Update 3:30 PM: Participation has improved at this time, it is running 4% behind October only. Lara, Anzoategui and the Capital District have much higher participation, but in this range things look difficult.
Update 1:47PM: I am told by reliable people that at 1 PM the percentage of voters that had cast their vote was running 10% behind the same number in October.
I just took my usual spin through Caracas on election day, driving from Petare to Caricuao to see what was happening. What I saw was absolutely no lines anywhere, not even groups of people in front of voting centers, of which I must have seen two or three dozen. In fact, since I remembered that the biggest lines last October were in Plaza La Candelaria in downtown Caracas, I went there just to check, but the result was the same, no lines at all where in October there were multiple lines:
Traffic was a mess in certain parts of the city. It took me longer to go around because there is an increasing trend to block an ever larger area around the voting center. In fact, in Avenida Romulo Gallegos in Montecristo, they blocked off two blocks of that avenue, which is an important street, particularly on Sundays when Cota Mil is closed until 1 PM. Took me a while to get out of that mess.
In fact, the whole thing is so ridiculous, that while I would have had a hard time taking picture of the lines, if they had been there, directly in front of most voting centers, I had no problem stopping in front of the Miraflores Presidential Palace and take a picture. The Guard did not like it, but he barely moved anyway:
There were many reports of abuses. The main one was that of the “accompanied” vote, whereby someone in the voting stand accompanies voters to make sure they are voting the “right” way. This type of vote is allowed for older people and those with disabilities, but the person that accompanies the voter can only do it once and has to sign a form. This was not being done in many polling stations, particularly in Zulia State and TV was showing videos of this being done.
But the immutable Tibisay Lucena, Head of the Electoral Board, came on TV and said everything was peachy and rosy. That the only incident she had to report was our people eating their ballots after casting the vote and some irregularities, only a few, in assisted voting.
I did see lots of motorcyclists in groups wearing red shirts and making noise, passing in some cases near voting centers , which is forbidden. There were also many trucks with improvised speakers on top, encouraging people to go and vote, no matter who they were going to vote for. I took a picture of one of them thru the car window, at the edge of La Urbina and Petare,which I was not planning to post:
except that right after I took the picture the police pulled them out, harassing them about campaigning. I stopped to help out, which one of the cops did not like, telling me to “Circulate, citizen” (Circule, ciudadano). Right at that point a Chavista truck with songs promoting Maduro went by and people started yelling at them that they did not dare stop the Chavistas and the cops decided to leave (Not going after the Chavistas). In fact, as I write this, the son of the Rector of Universidad Metropolitana, a good friend, is detained for driving in one of these “promote the vote” trucks.
Meanwhile in El Silencio, you can see the PSUV post behind the fountains, where four or five people were distributing propaganda, which is not allowed on election day:
Everyone is explaining away the lack of lines as saying that people have voted three times using the same system since October. Others say that this is because the opposition is staggering the voting according to age. But I went to Chavista areas and just did not see lines anywhere, which leads me to believe that abstention will be high. Remember that prior to 2006, abstention levels tended to be closer to 40% than 20%. Does Chavez’ absence from the ballot indicate we will go back to those levels now?
I just don’t know, but we will know in a few hours.
So, I have been in Caracas for less than 48 hours to cast what is likely to be one of the most expensive votes (my airfare was outrageous!) on Sunday’s elections and even pollsters that I don’t trust too much, because of their pro-Chávez stance, are trying to change my mind with their ever decreasing gap between Maduro (Who is still ahead in these polls) and Capriles.
I don’t want to throw too many new numbers at you, but two pro-Chavez pollsters and one considered to be more neutral have seen the gap narrow from almost 20 points, during Chávez’ mourning period, to single digits a week ago (all three), based on polls before Easter, to 7.2% in Datanalisis poll today, with more recent data.
And while I have never been a big Datanalisis fan, it is precisely because of that, that the numbers are interesting. You see, Datanalisis never seems to get the abstention right and in elections where that has yielded an unexpected result, they have been wrong. Thus, when they say that abstention will be in the 20% range and the fast changing difference is now only 7.2%, I have to wonder: What if?
Because I just can not possibly believe that abstention will be that low. Chávez was loved, adored and admired, this is Maduro we are talking about now. Maduro ain’t Chávez. Even Chávez saw abstention levels of 25% in the 2006 Presidential election, where he whipped Manuel Rosales. I find it hard to believe that Maduro, will be able to match that, even with Chávez’ endorsement.
