Archive for November, 2008

Hugo Chavez gives himself a green light on indefinite reelection

November 30, 2008

A generous Hugo Chavez “authorizes” his party and the people to begin
to explore the steps required to reform the Venezuelan Constitution so that
he can be reelected repeatedly.

With his Characteristic amplitude,
humility and democratic spirit, the Venezuelan President heard the clamor
coming from the people that want him forever and ever in the position so
that Venezuela can never rise from the ashes he plans to bury the country
in after he is done (If he is ever done!)

Asking God for help (We
are sure even God is tired by now), Chavez said he would be around until
2021, which would imply no help from God in his book. In Chavez’ mind, if
God had anything to say on the matter he would be around until at least
2061. In our minds, if God had any say on the matter, Chavez would have
lost in 2006.

But seriously, the move indicates that Chavez
understands that it is now or never and indeed it is. Any minute that goes
by will decrease his popularity as the impact of oil prices is felt. So, he
either does it now or never.

It is obviously illegal for Chavez to
request this. The Constitution is very clear in that such a request can
only be made once during a Presidential term and Chavez already tried it in
2007. The fake legal argument that will be used is that it is “the people”
that will be requesting it this time and last time it was him and his
National Assembly. Now, it will be the PSUV party, which did not exist then
and of course the phantom “people” who could care less and haven’t really
asked for it.

The question now is how they will try to rush this to
vote in the knowledge that the sooner the better the chances. Given last
year’s results and last week’s regional elections results, I am sure we can
deal Huguito another loss on the matter.

And if, as he claimed
tonight, there is no Chavismo without Chavez, then the “people” will put a
final nail on Chavismo’s tomb, unless Chavez has something more ommninous
in mind.

November 28, 2008

Enjoy while I am away, although not enjoyable

William Andrews, William J. Bratton

Crime and Politics in Caracas

Thank Hugo Chávez for the Venezuelan capital’s soaring murder rate.

A recent report in The Economist noted that Caracas, Venezuela, is now one of the world’s most violent cities, with an official murder rate of 130 homicides for every 100,000 residents. The Venezuelan think tank Incosec suggests that the real rate is even higher—a staggering 166 per 100,000, or triple the rate in 1999, when President Hugo Chávez took office. It didn’t have to be this way. From 2000 to early 2002, as members of the Bratton Group and in cooperation with the Manhattan Institute, we worked to improve public safety in Caracas. We were beginning to achieve promising results until Chávez undermined the project. Crime is now rampant, the mayor we worked with has gone into exile, the police chief sits in jail, and Chávez has barred a promising young reformer from running for mayor this fall.

We remember our days in Caracas as an exciting time. A new constitution had just granted the city autonomous status from the federal government, with the new Metropolitan Police to operate under mayoral control. Alfredo Peńa, the new mayor, brought us in to help organize the force in accordance with the innovative policing ideas that had cut crime dramatically in the United States in the 1990s. Caracas hired new police officers and more than doubled starting salaries, trying to recruit better-educated cops and make corruption less tempting. The new police chief, Ivan Simonovis, was a veteran of the national investigative police, a relentless foe of police corruption, and a tireless crime fighter.

Our work sought to create a first-class police reform model in Catia, the impoverished, million-person barrio that reaches up hundreds of feet into the mountains west of the central city. We worked to break down the vast Catia police division into 12 community-based precincts, where we put some of the most promising and ambitious commanders. We trained a special cadre of local detectives who would investigate crime in the previously ignored barrio. Using New York City’s Compstat as a model, we established strategy meetings to hold commanders accountable and to track and reduce crime. In 18 months, the murder rate in Catia declined by one-third, and citizens’ perception of the police began to improve. Polls taken by independent groups measured the change. But we could also see it on the ground, as residents began showing up to help repair local police stations and form neighborhood watch groups.

