Archive for November, 2006

Campaign closing time

November 30, 2006

It is the end of the campaign tomorrow at 6 AM, so I will pay homage to the event by blatantly stealing Alek’s images from some of the many rallies he has attended in the last couple months.
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Electoral jitters hit the Government. What gives?

November 30, 2006

Strange happenings all over the place as the Government seems to be stirring the pot unnecessarily:

–Yesterday, Minister of Defense Baduell suggested that people organize themselves for the audits by “designate representatives”. Well, these people have a strange sense of the law means, the law clearly states that the audits will be “open to the public” not to the people “designated by the public” as the General wants. Yes, there may be physical limitations to the number of people that may fit at a polling center, bt until that is exceeded everytime has the right to be there and participate and his suggestion is unnecessary. This is the second statement discouraging people from attending the audits, a right all citizens, no matter who they vote for have. Before it was the President of the Electoral Board itself, suggesting people go and cast their ballot and then go home to await the announcement of the results.

–Then there was Chavez saying that the Government stopped a plot against Rosales’ life that not even the opposition candidate knew about. As usual, he mentioned a weapon, but nobody has been detained, nobody has been identified, so that this seems to be like those attempts on his life that never produced even one person charged with attempting against his life. Rosales commented that “the Government candidate does not get wrinkles in his face to say lies and he says them with an incredible calmness”

–Separately, Rosales’ campaign office in the Montalban section of Caracas was raided by policemen looking for evidence of a destabilizing plan. In one very curious interpretation of the action, the head of security for the Mayor of Caracas, says there was no raid, since there is no order to carry out a raid. So the policemen the reporters saw and asked questions of were apparently phantoms who just wanted to browse through that office.

–Meanwhile the Vice-President outclassed himself in what are probably his last statements of the campaign when he said that opposition candidate Manuel Rosales represented “treason, perversion and calling him a political illiterate”. Always leave to the cynical and machiavellic Vice-President to inject that special touch of class to all discussions.

–I get a phone call from a friend asking for help with an international observer who has not been allowed to talk to anyone outside of officialdom, has no Internet and is looking for a balanced view on electoral conditions.

Support Rosales does not want

November 30, 2006

Not much time to post, but had to wonder and worry about Presidential candidate Jesus Caldera Infante declining his candidacy in favor of Rosales. So far I have been unable to find any evidence that Rosales looked for or accepted his support, but if I were Rosales I would simply reject it, saying: “Thanks, but no thanks”.

You see, as has been documented in this blog Caldera Infante admitted in front of the National Assembly that he had misused Government planes, was one of the most draconian executioners of the Chavez/Maisanta/Tascon list at Fogade, firing more than 150 employees of that Government institution and was investigated for corruption, but never charged by his Chavista friends, only to resurface as Secretary Genera of the Governor of Carabobo.

Men like these should be the first ones to be prosecuted if Rosales won the election. Thus, the opposition candidate should distance himself from this man

Hoping for the best, while worrying about the worst

November 28, 2006

You have
to wonder, and worry, about a Government that blocks the entrances to the city so that people can not attend the opposition rally and the next
day it goes as far as letting highways have no tolls for the first time in decades in order to boost attendance
at their own rallies. Or today, it even tries to block the opposition candidate from getting to his rally. In the end, these are the irrelevant details that make no
difference and mean little one way or the other. But while I wish for a clean process, I worry about the dirty tricks.

Indeed, one
does have to worry about the continued manipulation of the electoral process by
the electoral authorities. And there are daily events to worry about, which make it a fairly unfair
process. Not only does the Electoral Board (CNE) allow Chavez to outspend
Rosales by a 12 to 1 ratio without saying much, but today we learn
how public employees are being pressured and manipulated into going
to rallies and voting for Chavez. The immoral revolution does not have any
scruples. And I am starting to get increasingly concerned by their signaling. Even if I I am hoping for the best. The best for democracy. Nothing will be gained by either candidate winning under questionable circumstances.

