Christmas in July

bread_n_circus_03Ladies and gentlemen, get your cedulas ready…

Its election season again!

Finally we can put off thinking about boring, structural issues that need urgent attention like the crumbling educational system, soaring inflation, human rights violations, institutional crises and other such whatnot, and once again embark on a six-month long bender of my drug of choice: the bloated orgy of distraction that is an electoral campaign. Yaaaaay!!

(Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if having elections every 3 months is part of a premeditated scheme to permanently divert our focus from what is really important…hmmmm.)

Anyways, back to the fun stuff.  First, the basics:

Municipal elections are to be held on December 8. Up for grabs are 335 Mayor’s offices and 2389 municipal council (concejal) posts. While the MUD will run candidates chosen through opposition primaries in 2012 on a unitary platform (more on that later), Chavismo has yet to determine what method they will use to pick their candidates.  Maduro said in a PSUV meeting that they are working on a “revolutionary process”  – revolutionary largely in that it won’t rely on Chávez’s index finger, I guess.

Capriles will be campaign manager for MUD candidates, and formal registration of candidacies is slated for August 8th.

Now, there’ll be plenty to say about these races and I’ll be posting about them a lot, to the detriment of other more pressing issues, and much to Tibisay’s delight. For now, though, lets focus on the opposition as an electoral force, and what the implications are.

A little over a month ago, the MUD officially announced its hopes to run on a Unity ballot. This would mean replicating the unprecedented, and successful, strategy that led the Mesa de Unidad ballot to be the most voted ballot card in Venezuelan history on April 14. All opposition parties threw their support behind a single candidacy, but also behind a single spot on the ballot, therefore foregoing the possibility of individually capitalizing on their respective votes.

So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? (cue the power-hungry jackasses that still don’t get it.)

The obvious pros for adopting a Unity ballot include the further coalescing of the Venezuelan opposition around a distinct symbol, an emblem of true political consonance, which lends continuity to the April 14 phenomenon. It also conveys the message that parties are putting the nation’s benefit before their particular interests, something that most partisan-weary opposition voters will welcome. In practical terms, a single ballot would also simplify and optimize campaign decisions such as message, image, and advertising costs, since all candidates would be operating under a single umbrella banner.

The arguments for not adopting a single ballot, but for instead supporting individual Unity candidates in each municipality through the party platform they each represent are mostly political, but the strategic case does also get made. People argue that Presidential and Municipal elections are fundamentally different, since the former results in a single national winner, while the latter obeys specific local demands that cannot be generalized.

Others claim that political competition stimulates a higher voter turnout, since party machineries will all have incentives to get their people to the polls (and isn’t a huge national voting margin the ultimate objective?) Finally, some point to deficiencies in the MUD charter, which did not provide adequate procedures to follow in case of freak occurrences, like a Primary winner dying – which actually happened in El Hatillo.

These valid points notwithstanding, the squabble unfortunately comes down to petty power brokering and disgruntled party leaderships (I will not mention names but the color orange comes to mind when I close my eyes and think really hard).

The opposition candidacies in dispute basically boil down to: El Hatillo and Baruta in Miranda State; Libertador in the capital district, San Cristobal in Táchira, and Maracaibo in Zulia. No biggie, just some of the largest cities in Venezuela.

Each one of these cases merits its own post, since they all obey specific political circumstances. But as a primer for discussion, I’ll throw out two considerations.

First, the only governorships the opposition obtained on Dec. 16 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) were won by candidates who did not participate in Primaries. And keep in mind said Primaries happened almost two years ago, a time during which the political map might have shifted significantly. A case could be made for favoring pragmatism over the people’s will.

Then again, if the MUD´s project is to bring about real change, and genuinely lead by example, what better way to go about it that to preserve its moral authority, respect its own institutions, and follow its own agreed-upon rules (which, by the way, allowed the opposition to get its shit together for the first time in 14 years)? That would be truly revolutionary.

73 thoughts on “Christmas in July

  1. “(Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if having elections every 3 months is part of a premeditated scheme to permanently divert our focus from what is really important…hmmmm.)”

    Emiliana, No that is not the reason.

    The reason is to convince people ( including the foreign press) that there is a possibility for the opposition to win, and that Venezuelans live in a democracy.

    And so far the tactic has worked, thanks to faulty logic.


