Archive for the 'Venezuela' Category

A Bright And Hopeful Day For Venezuela

January 6, 2016

byebyechavezWorkers remove Chavez’ giant poster from National Assembly building

While I am far away, I could not help but be glued to the events in Caracas today. While it was certainly not a smooth day, it was a great day for Venezuela. A day of hope and possibilities, a bright day for the future of democracy in the country. A very important day for Venezuela’s history and the image above clearly shows that change is in the air. The statues have yet to fall, but it’s coming. The beginning is here, let’s see how long it takes to get to a good point.

I will start with the most important signs of the day:

-The National Assembly controlled by the opposition was allowed to be sworn in, almost with no violence. This was not clear would be the case a couple of weeks ago.

-The Press (from all sides) was allowed into the Assembly freely for the first time in years to report what was happening. Reporters need not be afraid anymore.

-The opposition had presence in the media, beginning to restore its practical ban from TV, radio and print. The “people” will be able to see and hear the other side like it has not happened in years.

-The opposition managed not to be provoked by Chavismo, maintaining a serious and peaceful tone. A new tone of democracy and conciliation.

-Chavismo showed its true autocratic colors. It refused to have a dialogue, resorting to the usual insults. Except some the insults were elegantly returned by the opposition. Perhaps nothing exemplified this more than the very direct reproach of the use of Diplomatic Passports for drug dealing, which must have stung the First Lady, who is now a Deputy for Cojedes State.

-The first steps towards more institutionality were taken. No more rubber stamps, no more legislation from the Executive branch, no more hiding behind the revolution. The message was clear, the Assembly will call on all powers to explain what they did, do or plan to do. There will be accountability for all Government officials

-Chavismo looked bad. From an apparently inebriated opening speech by the oldest Deputy in the Hall, to their use of expensive watches and jewelry, to Chavismo abandoning the Assembly, they sent the wrong signals to voters that clearly indicated that they want change. Blaming the opposition for the country’s problems is simply not working, the change is coming, but from the other side.

The negative part was that the opposition did not manage to swear in all the Deputies, but it still has a two thirds majority. Clearly, there is a force behind the whole day taking place the way it did. Someone told Maduro and his cronies to avoid violence, to allow the voice of the voters to be heard. Chavismo wanted to question 22 Deputies, but it did not happen and the case in Amazonas is extremely iffy. It would have been nice to have all of them sworn in and impose the authority of the Assembly.

For me, another negative is the Presidency of the Assembly. A new Venezuela deserves better than Ramos Allup there, no matter how realpolitik it may have been to name him. He represents the old guard, tied to lies, corruption and protection of relatives. If he is the best the opposition has, the opposition has a long way to fill the shoes it wants to fill*.

A good beginning. A bright beginning. Many Chavistas must be trembling after today. They can no longer hide. Checks and balances look like they are back in Venezuela. So is the press, which will have access at least to ask uncomfortable questions. It may be time to carefully decide whose side you are on or how strongly you support Maduro. Red shirts are out. Suits are in. If Chavismo keeps screaming and acting like cry babies, the demise of the revolution will simply accelerate.

There is a long road ahead, but it seems as if each day it looks a little shorter…

*For those who are not convinced of this, I invite you to reflect on what Ramos did to Alek Boyd and why he did it. Is that the Venezuela we want?

 

 

 

 

A Priceless Detention Order Related To PDVSA Graft

December 21, 2015
View this document on Scribd

The above detention order is simply priceless. I can only imagine how, Cesar Batiz, Setty and Alek Boyd feel when they read it. They pioneered the subject and went after these people relentlessly. They are now reaping the fruits of their labor.

My understanding is that the indictment of Rincón itself is sealed, but the detention order and the Judge’s reasons for not giving bail are simply priceless.

To wit:

-Defendant Rincon-Fernandez (Rincon) is a Venezuelan national charged with violating the Foriegn Corrupt Practices Act and conspiring to launder money.

-The indictment charges that Rincon and his co-defendants set up several schemes to obtain contracts with PDVSA. In al schemes bribes were paid to PDVSA officials to get Rincon affiliated companies on the short list of companies which were entitled to bid for PDVSA contracts.

-Rincon also bribed individuals to put non-competitors on the short list.

