What happened last night


So all the buzz after last night’s debate went to María Corina Machado and Diego Arria, candidates who, paradoxically, are trailing way behind in the polls. It’s no surprise: anyone who’s followed gringo nomination races with any interest could’ve seen it coming. (And I do apologize in advance for borrowing heavily from gringo-inspired tropes in what follows. I’m doing so for a reason.)

‘Mercuns have had enough experience with the dynamics of primary elections for their conventional wisdom to congeal around realizations that Venezuelans only started to come to last night. So I think the hackneyed old clichés of gringo stump reporting count as insightful analysis when applied to last night’s first-in-28-years presidential debate.

Specifically, ‘mercuns know you win a primary by playing to your core base of supporters. But you win a general election by playing to the political center. The trick is to appeal to your primary voters without striking stances so far out of the mainstream that you alienate the median voter.

Venezuela went into last night’s debate with an anomaly: the three most plausible candidates – the Centrist Three – all decided to skip the whole Playing-to-the-Base bit and jumped directly into a General Election style, median voter-centered campaign. That’s why Pablo Pérez and Henrique Capriles so often sounded so much alike – theirs are median voter-centered strategies. Leopoldo López, in his own way, did so too – eschewing the kinds of radical postures the Globo-roots opposition craves in favor of a message geared at seducing Ni Nis.

The problem, of course, is that los rusos también juegan. The kind of positioning PP, HCR and LL went for left them badly exposed on the right. It’s only natural that candidates who’ve struggled in the polls would seek to fill that space, since there are still millions of angry middle class Venezuelans who badly want a candidate to not just win but to stick it to Chávez as well. So it’s no surprise at all that so much of the post-debate buzz went to the Right Wing Two: the two candidates who just can’t afford to ignore the base and jump into General Election mode right away.

Personally, I always thought that María Corina Machado had big potential to rally middle class voters with a discourse that turned up the rhetorical heat on Chávez a notch. Not surprisingly, that was exactly what she set out to do last night, and she did it well.

The problem for her is the other guy – Diego Arria – who stole much of MCM’s fire by simply outflanking her on the right. Now, let’s be clear: Arria is not a plausible candidate, either for the primaries nor for the general election. The point is, he knows that. He’s in this to make a point, to raise a voice, not to win votes. And that frees him to strike the kind of radically anti-Chávez pose (we’re going to send him to The Hague!) that the radical right wing opposition desperately craves.

So Diego Arria is a problem particularly for María Corina Machado. She needed a clear run on the right of the field. But with Diego Arria up there, it’s looking mighty crowded on the right. Trying to out-radical Arria for the right-wing vote is just a losing game for MCM – a kind of rabbit-hole her candidacy could disappear into never to be heard from again. But even if Arria takes up just a quarter or a third of the hard-right vote, that’s probably enough to doom MCM’s chances.

Which brings us back to the Centrist Three. HCR won that battle for the simple reason that he didn’t make any big mistakes. His rhetorical skills are certainly limited, but he deployed what he has reasonably effectively. He stayed ruthlessly on message and never strayed – and when you’re ahead by many many points in the race, you count that as a win.

More puzzling was Pablo Pérez, who had a message that was in many ways indistinguishable from Capriles’s. He too stressed his experience running a big state, he too struck tones of reconciliation and unity and dialogue again and again. Pérez gets a big psychological boost from just his sheer physical size – he’s a big guy with a big presence and considering that we’re all just highly evolved Primates, that kind of primal monkey psychology does play a role. But the fact remains, he’s at least 20-25 points behind in the polls. He needs to distinguish himself from the other guy. He just didn’t do that effectively last night. So I don’t think he did himself any favors there.

Finally there’s LL, whose delivery I found underwhelming or, at least, well below the very high expectations he’d created around his pico de oro. There’s something weirdly abstract, distant about his whole La Mejor Venezuela framing – something too obviously hatched by some advertising exec. Even though his answers were often substantive and very smart – his warning on the pitfalls of a Mexican style drug war and his advocacy of Cash Transfers for Schoolchildren’s moms were special favorites for me – it was easy to get the sense it was a robot delivering the lines. And, again, considering he’s just not the front-runner, he really failed at explaining to us why he’s different than HCR and PP, why we should vote for him and not for them.

We’ve discussed a lot in this blog about the way the opposition’s Unity Fetish makes that kind of differentiation tricky to pull off, especially for the Centrist Three. But that in itself is a dynamic that’s uniquely convenient to HCR – with his most plausible competitors scared to death of attacking him, why shouldn’t the guy just coast?

Which is why, in a tactical sense, I do think he won the debate. Because what we really learned last night is that the Right won’t just automatically congeal around one candidate, and the Center has structural impediments to making a strong case against him. And that leaves him, I think, in a very comfortable place in the race.