We were getting ready to establish a second model in the city’s other great barrio, Petare, when politics reared its head. Chávez, apparently jealous of Mayor Peńa’s success, held back critical funding that the national government owed Caracas for law enforcement. Graffiti appeared, suggesting that the Bratton Group was composed of CIA agents and telling us to go home. Pro-Chávez radicals in the Metropolitan Police sought to divide the force along political lines. Tensions came to a head in April 2002, when Chávez was briefly forced out of office, Caracas street protests turned violent, and 17 people died. By October, pro-Chávez cops had seized control of police headquarters, and the following month, Chávez sent in the military to take command of the force. Mayor Peńa was driven from office and fled to Miami. Chief Simonovis was arrested in November 2004 on dubious charges; he remains in a Caracas jail to this day, his trial still dragging on. Needless to say, our consulting work ended.

Today, crime is the Number One public policy concern in Venezuela and the major issue in the upcoming local elections in November. Leopoldo López, the 37-year-old Harvard-edu­cated, reform-minded mayor of Caracas’s Chacao district, had planned to run for mayor of the entire city, largely on a public-safety platform. Though we never worked for López, we met him and were impressed by his intelligence, energy, and insight. He understood that crime disproportionately affected the poor, and he went to great lengths to improve the Chacao police. He is immensely popular among all socioeconomic groups, having won a reelection bid in 2004 with 80 percent of the vote. As he has loomed as a rival to Chávez, there have been several attempts to assassinate him, including one attack in which his bodyguard died in his arms. And Chávez has blacklisted him on trumped-up corruption charges, along with 260 other opposition candidates, and barred him from participating in the elections.

What crime-afflicted cities like Caracas need are competent local leaders, ready to reform and redirect police efforts. This is what López could offer—and what Peńa and Simonovis offered before him. Unfortunately, like all authoritarians, Chávez views independent, competent leaders as threats to his power. If the suffering people of Caracas have to pay the price, well, that’s politics, Chávez-style.

William Andrews works as a police and security consultant with the Bratton Group. William Bratton is the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Off for a few days

November 26, 2008

I will be going away for a few days, will post by email if necessary.

Have a good one!

Hugo Chavez reverts to his usual self a day after the election, blaming everyone but his perfect self

November 25, 2008

And on the second day, Hugo Chavez became his usual self,
lying, misrepresenting reality and blasting the media for their inaccuracies,
while spewing out a bunch of them without blinking.

I guess it was too much to ask that Chavez would in any
way change. But sometimes you wonder about him. Like
saying that he lost
Petare (actually Sucre) because it is full of the well
to do rich and racist people. He mentioned a bunch of areas, which, while
middle class are not exactly even average middle class saying “these areas are
filled with rich people who on top of that are racist because they have blacks
that iron for them and are their drivers”. And then to top it all off, he
showed his ignorance by saying that these areas are “full of golf courses”.

I guess Chavez does not even know the Sucre municipality,
where as far as I know there are no golf courses, unless Izcaragua is inside
that municipality, but I don’t believe it is. In any case those that go to
Izcaragua mostly don’t live in Sucre anyway.

Because there is indeed some middle class in Sucre, but
certainly they are not very rich, nor well to do, nor do they have help. It is
an area of average to low middle class, except maybe in Los Chorros and maybe
in El Marquez. In fact, if I have an image of what I would like the average
Venezuelan family to be, it would be those in the areas Chavez was mentioning:
Honest middle class people, hard working and trying to improve their lives.

But apparently Chavez’ dream is to have all Venezuelans be
poor and dependent on the giveaways and handouts he may feel like giving them.

He did complain about his parties two Mayors and the fact
that there are problems picking up garbage and that one of them (Juan Barreto)
was in Paris giving conferences. But who pimped Barreto and Bernal all these
years? Who allowed them both to steal their municipalities blind? Who allowed
them to switch from the outsourced garbage system to the unworkable
cooperatives where the workers are neither owners nor employees?

The problem is that Chavez refuses to admit that he may be
at fault. He plucked both Bernal and Barreto out of thin air and in order to
thank them for their loyalty allowed them to ride his coattails to their
elections. Not happy with that, after three years of very mediocre performance,
he backed them again, allowing three more years of incompetent and negligent
Government with plenty of foreign travel involved.