-The investigation covered 730 bank accounts (how many do you have?), of those, 10% were realted to Rincon, his family and his companies. The indictment seeks forfeiture of three Swiss bank accounts. While the government has traced $100 million from the scheme into those Swiss accounts, it can not trace outgoing funds due to Swiss banking law secrecy.

-From 2009 through 2014, over one billion dollars was traced to this conspiracy. Of that amount, $750,000,000 was traced to Rincon between 2010 and 2013.

One billion dollars!!!

And I note that during at least part of this period:

Chávez was alive and President of Venezuela!

Rafael Ramirez was President of PDVSA!

Jorge Giordani was both Minister of Finance and Planning and a member of the Board of PDVSA!

Luisa Ortega was prosecutor!

And during all this time, there were many denunciations of this corruption and NOBODY in Venezuela did anything, including Chávez, Ramirez, Giordani and Ortega.

What will the last three say now?

Chavismo is simply too much…This is stuff of movies and fiction, live from Bolivarian Venezuela…

And here is the arrest warrant, released the next day

View this document on Scribd

The Venezuelan Garden Of Possible Bifurcation Paths Into The Future

December 20, 2015

Fractal-tree

I start with a quote:

The evil that one endures patiently because it seems inevitable becomes unbearable the moment its elimination becomes conceivable

Alexis de Tocqueville

and the title of a book by Jorge Luis Borges: “The garden of bifurcation paths” from which I simply borrow the analogy of what the title conveys.

 

Predicting what will happen in 2016 in Venezuela is a guessing game that requires understanding  all of the possible varieties of bifurcations that are possible in the decision making process of both what the Government will do and what the opposition will do. And guessing at all of the possible variations and possibilities is simply an impossible guessing game.

However, if we go back to the quote above  from Tocqueville, one can simplify the guessing game to its conclusion: At this point in time, the inevitability of Chavismo in the future of Venezuelan politics and Government is no longer a given. A crack was opened in the Government’s dam and the people now realize that it is very easy to open new cracks that will simply bring the dam down. And the stubbornness  or blindness exhibited so far by the Maduro administration only helps in accelerating its demise. As Tocqueville says, the ill has diminished with the victory on December 6th. by the opposition, but the sensitivity to it has increased. And I would add that it will increase dramatically, if the Government fails to act on the economy.

And yes, the most likely outcome is Maduro’s departure, the question is whether he will bring down Chavismo with him, or whether Chavismo will sacrifice him for the benefit of the Bolivarian revolution. The longer Maduro and his closest advisers insist in radicalization and confrontation, the higher the probability that in the end his administration will crumble and he will bring down Chavismo with him.

But the path is not trivial.

But let’s start at the beginning: Chávez died, the Government did hold elections and recognized the victory of the opposition with a qualified majority.

That is an already explosive combination when you add to it that the Venezuelan oil basket is below US$ 30 per barrel for the first time since 2004.

But the first three thoughts are more important: Chavismo is where it is because Chavez died, decided to anoint Maduro, not the brightest light bulb in the Chavismo universe (with small caps), and for reasons that have not been made explicit, accepted to hold the Parliamentary elections and its defeat. Whatever these reasons were, and given that the poll numbers were clear, the three facts above have a very important significance: Within Chavismo, the moderates imposed their views over the radicals on the results and unless the radicals decide to get rid of the moderates (which may be hard to do now, as well as the worst thing they could do) there is no turning back and the new National Assembly will take over on Jan. 5th., even if there are attempts to bar the entrance of the new Deputies to the Assembly building.

Between now and then we will continue to hear about null or blank votes, but given that the Chavista controlled Electoral Board established the rules, that Chavismo won where these votes were largest and that that is not a cause for contesting an election, there is little that can be done. Ironically, the whole Electoral Board has been on vacation since Dec. 12th. and will not go back to work until Jan. 3d. Contesting the results because of too many null votes could backfire for Chavismo, given that the opposition could also benefit in the process in different circuits.

Thus, Chavismo will focus for now on illegally naming the twelve Supreme Court Justices that are currently vacant. Illegally, because the Supreme Court Law establishes the periods and conditions for the pre-selection of the Justices and under no condition can naming them be a topic of “urgency” which is all you should consider during extraordinary sessions. Furthermore, a team of lawyers is legally challenging each of the nominations, which will create another violation of the law if it is not considered and blocks their nomination. If Chavismo bypasses all these, the legal case for removing these Justices becomes even more solid.