    • Two birds with one single shot, the distraction helps too, now that the Snowden thingy (or name the story of the moment) is getting a bit old. Emiliana, kuddos for the photo haha it says it all. About unity, I think in principle it’s the best option, even though the point about political competition is super valid. The idea is to get as many votes as you can and harder to beat the one single ballot option regarding that.

      “Others claim that political competition stimulates a higher voter turnout, since party machineries will all have incentives to get their people to the polls (and isn’t a huge national voting margin the ultimate objective?) ” > Can they combine all those incentives in one jar? I don’t see what’s the argument in it. Think they way the Obama campaign unify all those movements together. Like for example “party x for unity”, see they still can have their individuality and personal propaganda but do only one ballot.


    • We feel” free” when we exercise the vote, even if it be just from the frying pan and into the fire.


    • Your question (“Can the PSUV afford bread and circuses?”), John Barnard, deserves a direct and honest answer.

      I don’t know. But let me take you on a meandering path. I have wondered about the marketing changes in the external thrusts of the Revolution, not just from Venezuela’s officialdom, but also from Cuba’s (the latter seeking invesments from Cuban-Americans in Miami #FacePalm).

      Gone are the days that the Revolution marketed its nirvana to foreign, starry-eyed students (“Come stay at the 23 de enero!”), not yet faced with the burdens of reality. Now the Revolution seems to be marketed to those with a certain amount of disposable income. Witness the recent Ccs-is-open-for-tourism article in the NY Daily News.

      Assuming at the very least, that travel safety had been implemented, the cash flows from this new tourism initiative, would be admirable in a transparent government, where you knew that the cash influx would be applied to, say infrastructure.

      But I think that the cash is needed for bread and circuses, ahead of elections, as this government’s way to legitimize its authoritarianism.

      N.B. Will that stop me from attempting to exercise my civic rights, as diminished as they may be. No.

      I hope that answers your question — somewhat.


      • WTF do you know about Venezuela and “authoritarianism? You live in the good ole USA.

        And yes, the whole of Venezuela is open to tourism, not just CCS – but I guess no one willl want to come to visit a “communist dictatorship” – correct, syd? jajajaja…………


        • I suppose in that sense Iraq during the peak of sectarian violence was also “open to tourism!”

          And yes, US citizens do know something about authoritarianism. Here when the government spies on its citizens according to the laws for non political ends it gets discussed by lawmakers, when the fascist government in Venezuela illegally spies on its citizens for political ends there is no official discussion of it. Nice of you to implicitly remind us of that.


        • Arturo: Try Dr. Scholl’s for your throbbing red corns.
          And no, in spite of your multiple attempts to peg my location to (a) Australia, and (b) California, I don’t live in either of those locations. Try again, dunce.


        • Nobody wants to visit a place where the kidnapping and murder rates are in the global top 10, dunce. No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo.


    • Explain how we have “mocked” democracy? Could it be because the results do not match your political outlook?


      • By saying that campaigns are circuses, we are constantly diminishing them! No matter the outcomes, it only stresses the centuries-old fear of “unreasonable masses”, which is, to a democrat, preposterous. A “circus” is a distraction, is democracy one? While I won’t say that political campaigning is all that politics can give, I take offence in that trite trope.


        • Unfortunately in todays world many democracies, whatever their noble abstract objectives do operate as circuses , worse , as a competitive blood sports, maybe part of the ‘civilizacion del espectaculo’ that Vargas Llosa writes about. Maybe we expect too much from democracy , Someone recently defined it simply as a way of settling collective disputes without going to war , We have deified democracy , failed to see its limits which are that it depends on the capacity and knowledge of ordinary poorly educated people, on easily duped and rethorically manipulated people to judge on complex economic and managerial issues which they dont understand . The operation of Democracy depends on procedures and customs which are easily corrupted and manipulated and which can lead to disastrous results . Its a common superstition to believe that ancient greeks celebrated democracy , they did not , they were too wise for that . Today we have made belief in the limited virtues of abstract democracy into a cult . Rather than talk about democracy today we must talk about Demolatry , the idolatry of mayority rule which by the way is often inimical to the values of personal freedom, there is such a thing as the tyranny of the masses ( Tocqueville?) or ochlocracy ( Arendt) . Sadly for the most part the masses can be not only irrational but foolish , the history is full of evidence for this belief. .


