipt and the signed books with the adequate protest letter.  Watch hundred of foreign journo covering the event.  Make sure to carry "No more Tascon Lists" all over the march.

Selbst die Bildungsministerin schläft ein, Chávez fliegt nach Kuba

Bildungsministerin Hanson muss einschlafen, während der Militär Chávez seine letzte Rede hält. Das war während einer "Cadena", einer Ansprache, die per Gesetz von allen Radio- und Fernsehsendern übertragen werden muss. Der Caudillo fliegt morgen nach Kuba, um sich wieder operieren zu lassen. Er wird dort über fünf Tage lang bleiben, sehr wahrscheinlich viel länger. Der Vizepräsident, Jaua, erklärte heute, der Präsident ist gar nicht amtsunfähig, nie, nicht mal einen Tag lang.

Chavismo is in a much worse shape than what you thought

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

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

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

Chavismo was coming fresh from a coup d'etat it got away with.  The electoral victory of the opposition in September 2010 still gave a huge majority to chavismo in parliamentary even though not the 2/3 so much desired.  The coup was done in two stages.  Through obscene gerrymandering the majority was denied to the opposition.  And then , when the 2/3 majority failed to materialize the regime used the lame duck assembly to vote an enabling law that gave Chavez full powers on many aspects of Venezuelan policies under the excuse of a flood emergency late 2010.  This enabling law, for example, will be used in a few weeks form now to decree a new labor law which will kill trade unions, will allow the state to name soviets in business, will make it nearly impossible to fire anyone, etc, etc...  Matters that are not related at all with the emergency of 2010.

However gutting the National Assembly of its legislative and control power was not enough in the neo-totalitarian scheme of chavismo.  There are still the governors and mayors of the opposition who may control a meager part of the nation's money but still enough to promote themselves politically.  The example came home to roost when an efficient governor, Capriles, won stunningly the opposition primary two weeks ago.  Although in the first half of 2011 it was still not possible to preview that outcome, it was already clear to see that the three main contenders for the opposition unity candidate were two governors and one mayor.  Thus the strategy of Chavez reelection in 2012 had to include a way to avoid the opposition to gain more statehouses and town-halls, or at least make them irrelevant such as the National Assembly has become.

We may never know what was exactly planned then but the disease of Chavez in June 2011 paralyzed the actions of the regime.  The renewal of the disease yesterday makes look chavismo like the deer in the headlights.  Well, maybe I am too optimistic but bear with me a tad longer.

A probable strategy, which explained the strange electoral schedule of presidential election in October, governors in December and mayors in April 2013, was to make them irrelevant.  People like Milagros Socorro have already pointed out that way and I have concurred and added some.  Since governor elections could not be avoided, Chavez would be reelected first, then he would call for a constitutional reform referendum to void mayors offices, and while this took place he would still hold governors election hoping with a post victory coattail to sweep into office as many chavista governors as possible.  Even if the opposition were to manage to retain its states and add a couple of them to it, soon the replacing structure of the mayoral district, appointed or nearly appointed by the central government, would make them irrelevant while still enough of a fig leave for democracy appearance.  Soon a way to deal with them once and for all would be found.

It is quite possible that in the first half of 2011 chavismo suspected that Chavez would run into problems.  It is also possible that they had doubts on whether they would have enough money in reserve for the campaign.  That is why the presidential election was advanced instead of pushing to 2013 the governor election which would have made more sense if you really wanted to separate the elections on "technical grounds".  It was also assumed by chavismo that the opposition would never me able to manage its goal of unique candidate and thus any division would allow Chavez to bag the election by June 2012 so in the last month he could take it easier if need arise, planning the next moves and maybe even, if polls were right, include a referendum in the presidential election..

Of course, I have no way to know whether that was the plan but we can be pretty sure that the calculations and strategy were along those lines.  And they could have worked except that Chavez got sick in June and that is when problems started for chavismo.

When a megalomaniac narcissistic gets sick all stops for him, and also for his entourage.  While chavismo was wondering whether Chavez would be alive for the campaign, monitoring any detail of his puffiness, the opposition kept plodding along.  Chavismo stopped any primary attempt, any candidate appointment, anything in preparation for October 2012 and beyond except starting to pour money into the streets, the only thing that was already ready for their strategy.  We even heard idiots inside chavismo saying dead serious that governorship candidates would be announced AFTER October 7, not even two months before their election!!!  Fortunately for chavismo even a sick Chavez is smarter than them and he already announced a  few appointments, to try to show that he is in charge even though at the price of establishing for the doubter that the PSUV had lost any interest in democratic procedure.