Meanwhile, it is clear that there is strong dissent within Chavismo. Maduro had promised to change the Cabinet, said the military will go back to their military posts, but neither has yet to happen. If the “moderates” win, watch the military stay in the Cabinet. So far, lengthy days of discussions have yielded no truce, but the radicals are not winning.

The opposition has not shown a lot of unity either. It would have been very positive for the opposition to say who would be the President of the incoming Assembly by now. Given that there are supposedly two candidates (none my favorites for different reasons) it would have been nice to have made the announcement by now. If every step going forward is going to take this long to be decided, one has reasons to worry.

So, between now and Jan. 5th. there will be few major happenings, as Venezuela is already going on vacation. I certainly hope opposition leaders will stay working this year, rather than give all of the space to Chavismo to instill fear on those that voted against it.

And thus we get to Jan. 5th.

The first question is what will happen during the installation of the National Assembly. While many expect the worst, the signal that Chavismo will send if it does not allow the new Deputies to take their seats is too negative. Given that the moderates seem to be gaining the upper hand (elections, recognition of win) it seems today as if there may be isolated incidents of violence, but the Assembly will begin functioning on that day.

This alone will give the opposition a bigger voice, larger visibility and presence in the media. It is not only a matter of having ANTV to broadcast the message, but by allowing all media (including Chavista media) into the Assembly meetings, they will have a much larger placement in media.

The opposition should be forceful but conciliatory, giving the message at every step that  it will legislate for all. But it should clarify at every opportunity that economic policy is still in the hands of the Government. But unity and peace should be at the center of its message, including asking the Government to talk.

At this point, the bifurcations are determined by what the opposition will do. In particular, these four important paths have to be determined in order of priority:

-The Amnesty Bill

-Removing the new Justices if the Government is set in its path of naming them before Jan. 4th.

-Choosing between a recall referendum or a Constitutional Amendment to change the Presidential term.

-How can the Assembly influence economic decision making going forward?

-How to go about controlling and obtaining information from the Government.

The first two issues lead to immediate confrontation if Chavismo decides to confront them head on. My feeling is that the Amnesty Bill will be the first item on the new Assembly agenda. Maduro has threatened not to obey it, but it is a Constitutional prerogative (Art. 174, numeral 5) that the Assembly can issue such a Bill. In fact, the Constitution even bars such a Bill (Art. 74) from being considered as a referendum. Were the Judicial system to refuse to free those granted amnesty, they would have been kidnapped by Maduro, and everyone involved in the process could be suspended and censored.

And here is where the Constitutional clashes begin. In order to suspend anyone the “Moral Cuncil” has to approve it, but some of the same people involved in the decision to free the prisoners are in that Council. Moreover, the Government could send the Bill to the Supreme Court, the same Supreme Court whose members, particularly those in the Constitutional Hall, will be questioned in their legality by the Assembly. And who can resolve this case, since the new Justices would not be able to decide on their own case and have to recuse themselves?

There seems to be no way out of this logjam, if Maduro decides to confront.

Another decision is whether to attempt to recall Maduro or not. As I noted in previous posts, if the Dic. 6th. election had been a recall vote, the opposition would have barely won by 139,000 votes. (It needs to obtain at least the number of votes Maduro obtained in 2013). But it may not be the same for someone to vote for opposition Deputies as a protest, than to vote against Maduro being removed from office. Many may be reluctant to do so, they wanted to send a message to Maduro, but not necessarily remove him. And it was close.

A less confrontational path may be to propose a Constitutional Amendment, which also requires a referendum, changing the Presidential term to four years with only one reelection. (currently six years and indefinite reelection) In this manner, you are not saying Maduro has to go, but rather, Maduro’s completion of Chávez’ term ends in Oct. 2016 and he will have to run fto get reelected. This may be a much more attractive way for disgruntled Chavistas: Maduro has a few months to improve things and if he doesn’t, he will not be reelected.

While it is not the job of the National Assembly, the economic is foremost in people’s minds, as scarcity is the norm of the day in Venezuela. In fact, people say that lines are disappearing, simply because there is nothing to buy. But economic policy is the domain of the Executive branch, so what can the National Assembly do?