And if abstention gets into the 30% range, that 7% gap gets down to where it may be almost impossible to predict what may happen, even if I still think Maduro is likely to have the edge. But not a huge edge, maybe 3 to 5% at most.
So, what seemed improbable a month ago still seems difficult, but not impossible. Last December regional elections saw 50%abstention, but largely because the opposition did not go out and vote and somehow Capriles has managed to get people excited again.
But given that Maduro’s campaign, while improving, has been less than inspired, one simply has to wonder whether people will go out and vote for the man Chávez anointed, just because he did it.
I am a numbers guy and the numbers suggest Maduro will win by a smaller margin that polls say, but looking at just the overall numbers (which also say Capriles is more popular than Maduro, for example) without knowing exactly what people feel about the Son Of Chávez, it is very hard to predict that the outcome will be different than polls predict.
In fact, abstention has been key in promoting and demoting pollsters in Venezuela as the “best”, to the point that not one can claim to have predicted each and every election and referendum result since 2006. Every single time, one of them has miscalculated and the number that did them in, was precisely misjudging the abstention level.
Give me 20% abstention, Maduro wins easily. Give me 30%, things get interesting and unpredictable, but cheating and tricks still make it hard, give me 35% and we are into Black Swan territory.
I think it will be closer to 30%, making it close, but with Maduro holding the edge. If less, game over.
Today everyone is talking about this document that Spain’s ABC newspaper wrote about in which reportedly a Communist Deputy that supports Chavismo wrote this highly critical article about the way the Venezuelan economy has been managed and proposes solutions to avoid what it calls “an economic atomic bomb”, which “has practically exploded”.
While I am sure the document is real and written by someone on the Chavista camp, I doubt very much that this person exerts any sort of influence over the Chavista leadership. Clearly, the author is well versed on economic matters, providing a good diagnoses of the situation, except that I don’t think the Chavista leadership would consider that this atomic bomb is already exploding. If that were the case, then all of the polls that have been telling us that Maduro is likely to win are all wrong and we would see some sort of desperation on Maduro’s part. (Although today’s attack by Maduro on pro-Chavismo Ultima Noticias was certainly peculiar)
But beyond that, the document seems to be inconsistent with the trends one sees in Chavismo under Maduro. Yes, Giordani seems to be on the way out, but it does not look, like the document suggests like Ramirez will give up any part of what is under his control. Nor do I believe that Ramirez or Maduro will like an “opening” to the Venezuelan bourgeois or “selective opening to foreign investment”.
Thus, I think this document comes from a Chavista economist, an idealist, who mixes up religion and state, who really believes the whole model is wrong, but who I think has little weight under a possible Maduro Government.
It is hard to write about what is going on down in Venezuela. Today was the last day for the publication of polls, and I have yet to see a single reputable poll where Capriles is even close. Strange, when Capriles faced Chavez in October, he would beat any Chavista handily, but now Chavez anointing Maduro gives him the lead. Must be that sympathy factor, but I feel it less and less.
On the other hand, I think that it must be really difficult to predict what will happen with abstention. Even the opposition has doubts about whether its hard core voters will show up on April 14th. My bet is that the opposition is more militant. The hardcore Chavista voters will go and vote, the hardcore opposition voters will also go, the question is what about the rest? Chavez is simply not involved this time around: Will PSUV manage to execute its magic this time around with the Sai Bab follower? Somehow I doubt it, but at the same time, I also doubt abstention will be sufficient to have Capriles win.
Not one of the pollsters predicted abstention below 20% last October. That made a huge difference. Now, I hear the opposite, that most pollsters are seeing less than 20% abstention. What is going on here? When Capriles was running against Chavez, abstention was measured at 25-27% in most reputable polls. Now Chavez, the ultimate vote getter, is not involved and people say they will go more than ever?
I just don’t believe it. That gives me some hope, but at the same time articles like the one in El Nacional today (page S1) telling us how PDVSA is organizing the get out the vote drive, make it difficult to be optimistic.
Hard to believe that PDVSA can’t get oil out of the ground, but can coordinate that every public worker will vote and vote for Maduro…But, of course they could care less about oil production, ballot stuffing is much more important.
I do hope there is a blackout on the 14th. to screw up their plan.