  2. altough the miranda, lara and amazonas governors were elected without participating first in the primaries, also the governors of carabobo, zulia, margarita and tachira didn’t participated in the primaries and lost their possitions in december, those were big demoralizing defeats for the opposition, I think that it had to do with the fact that the central goverment strangled them financially and they were unable to be creative enough to make things work or intelligent enough to step aside and make way for new leadership, I think there should be primaries where the consensus candidacy is under serious challenge so we don’t repeat the valencia fiasco of 4 years ago when the chavista won with less than 50% only because 2 opposition candidates didn’t agree. No way alcaparra can beat a united opposition in Valencia this time by the way, he sucks


    • I don’t know if central government did not send them funds but by law they are obliged to do so.

      In the case of Carabobo el Pollo is being accused of stealing 19,000,000,000 bolívares fuertes and he is currently in Florida refusing to return to face the misic.

      No wonder he could not carry out any projects if the money vanished from the public sector into his private banka ccount.


      • Dick Cheney Version of Arturo: “Snowden is accused of accepting money from Russia and China to hand them secret information. He is currently in Russia refusing to return and face the music.”


      • Well, we see very often in Venezuela that what is written in the law and it´s execution usually are two different things, I really don’t now if he stole the money or didn’t receive it, I only know that his last 4 years were awful for Carabobo and that he got some of his most important responsabilities taken away by the central goverment few months after getting into office in another example of chavista malcriadeza, the highway, airport, port and the central hospital, all of wich were badly manage by caracas, and since I trust very little in the chavista leaders, I think it is more likely that Salas Feo was financially castrated like Ledezma, altough even with the little things he had to manage he seems like he did very poorly and I know that the Salas are not niños de pecho


  3. Caracas Chronicles prediction for the municipal elections, some one asked? Since there has been no reply or guess from the oppo bloggers let me venture to say that the oficialismo “won” 71% of muncipalities in the presidntial vote on April 14th.

    Little does it matter how many votes the opposition polled in the presidential elections. The turnout of voters is always much lower in these elections as it is in elections for state governors.

    I expect the oficialismo to win between 255 – 260 alcaldías mainly becasuse the PSUV and GPP will be better organized on a local level. So in percentage terms between 76% – 78%.

    The reason I say this is because in the presidential elections the PSUV only polled about 150,000 votes fewer on April 14th than on October 6th 2012. Therefore the decline in the vote came from voters who normally vote for other parties such as PPT, Podemos, Communist Perty, etc.

    With the GPP being relaunched and reunified recently the oficialismo is already taking steps to recify this voting weakness.

    Cpariles want to make these elections are sort of plebiscite but with voter numbers at best being 60% he will be hard pressed to draw any conclusions on the results nationally.

    All good fun for people like Emiliana who run around in circles incapable of understanding that this is participatory democracy as stated in the Preamble to the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, which I asume she has at least leafed through.

    I am certain that if there were fewer elections, she would write that this is a totalitarian rrrrrrrrregimen! :-)

    Simple, isn’t it?


      • I second it. He’s working extra hard this evening. The Cubans are breathing down his neck, after Kaminer’s article produced NO bites from New York tourists to Caracas. Cash influx for upcoming elections urgently needed. Meanwhile, any hope of roping in folks like Weisbrot to pump up the regime? Damn that Snowden! He’s been getting airtime at Maduro’s expense. Or is it a case of dwindling funds for tarifado writers?


      • Yes, Quico. The fact that you have to insult me indicates that you know I am probably going to ne correct in my forecast. You cannot make a forecast because:

        a) you would look mal parado agreeing with me

        b) you know that the opposition is gonna get an electoral hiding on December 8th.

        One day you might get something correct after almost 11 years of CC.


        • Forecasts are a dime a dozen and can be procured with results to sattisfy any taste , they also say nothing about how electoral mayorities are sometimes procured which is also an important topic. ( the cost to the country of Chavez 2012 electoral victory is the disastrous situation we face today ) Just look at all the forecasts favourable to Maduro made before the April election and how they miserably failed to predict the final result !!
          From reading some of the blogs it seems as if the reason for building homes for the homeless is to win the next election not to sattisfy a basic human need of a large part of Venezuelas population . If it was so important why have they waited 14 years to pay it any attention , why did they neglect to pay it any attention before the recent elections The answer is simple , because all thats important for the regime is winning elections to gain and consolidate their absolute hold on power nothing else . Pdvsa is about to go under , and is desperately seeking for ways of getting foreign oil companies to rescue them , the result of 12 years of gross mismanagement and now its going to build hundreds of thousand of habitable homes in a couple of months , The notions defies belief . Why dont they just try to keep the refining operations producing the gazoline that the country needs avoiding the tremendous cost of having to buy 196 m bls a day from US Refineries to supply domestic demand . ,