The Assembly could revoke some Bills, like the Illicit Foreign Exchange Bill or the Price Control Bill. But solving economic problems requires looking at the overall scheme of things. Tinkering with a few Bills may simply have unexpected consequences in the order of things. In terms of Bills, the Assembly may use the threat of revoking or changing them as a way of getting the Government to negotiate.

The budget is one area where the Assembly does indeed have a say. The 2016 budget has already been approved, but it has been a tradition in Venezuela (since way before Chávez) that the budget Bill is irrelevant and numerous “additional credits” are approved during the year. If it is true that the Government plans to devalue soon, something I am skeptical about, to disburse the extra Bolívars generated by this devaluation will require approval by the National Assembly. Thus, the Government gains nothing by devaluing if it does not collaborate with the Assembly.

And without its approval, it will be hard for Government officials to spend money, because they are individually responsible in the face of the law, at a time of a changing political landscape, which implies that they could face corruption charges for spending money that had not been approved. And this would apply all along the line of expenditures from the National Treasurer, to the Ministers and below.

The Assembly can also ask more transparency from Ministers, requesting information and data. If a Minister does not comply with the request, he can be censored by three-fifths of the Assembly, which implies his removal from office. The same applies to the Vice-President (Art. 187, numeral 10 of the Constitution)

All of the above will evolve differently depending on the order in which it happens. The reason to be optimistic, is that as Toqueville said, the people endured Chavismo until it lost, now they will find it unbearable at every step. The reason to be pessimistic is that as a physicist, with published papers on chaos, I also know that too many bifurcations lead to chaos.

Hopefully, we will only have  a few…

Hyperinflated Arepa Index (HAI) XI: With Elections Comes Sharp Rise

December 15, 2015

arepa

On the last day of my very intense visit to Caracas during the Parliamentary election, I had a chance to go sample another one of the very fine arepas de queso de mano that I enjoy so much. And there was a big jump of 24.6% in the three weeks since my last sample, one of the biggest changes I saw all year with the arepa which a year earlier was Bs. 156, reaching the incredible price of Bs. 810 each. This represents a one year increase of 419%.

I had sort of expected a big rise, as i know the exchange control office had visited merchants ahead of the election. While forcing merchants to bring prices back, the agents also suggested that they could increase prices after the elections.

Shelves are now emptier than they were before Dec. 6th. As someone told me today on the phone: “No, don’t worry, there are fewer lines, there is very little to buy…”

 

Some Lessons From The Recent Parliamentary Elections In Venezuela

December 12, 2015

2015

There are many fascinating elements that can be derived from last Sunday’s Parliamentary elections. And there are lessons for both sides, which should be absorbed and digested accordingly. Since many of them are unrelated, I will make a list of some interesting ones:

-The magnitude of fraud that can be accomplished via the voting machines is by now limited

In 2004, the Government manipulated the vote in various ways. The two most important factors were the votes “added” in the absence of opposition voters and the use of multiple ID’s to vote. My estimate based on the many technical papers that were published is that that fraud could not amount to more than 5%, which implied that the opposition lost the recall vote at the time, albeit by a much smaller margin.

In time, the opposition has learned to plug up many of these holes.There have been two strategies: One, to have witnesses at as many polling stations as possible. In the recent election, the opposition obtain credentials for witnesses which exceeded those of Chavismo by 2,000 people. Moreover, there were numerous reports that Chavista witnesses did not show up and were replaced by opposition volunteers.

Secondly and more importantly, special attention was paid to the audit process in polling stations where the opposition has little presence and where important candidacies would be decided. Around 100,000 volunteers showed up at closing time, not only to be present for the audit, but also to demand its closure if there were no voters in line. One of the engineers involved in this project estimates that 46 of the 51 Deputies they targeted for election were successful in part due to this effort.

Both of these efforts increased the percentage of paper “Actas” or tallies the opposition had, which allowed it to win the 112th. Deputy by having copies of all tallies in Circuit 3 of Aragua which was won by a scant 83 votes. Chavismo “claimed” up to the last minute there were additional actas, which simply did not exist.