And the opposition kept going on.  It set its deadline.  It organized the primaries.  It accepted its candidates. A campaign took place with debates, a novelty.  A program was established and signed by the major contenders.  The elections were held.  There was a fabulous turnout.  The winner was clearly established and received the immediate support of the other guys.  And even the few problems that appeared ended up reinforcing the Unidad positions in that they protected the privacy of the people and implied that debate was allowed.

In 7 months the opposition had build a credible challenge and organized a formidable campaign team of motivated people, all of them candidates with their own campaign team tested during the primaries, at all levels.  In other words, the opposition had its candidates, a program, and a an electoral machinery.  Only money is lacking but for the type of door to door campaign that will be required money is not as crucial as for Chavez who will not be able to do many public appearance for his campaign.

In 7 months chavismo did nothing, watched its navel, or Chavez navel for that matter.  We have no evidence whether they had a "plan B", so strongly they felt about themselves after the perpetrated coup in 2010.

Still, it was not necessarily so bad.  After all whatever plan they had was centered around Chavez campaign performance.  But now not only they do not know whether Chavez will be able to perform as he should to save their seats, but they are starting to have serious doubts as to whether Chavez will be around for the whole campaign.  Not to mention of the psychological effect of a Chavez that lied to them by telling them he was cured when he was not.  Already tonight one of my informers trying to set up some "special favor" for some permit (you cannot help it anymore if you do not want to have to close your business)  told me that her contact had suddenly doubled the asking price.  And that the deal should be done within the next two months.

This way to Havanna
At this point it is simply impossible for chavismo to organize a primary election.  Not that Chavez would allow it anyway, and even less his Cuban masters who are getting tired of all that electoral waste of time (look at the renewed repression in Cuba as soon as Dilma Roussef, to her eternal shame, left Havana).  And would a quick primary campaign help anyway?  After what the country witnessed with the opposition there is simply no time, nor conviction, to organize something remotely comparable within chavismo.  The 7 months spent by chavismo in making fun of the opposition instead of minding their own business are suddenly cashing at the door (the tortoise and the hare anyone?).

It is thus my opinion that chavismo is in much deeper disarray as you may see from the surface.  In the next two months they need to decide whether Chavez will campaign or not.  If not, does that mean someone can campaign for him?  If not, does that mean they need to replace him?  If they replace him what will they do about governor and mayoral candidates now that the Chavez coattails are not guaranteed anymore? etc, etc, etc............

And if to these questions you add that the Cubans are nervous about their main source of revenue, that the corrupt narco generals know that without Chavez they will end up in jail, that many high ranking in the regime will find their way to jail or to exile if they lose office, etc, etc, etc....

....then you have a highly explosive mix that will be fueled by new laws that will restrict even more the economy and maybe induce a recession where a boomlet was expected for October.  

Hard days ahead, brace yourself!

The reason why I do not attend concerts anymore in Venezuela (and for that matter movies)

A little Mardi Gras irrelvantness.

If this is annoying in Europe, think about Venezuela where it happens constantly...

.. no matter how politely people are asked before to shut up their cell phones.  They just do not.  In movies I have gotten into fights as people truly cannot understand why I object them taking their calls during the movie.

The other pet peeve of mine that really turns my stomach are the jerks in the US that stand up at the Hallelujah during performances of Handel's Messiah. Of course, in Venezuela some assholes are trying to bring this idiotic custom here....  So I have not attended a Messiah anymore.  But one day while travelling in the US if I can attend one Messiah I will stand up at a random aria and let people wonder WTF.

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

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

So yes, Chavez came out: he not only will keep inflicting us a pain in the ass but his own came back.  Does this change the intent of my previous post?  Not at all.  Here is why.

In a normal country the health of the head of state, or government as the case maybe, is an affair of the state.  People have the right to know how long will the representative of the people be in diminished conditions and who is taking the decisions in between.  In normal countries sometimes it is the usage to hide the diseases, and it is hidden well.  France is a specialist at that: Pompidou's death was a surprise for many.  Mitterrand went on reelection knowing well that he might not make it through his seven years term because of his prostate cancer.  But this was made possible because all knew that the president was not the only one with the power, that there was a prime minister and a cabinet of real politicians, real professionals in charge.  That is why the press was an accomplice to many of France's presidential secrets.