The problem is that they have many plans, like the discovery that the passwords for the BIOS of the machines were in the hands of two PSUV members. Irrelevant, but the Government played it well, as a way of discouraging opposition voters.
Spain’s El Pais says that today’s march was the biggest since 1999. I would love this to be true, however, I wonder what march they are referring to in 1999. That year, opposition marches were actually small, if not tiny. A headline saying since April 2002, would have been more accurate or significant.
Capriles did well today. His speech was believable, humorous, he was very confrontational, which seems to do well with the more radical opposition he avoided last year. I don’t think he will get the Chavista vote, but I don’t think that is the idea, as long as they stay home, he has a chance. The march had to be huge, I have never seen people march “vertically” like in this picture:
And I think lots of Chavistas will abstain. Maduro is a lightweight. Much less impressive than I ever thought. He has been trying the spiritual stuff, he even tried to curse us via the Macarapana curse, but I am not sure that plays well in the dense barrios of Venezuela’s largest cities, which is where the 2007 referendum was won.
But in the end, the curse may be on Maduro if he wins. He has to become radical on the economy to change things, but at the same time he has to watch his back over those who want to replace him within Chavez’ PSUV party. Not an easy path to take. Damn if you do it, damn if you don’t. Capriles’ job will be just as difficult, the difference being that he will start from scratch and review all policies from scratch, something Maduro is very unlikely to do.
The economic task is difficult, but not impossible, nor improbable. Cut or reduce Cuba off. Cut or reduce PetroCaribe off. Triple gas prices to go from free to free. Create a single exchange rate with bells and whistles and you might cut the black rate in half. Lower yields on debt and buyback stuff and reissue debt at cheaper rates. Reduce subsidies to non-functioning Government enterprises. Create checks and balances. Put corruption in check. Have everything go to international reserves by eliminating parallel funds. Don’t buy any weapons…
So easy to dream, so hard to envision it…
There is a second report of Chavez appearing in the form of an animal, as Bloomberg reports that the horse Revolutionary seen above winning the Louisiana Derby, may be the reincarnation of the Venezuelan President. The horse has raced three times, always ridden by a Venezuelan jockey (two different ones) and is one of the early favorites to win the Kentucky Derby.
In contrast with Maduro’s bird, which could have been born after March 5th., Revolutionary is a three year old horse and was actually winning races before the demise of the Venezuelan President, so that it is difficult to ascribe it as much veracity as to Maduro’s more realistic and believable apparition.
Of course, I am not that knowledgeable in terms of how this after life stuff works and whether the body and spirit are born at the same time or the spirit can pick and choose an already existing body to be carried in. But in any case, Revolutionary won its first two races before March 5th., so it seems as if Hugo may only have helped in the last race.
Fortunately, the horse will play no role on the election, as the Kentucky Derby takes place on May 4th. after the Venezuelan Presidential election.
(Video also here)
You can’t make this corny, stupid, silly stuff up. Interim President Maduro says that this morning he went to a small chapel made out of wood (Where? Made out of wood. Really Nicolas? He was also alone, praying, sure Nicolas, we believe you) and a little bird came in and chirped at him (Maduro repeats the sounds and everything) and he whistled back the same pretty chirp. And then comes the jump into the mystical, it was Chavez, he felt the spirit, blessing the campaign, yada yada yada…
Really, hard to make this stuff up. Hard to even think of saying such things.
Chigüire Bipolar gives up making jokes, says it is really hard to make things up after Maduro saying this.
It is really difficult not to get upset watching the lady above, Electoral Board President Tibisay Lucena, come on TV and with that impish grin begin pontificating to the parties and to the candidates to follow the rules and not violate them during the upcoming campaign.
Of course, Lucena said nothing about the military plan to help Chavismo’ party PSUV to get the vote out, which was leaked to candidate Capriles by the same military. She also selectively forgot to talk about the obligatory nationwide addresses by interim-President Maduro to the country during the last two weeks, which are certainly going to continue in the next two weeks. For God’s sake, she event talks about limitations in the number of text messages candidates can send, while the TV station of the “people” campaigns for Maduro 24×7.
And then she calls for “respect”. The same woman (she ain’t no lady in my book) who allowed so many violations of the same rules. Who has introduced rules into the electoral process to intimidate and delay and who time after time never dared fine Hugo Chávez (and now Maduro) for the continuous violations of the electoral rules.