-The vote is indeed secret

While there was a time that Government workers feared that the CNE could tell how you voted, with more and more elections people have learned that they can vote for the opposition and nothing happens to them. Chavismo helped made this clear when bosses in various Government offices began asking their workers to bring a photograph of their ballot, which confirmed their suspicion they could not tell how you voted. Numerous people in offices, using social media and the like made offers to “photoshop” voting ballots to give the boss the correct picture. Additionally, the opposition made a campaign to emphasize that taking pictures of your ballot is illegal. The threats by Government officials were thus significantly reduced and the fact that there is no persecution now, is proving to people that they simply can’t know

-Chavismo is still a force, but lost a lot of ground

Many people have been shocked by the fact that despite inflation, lines, corruption and scarcity, slightly more than 40% of the Venezuelan voters cast it in favor of Chavismo. This is indeed a large number, but it is magnified by abstention. There were essentially two numbers that pollsters had a difficult time being precise about: How many people would abstain and how many of the pro-Chavez voters would cast their vote for mostly unknown opposition candidates. The two questions are inter-twinned, logic says in a highly Chavista state, smaller abstention means that more Chavistas will cast their vote. It also says that in a highly opposition state, the smaller the abstention, the more the votes for the opposition.

However, in reality what happened was that the opposition did well in Chavista states because people wanted to express their disenchantment with Chavismo and in many pro-opposition states, abstention was high, suggesting that Chavistas simply decided not to go out and vote for the opposition.

It is not easy to generalize, but let’s look first at the overall numbers. Pollsters were expecting abstention to be much like that of the 2010 Parliamentary election, which was 33.6%, but it turned out to be much lower coming in at 25.8%. Thus, 74.2% of the voters cast their vote nationwide.

But let’s take Miranda Circuit 2, where I vote, a strongly opposition area. Only 66.4% of the voters cast their vote there and Freddy Guevara won handily, despite the low turnout. But, in general, in Chavista states where the opposition did well, abstention was on average lower than 25% (except in Bolivar), while in most Chavista States where it did not do well abstention was higher than 30% (Except Portuguesa and Yaracuy). Thus, the opposition tended to do better than expected in Chavista states with large urban populations (Bolivar, Anzoategui, Vargas and less well in the very rural states (see previous post)

And to me it suggests that those that abstained tended to be more pro-Chavez voters, who disapprove of Maduro but could not set their hearts in voting for an opposition candidate. Thus, in the end, Chavismo got 40-plus percent of the vote, but of those that did not vote, a larger fraction were in the camp that is pro-Chavez, but disapproves of the job Maduro is doing.

-Violence was, once again, not a factor.

Every election since I was young (Yes, that long!) I have heard the fears of widespread violence breaking out. It has never materialized. People waited peacefully for the results. People received the results peacefully. Yes, there were some attempts at violence as the polls closed, but they were quickly dissipated.

-A recall vote would not be a slam dunk

Many people think a recall referendum should be a priority for the incoming National Assembly. Such a referendum is possible starting either immediately or in April 2016, depending on the TSJ. Up to April 2017 a recall vote would be followed by a Presidential election. After that the Vice-President would take over for the President and complete his or her term.

There are two conditions for a recall to be successful: One, that you get 50% of the vote. Two, that you get more than 50% than the person obtained when he was first elected. Well, we got 7.726 million votes on Dec. 6th., but Maduro got 7.587 million votes in 2013. This means only 139 thousand votes, a bit too close for (my) comfort.

There may be other routes that achieve the same purpose.

-So far, the military has been institutional

Yes, I qualified it with a so far, because I just don’t know how close (or how far) we were from an attempt not to recognize the results. The same way that I don’t know whether something is or not cooking at this time. But in most polling stations where the military vote, the opposition turned out to be victorious. Por ahora (For now), the military has decided to be institutional.

That is definitely good news!

I will close here, probably too long to keep your interest. I will post in the next few days about what I expect, hope and can predict about the next couple of months in Venezuela.

Opposition Victory In Venezuela Was More Solid Than Sweeping

December 8, 2015

tablaTable with popular vote organized on the left alphabetically and on the right by percentage of the popular vote obtained by the opposition. I have placed a box over traditionally more pro-Chávez states where the opposition got more than the median of votes than in the Nation. (Based on last night’s percentages by CNE)

While it is easy to attempt to use the term sweeping in describing Sunday’s victory by the opposition last Sunday, a closer look at the data suggests that it was more of a solid than a sweeping victory. Solid, because what the opposition did was increase sharply its total number of votes  in the more rural States where it customarily lost badly to Chavismo, while solidifying its victory in its more traditional urban areas. Thus, it was more broad based victory in terms of total votes and a solid ground to be future strength upon.

