Those Right Wing Chavistas!

October 25, 2005


Talking about
right wing Chavistas may sound oxymoronic, but it is a testimony to the
confusing state of Venezuelan politics today, that in a recent poll aimed at
measuring the values of the Venezuelan electorate by Liderazgo y Vision, 47% of those
that support Chavez either directly or via other parties like Podemos, spouse
values which have been repeatedly called or defined by the press as right wing. But
lets start at the beginning.

The poll
was aimed at measuring values of the electorate. In fact, it sounds almost like
a marketing poll for politicians. The first interesting fact is that a large
percentage of the Venezuelan electorate feels that nobody out there represents
them and would like a new party (Francisco Toro has been talking about the Ninis
which may or not necessarily be this segment of people. The Ninis are more
closely defined as those that simply dont care about politics, but you should also
read that discussion here,
here
and here).
In the poll, 36.6% of the population sympathizes with the right, which
remarkably is the best defined group of all, as only 17.4% think they are left
wing, 8.7% considers itself center right and 5.4% think they are center left. Clearly,
the biggest problem is that 31.7% of the population has no clue as to how to
define themselves.

The
difficulty is that while the press has focused on the right wing aspect of it
with all of its connotations, what the polls shows is slightly different than
that. The values that are considered right wing maybe more closely defined as
conservative. These Venezuelans are nationalistic, militaristic, in favor of
law and order and defenders of the countrys sovereignty. Thus, part of Chavez
speech resonates well with them. What was staggering in my mind is the huge
percentage of pro-Chavez people that this represents.

Unfortunately,
I have not been able to find the detailed numbers of this poll, but it would
appear as if of those Venezuelans that consider themselves conservative, a
majority of them are supporters of President Chavez. I say this, because the
poll indicates that of those that think that new political parties are needed (45.2%
of those polled), 38.4% believe that it should be a right wing party. It would
also be interesting to see the gender differences among those polled as men
tend to be more conservative and pro-military than women.

What this
shows is how complex, and in my opinion, little understood the Venezuelan
electorate is. People did not vote in 1998 for Chavezs revolution as he defines
it today, they voted in the hope of changing the system, making it better, more
efficient, less crime and improving the standard of living. While Chavez has
failed to deliver on any of these, the authoritarian and militaristic style
definitely resonates with a large segment of the population. Incredibly the
poll indicates that fighting poverty is not among the top priorities of the
population, in fact, economic development is the main priority according to the
poll.

Remarkably,
the higher the economic level and education level the more likely that a Venezuelan
will define himself or herself as being leftwing. Thus, the poor tend to be
more right wing than the well to do. However, there seems to be little
conception of what left or right mean in terms of an economic model for the
country.

As a
Venezuelan, what probably bothers me the most about this poll, which is
consistent with values measured decades ago, is that there is still the
yearning for some form of authoritarian and military figure to lead us. It is the
tragedy of Venezuela in
particular and Latin America
in general that these values remain there under the surface, despite the
repeated failure of the military to solve the problems of any country and all
of the damage that they have done to our region.

I dont
claim to understand all of what this poll means or implies, as I said, I have
not been able to see but pieces of the data. In fact, I have started this post
like four times in the last two weeks and was never happy with the outcome. But
I think the results of the polls are important and need to be discussed and understood
and thus needed to be presented here in some fashion. What is clear to me is that there is a
large segment of the Venezuelan population that spouses fairly conservative
values (not right wing!) which may be thought of as arising form nationalistic ideals. Remarkably, a larger fraction of them appears
to support Chavez than oppose him, despite his left wing message.

Makes you
think, no?

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