This is the same self-proclaimed “impartial” President of the Electoral Board who showed up at Chávez funeral wearing an armband celebrating Chávez 1992 coup. She is not only partial, she is also indecent and abusive. As simple as that.
I don’t know if Chavismo will ever be unseated in my lifetime, but I do hope that if it ever happens, cynical human rights abusers like Tibisay Lucena are punished in some way. Something simple, something revolutionary and socialist, something she cares about, like suspending her upcoming pension for a job not done. Or having to chat every day with Cilia Flores for the rest of her life.
Lucena is one of those lowlifes of the revolution who backed into her position, lives splendidly off it and regularly abuses her power violating the rights of most Venezuelans, including those Chavistas who truly believe that if they don’t vote for Chavismo, lowlife Lucena will have her in one of her fascists lists.
And on April 15th. Jimmy Carter or one of his acolytes will come out and say what a wonderful job she did. I hope the election is really close, only to see Tibisay sweat and manipulate. I wonder if she will burn the Electoral Board papers. I am sure she will try.
I have been pondering about the new foreign exchange auction system SICAD since it was first discussed. Besides all of its weirdness, what I have had the toughest time dealing with is very simple:
Why the rush? Why the second price for the US dollar even if it is a State secret? Why before the election? Why take the risk? Why devote so much time to it?
It can’t be to get more Bolivars. It can’t be to lower the black rate. It can’t be to reduce shortages.
And now that one auction has taken place and Bolivars reportedly assigned to a range between Bs. 12.5 and Bs. 18 per US$, I am left with only one theory:
Someone sat down with Maduro and explained to him that what Giordani wanted was a sure path to self destruction and convinced Maduro to change the whole system and manage the economy differently. And this someone convinced him to start the process ASAP for the good of the economy he will have to manage if he wins. And he decided to be his own man, even if Giordani is still around.
Thus, I think we are in the face of a radical change on how the Government plans to manage the economy. Maduro may remain radical in his political speech, but the moves suggest he will be more pragmatic on economic matters. And the changes in CADIVI seem to confirm this, he switched two Chavez/Giordani guys for two 100% Merentes buddies. And we all know Merentes is more pragmatic and has been losing battle after battle with Giordani since 2010.
Which suggests that Giordani will be gone if Maduro wins, and hopefully someone better comes in.
I have to say this is a step in the right direction, maybe in a month the foreign exchange system will be unrecognizable.
Let’s hope I am right, it is the only explanation I can find for all the SICAD nuttiness and noise
El Mundo and financial sources are reporting that in the first SICAD auction, the average price at which the Government will sell foreign currency is over Bs. 10. Different sources say different numbers, but in the end they all say it is above Bs. 10. (EL Mundo says Bs. 12 to Bs. 15, I heave heard the average was Bs. 11)
I find this whole thing really puzzling. If I never understood why the Government wanted to make an issue of this, I now don’t understand why they rushed the whole thing to the point of holding the first auction today and announcing the results tomorrow. Chavismo has never been dumb about when to do things, so what is the rush?
I mean, when I left Caracas on Friday banks did not know how the whole thing would work and by Monday they had sufficient offers to hold the first auction?
Call me dumb, or call me puzzled.
If it is shortages, not one dollar assigned tomorrow will help anything arrive in Venezuela or be produced in Venezuela before the April 14th. election.
But, a second devaluation with a value of the currency above Bs. 10, essentially implying an almost doubling of the previous official exchange rate, simply makes no sense three weeks before the election.
Last week, El Mundo published an article quoting Datanalisis saying that the first devaluation on Feb. 8th. reduced the Government’s popularity by 20 percentage points by the beginning of March before Chávez died. Then, the popularity reportedly jumped back up when Chávez died, making things almost even. What this shows is that the topic of a devaluation is a sensitive one and now Capriles can charge Maduro with devaluing twice in 100 days and by a huge percentage.
The Government clearly gains nothing from giving this ammunition to the opposition. Economically, three weeks, including dead Easter week is such a short time, that waiting would have made no difference.
The only possible argument is that this is the result of some sort of internal struggle for control over economic policy, if true, I would hate to see what happens after April 14th. if Maduro wins, if these are the salvos, I don’t want to be around when they start shooting each other.
But in the end, this is very puzzling to me, I see no reason for this new devaluation at this time, it seems senseless, illogical, simply a puzzle…