The red satrap and the boat people

Tissaphernes, satrap of Lidia and Caria

Lizeta Hernández, satrap of Delta Amacuro, next to Tucupita mayor, at an event to "give houses to the people" from state means, next to PSUV candidates

Orinoco's Delta

Delta Amacuro, a state almost as big as the Netherlands but with just 150000 inhabitants, is one of the poorest regions in Venezuela. 30% of its children are malnourished, according to United Nations. The Warao -boat people literally-, have managed to survive there thanks to the protection given by the labyrinth of the Orinoco Delta. These native Americans were forgotten for many decades and they remain largely forgotten now. Thousands upon thousands of criollos have recently arrived there looking for jobs in the oil sector, in smuggling and what not.

boat people

The Chávez regime has given to the Delta inhabitants some little crumbles from the largest oil boom Venezuela has had in many decades. That could make Chávez popular in the area for some time in a similar way as AD was popular in the early seventies. Some native Americans got some solar panels for a few of the isolated houses- something very publicized by the national government-, and both Waraos and the increasing masses of poor criollos got some food through the Mercal subsidized food network. Above all, Chávez knew how to use some PR: he asked once a Warao indian to speak live on Aló Presidente and his government has put forward a legislation to promote Indian languages, even if nothing has really changed.

Delta Amacuro remains in shambles. There are no real jobs but for the connected with the mayor or some close to oil company PDVSA. Native Americans keep going to the big cities to roam in the landfills and pick up rubbish for food.

The level of corruption, crime and pollution mainly through the oil exploitation have all increased as well. Corruption is particularly bad in the Delta, even if it has worsened everywhere in Venezuela. I will write further about this later. There is no sense of sustainable development. Fellow blogger Díaz, from the Delta, allowed me to show here some images from his blog.

Elections in the Delta

The Venezuelan law, as normal in most of the world, prohibits the State to use resources for party propaganda. And yet the military regime just does not pay attention to that. It violates the law all the time and everywhere, but it is particularly shameless in the Delta. These pictures were taken on a recent governmental march to promote the Chávez deputies for 26 September elections.

Here you see a picture of the governor of the state, a woman who has been investigated for corruption charges and who treats the Delta, as all the other governors, as her satrapy.

Here you see more of the column. Basically all state officials are ordered to parade and show Delta Amacuro people that they got thanks to them and not to a tiny fraction of the petrodollars.

Delta Amacuro is a very interesting state as the amount of deputies it elects is way above what it would get if we had real proportional representation: 4 representatives. That is 40% of the deputies Carabobo, a state with over 12 times the population, gets.

Most of Delta Amacuro has no roads. If you need to go around, you have to use a boat or a hydroplane. It is particularly difficult for the alternative forces, which do not have many resources, to campaign here.

Below you have some maps showing election behaviour in the Delta in 2008 and 2009. The first picture shows how people voted for the governor in 2008. The red dots represent 1000 or 500 voters for the Chávez candidate, the red satrap you see in some of the pictures above and in many more in Díaz's blog. The brown dots represent the votes for a local candidate representing native American and other groups. The yellowish ones represent votes for a candidate from a weird alliance of the Communist Party (usually allied to Chávez, but not here) with several other local parties. Last and least, the blue spots represent the votes for parties that are also represented in Caracas. Part of this has to do with the crumbles, part of this has to do with the fact almost all those parties in Caracas have forgotten the region. Absolutely no national politician but alternative Leopoldo López has gone to the area or talked about themes particularly to the region. There are some very good local candidates for the alternative forces there, but they get little or no help from the capital. Daniel Duquenal writes a bit about election chances in this region. He thinks the PSUV party will get 3 representatives and a fourth representative is too close to call. The very young and charismatic Veronica Brito from UNT has some chances.

On the next map you see dots representing 1000 votes (or +-500 smaller dot) for the YES (pro-Chávez) in the 2009 referendum and for the NO. There is something quite strange: in Antonio Díaz the Chávez position won with over 98% of the votes.

Now, here you see the level of abstention in the different municipalities. As you see, the Antonio Díaz municipality as a whole has a particularly low abstention level.

More strangely, there are about 12 centres in that municipality alone with an abstention of 0.0% and 2950 voters. There were more with an abstention of less than 0.2%. You have centres where all 200+ voters went and the centres with the lowest abstention tended to have more voters registered than the others.

The next charts show some interesting patterns. The first one shows votes for YES (pro-Chávez) NO and abstention in the municipalities Guacara, San Diego and Los Guayos, in the Northern state of Carabobo. Guacara and Los Guayos are rather pro-Chávez (or were back then) and San Diego is very against his regime. The second chart shows votes for YES, NO and abstention in Delta Amacuro state. I did not calculate variance for abstention across municipios or states but the pattern is very evident. Now, there were almost no witnesses from the opposition in most of those voting centres in Delta Amacuro. Of course, we cannot be sure about causation here. I could go for ages about other patterns, but I just wanted to give you a little picture.

Carabobo state, 4 different municipios
and YES, NO and abstention for 2009 referendum

Total of voters

voting centres

Delta Amacuro: 4 municipios and YES, NO and abstention. On the right you see how Antonio Díaz Municipio shows a particular pattern. It would be even more interesting if we could determine the many centres without witnesses for the alternative forces.
total voters

voting centres

The last two pictures are from Curiapo, seat of the Antonio Díaz municipality. After so many years with the largest oil boom in decades, the place has no system for sewage and no real jobs or decent schools. The increased population and the use of XXI century products has lead to high level of pollution. Most children have problems with their skin.

Curiapo toilets

native American in Curiapo

The red satrap and candidates parade in the state cars and every state bus, every bag with food for election time has the face of the red satrap or some reference to the president of the PSUV.

So, in spite of the misery and corruption, it is hard to campaign in the area.