Archive for September 29th, 2003

Bickering all the way to the referenda

September 29, 2003


The opposition and the Chavistas got into a stupid pissing match today, much like little kids trying to fight over determining who had handed in the petition earlier in the morning. Essentially, both sides tried to beat the other to the punch, the opposition with the request for the recall referendum of President Chávez and the Chavistas with the request for the recall referenda of a fairly sizable number of opposition Governors, Mayors and National Assembly Deputies.


Who got there first was beside the point as a difference of hours within the same day would not impact whether a referendum takes place first or not. Despite this, while the Chavistas were holding a press conference in front of the CNE Headquarters, the opposition was sneaking in and handing in their request behind the scenes which outraged the Chavistas and led to a full day of childish accusations by both sides.


But lost in the shuffle was the question of why the Chavistas even bothered to do what they did. First of all, there will be regional elections for Governors and Mayors in June 2004. Thus, if anyone’s mandate is revoked next February or March, all it means is that he or she will be replaced by his second in command for the two months remaining in the term. In contrast, if Hugo Chavez is recalled, an election to replace him will be held thirty days after the referendum.  Second, by submitting their request, the Chavistas were tacitly accepting the new regulations issued by the CNE and any challenge of its contents and detail would seem fake, given their request today. Finally, the Chavistas know that very few of those that they are asking to be revoked would be recalled today. Thus, by requesting the recall at the same them with the opposition they are asking for trouble as opposition supporters would show up to vote, if all referenda are held on the same day, assuring a resounding Chavista defeat. Moreover, if the CNE were to schedule the petition drive for the same days, the Chavistas would not be able to distinguish between one side and the other and the threat of possible intimidation by pro-Chavez “Bolivarian Circles” simply disappears.


If it is so negative what then led the Chavistas to do what they did? There are two strong reasons I can think of: By holding their petition drive on the same day as the opposition, the opposition will not be able to say that the success of their drive was a recall referendum in itself, as the Chavisats will argue that people came out to sign for their petition. A second reason would be that by having all these petition drives on the same day, this will introduce confusion in the population and will overload the CNE with work.


Somehow, I get the feeling the Chavistas have lost sight of an important fact: The recall drive is just that, it is not an election in itself. What really matters is what happens the day of the referenda itself. If I were the opposition I would help the Chavistas to get their petition signatures complete, so that all their referenda are approved and held on the same day. Then, on that day, I would get all opposition voters out and vote against all of the referenda and recall Chavez at the same time. Then, the referendum against Chavez would become the mother of all defeats.


(By the way, lawyers said the Chavista request was illegal as they did a collective request which contradicts the regulatons)

Tal Cual’s wit and cleverness

September 29, 2003

Teodoro Petkoff is a very clever guy. The former Minister of Planning is now Director of the Tal Cual newspaper where he writes with seriousness and wit , both at the same time. Today was a case in point. Last Thursday Tal Cual published this picture of Chavez:

the headline was “At Gunpoint” and the Editorial said that Chavez was pointing a gun at the head of the President of the Comision Nacional Electoral when he said that “if the regulations are approved at gunpoint to count the votes manually, we will not accept it”

The Government’s reaction was to sue the newspaper, because according to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communications, the newspaper had put a gun in Chavez’ hand without explaining that it was a montage. Well, today Petkoff responded with this montage of the Minister himself, with flowers in his hands and a headline that says :” Skin deep”

But the best part, as usual, was the Editorial. With his customary wit, Petkoff suggests that maybe he should have clarified it, because Chavez repeatedly wore his military uniform even if it was illegal, using his mouth to threaten everyone with his military power of guns and tanks. Petkoff suggests that indeed he should have explained it because if there was someone capable of holding a gun like that, it would be Chavez himself. He also points out that the oversize gun should make it clear it is a montage.

Then, as you can see at the bottom of today’s paper, it says “Pinochio and Superman also sue Tal Cual” , referring to the times when the paper has used these images to mock the President or his Government. In fact, inside the paper there is a gallery of those that are supposedly suing the newspaper, including  from top left to bottom right those images he has used to mock Chavez: Pinochio, The Lone Ranger, Simon Bolivar, Venezuela’s first Congress, Neil Amstrong and Sammy Sosa:

Way to go Teodoro!