Other countries have different ways to deal with it.  In the US besides the stroke of Wilson managed by his wife who was president for all purposes for quite a while, no president has had a debilitating disease while in office the way Chavez has now.  And as in France, secretaries and congress have enough power and attributions on their own that diseases lasting a few weeks could perfectly be tolerated by the country.

That is not the case of totalitarian countries.  We experienced the case of Cuba when Fidel went ill and was forced to create the first monarchy of the continent (Brazil and Haiti were Empires, you know).  But Chavez has no family heir ready to take over, and all power resides in his hands.  All.

Since his disease cannot be hidden as other diseases were hidden for other afflicted presidents, it creates for his regime unique problems, the more so that this is a country of gossipers.  The only way is to fight fire with fire, create gossips and when possible counter them, or, surprise, validate them.  Whatever the strategy one thing is certain, gossiping distracts the populace form the real issues.

We should not pay attention because this is not a normal regime and there is no good way for Chavez to part temporarily with power in a satisfactory way for the opposition.  It does not matter how right a given professional gossiper is, it does not change anything to our reality.  What I mean is "who cares who is the vice president when Chavez is on medical leave?  All will be the same, directed by a tiny group tightly controlled by Cuban interests."  The paradox is that Chavez has all the power but he gave it away to people we do not know, in all truth.

Our references here are Tito and Franco, not even Fidel.  They shared zilch until they croaked.  But people were busy preparing the transition anyway, just waiting for the date to get started.

Tomorrow punditry will be askance as to what Chavez will do and Chavez will be delighted to be in all front pages again, with even an occasional show of support.  That he lied to his followers telling them repeatedly he was cured was irresponsible, but it will not affect him anyway.  Did Pudreval affect him?  Did the corruption affect him?  Did the crime wave affect him?

What we should do is remind constantly to the people those issues and point over and over that he is treated in Cuba at tax payer expenses where he receives a health care no one can afford here, in full security, with his relatives and friends travelling to visit him at tax payer expenses, as often as they wish.  And unfollow @Boccaranda, no matter how well informed he is.  He will drive you sick.


Chávez and Twitter

Venezuela's president twitted
98 times in August of 2011,
30 times in September,
10 times in October,
9 times in November,
4 times in December,
3 times in January and
0 times in February up to now.
What's the matter?

The Chávez-controlled site of the National Assembly says there are 200 state employees checking out what people ask to Chávez' twitter account, as Venezuela's government is so screwed up everything has to be "delegated" to the head of state. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the tweets "by Chávez" are from an authorized employee, but so far, that is not happening either.

Is Chávez tired or is he really sick and no one has thought about  letting an employee pretend to be Chávez?

Stop crying wolf!

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

First, chavismo has learned to use shamelessly Chavez cancer for propaganda purpose.  These days, it is not even enough to figure out the source of the rumor to assess its veracity.  And use it they do since minister r-Izzara-ita goes on record himself accusing those rumors of being a "dirty war" against his boss, as faithfully reported even by the BBC in its Spanish site.  Or if you prefer hints in English you can go to the New York Post.

Second, it really does not matter: if Chavez wants us to believe he is cured, let's take him at his words and campaign against his poor administrative record (poor is charitable in this context).  Remember, the more we speak about Chavez pain in the ass, the less we speak about inflation, crime, scarcity, unemployment, etc, etc...

Third, nothing serious will be going on until Chavez changes his vice-president.  Only when that happens, and depending who is put in place and in which circumstances, rumors will become a necessity.  As long as Jaua is vice-president Chavez is not croaking, nor in immediate risk of doing so.

Last, but not least , in case some chavista still haunts these pages. The author wishes Chavez a long life so he will have enough years to spend in jail not only to pay for his crimes but also to see that Venezuela can be a much better place.

The 2012 primary results: part 2, the turnout

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

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

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

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

A priori, yes.  And even more.  But the campaign is barely starting and Chavez has already been pouring so much money into the streets to buy votes that the economic effect is already being perceived.  No need to discuss that effect which will create a fake boom impression to leave the winner of October with a nearly bankrupt country.  But the fact of the matter is that the regime is not going to play fair, it is going to be a very, very nasty campaign where the regime will go as far as closing Globovision if necessary.

