Just returned from a wonderful vacation, thanks to my guest blogger for his aid, I know I dumped on him a responsibility when I asked him to fill in for me, it was indeed a critical time for Venezuela when I left. I must say, I had expected to be somewhat in touch, but wasn’t. All of the info I gathered in the last three weeks was obtained by phone, I did not access the Internet once. I thought I would as many places I visited advertised Wi-Fi access, but said little about pricing. I found most of them outrageous. (One place charged $1 per minute, their excuse being it was a satellite connection!).
Have read a little since I arrived this afternoon, but I am still digesting the news. As expected, the signatures were gathered with quite a sufficient margin. While not the standard point of view, the numbers worked out much like expected. Sumate’s prediction that no more than 100,000 people would withdraw their signatures was right on the money. Contrast that with the Chavista prediction that hey will have 300,000-400,000 people do so and you know who does the homework.
At this time I would like to make some simple observations, without delving too much on the details:
-I am puzzled by Chavez’ strategy. No matter what anyone says, the numbers don’t look good for him. You can argue all you want about abstention and such things, but the truth is that the opposition got 2.57 million valid signatures, there were 400,000 disqualified without appeal and another 400,000 that did not go to ratify or retracted its signature. This is awfully close to the magical number needed in a process that will be secret. Thus, I would have expected Chavez to play the abstention card. In this way, you could accuse anyone that shows up of being pro-opposition. He seems to be saying the opposition will not get the votes. Very risky strategy in my opinion.
-Chavistas appear to be divided. For once, there is dissidence and not a united front, where Chavez says the sky is green and everyone agrees with him. I have also noticed quite a number of corruption accusations against Government figures, some of them coming from Chavistas.
-There have been a number of Court decisions the have surprised me. First of all, Chavez can not run to replace himself if revoked, which surprised me. I believed all along that he would be allowed to run. The same decision says August 19th. is the magic date, after which if Chavez is revoked, the Vice-President would replace him. This does not make sense to me since Chavezí term ends on January 10th. 2007. Thus, the only trick I can see in the future is that somehow the recall vote will be postponed beyond Aug. 19th.
I had a wonderful time in my vacation. I like to take time off, I work very hard during the year and need to get away. I was amazed how I was able to disconnect, it is not easy. I took more than 600 pictures in my vacation, I leave you with three, all from nature. As soon as I catch up with the news I will be posting regularly. Probably sooner than I think.