Ten years of funk

Avenida Jimmy Carter

Avenida Jimmy Carter

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the day the opposition lost its groove.

On August 15th, 2004, a recall referendum on Hugo Chávez’s rule was held. The referendum came on the heels of massive protests, numerous roadblocks, and a populist spending binge that marked the chavista approach to governance until this day. After numerous hours of delay, Francisco Carrasquero, then head of the CNE, came on TV early in the morning of August 16th and announced a massive win for Chávez.

The opposition was blind-sided. Months earlier, opinion polls were showing the government was in deep trouble, something Chávez himself later admitted. This prompted a toxic combination: a delay in the election prompted by numerous roadblocks (remember the reafirmazo?), coupled with a populist spending binge that saw the creation of the Misiones. The opposition didn’t realize (or, perhaps, didn’t want to realize) that the winds had changed agasint it, and the poll lines had crossed weeks before the referendum.

The results effectively divided the opposition into two camps: those that thought the government had stolen the election outright, and those that thought we had lost, not fair and square, but lost nonetheless.

Months of discussion followed the result. As the opposition came to realize that the institutions could no longer be fully trusted, they swayed between participating and abstaining, between acknowledging a simple political logic or looking to prove fraud using “black swans” and the like. The deliberate, masterful blurring of reality on the part of chavista authorities has created a funk that we still can’t snap out of. Is it too far-fetched to say that the current division in the opposition was born exactly ten years ago?

Many things died that day, but one thing was born. While I was researching the events for the Caracas Chronicles book, I concluded that was the day this blog really came onto its own.

Initially, we believed the stories of fraud, but as the days went by, we realized this was a lost cause. We began to notice that we were grasping at straws, and that not accepting the truth of what had happened was akin to complicity in something perverse. That made us pariahs to many of our readers, but I’m proud that we allowed our thinking on this issue to evolve into some sort of rejection of group-think.

What were we like on August 14th of 2004? What were we like on August 16th?

What a day…

30 thoughts on “Ten years of funk

  1. I was close and personal with the events and some players of THE day.

    Personally I was manning a poll, as testigo electoral, but at the time I was a volunteer for Sumate, and very close to the events of the day….

    Agree with the statement that something broke that day for the opposition alright. It was a day when fair elections were known to have been stolen, and many refused to act to defend results to the last circumstance. It was the day Chavisvo knew it could step over Venezuelans and that nothing would stop it for a while.

    We are now, ten years laters, witnessing how the chavista monster continues its bully ride, and expectants to when it will run out of steam.

    regretfully, in the interim, it has eroded whatever foundations there were before for civility and democracy, and its aftermaths will have grave impact in what is left of the nation when the party stops.

    NOTE I am not deliberately stating previous elections were clean or not. The style of fraud in adecopeyanos times was different and in accord to the electoral system and technologies of the time. The great novelty of the AUG15 2004 was that a new player had gained control of the sarten por el mango, and we all let it play its hand.

    La gran tragedia , entre tantas, de venezuela, es que los adecopeyanos pensaron, bueno chico, esperamos 5 anitos mas y todo vuelve a la normalidad…. siguen esperando, y siguen jugando agachados en espera les vuelva a tocar.

    Pobre pais.

    In a good snese though, that day triggered innumerable stories, like ours, and many other new-to-be migrants, that now call home somewhere else. This diaspora and this exile will eventually rescue and recover venezuela one likes to think.

    Saludos a todos, me preparo a leer lo que espero sera un post de antologia!


    • Tienes razón, ese día decidí que me largaba de una vez por todas… 1) Si de verdad perdimos: es muy triste cuando un país no para semejante locura cuando tiene una oportunidad de oro. 2) Y si nos hicieron fraude?: peor aún, nos robaron (cosa que yo pongo en duda) y nos quedamos así…tranquilazos pues! Tipo Capriles en Abril 2013….Aquí (allá! Después de tanto tiempo todavía hablo como si estuviera allí) el que gana no cobra.
      De verdad crees que Venezuela puede recuperarse? yo lo dudo. Nuestro país se murió…mejor dicho: A Venezuela la mataron, acabaron con ella y crearon la república bolivariana en donde el chavo-madurismo te da una buena idea de la (in)capacidad de los malandros estos para manejar ese país que está en donde quedaba Venezuela.

