Archive for June, 2004

Back to reality!

June 22, 2004

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 Chavez’ 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.

We have a question…

June 17, 2004

Very busy lately, but it is important that we have a question ready (since early this week). The question: ¿Está usted de acuerdo con dejar sin efecto el mandato popular otorgado mediante elecciones democráticas legítimas al ciudadano Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías como presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela para el actual periodo presidencial? 1) No y 2) Sí. And My translation: Do you agree to leave without effect the popular mandate given through legitimate democratic elections to the citizen Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías as president of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Republic for the current presidential period? 1) No and 2) Yes. Yes, the answers are reversed, the chavistas seem to think there are enough dyslexics in Venezuela to upset the vote. Wishful thinking.


IDB, IVA and exchange control

June 11, 2004

Rumors published yesterday in some newspapers claim the government is thinking in reducing the amount of the Value Added Tax (IVA) and eliminating the criminal tax on bank transactions (IDB). These would turn out to be brilliant electoral strategies on the part of the government as would be eliminating the corrupt exchange control. I doubt the government has the conviction to carry them through or the ability to execute them on time.

Political Police searches offices of Venevision

June 11, 2004

The Political Police have initiated a procedure against Venevision one of the main private channels in Venezuela. I imagined that before the referendum a lot of the private media will be investigated on phony charges. I’ve never understood the stupidity of these measures taken by authoritarian governments, if what the media says are lies, you only have to tell the truth and wait. If they are saying the truth and it scares you, you have bigger problems than the media itself. This types of measures just proof how desperate and isolated the government is.

Voting Machines and Fraud in Recall Vote

June 11, 2004

Faithful readers of this site know the imprecisions of The New York Times designated writer for Latin America Juan Forero. His latest piece about the voting machines that the CNE wants to impose in the election in order to facilitate cheating in the upcoming referendum, is a refreshing reminder that sometimes the truth comes out even through biases eyes. Perhaps is the influence of co-writer John Schwartz, but it is worth reading. A quote:

“But the electoral council has opposed an audit, saying that as an autonomous body it would tally the votes and ensure there is no fraud. Some pro-Chávez members of the council, in fact, have suggested that the O.A.S. does not need to monitor the election, or that its role should be restricted.”


Glitches and tampering with voting machines has been seen before in Latin America, where there is a long history of stolen elections.

The government of then-President Alberto K. Fujimori stole the 2000 Peruvian presidential election. Days before, the O.A.S. examined the software used in the machines and found technical problems that would permit manipulation.

The Fujimori government, though, refused to make corrections, and the O.A.S. abandoned the country before the election. The government was later accused of fraud in the election. Mr. Fujimori resigned soon after.

Mr. Rubin said it is crucial to ensure that the companies chosen to supply machines and software be experienced and have a proven track record, particularly in an election as important as Venezuela’s.

Will the chavistas suffer a similar fate? We shall see.

Implied Exchange Rate Sharply down

June 11, 2004

Don’t fully understand this, but this come from a report from a Venezuelan stockbrockerage firm: “The CANTV ADR implied FX rate fell sharply to Bs. 2.600 (see chart). The precipitous decline is attributed to various factors, including US bond sales to pay for Bolivar leverage, a more expeditious CADIVI and the decline in International Reserves. “


… is set

June 8, 2004

The recall vote will be on August 15. If it is realized on this day there should be elections before the end of the year. The constitution says one month but don’t hold your breath.


The Date…

June 7, 2004

Today the big discussion is about the date of the referendum, perhaps no one has noticed that officially the referendum hasn’t been announced by the CNE. The official meeting to decide whether or not there is a referendum is tomorrow. The opposition wants a August 8 date or earlier, while the officialist want it on August 15. Why is a week so important? The second date pushes things closer to the magic August 19 date, August 15 is also the middle of vacation time. Some chavistas seem to think that favors them, because the oligarcs are more likely to be on vacation than the people. Wishful thinking on their part.


Officialist March

June 6, 2004

Today there was an officialist march. Lots of people, that’s the first leg in the chavista strategy. Make the opposition think they have support, make people doubt that the people in the ill defined “western part” of Caracas or the barrios. No dice. I, for one, don’t believe it for a minute. It’s simply too easy to use government money and resources to give speeches, pay for ads, and prepare a very expensive campaign. It won’t fly. The government has been too inefficient, too corrupt. Even guys with red beret and “Che” Guevara T-Shirts will go to the poll centers the day of the referendum and vote against Chavez. Not because they hate him personally (see the illuminating Notes for an effective Recall campaign at CC) but because they hate most of what surrounds him.


Broken Maria

June 6, 2004

On the 4th of June the Direction for Historical Patrimony from the Mayorship of Libertador County in Caracas announced with great fanfare that the restoration of the Maria Lionza statue (in the middle of the freeway near the Universidad Central), had culminated successfully. The next day the statue broke down. Huge incompetence or “a plot from a fascist opposition to make the government look bad”?