In the other hand the exasperation of the people against the regime is palpable, in TV, in radio, in your everyday encounters.  That is why in January 11 I was already sensing the high turnout and on the basis of historical voting patterns I went as far as predicting a 3 million people turnout.  It is interesting, by the way, to read today that some pollsters were seeing a high turnout but were not willing to go on record with it on some lame excuses as "no precedent to compare"...  Certainly not increasing my faith in Venezuela's pollsters that always manage to pretend that they were right all along......

But that "palpable feel" is double edged.  It means in part like people like me are tired of the whole thing , so tired of it, that they do not care anymore about being vocal in public.  We are the same people who voted NO in 1999, who signed any petition handed our way in 2002 and 2003, who loudly claimed with pride that they were in the Tascon list, etc, etc....  And yet went on to lose in 2004 and 2006, badly that last year.

However the circumstances are different today and we can sense that in a close scrutiny of the raw numbers already: in 2004 3.98 million voted in the recall election in favor of ousting Chavez.  This number is rather solid, the one where the cheating happened was on the 5.80 we are told Chavez got.  Thus the 3 million of a few days ago is telling of things to come.

All logic, all primary historical experiences, all 8 years of Chavez tenure since 2004 tell us that among the 3 million that voted Sunday 12 there were quite a few that did vote NO in 2004.  Heck, just start counting already all the chavista political figures of 2004 who now were running in primary elections for local MUD nominations.  Thus even if we consider it all, the 2 X rule of vote multiplying from primary to general election, the 2004 precedent, the "Firmazo" of 2003, etc, etc... it is a fair bet to say that of the 3 million of votes cast two Sundays ago, up to1 million may come from the new, post 2004 opposition.  Thus comparisons between processes so spaced in time should not be made.  But let's do them anyway.

2003 signatures versus 2012 primary
In 2003 we were asked in December to sign up for a recall election on Chavez.  3.6 million of us did, but the CNE eventually after a long protracted battle had to approve the signature process but managed to erase1 million names.  So, with 2.6 million signatures we went on to cast 4 million votes.  You could say that the X 2 rule was sort of respected there.  However think that conditions were different: with the existence of the Tascon list then in full swing.  It is quite certain that many voted NO in fear of being discovered as the misiones were also in full swing there and no one inside the "coordinadora democratica" was proposing maintaining them.  Chavez had gained 6 precious month of outrageous populism that changed dramatically his polling numbers.

I went back to look at these numbers and I made the table on the right comparing the outcomes of Sunday 12 with the initial 3.6 signatures collected as given to the regime then.  Certainly the regime never recognized the 3.6 million signatures but ALL found their way into the Tascon list now called Maisanta once the pro Chavez people were included depending on what mision they belonged to.

For simplification I have written the tables of this post all in thousand (K) of signatures or votes, and rounded it all up for simplicity.  Since we are talking estimates and speculation here, decimals are of little use except in the turnout numbers.  The states are ranked according to their turnout Sunday 12 (see below table).  Miranda with Capriles as its governor was of course the state with the higher turnout, while distant, dependent and inaccessible Delta Amacuro was the one with the lightest turnout.  It is thus not unexpected that those states were dependency on the misiones and other social programs are those who voted the least, and even at half the rate of the signatures of 2003 (bold red).  Those states have probably developed quite a network of informants and thus only people that are independent form state resources can afford to be seen going to vote.  However at least two states that were heavily pro Chavez in 2003 did manage to have significantly more people voting this year than signing up in 2003!  Note: if we retain the CNE figure of 2.6 million real signatures in 2003 then the whole interpretation goes in our favor, but I like to be the devil's advocate.

In other words, driving a direct correlation between the firmazo and the primary as some have done is a cheap gambling, although the 2 X factor observation is valid.  In 2003 people were less afraid and more combative.  In 2012 people are tired and more afraid but also more pissed with Chavez unending tenure.  Maybe not apples and oranges but certainly oranges and grapefruit. The 6 million in October is thus quite a possibility and the idea of it will keep Chavez sleepless in many nights to come.

Turnout, percentile

The numbers game

With the provisions set above, it is time to look at how meaningful the actual numbers are.