And then Chavez responded t a question about whether he
was going to seek another Constitutional referendum to allow him to run again,
by blasting the reporter CNN’s Patricia Janiot, for saying that he had stated
that if the opposition won any of the Governor races. Chavez said his words
were manipulated by the media because he had never said such a thing.

Maybe Chavez does not remember his won words, here they are for history
and maybe someone should showed them to , there are no conditionals in his

Despite this video, Chavez dared to say: “I never threatened anyone
with taking the tanks out if we lost and you know I would be incapable of doing
that (sic), if you know me you would know that I could not do it. (sic). I am
not crazy (sic).”

Out of touch or out of medication?

Some are losers and some are winners in Venezuela’s regional elections

November 25, 2008

While I am satisfied with the performance of the
opposition yesterday, it does not mean that I am happy. Perhaps the most
important message from yesterday was that there were no real clear winners.
Some people scored victories, other losses, but not one group managed to do it

To start with there is Hugo Chavez. He lost in that the
results of yesterday’s races should stop him from looking for another
referendum to change the Constitution so that he can be reelected forever. The
numbers simply say is not worth his time to even try it. In fact, if the
opposition did not do better it was because it was not united, but they will be
united if Chavez proposes again that he should be able to perpetuate himself in
power. Tonight Chavez suggested that the people could ask for such a
referendum, suggesting that we are likely to see another proposal in 2009. He
will suffer another defeat if he tries.

Chavez was also a winner, because he managed to stop the
opposition from winning beyond its traditional strongholds, even if it did
well. Chavez was a winner because his party the PSUV, managed to win a lot more
Mayoral races than the opposition. There is no other way to interpret that.

And last night, Chavez also looked like a winner,
accepting the victory of the opposition in certain states and respecting it.
Not speaking in a forced nationwide “cadena” , but from his party’s
headquarters, appearing conciliatory. But this all changed today when he went
back to his usual self, being aggressive against some winners and disrespecting
the people that voted for Carlos Ocariz in the Sucre municipality of Caracas.
As usual, the gentle, nicer Chavez seems to have a twenty four hour lifetime in
a country asking for some peace.

The opposition scored a victory also, in that it gained five
states and the Metropolitan Mayor, winning where 42% of Venezuelans live and a
little bit more than that in terms of voters. But the opposition lost too, in
that it appears that it did not gain as much as was thought in terms of municipalities,
but the numbers are not all in.

The opposition also lost, because it could have scored a
much larger victory if it had presented a more united front in places like
Bolivar and Yaracuy, where it could have won. But it was not meant to be, the
little caudillos and outdated politicians that hang on to what little is left
of their popularity and who placed their interests above that of the people,
hurt the opposition too much.

Chavez also lost, because he seems to lose in urban areas
and he also loses big where the middle class lives. Paradoxically, Venezuela is
basically an urban country, but Chavez loses in urban areas, while the
opposition seems to make no inroads in rural areas. Both groups should reflect
on this.

Oh, but there were some huge losers, people like Andres
Velasquez, Claudio Fermin, the Lapi family from Yaracuy, Aristobulo Isturiz,
Rojas Suarez and William Davila, who hopefully will never again run for
anything more important than their condo board.

On the Chavismo side, the Governor of Miranda State
Diosdado Cabello lost his reelection, a big blow to the aspirations of the man
once considered to be Chavez’ successor. Perhaps there is a lesson there for
other Chavista Governors elected last night, it is not all about politics, you
also have to work hard for the people.  Not rush to inaugurate some public works infrastructure the
week before the election, even if they were not completed. The people may b naive,
but not dumb.

And speaking of big losers, the so-called dissident
Chavistas did not win a single Governorship, despite the polls indicating they
could win as many as four. In one, Chavez’ own state of Barinas, the loser, another
Chavista, is claiming foul saying he has copy of all the results and he won and
suggesting the CNE violated its own rules when it announced the victory by
Chavez’ brother even before it had the required 85% of the tally sheets. He
claims he can prove and for once, it is nice to see a fight like this between
two Chavista forces and have the opposition not be involved.