As I have
said before, there are to me certain key factors that would make Sunday’s
electoral process clean, transparent and believable. Among them, there are two steps that
are simply crucial: Not connecting the voting machines until after they have printed the “original” tally and carrying out the
audit in a clean way, witnessed by anyone that wants to and, more importantly,
having access to the information of the audit that same night and not six weeks
later like it happened in the National
Assembly elections last year

Well, by a
slight and just coincidental “mistake” the printed instructions being handed
out by the CNE to all witnesses and members of the polling stations and tables,
happen to inadvertently state that the connection to the CNE system is made before
and not after the original tally is made. In fact, many witnesses
report that this is precisely the way they are being trained. Rosales’ people
have complained and the CNE has now made up some huge posters that will be at
each voting center, but you have to wonder about this error and whether the posters will be displayed in such a way as to avoid confusion and conflicts.

The second
problem has to do with the audits. There is a procedure for the audits and not
only should the witnesses at the voting tables be present, but everyone should be
able to attend the audit (The law clearly states the tally and audit are public). In the 2004 recall vote,
soldiers with machine guns drove away the public (including me!) in clear violation of the law.
Will it happen this Sunday? Well, none other than the President of the CNE
is making the “strange” suggestion
that people should stay home and abide
by the recent decree by the Ministry of the Interior prohibiting gatherings and
meetings on Dec. 3d. She is telling people to vote and then go home to await
the official announcements, conveniently “forgetting” about the audits. The
President of the Electoral Board is once again doing exactly the opposite of
what her mandate is, she is asking people to stay home and wait for the
results, rather than make the voting process as transparent as possible. But,
what else is new?

the Government has
asked to exclude
a delegation of Spanish observers, from that country’s
Parliament (both parties). Weird how you want to exclude bipartisan observers
from a country with which Venezuela
enjoys excellent diplomatic relationships. Of course, one Spanish Deputy from
the Communist party, who refused to sign the very critical observation report
last December, is not being excluded and is being invited. What do they call
this: Selective choosing of partial observers that will look the other way? Or
simply loading the die.

And then we
the well balanced and “fair” statement by the Foreign Minister that it
is “simply lunatic to think that the opposition will become Government”. Well
hopefully he did not mean what some may think he meant and he just misspoke,
but he seems to be implying that some higher being may have to intervene in
order to stop the opposition from becoming Government. And we know who is the “highest
being” in this game.

And then
you have to wonder how the international media seems to pick up on the Evans-Zogby-Universidad Complutense-psos polls of this world. They pick up on them
and repeat them to death, turning their questionable data into the apparent truth. In a country well known for being quite problematic for a
new pollster, it seems that is all we can hear: the weird polls by unknown
pollsters which, coincidentally, have been paid by the revolution. Meanwhile, even
well known US pollsters, together with well known Venezuelan ones, most of which
with ample experience in Venezuela, are being ignored by the media, in another strange
feature of the upcoming election.

But the
real poll is Sunday and I wonder if any of the famous or unknown pollsters are
asking themselves the question I remind people of: Fear maybe a factor, but the
unknown factor in Venezuela
is and has always been abstention. No known or unknown pollster has ever, I
repeat, ever, been able to get a handle on that variable. Venezuelans are
ashamed of saying they are not going to vote. It is easier to say you are
pro-Rosales or pro-Chavez or even pro-Conde, than to say you are not voting. Thus, Venezuelan
polls always come on the side of significantly underestimating abstention.

Thus, I
contend that the most important factor in this election will not be fear, the
fear of being found out on your Presidential preference, but what I call the asymmetry
of the abstention” That abstention will be different on both sides.That is what I believe we have seen in the rallies for each of
the candidates. There can’t be any other explanation. The Nation may be evenly divided, but the Chavistas are tired
militants, as unlikely to go to the rally as they are to go and vote on Sunday.
Meanwhile, one of Rosales’ top achievements has been to mobilize the opposition again.
I think this will translate into a very significant factor as, even if Chavez
has a majority, he could lose because of abstention. People forget abstention
was 33% when Chavez was first elected in 1998 at the height of his popularity, or 43.7% when Chavez was
reelected under the new Constitution in 2000 or even that abstention was 30% in
the recall referendum of 2004. In ALL these cases, predicted abstentions by experienced
pollsters were in the 12%-27% range. Pollsters are suggesting simlar numbers for next Sunday.