    • Right. Because I´m sure the decision to spread out elections over 3 month increments instead of having them all on the one date they are supposed to happen- not only cost-effective but also constitutionally mandated (Concejales have spent 5 years over their term limits in office, their elections should have been in 2010, and municipal elections should’ve occurred along with regional elections in dec 2012 so that mayors spent the constitutionally allotted time in office )- obeys Participatory Democracy considerations and not a self-serving agenda instead. Or better yet, its probably just mere coincidence.


      • Elections are being spread because the campaigns are supporting the economy of the country. I wonder how many people actually depend on politics for a living or just to make both ends meet at the end of the year. I know a few… Also, elections are popular among workers, who in Venezuela doesn’t like a couple of days off?


        • interesting perspective. I had not considered that (the campaigns are supporting the economy). It tells you how deplorable is the state of that economy, if it needs to depend on election paraphernalila. I suspect, too, that spreading the elections extends the impression that the country is energized and doing well, economically.


          • Building hundreds of thousands of new homes is the true energizer.

            Nationwide scope. Tens of thousands of jobs. Millions of new customers for small businesses. High production of materials. Transport jobs, planning jobs, training jobs, carpentry, plumbing, brickwork, electrical, landscaping…


            • Ah yes,the Iberian model. If it’s one the thing the eurocrisis has shown us, its that if you engage in a debt fuelled brick and mortar binge as a means to develop an economy, it will come back to bite you in the ass. Have you checked the unemployment rate in Spain as of late?


              • Difference being that Venezuela builds houses to live, while Spain built apartments to speculate on. Occupied houses create communities, empty holiday homes create ghost towns.


              • Difference being Spanish construction actualy tried to turn a profit, whereas “social” construction in Venezuela is a means for enchufados to siphon off funds from the (grossly over inflated) budgets and to bleed the central bank dry via the myriad different CADIVI guisos involved in the import of construction raw materials (you know, cement, iron re-bar, and all the other products Venezuela used to export before you nincompoops nationalized and destroyed our basic materials industry?). Come at me bro, I can keep going all day.


              • Yes, the Spanish building frenzy was a massive speculative bubble. For profit, not for human beings.

                The Venezuelan frenzy is a mission to offer every citizen a proper home. Before the 2018 election nobody will have to live in a rancho.

                Bet you don’t think that’s a positive thing, though.


              • And where exactly do you think the managerial capacity and/or financing to pull off this grand scheme of yours is going to come from?


              • We’re already a quarter way there (400.000 viviendas hasta la fecha). So, no new talent needed. The funds are guaranteed, don’t worry about that…


              • “We’re already a quarter way there (400.000 viviendas hasta la fecha). So, no new talent needed. The funds are guaranteed, don’t worry about that”

                Haha. Ok. Let’s set aside the fact that Chavismo has a 14-year track record of managing/executing public works with the grace and efficiciency of a walrus on a treadmill, and instead focus on the financing:

                In ’99 PDVSA’s debt has was 6,000 MMUSD. Now, it’s 40,025 MM USD (+567%).

                In ’99, Venezuela’s external debt was 30,910 MM USD. Now we are at 104,481 MM USD (+230%).

                (the above two despite the fact that WTI has gone from $11/barrel to $100 in aforementioned period).

                And lest we forget, Venezuela’s savings acct. just took a 17-18% haircut following Chavez’ brilliant decision to sell off USD holdings and put 70% of Venezuela’s foreign reserves in gold; which has fallen 25% this year (smart!).

                Your bread and circus act is neither cheap nor sustainable, and you are assholes for mortgaging off our country in order to stay in power.


              • 400,000, if that is a real number verifiable by outside sources, i.e., non-governmental figures.

                And how long did it take to approach that number? 14 years?

                If you want to try and convince me that 400,000 is a relatively new number over the last xx months, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to try much, much harder. I think, in the past 18 months, 40,000 would be an exceptional number for the government to achieve considering the shortages in construction materials.