      Un muy triste décimo aniversario


    • But we just need to have this SUPER MAJORITY and magic will happen and we won’t have to watch fucking Tibisay Lucena and her damn “irreversible tendence”.

      Just ask Capriles. Or some of his fans on this blog.


      • Or ask me, not a fan of Capriles but of the SUPERMAJORITY.
        To have a SUPERMAJORITY first some magic needs to happen. That is the hard part: to convince people not to support the group that has the money and the power, the one that can give them the crumbs they need to survive.

        After that first magic happens there are no guarantees but yes more magic needs to happen. With the supermajority then real pressure can be put on the government at many different levels, to change the CNE, to eliminate capatahuellas, even to eliminate the automated voting, to audit 100% of the vote, to close voting at 5 o’clock. Heck with a supermajority even if those things were not agreed beforehand, they can happen on election day with some ‘cooperation’ from the people involved in the centers. That is just an example of how that supermajority magic can make Tibi superfluous.


        • “… some magic needs to happen”
          Every chavista losing a relative in front of him/her, shot in the face by a malandro, then seeing a recording of gabriela ramírez saying it was all a sensation.

          …And I think even then, some of those blockheads won’t change their mind, they hate us way more than they love themselves or their families.


    • And there’s still some people in the opposition thinking that the corpse got his “massive win” on the back of a bunch of idiotic asslickers who would sell their souls for an arepa muzzle.


    • Having read a number of statistical analyses of the Recall Referendum, I suspect there was some fraud.


    • Todavía nadie ha explicado razonablemente por qué se extendió injustificadamente el cierre del proceso de votación que era en apariencia tan sencillo como un “SI” o un “NO”. Tan grande fue el abuso que a la una de la mañana del 16 de agosto permanecían gentes votando. Las máquinas capta huellas fue tan solo una maniobra de distracción y retraso dentro de toda la parafernalia montada por Rodríguez, Carrasquero y su combo de farsantes, y que comenzó con el desconocimiento de las firmas y otras payasadas más.


  2. “… looking to prove fraud using “black swans” and the like”.

    One does not “prove fraud” with black swans, one *disproves the lack of fraud*. Not the same thing.

    Today, then, also marks the tenth anniversary of something else regarding evolution and rejection of group-think…


  3. In terms of the govts popularity of 10 years ago …’weve come a long way baby’. and as each month passes the erosion is more marked and noticiable. !!


      • According to many opposition folks, precisely every single one of those who think the corpse won fairly and magically got a majority that day, the regime just needs to launch another mission in a cadena and they’ll get their asslickers back.


  4. Legitimacy is now based on the mayority vote principle ( that may change) , there are lots of ways in which a delinquent regime may retain an artificial fachade of legitimacy and yet….while nothing is guaranteed or certain , the lower the popularity of the regime the more vulnerable it becomes !! This is why the regime is more than ever committed to using methods of covert or overt coercion to maintain its hold on power and why it is so shy of acting on those announcements of new measures to bring some semblance of balance to the country’s finances . it fears those measures might deal a death blow to its popularity thus exposing it to political perils of all kinds . Overal,l the regimes hold on power appears to be vise like strong ,worse that simply status quo , but there is no doubt that its popularity is descending precipitously , whatever ( if any) consequences may flow from such fact. Every strategy is a roll of the dice , but the chances are that all things being equal a lower popularity is not going to be favourable to govts intent of holding on to power indefinitely . Time will tell .!


  5. > … or looking to prove fraud using “black swans” and the like.