that thinks that these numbers will be improved is misjudging the emotional state
of the electorate. In 1998 and 2000, Chavez was at the height of his popularity
and even in the recall vote of 2004, there was an intensity to his rallies that
is absent today. None of the pollsters in 1998, 2000 and 2004 saw such large
levels of abstention. None are seeing it today. But if I had to make an
educated guess, I would guess that abstention will be like that of 2000, near
the 45% level. One should never make bets on non-trivial issues, but there is
one that I would be willing to make.

Thus, the
implication is that if the streets and the rallies are simply an indication of
the asymmetry of abstention for between both sides, Chavez has more to worry about than Rosales. The election could be
decided with less than ten million voters casting ballots and large levels of
abstention would seem to hurt Chavez the most.

But the
revolution has been spending money convincing the world that it is a fait accompli, that Chavez has been
reelected. You have to wonder why.

The only
thing one has to ask for at this time, is that the process be clean,
transparent and have no confusing aspects to it. Let the true winner emerge in
clear fashion without mucking up the process. Let democracy, real democracy
carry its course, no tricks, and no hidden agendas. Let’s hope for the best, while worrying about the worst.

One last picture of the mother of all avalanchas

November 28, 2006

I can post pictures again, so it may not be too late to show one more time a picture of the mother of all avalanchas last Saturday, choosing one of the most impressive shots I have seen, sent to me by DR from the US.

I will vote for whomever does not mind me by Simon Alberto Consalvi

November 27, 2006

Historian and former Foreign Minister Simon Alberto Consalvi gives us his perspective on the upcoming election

I will vote for whomever does not mind me by Simon Alberto Consalvi in El Nacional

In seven days, Venezuelans will confront a test which no one can be indifferent to face. We all have to assume the position that our conscience dictates us, thinking not in personal or selfish terms, but of the destiny of the country. On Dec. 3d. we will elect a President of the Republic, but we are going to opt for something that goes much farther than that; during the times of our representative democracy this was a transcendental episode, but it never had the implications it has now.

It will be something much deeper, something that will modify our lives, the way we are and the way we behave, which will substantially affect our political and social system, depending on what the final verdict is, whether one or the other presidential options in play wins. One, that of the officialdom, promises to establish the “XXIst century socialism”, carrying out to its ultimate consequences the privatization of the state, of its immense resources, of its oil wealth, placing them at the service of an anti-democratic political project. There will be no public institution that will not be captured, from the powers of the state to the Armed Forces, which will stop doing what the 1999 Constitution says, to turn itself in the red army, that is, the armed branch of the revolutionary project.

There is no way of predicting the future, and is not a matter of asking the planets. The deck has been dealt. The promise of officialdom translates into the conquest of the State and in the abolishment of all other alternatives that, in a country with a pluralist tradition, were always present.

Like an army tank, the Bolivarian project has advanced in systematic fashion.

They adulterate history, painting with black colors the past, condemning to death all dissidence, while he applies the tactics and the methods of Juan Vicente Gomez, which served to justify the thesis of the “necessary gendarme”.

The theorists of the dictatorship, armed their doctrine starting from the premise that Venezuela was a country of morally unqualified people, not governable, lazy, anarchic, and that it needed General Gomez. They had to paint Venezuelans with Goya-like colors so that the image of the dictator would appear with the aura of the redemtors. That is the basis of the “necessary gendarme”.

It was such a false thesis that when Juan Vicente Gomez died, reality took care of denying it. Nobody dared mentioning it. Starting with Lopez Contreras, Venezuela demonstrated that it did not need gendarmes, that it was a country capable of choosing a political system that would guarantee everyone their representation, which progressively it began to conquer. With time, that system was called “an imperfect democracy”. There is no doubt that it was “imperfect”, but it was a democracy that allowed for the doors of change to remain open. Those are the possibilities that the Bolivarian project promises to aniquilate, to consecrate an autocratic regime, which is in conflict with pluralism and the freedom that we have enjoyed since 1936, with the exception of the years under the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez.