The graph on the left is a clear illustration of the opposition momentum for October.  This is sensed, but a good representation of numbers help visualize that beyond the punditry found everywhere.  The states were ranked according to the turnout, from the less to the most.  Note: yet, there is not a fully complete publication of the total results so this table comes from me piecing out numbers from two sources, just in case some one somewhere has the real exact numbers under his or her elbow, unpublished.

In red are those states that are still in chavista hands.  Unsurprisingly they are the ones with the lowest participation, due to 1) fear and 2) that there are more Chavez supporters.  In blue we have the states that went opposition already in 2008 regional elections.  And in red to blue those states whose governors defected to the opposition (Lara and Amazonas) or those who gave the opposition a majority vote in the legislative of 2010.

I think comments are not necessary on that chart: quite clearly the momentum is on the side of the anti Chavez opposition and there is no reason why this should stop before October.  We can almost see the list of the states where Capriles is more likely (blue and red blue) to win to which we can add that he could carry Bolivar and Sucre.  That would be enough for him to win, handsomely even.

However this chart also indicates us the extent of the  X 2 factor for the expected vote in October.  Let's take Miranda with a 25.1% participation.  Can we really assume that Capriles will get 50.2% of the registered voters?  With an expected, say, 25% abstention, that would leave Chavez with LESS than 25% in Miranda!  True, a 2 to 1 victory for Capriles is possible in Miranda but my advice at this early in the campaign is to ease up on our expectations....

Which leads us to the next table.  In that one I decided to increase the turnout according to each state.  That is, I assumed fairly that in Delta Amacuro the turnout in favor of Capriles could increase by a 3 X factor, but in some other states by a much more modest factor.  Then based on the registered voters for this election I calculated the votes that Capriles can gain according to two scenarios.  In the first one I consider a moderate turnout gain.  That is, I assume that Chavez campaign will be successful and that Capriles will "only" get a bounce from voters too afraid of voting a week ago but that would do so in October.  In other words, the lowest voting Capriles should get if his campaign collapsed, something difficult to believe since so far his strategy has been excellent.  With the second scenario I simply push a little bit more the envelope and assume that indeed the "bland" approach of Capriles does succeed, not in prying votes away from near fanatical chavismo, but at least decide the undecided absentee voter to go and vote for him.  Transactional voters, so to speak.

Possible scenarios (note: Venezuelan Excel sheet so dots are commas and vice versa)

First column is the different states classified according to February turnout.  This is read in the third column. The second column is the registered voters in each state.  Keep in mind that these numbers will vary some as the CNE is allowing more people to register, and that there is a strong overseas push to register Venezuelan voter there, making it a "state" comparable to Delta Amacuro in importance, not to be forgotten in the case of a tight election.  Which leads us to the fourth column in blue, the votes cast on February 12.  As you see, my rounding up and lack of absolutely trustworthy information did not prevent me from getting a total of 3 million 50 thousand, which is a few thousand short of the final tally.  I am good so far.

The 4 and 5th columns are my "moderate" scenario.  In it I assume that Delta Amacuro participation in favor of Capriles will go by a 2.5 X, but the one of Miranda only 1.5 X.  here we get a 5.3 million for HCR in October.  It is almost safe to assume  that this is what will happen in the worse case scenario.  And it scares Chavez because it is already 1 MILLION more than what Rosales got in 2006!  Chavez then got 7.3 million and it is difficult to imagine him getting more than that this time around, no matter how much cheating he does.  In fact, he should lose a million votes because this term has been so much worse than his preceding term.  And this is what leads us to the next scenario.

In the last two columns, with a slight shade of hope green, I push the ante some.  Now Delta Amacuro is 3 X and Miranda almost 2 X.  A 43% for HCR in Miranda with a 25% abstention give a more realistic 32% to Chavez there.  I am thus not exaggerating much and thus the new putative total for HCR is 6.3 million, something very reasonable, something quite possible to reach, no matter what Chavez throws at him form vote buying to actual sabotage.

And this is where trouble starts because if Chavez indeed loses 1 million from 2006 then we have 6.3 million for each one of them!!!  For the first time since 1999 Chavez starts an electoral campaign in an even term with Capriles (something already pointed out by Consultores 21, which is a good way to validate my model above, thank you very much).

No wonder Chavez has been in such a fury last week!  If anyone in Venezuela crunches numbers better than most it is him, something that I have recognized long ago in these pages