          • Elections have destroyed the economy because in order to win them the regime has adopted disastrous financial and economic policies and falsified and manipulated information to help them win the favour of their partisans with hand outs and subsidies . Appearances are all important so they must disguise or mask their mistakes letting them fester . Perhaps maduro having inherited a bankrupt economy is now being forced to some semi rational measures just to keep things rolling until the december election although no one knows whether in fact he will be able to pull these measures through This form of acting , comes from the past and is called populism and it leads to irresponsible government and ultimately to disaster. !! Third world Democracy by making pols dependent on popularity on the cheap makes for irresponsible governments, government which cant take unpopular measures no matter how necessary they are!!


            • “We’re already a quarter way there (400.000 viviendas hasta la fecha). So, no new talent needed. The funds are guaranteed, don’t worry about that…” Were have Ive read that before…


  4. yoyo – a couple of weeks ago I was in Maracay and there are thousands upon thousands of homes being built for the refugiados (very few left now) and for the por. This is such qa great acheovement and should ensure political victories for years to come.

    BTW – the aim is 3,000,000 homes by 2019 so we are now yer one quarter of the way there. But we will get there.

    Go to Av. Solano near Sabana Grande and there you have some really nice apartments and also in Los Chaguaramos.

    It’s like the train from La Rinconada to Cúa – for the opposition, don’t mention it and it does not exist.

    U always watch jueves de vivienda.


    • yoyo: “We’re already a quarter way there…”
      Arturo:”…we are now yer (sic) one quarter of the way there.”

      A couple more PSF’s chiming in, and we’ll have an a capella group singing the key sell phrases of Jueves de Vivienda.

      Arturo, since you give the impression of being a key part of the planning for the homes, can you divulge more specific numbers than the promotional “thousands upon thousands of homes being built for the refugiados” in Maracay)? Can you tell us at what stage, exactly, is the development of these homes? How many have been built in Maracay? How long was the construction cycle? If there have been several construction tranches, what are the dates of delivery of how many homes in each? What building standards have been used to create these homes? Has the construction used national production of cabillas and cement? Have recipients been given title deed?

      Clearly, Jueves de Vivienda is your and yoyo’s orgasm. Just know, that some readers on this blog who are not poets, need many more quantitative details than what an official promo show is willing to divulge.

      Your answers to any of the above questions would be very appreciated.


      • Great questions Syd.
        I was initially impressed with the sheer numbers of Chavishacks I saw going up near Juan Griego this February. From one cluster to the next they were in various stages on construction and some already occupied as you would expect.
        A couple of things I discovered, first they were all missing their electrical meters – with exposed meter sockets and crude jumpers making the connection. (Probably still safer than 90% of the electrical connections I saw in Venezuela, but…).
        One of the labourers (a Chavista) at our friend’s posada took us for a drive while our friend drove all around Margarita looking for a bag of concrete to finish a job they had going. He said some of them have been waiting for electrical meters on Margarita for years and it’s like that for all materials.
        And secondly, for the two weeks I was there I never saw work being done on any of them. And that was the two weeks before Chavez officially died, not over the holidays after. Rows and rows of slabs poured, hence no concrete to be had. Bigger private contractors can’t get it bulk anymore so they suck up all the bagged concrete the smaller guys typically use.
        I was planning to surprise my friend by finishing up a wiring job someone had roughed in wrong. I had to pull another wire into the pipe and add a green ground wire to ground a receptacle safely. At the supply store (I shit you not here) when I asked for green wire the answer was “No señor, sólo tenemos cable rojo.” Reminded me of the old joke about Ladas being available in any colour as long as it’s red.
        And yes, I will work for free accommodations near the beach. You supply materials and I drink Tovar down there.


        • My friend found one bag of cement but it was conveniently “reserved” until he offered four times the regular price for it.


        • In fields of spacey political poetry, I welcome practical observations from commenters such as yourself, Muzito, as well as from NET, billl bass, and recent addition, contango.


          • There are others who have their finger directly on the pulse of what’s going on, but I don’t wish to mention all without highlighting the puerile opposite — on both sides of the political spectrum.


  5. (Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if having elections every 3 months is part of a premeditated scheme to permanently divert our focus from what is really important…hmmmm.)

    really Emi, premeditated scheme! wow now that is revolutionay thought!.
    Love your prose BTW.

    Have you “friended” snowden yet on FB?


  6. Speaking of construction, i have a chisme! Did you guys now that the budget for Ciudad Caribia (housing project on CCS/La Guaira highway) was stolen TWICE, by the same enchufado contractor? They have now given the guiso to a (less ambitious) contractor, and construction has finally resumed at a reasonable pace (third time lucky, right?).


Comments are closed.