    That’s a very dismissive, flippant comment if I ever saw one, especially as an important peer reviewed journal such as Statistical Science has dedicated so much space to publish the work of numerous authors who have expended an immense effort to analyze and document the strange patterns exhibited during this referendum. Aside, the personnel purges, the firmas planas dirty trick, firmazo, reafirmazo, making up of the Tascón list and other goings-on at the all-Chavista CNE that all of us observed for over a year before and after the actual recall referendum, and maybe the most significant feature of all, which was the extraordinarily high voter participation, the likes of which we may never see again.

    What an unfortunate way to sum all that up with “black swans and the like”.


    • Yeah, you’re not going to bait us into having this discussion again. It’s been ten years. Those black swans have long since flown away.


      • My point exactly, 10 years from now you’ll still be group-thinking that there is no difference between “not guilty” and innocent…


      • The goings on at the CNE from 2002-2004 allowed (some of) us to finally fit the pieces together and see what we were really up against and that elections (and a little help from his pals at the TSJ) had become Hugo Chávez’s “democratic” tool to perpetuate himself in power.

        Ten years after this “referendum” the fate of Venezuela is a foregone conclusion. Three cheers for all those who think voting is going to get us out of this mess.


  6. “…they swayed between participating and abstaining, between acknowledging a simple political logic or looking to prove fraud using “black swans” and the like.”
    You mean like the assembly election in 2005 that proved that hardcore chavismo (Those who wholeheartedly agree on destroying Venezuela and giving the remains to cuba and China) was less than 20%.
    And then power point borges was the first to say “That doesn’t matter! Even if only one person voted, don’t anybody dare to call chavismo a minority!”
    Yeah, more like “They let the swan fly and then vaporized it from the sky with a rocket launcher…”


    • Well, when most of your population is massively ignorant* thanks to politicians that LOVE to talk about the “pueblo” but only go there to beg for votes**, combined with massive gerrymandering and a disgusting use of public funds to buy votes, the magical super majority won’t win elections without people with the will to fight to make the results of said elections get respected***.

      *An example, watching some videos of Julio Coco from a month or so ago, he said that 3 weeks before that assembly, he found a guy on one of those PDVSA mining towns that didn’t know that Leopoldo López was on jail. That’s not an isolated case.

      **See: Every PJ rally ever. For all the talk about Machado, López and Ledezma for their initiatives this year, what’s more condescending than believing that the way to get votes from the poor is to buy them?

      ***The San Cristóbal elections are the biggest example of that. I always pictured this thing descending even more on a nasty 4th generation war, which is the way that people without guns fight those with guns, simply because I don’t see it ending otherwise.


  7. The CNE was going to run an electoral process. To prevent fraud, certain procedural agreements were reached. The day of the process came, and nearly all agreements were breached, which led to assumptions of fraud. To gather evidence of fraud, the accusers needed cooperation –you guessed it– by the accused. The accused did not cooperate. The accused claimed: All aspects of the process were fraudless.

    With all means for finding evidence blocked, the accusers were left with the single option of looking for traces of fraud, not evidence. Hausman came up with an genius method. To explain it to laymen, he used an analogy of swans. The analogy starts with someone claiming that all swans are white. Finding a single black swan, the claim that all white swans are white could no longer be claimed. This basic, perhaps naive, yet very basic logic is the one JCN is dismissing.

    Hausman’s method involved correlating the noise of two sets of data. Since data noise is random, there can be no correlation between two sets of data noise. Hausman found such a correlation between two sets of electoral data noise, which is an exception to the claim that all aspects of the process were fraudless, a black swan to the claim that all swans are white.

    JCN believes that attempts to discuss these basic principles is an attempt to “bait” him. Hausman was not looking for proof of fraud; statistics isn’t evidence. Hausman was only looking for smoke to see if it even made sense to look for fire. What Hausman found is clear signs of smoke. What we see from JCN is a pataleta, because what JCN truly wants is evidence of fire, but then gets angry at Hausman for merely sounding a smoke alarm. lol It’s been ten years and it seems he still doesn’t get it.


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