Archive for December 1st, 2007

Final parting thoughts before the referendum

December 1, 2007

Lots of people visiting the blog hoping to get some news, but
there is very little. Chavez had to take advantage of his position and ranted in front of the foreign press
his usual stuff, concentrating on CNN being worse than Hitler and going
back a little on his threat of nationalizing the Spanish banks by
saying that he would do so if the Partido Popular wins next year. In
the end he will do what he wants, whenever he wants, so the whole thing
is meaningless. Chavez continues to personalize Venezuela’s Foreign
Relations the same way his egotistical mind personalizes everything and
he refuses to see what a poor job he has done for the people in these
now very long years.
 
As for the outcome, it is
hard to predict what will happen. This year is indeed different, as the
polling firms do show results, which are not only different, but also
fairly consistent among themselves. Last year in the Rosales-Chavez
race, there were a few optimistic pollster, but Datanalisis and Seijas
were giving Chavez a huge lead all along. Just as a reminder,
Datanalisis gave Chavez a 53-26% lead two weeks before the election,
Consultores 21 gave Chavez a 58-41% and Hinteraces gave Chavez a 41-35%
lead, so that things are indeed different this time.
 
The
problem is what the role of abstention will be and while everyone is
focused on the abstention of the No’s and the Ni Ni’s (those that are
not pro- either side), I also believe that abstention among Chavistas
is going to play a role more significant that many are predicting.
Abstention in elections not involving Chavez himself has been high,
such as the referendum to approve Chavez’ new Constitution which had
67% abstention and Chávez was in the height of his popularity. Similar
levels of abstention in the 60% plus category were seen in the regional
elections of 2004. Thus, Chavistas have gone out en force only when
Chavez’ name has been directly involved as a candidate or in the recall
referendum vote of August 2004.
 
Two additional
factors play a role in the pro-Chavez abstention: One, Podemos is a
strong party in many states and this time around they will be driving
but the vote against Chavez. Two, many Governors and Mayors see the
reform as a threat to their own survival. Clearly this works against
Chavez.
 
But there is also large abstention
among Chavez’ opponents who believe that since it is rigged it is not
worth going to vote. Moreover, Venezuela’s have never been to truthful
about their vote intentions, so that even those that claim they are
“likely” to vote are probably not very likely to go. It is shame thing
here to say you are not going.
 
Another positive
notes is that both Datanalisis and Seijas have tended to overestimate
the Chavez vote and underestimate the opposition vote by some 4%
points, so that their recent results may be more positive than some
think.
 
So, to me it is a toss up and I do
believe there is fraud so that the No needs to obtain a large victory
to show a small one. At this time, unless lines are long and huge
tomorrow, my feeling is that the Si edges the No by a small margin, but
I am hopeful that people will go massively and vote and we can squeeze
by 2 or 3 points, fraud and all. In both cases, it will be a huge
defeat for Chavez as he will have a rather weak mandate for his
revolution as I discussed earlier this week. I truly do not believe Chavez can obtain a large victory tomorrow, the numbers clearly say that.
So, let’s
hope my worst moment this weekend was going out to lunch and finding
out I could not order any alcoholic beverages because of the election.
A pity, the food was marvelous as I hope are the results tomorrow.

I will be blogging mostly pictures during the day as I have the time. I do have to go and vote!

Thinking aloud the day before the Venezuelan vote: Baduel’s’ Op-Ed Editorial in the New York Times

December 1, 2007

Today, General Raul Baduel, Chavez’ buddy and former Minister of Defense published an Op-Ed piece
in the New York Times, copied below, in which he goes far beyond the
criticism of the upcoming referendum and presents a strong and sharp
criticism of Chavez and his Government during the last nine years. The
piece in fact sounds like something written in any of the opposition
blogs and is a devastating criticism of Chavez’ revolution by one of
its founders and one of its loyal participants.

 
The
question is why does Baduel have to go today and publish an article in
English in such a newspaper the day before the Venezuelan referendum on
Constitutional Reform? To me the answer is simply the same as to why
Baduel decided to jump ship a month ago and completely distance himself
from Chavez.
 
First of all, while Baduel claims
to have been with Chavez through “thick and thin”, this is not
precisely the truth. At key moment Baduel played his cards just right
in order to survive and proved in two instances to have done precisely
that.
 
The first time, was in 1992 when
despite Baduel’s role as a founder of the Bolivarian movement he failed
to participate in the bloody coup in February 2002, which failed mainly
because Chávez did not achieve his military objective. Baduel was
supposed to participate in it and there has never been a clear
explanation of why.
 
The second time was during
the events of April 2002, when Baduel did not participate in the group
of military that asked Chavez to resign, did not show up at Fuerte
Tiuna once Chavez had left and waited until the Carmona Government
unraveled to single handedly bring Chavez back to the Presidency. This
act, in the end guaranteed that he would end his military career as a
three star General and Minister of Defense.
 