The Bolivarian revolution promises to implant a model that has demonstrated it is unfeasible and which has failed all over the world, from the fall of the soviet empire to all of the countries in the Iron curtain. The model that obsesses them the most is the Cuban model. A model that requires generous subsidies to survive. That is the metaphor that is hidden under the abstraction of “XXIst. Century Socialism”

It is not the democratic socialism of Chile, of Uruguay, or that of Brazil, where human rights are respected, private property, republican alternability, the equilibrium (and counterbalances) of the powers of the state, the interplay of ideas, freedom of speech. Neither Michelle Bachelet, nor Tabare Vazquez, nor Luiz Ignacio Lula Da Silva are pretending to stay in power until 2030. That punishment is apparently destined to the country of Bolivar and its “lifetime President” or for the rural country of the “necessary gendarme”. That is what is at play on Dec. 3d.

In the face of a perspective of such nature, there is no way to be indifferent. The vote this December has implications that it never had before in Venezuela. We Venezuelans have voted during seventy consecutive years from 1936 to 2006. We even voted during the time of the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez. The country knew how to vote. The rejection of the dictatorship was massive, its crumbling was the expression of popular desires and the civilest conscience of the Armed Forces, fatigued from lending their name to the personalized exercise of power.

This December the Presidency of the Republic is at stake. This is true, but what is at stake is much more than that. One candidate aspires to be chief of an aggressive sect, painted in red, armed behind the Kalashnikov rifles of thousands of reservists or of territorial guards that will not leave us in peace.

What is at stake is the destiny of 26 million peaceful Venezuelans, that not only believe in democracy, but also aspire to deeper reforms of society, in the search for equality and well being, but not by transplanted reforms, which are far from the pluralism and the right to decide for ourselves.

This December Venezuela’s foreign policy will be at stake. We have to vote for those that guarantee peace among Venezuelans, but also peace among our countries. It is necessary to vote against the strategic hate of the cold war.

Against the invention of asymmetrical wars and other demential concepts, against the interventionism of Venezuela and the proselytist waste. Venezuela requires a foreign policy founded on the permanent interests of the state and the Nation. A policy that respects others and makes our country be respected.

It is necessary to vote against demagoguery, against the anachronical cult of personality of the regimes of the soviet orbit. Against the boredom of a discourse that eight years later it is very similar to the visit to the dentist. Let’s vote for a President that will not like to tell us what we should read or what we should not read. For someone that will not give us lessons in history everyday, that will allow us to make mistakes and will respect our mistakes.

I will vote in the end for Manuel Rosales, because he will not mind me, nor what I do, nor what I think, nor what I write.

Because he will allow me to live in peace the life I want to live.

The perverse symbolism of the location of Chavez’ closing rally

November 26, 2006

There is something quite perverse and obscene for President Hugo Chavez to hold the rally that closes his presidential campaign end at Puente El Llaguno. It not only shows the immoral character of Chavez and his cohorts, but it shows the lack of compassion of this Government and its leader for his own people. Nobody who has any respect for human rights and the right to life, would even dare come close to that infamous bridge, a symbol of death and murder, least of all to make it a symbol of this shameless revolution.

But that is exactly what is being done, tomorrow Chavez will close his rally there, making it very clear that he cares little for the people of either side. It was indeed one of the darkest moments of our history when TV cameras caught pro-Chavez supporters, some of whom were members of the city council of Distrito Libertador, open fire on the marchers who were coming towards the bridge unarmed. While the Government attempted to change history by saying nobody was under the bridge at the time (Why shoot then? Who were they shooting at?) in this link you can see both the picture of the shooters and the people below that fateful day.

To make matters even worse, the shooters were declared innocent in a speedy trial, as the Prosecutor General had the trial moved to Aragua state. Curiously, assassinated Prosecutor Danilo Anderson acted for the Government in that case and lost, but he vowed to appeal and jail the shooters again. He did not live to do it and the appeal never got off the ground after he was killed. Similarly, others that were present that day as part of the opposition march, but were not directly involved in the shootings, but were found responsible for the shootings are still in jail, and all deadlines for their trial are past, but there has been no quick trial and sentencing like there was for the Chavistas.