This is not the narrative that most pollsters and politicians were telling us. We were told that it was the hyper rejection of the Government that would lead to a sweep in traditional opposition areas, which would lead to the opposition dragging rural States along and, if the victory was large enough, the possibility of a qualified majority in the National Assembly was within reach.

Instead, the opposition sharply increased its vote in Chavista States, which helped it obtain fairly uniform favorable results that gave it the 66% majority without reaching 60% of the vote.

As an example, the opposition swept all districts in 8 of the States of the country: Amazonas, Anzoategui, Aragua, Barinas, Bolivar, Merida, Nueva Esparta and Vargas. This is a remarkable result, as only one, Mérida, can be considered to be a “traditional” opposition enclave.

In fact, the pattern repeats if one looks at the top ten states in which the opposition increased its votes  the most by percentage, a rank that goes roughly like (I have ignored decimals in the ranking): Guarico, Trujillo, Vargas, Aragua, Nueva Esparta, Capital District, Bolivar, Cojedes, Falcon and Zulia. All of these States increased from +10% to +8% on Sunday in terms of total votes for the opposition with respect to the 2013 Presidential election. But the top nine are all traditional Chavista strongholds and is only when we get to Zulia we get to a State considered to be more pro-opposition in the past.

Yes, the opposition swept Tachira, but only increased its vote by 3%. Meanwhile, string opposition States like Carabobo, only went up by 4%, with Miranda and Lara, gaining 7%, solid, but not the sharp increase of Chavista strongholds.

Thus, it was a solid victory by the opposition, which only lost ground by votes in sparsely populated Delta Amacuro, which gives it the chance to sow a future if it steers well its control of the National Assembly.

It is probably premature to interpret what this all means, but I would be inclined to say that this shows that the vote was more a rejection of Chavismo and Maduro’s Governmen than one of approval for the opposition.

This also seems to imply (to me) that the Assembly should concentrate in rebuilding institutionality and not in trying to replace the current Government. The winners may not be as popular as they think they are.

 

 

All We Need Now Is For The Government To Accept Opposition Won In Venezuela

December 6, 2015

11:29 PM Rumor is that the CNE will announce smaller number of Deputies for the opposition (108?) to mitigate impact of results. They will say other races are too close too call, even if they know they rea not.

10:42 PM: 112 and still fighting for more…

10:36 PM Right now, 112 is a certainty.

10:30 PM At this time, people are suggesting the opposition has obtained 2/3 of the Deputies. I am told this is possible but can not be called at this time.

9:46 Some races in Carabobo, Lara and Monagas too close to call at this time.

9:27 PM At this point, the Devil says opposition will get minimum of 93 Deputies with a possibility of more.

And The Long Electoral Night Begins In Venezuela

December 6, 2015

8:55 PM Estimates are up to 93 Deputies for the opposition at this time

9:10 PM I hear from great source 90 Deputies for sure, more possible.

9:04 PM over 90% of the votes tallied and trasmitted, MUD has the tallies for all these machines, don’t buy rumors at this time.

8:27 PM Don’t listen to rumors, at this time 71% of the votes have been tallied and transmitted.

8:19 PM Don’t believe all the rumors, at this time 53% of all machines have transmitted their tally, which implies a much larger number has closed at this time

7:30 PM People complaining about not all centers being closed, but the reality is there is nobody showing up to vote at this time anyway.

Associated Press reports Maduro said at 4:50 PM his party can’t win all elections.

6:45 PM Soon after the picture below, motorcycle gangs showed up asking for the voting center to be reopened. The National Guard showed up to stop them.

6:15 PM: This is the Liceo Andres Bello at this time, shown in previous post as the one with longest lines in Western Caracas.

Andresbello

6 PM : The National Electoral Board has ordered all polls to be opened until 7 PM. This is a violation of the law, which states that if nobody is in line it should be closed.

Mid to upper nineties in Deputies seems to be the whisper number at this time

Venezuelan 2016 Parliamentary Elections Are Here!

December 6, 2015

I will be updating during the day! Read from bottom to top!