An
ambitious man, Baduel seems to once again be playing his cards right.
Early in November he saw the weakness in the proposal for
Constitutional reform with voters and within the military and saw his
opportunity to play a role if the No vote won. Baduel clearly
understands that Chávez will not recognize a No victory. Chavez is no
democrat and has never been, he has used democratic votes to his
personal advantage, no more no less. If the No vote wins, Baduel has
played his cards right to be a possible acceptable transition figure
should Chavez not recognize the vote and be forced to leave in the
upcoming days, weeks or months after Sunday’s referendum. He is an
acceptable figure to Chavismo, he has tried to present himself as an
alternative to the opposition and now he wants his position to be well
known internationally before the events of tomorrow may unravel as a
way.
 
I have no idea whether he is right or will
succeed, what I do know is that I don’t like the man. From being
military, to his strange beliefs in his past lives, to his silence
while he was Minister of Defense, to his ability to survive by walking
a very fine gray line, I certainly don’t want to see this man in any
position of power in my country. Ever.
 
But he really does…

Why I Parted Ways With Chávez

By RAÚL ISAÍAS BADUEL
Published: December 1, 2007
Caracas, Venezuela
ON
Dec. 17, 1982, three of my fellow officers in the Venezuelan Army and I
swore our allegiance to the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army 2000. We
considered ourselves to be at the birth of a movement that would turn a
critical eye on Venezuela’s troubled social and political system — and
formulate proposals to improve it. One of the officers with me was Hugo
Chávez, the current president of Venezuela, whom I have known since I
entered the military academy 35 years ago.
Hugo
Chávez and I worked together for many years. I supported him through
thick and thin, serving as his defense minister. But now, having
recently retired, I find myself with the moral and ethical obligation
as a citizen to express my opposition to the changes to the
Constitution that President Chávez and the National Assembly have
presented for approval by the voters tomorrow.
The
proposal, which would abolish presidential term limits and expand
presidential powers, is nothing less than an attempt to establish a
socialist state in Venezuela. As our Catholic bishops have already made
clear, a socialist state is contrary to the beliefs of Simón Bolívar,
the South American liberation hero, and it is also contrary to human
nature and the Christian view of society, because it grants the state
absolute control over the people it governs.
Venezuelan
society faces a broad array of problems that have not been addressed in
the eight years Mr. Chávez has been in office, even though the present
Constitution offers ample room for any decent, honest government to do
so. Inflation, threats to personal safety, a scarcity of basic
supplies, a housing shortage and dismal education and health care are
problems that will not be resolved by approving this so-called reform.
How
is it that we, the people of Venezuela, have reached such a bizarre
crossroads that we now ask ourselves if it is democratic to establish
the indefinite re-election of the president, to declare that we are a
socialist nation and to thwart civic participation?
The
answer is that all Venezuelans, from every social stratum, are
responsible for the institutional decay that we are witnessing. The
elite never understood — and still fail to understand — the need to
include, in every sense, the millions who have been kept at the margins
of the decision-making process because of their poverty. At the same
time, President Chávez led the poor to believe that they are finally
being included in a governmental model that will reduce poverty and
inequality. In reality, the very opposite is true.
In
recent years, the country’s traditional political parties have come to
see the Venezuelan people as clients who can be bought off.
During
the economic boom years, ushered in by a sustained increase in oil
prices, the parties dispensed favors, subsidies and alms. In the end,
they taught the people about rights rather than obligations, thus
establishing the myth that Venezuela is a rich country, and that the
sole duty of a good government is to distribute its wealth evenly.
President Chávez has been buying and selling against this idea,
continuing to practice the kind of neopopulism that will reach its
limit only when the country receives what economists call an “external
shock.”
Exorbitant
public expenditures, the recurrence of government deficits even at
times of record-high oil prices, the extreme vulnerability of foreign
investments, exceedingly high import tariffs, and our increased
domestic consumption of fuel at laughably low prices are all signs of
what lurks on the horizon. It now seems that, even without an
appreciable dip in global oil prices, our economy may well come to a
crashing halt. When it does, it will bring an end to the populism that
the government practices and has tried to export to neighboring
countries.
Venezuela
will thrive only when all its citizens truly have a stake in society.
Consolidating more power in the presidency through insidious
constitutional reforms will not bring that about. That’s why the
Venezuelan people should vote no tomorrow, and prepare to pursue a
political culture that will finally be able to steer our beloved nation
toward true economic and social progress.

Revolutionary Last Supper Mural

December 1, 2007

M sends this wonderful picture of a mural in Caracas that is as screwed up as the revolution. You can see Andres Bello, Mao, Chavez, Jesus of course, Che Guevara, Simon Bolivar, Guicaipuro and Lenin. (If you recognize more let me know). Funny that Castro is missing and that Chavez does not occupy Jesus’ place. I guess the painter needs more revolutionary education. By the way, Chavez is painted holding the “old” and by now terrible 2000 “blue” Constitution. How passe!
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