Maybe it is just symbolic of what Chavez stands for that his rally will end there. It represents the viciousness and perversity of this faux revolution and the low lives that run this Government. It shows their total disrespect for the people they claim to love, but they show daily they care so little for. It is another slap in the face to the people of Venezuela. Chavez had hundreds of innocent people killed in his coup attempts in 1992. He did it again in April 11th. 2002 and many other times. Celebrating Puerto El Llaguno tomorrow only shows the callousness of the autocrat’s mind and the possibility that he will kill innocent people again if and when needed.

Hopefully, Venezuelans tomorrow will realize what this cynical and perverse symbolism really means for them, their families and their future.

Get some goosebumps watching a video of the Giga-avalancha, even if only a few seconds

November 25, 2006

And thanks to Alek we can watch part of the video of the Mother of all Avalanchas, even if just a few seconds. Thanks mate!

Huge crowd at Rosales’ rally: Tough act to follow!

November 25, 2006

Impressive rally today with thousands and thousands showing up to express their support for the unity candidate Manuel Rosales. Unbelievable crowd, some suggesting it was the biggest rally ever in the country’s history, Rosales gave a good speech, even if he is not the best speaker in the world and people were moved.

Thus, a very remarkable and important poll today, the once passive opposition has been revived by their maracucho candidate who has done an excellent job mobilizing the opposition. What is most interesting about this to me is that I contend that abstention will be the decisive factor on Dec. 3d. and the rally today shows the opposition is now truly enthusiastic, which was not the case months ago. I don’t believe you can say the same about the pro-Chavez voters, who are tired and are still waiting for the revolution to deliver, as the poor attendance at pro-Chavez’ rallies show. Will they come out on Sunday Dec. 3d. to vote? That is the question today, as it is very clear the opposition voters will certainly come out en force to back Rosales.

Tough act to follow by Chavez in his final campaign rally tomorrow, the highway in which Rosales held his today is much wider than where Chavez will hold his final rally tomorrow. But in the end it will be the vote Dec. 3d. that tells us the true story.

For pictures, go see the beautiful and very impressive one Alek placed in his post on the rally, video here, as well as the very complete set he has here. Daniel has promised some pictures sometime soon.

Rosales closes campaign with the mother of all avalanches for all Venezuelans

November 25, 2006

Today will be the the “mother of all avalanches” as Rosales closes the campaign. I will be unable to post pictures, so I recommend you visit vcrisis and Daniel’s blog for good pictures of the event. As I write this people are already gathering for the “avalancha tricolor” which is the formal name of the rally in reference to the three colors of the flag and to contrast it wit Chavez’ single “Rojo, rojito” color, which he means to represent only that part of society that backs him.

As I write this, there are reports that some of Rosales’ supporters have troubles getting to Caracas as buses of supporters (Yes, the oppo also brings people in, but not in the magnitude that Chavez does) are being detained and stopped by the authorities along the Caracas-Valencia and Caracas-Guarenas highways. You have to wonder why a Government that claims to be democratic and way ahead in the polls does this. It is simply stupid as stories like this will help make sure that all of the relatives of those in the buses tell their story and end up voting for Rosales if they are undecided. But autocrats and people who have gotten used to abuse of power and fascist tendencies, don’t think about that, they really believe that they can scare people away. One day people will have their day in Court and it will not be pretty. These are the same people that did not allow the rally to take place in a location that will show better the size of the rally and would have closed Rosales’ campaign in Caracas near the poorer neighborhoods.

Today should be a calm day, nobody can expect any form of violence in the face of the huge crowd that will show up in Caracas. Hopefully, the rally will tip a few more votes Rosales’ way and will encourage some to go and vote. As I write this, I receive a report from a good pollster that Rosales improved his standing from Nov. 3d. to Nov. 17th. Add a bit of Chavista abstention, two more weeks of campaigning and maybe that seemed impossible a month ago will indeed happen on Dec. 3d. and the rule of law and respect for all in Venezuela will become a reality on Dec. 4th.