As for winners, it was also like Night of the Living Dead,
with Ledezma rising from his political ashes to score a victory that seemed
quite difficult months ago when Leopoldo Lopez was banned from running for this
office. And Henrique Capriles, despite his dullness, was able to fill the shoes
of Enrique Mendoza who was also banned as way of stopping the opposition in
Miranda. Chavez clearly understood that he needed the bans in Miranda, the
Metropolitan Mayor and Tachira, but it did not work, all that work and strategy
went for nothing, all three places went to the opposition alternates, even if
none could match the excitement of the originals.

But the biggest winners in my opinion were the Governor-elect
of Zulia State Pablo Perez and the new elected Mayor of the Sucre municipality
in Caracas Carlos Ocariz. The first one, because he becomes Governor of
Venezuela’s largest state by population and his dynamic, young and fresh face,
with no connections to the past will be quite visible. He speaks well and will
ride his popularity on the structure left by Manuel Rosales there.  Ocariz on the other hand, will become
Mayor of much-neglected Sucre, an area ignored for too long and where hard
working Ocariz should be able to make things better for the people with the aid
of his fellow Mayors of the Metropolitan area, from which he can copy a lot
ideas and models. In Perez and Ocariz, we may have some of the leading future
leaders that the opposition so sorely needs.

Finally, the old parties are dead and Primera Justicia and
Un Nuevo Tiempo have consolidated their existence as the leading parties in the
country. The rest are largely irrelevant even if COPEI won Tachira. Perhaps it
is time for all the splinter groups left in the opposition to join these
groups, choose the one you prefer, ask for democracy and start working the
streets. This election does show that hard work (Trabajo de Hormiguita) pays
off, ask Ledezma, Ocariz, Capriles and Falcon if this is not the case.
Venezuela needs more politicians like that and not what I call living room
politicians”, which the opposition is full of. 

And don’t forget that winning this races gives the
opposition not only power and the possibility to show they can do a better job
for the people, but it also gives them a power base of resources to compensate
the overwhelming domination by Chavismo in the use (and abuse!) of resources
and the media to promote their cause.

Hopefully each side will understand what it gained or lost
in the regional elections. That may be the key to Venezuela’s and their own political future.

Venezuelan opposition wins Tachira and Carabobo, controls States with 40% of the population of the country

November 24, 2008

As expected the opposition wins Tachira and Carabobo for a total of five states and the Metropolitan Mayor.

We gain three states and the Metropolitan Mayor and we control States with 40% of the population where I get that number by adding the population of Libertador, assuming the Metropolitan Mayor is like  a Governor, but subtracting voters from the other municipalities.

Not bad indeed…

Instant Analysis: Opposition gains in regional elections may just be as much as we want at this time

November 24, 2008

If I assume the opposition did win in Carabobo and Tachira as seems to be the case, I believe the opposition gains about the right amount at this time. If my assumption is correct, then the opposition will have gained Carabobo, Miranda and Tachira, as well as winning in the race for Metropolitan Mayor. Recall that Caracas has been a bastion of Chavismo since 1998 and now the opposition holds also four of the five municipalities in the city.

I think this is sweet. Sweet, because Chavez wasted his time banning Leopoldo Lopez and Enrique Mendoza as well as the guy from Tachira that would have won that state too. Sweet because Chavez lost ground we gained it and in a country that is mostly urban, we won in the most important urban areas.

Tonight, as news suuggested we may have chances in other states, I begain worrying that if the opposition won a huge victory, then the upcoming economic crisis may blamed in the oppsoition. After all, the opposition did not lose Sucre, a guy who a year ago was considered Chavista lost that state to another Chavista. And you could say the same about Guarico, Cojedes and Barinas. Would it have been nice to see the Chavez Royal family lose in their corrupted state? Of course, but it was not the oppsoition who lost.