8:10 AM It is 8:10 AM and the CNE is reporting something like 90.3% of all polling tables open, below historical numbers at this time. Those that have yet to be installed is because 8 AM is the cut off time to wait for the principal members to show up before alternates take over.

Manipulation is at high levels, I just saw Chávez voting on the Government’s TV station. Just a video clip from the past, but still quite surprising!

The Devil Looks At the Upcoming Elections In Venezuela

November 29, 2015

devilish

I have tried not to say much about the upcoming Parliamentary elections. I have also tried not to get caught up in the current excitement of Venezuelans. In just a few weeks we have gone form subdued optimism, to almost a frenzy, that suggests that we may reach the 2/3 super-majority needed to make a difference.

I view this election as simply one more step in the process of undermining Chavismo, a process that could (and should!) take some time. Yes, I do expect the total vote, the overall percentage of pro-Mud votes vs. Chavismo vote to be around 70% versus 30% in favor of the opposition, but I can´t ignore the fact that Chavismo will massively have assisted voting, lots more money than the opposition, will mobilize voters, will blackmail public employees and recipients of the Government’s largesse and stuff a few hundred ballot boxes at the end of the day.

Which makes me skeptical that 70% of the total vote vote can be turned into 66% of all elected Deputies.

But I the same time I do believe that a victory in the national vote by the large margin expected, will set off an earthquake within Chavismo. Maduro and his Primera Combatiente will be blamed for the debacle and a fight will ensue that will lead to the demise of Chavismo as we know it.

But I also believe that confrontation, violence and uncertainty will be the rule of the day as Chavismo gets used to having to share Government with the opposition. And I pray that the opposition maintains some form of cohesion, before it begins having its own internal divisions.

In the end, Venezuela will be choosing between two forms of populism. One better than the other one, but in the end two forms of the same thing. We are trapped in the last 16 years of Chavista domination. The lesser of two evils.

But I digress…

The most likely outcome of the election is that the opposition gets between 84 and 100 Deputies, a simple majority, but short of the three fifths needed to cause serious damage.

But even at a simple majority, the opposition could become a pain in the behind of Chavismo: It can change the attributes of municipalities versus states, it can initiate investigations, approve budgets and new appropriations and change the rules of order that determine how debate functions within the Assembly.

Sufficient to drive Chavismo crazy, as they are simply not used to even discussing issues among themselves. They simply follow orders now.

Of course, the cherry on the opposition’s cake will be the fact that it will be decide who the President of the National Assembly is and you can be sure it will not be Godgiven.

I hope is not an old dinosaur either.

But in the end, this is just the annoying level. Like a bee permanently buzzing around Chavismo and reminding them that they lost. And they will not absorb this gracefully. If they actually decide to even absorb it, which is definitely a possibility. The best scenario in my mind: Kicking the democratic can…

The next level becomes somewhat interesting. At 100 Deputies, or three fifths, the Assembly can revoke something it did before, censor Ministers, remove members of the CNE and/or the Supreme Court.

That’s what would be called getting annoying, really pissing off Chavismo.

I think this is reachable, but call me suspicious that we will actually get there. The CNE may not cheat everywhere, but I am sure that it has identified the districts where a few levers, a few votes and the three-fifths are just a memory, even if we did get it.

Finally, there is Nirvana, a level that I don’t think we will reach: 110 opposition Deputies. Here, we can really raise havoc on the revolution, removing  Supreme Court Justices, Prosecutor, People´s Ombudsman, revoke Deputies and even call for a Constitutional Assembly.

Just imagine the level of confrontation involved.

I know many people interpret polls like we will get to this level, but I am skeptical. People may be mad enough to surprise me (Please do!) But I don’t think they will. The media is still controlled by Chavismo and the fake stories of Chavismo still sell, no matter how absurd they may be.

Thus, much like the nephew’s trial, the elections are just another step. Maduro will have to pay for the loss and any undermining of his rule is a positive. In the end, we want the process to last, so that Chavismo can be wholly responsible for the destruction of the country and any chance of it reviving becomes remote. Yes, this involves a lot of pain, but nothing like not burying Chavismo for its sins.

In some sense, better a small death than a sweeping victory. In the absence of a strong opposition that can articulate a plan, this may be the best of scenarios anyway.

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