But I want Chavez and his cohorts and his National Assembly to be in full power of the Nation when the ceonomic crisis hits. Last wee, Venezuela’s oil basket hit around US$ 41 per barrel. havez and Chavismo to pay for the mismanagement of the country: Thyey should preside over it. And to give you an idea, a Venezuelan barrel of oil costs now US$ 29 to produce, as four years of inflation and a fixed exchange rate have simply made local costs prohibitely large. Unless oil prices bounce back and no matter when Chief Economist Chavez decides to devalue, inflation shoudl hit another 50% next year. Chavez and his buddies should pay for it by being in charge, by assuming responsibility over the mess created under the autocrat.

Yes, Venezuelans will ahve a rough time next year and the one after that. But this will be the case no matter who is in charge, so let Chavez do it. Lt’s see if he has enough money as he claims he does. Let’s see if he still thinks buying all of those perfectly functioning companies to satisfy his ego was the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, the opposition now has a power base to work for Venezuela as those that divided it in some states lick their wounds and hopefully dissapear from the Venezuelan political map forever.Let these Governors work and show that they are better, much better and rational than Chavismo. That they can do better for the people. And let them show that people can’t  eat ideology and that not one man can decide for all of us.

Then, we should be able to win a majority and insure that Chavismo either changes or it will become another small political party.

So, it’s a sweet victory for the oppsoition and just as big as we needed (or even deserved) at this time

First Bulletin by Venezuela’s Electoral Board on Regional Election results

November 24, 2008

The Consejo Nacional Electoral finally issued its first bulltein at 11:47 PM . The first results are as follows, states without a final number are undecided. If the opposition wins Tachira and Carabobo, it will have been a good victory as it has the three most populous states in the country. However, the divisions hurt, Bolivar and  Yaracuy could have been won, but the victories in Miranda and the Metropolitan Mayor are certainly sweet. Chavez may claim victory, but he must be nervous :

Abstention 34.5%

95.67% of votes for the country

Undecided: Tachira, Carabobo

Opposition: Nueva Esparta (57.6%), Miranda (52.5%), and Zulia (53.5%)

Chavismo: Anzoategui (56.6%), Cojedes (51.5%) Delta Amacuro (55.54%), Bolivar (46.4%), Aragua (58.5%), Portuguesa (57%), Falcon (55.2%), Trujjilo (59.5%), Apure (56.4), Sucre (56.1%)Vargas (61,5%), Lara (73.1%), Barinas 49%, Guarico (54.3%), Merida (54%). Monagas (74.7%) and Yaracuy (57.46%)

Opposition wins Alcaldia Mayor (Metropolitan Mayor (52.4%)

Watching the results of the Venezuelan Regional Elections (Updated as it happens)

November 23, 2008

10:40 PM Information remains consistent, talk of additional upsets, getting even weird, are people overly optimistic? CNE has 80% plus tabulated already and may give a bulletin within the hour.

9:06 PM I am hearing that the opposition is doing well and will surprise in two states and that Chavismo lost Barinas. If the opposition pulls off the Metropolitan Mayor, we are talking big upset for Hugo. I have this from two sources, one of which had a negative view coming into the election.  The best part is that they agree on the upsets even.

8 PM, first report by the Devil

November 23, 2008

At 8 PM there are conflicts all over the place as to whether polling places should be closed or not. TV stations are shwoing both cases, centers where there are no voters and it is open or someone is trying to reopen them, or centers where the authorities want it to be shut down. Similarly, not all centers are allowing witnesses to come in which is another source of conflict.

I think is going to be a long night if you want to know all the details, in the end Chavez will say he won, unless he lost Miranda, Alcaldia Mayor and Barinas, the opposition needs all three to limit Chavez’ ability to claim victory.

If the opposition can win six to seven states plus the Alcaldia Mayor, then it can claim it gained a lot of ground and Chavez should be worried.Similarly, if the opposition loses Carabobo, Miranda or Zulia, it will be huge for Chavez. Overall, the opposition should have more votes and Chavez more states.

Will post as news comes in