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        • I don’t know. I just saw a bunch of hacks saying a bunch of obvious, silly, unimaginative, repeated-a-million-times-by-any-candidate-ever phrases: I will rescue Venezuela, I will be a father to Venezuela, I love Venezuela, I believe in our people, etc.
          It sounded much like bank ads (except for Arria, yes: without any chance whatsoever, he managed to get talked about. He exists now, which wasn’t true before the debate. He won’t do anything, but he’s a figure now).
          Makes me want to puke. I understand no one’s going to burn his/her hands by thrashing the almost unanimously dreaded Cuarta República, but for the love of Christ, say SOMETHING!

  1. Oh you guys some time are extremely enlightened! Kudos!

    I was thinking the same about the problem about they taking distance from each other. I, of course, tend to compare this kind of debates to the republicans debates or the 2008 presidential debates and when you do that, you realize that this was not actually a debate. And I can understand the “Unity Fetish” but then again if neither PP or LL take actions, they will stock and they will not win this thing. Again, this primary is for Capriles to lose.

  2. I think Leopoldo López will improve in the next debate. He needs to be able to combine his policywonkismo with the charisma and capacidad de convencimiento that we know he has. He was just kind of nervous… I think because he is used to campaign settings that are very staged, very planified, and that was not the case. We have to remember that HCR won a governor campaign against Diosdado Cabello… he has done real campaigns, and won them. The big winner in this debate was María Corina. She didn’t sound crazy at all, at least to people like me who usually think she is nuts and wonder why she is in the race at all. We know she has no chance, but she has a role in the race. Pablo Pérez, we can say that for sure se le vieron las costuras del neo-adequismo, con eso de padre de todos los venezolanos, etc. In any case, I think Maria Corina was the big winner. Capriles needs to be more concrete about his proposals. They all need to start smiling way more… too many frowned faces. I agree that PP needs to differentiate from HCR. And Leopoldo needs to blink. He doesn’t blink!!! Also, I could tell that Leopoldo and Maria Corina were the ones that practiced the most, because of how concrete they were in their proposals. However, since their poll numbers aren’t excellents, they also needed to do really well. MCM did, LL didn’t. In any case, last night was a great night for the Alternativa Democrática. And next debate has to be a real debate, not a succession of mini-monologues.

  3. Interesting thought.

    Now, Francisco: I know you have tried to get hold of some hard data to determine income distribution in Venezuela to try to have a better picture of class demographics.
    We know how fluid income can be in Venezuela. As we know, that kind of information is extremely difficult to find in our country.

    Still: what is your most educated guess about what constitute that “middle class”? (I suppose as in “middle class for a generation or more…the PDVSA employees of today and the middle class state employees are definitely not part of an oppo base)

    • Not sure about that, both my parents work for state owned companies and very f ewof their co-workers are Chavistas. Also, from what I’ve seen there’s a general discontent among a great part of middle class state employees because of the infinite problems stemming from higher-ups being corrupt pieces of shit, so that’ll definitely influence their vote.

    • This is a valid point, and one that defies our understanding of the Venezuelan Middle Classes: those who have benefited form chavismo are, mostly, middle class (up and coming “boliburgueses”; a great layer of public employees, etc.; and as such, their support was crucial from 2000 until (the oil-riches infused) 2006, as this LASA paper (and later poli sci joutnal demonstrates), and that chavismo has failed to mobilise the poorest voters.


      This can even be hinted at by Ms. Dorothy Kronick’s maps (where you can see the way each circuito voted). It might be the case that Mr. Lupu’s article article overestimates middle class numbers, but it is also true that middle class support was lacking from the traditional political parties and easily shifted toward political phenoms (Larrazabal, Uslar, Perez Jimenez, La Causa R, etc.) and that by not having that and also losing their regional bases of support, the parties ultimately lost. The low turnout of the 1990s was mostly among the poorest voters, and it has marginally receded.

      In that case, playing the “all-those-entitlements-you-see-now-are-going-to-disappear-if-we-go-on-an-all-out-socialist-regime” card has worked to foster the steady (but slow) opposition growth, and explains the plateau reached by chavismo, from which it could only marginally recover in 2009.

  4. For an object lesson on the median voter, rather than look north (where they have been doing primaries for decades, and people are used to it), they should look south – to Peru. I think there are more commonalities in that direction, even if the first round there wasn’t a primary in the same sense. How else do you explain how they ended up with Keiko vs Ollanta? You try too hard to win the final round, and you might just end up never getting there. I think it makes some sense for HCR, as the frontrunner, to attempt that strategy, but this tack won’t work for LL and PP. Unless they’re just angling for the VP slot.

  5. Why does anyone who’s right-of-center have to be ‘radical’ right? It’s far from being the case, is grossly misleading and, ultimately, serves no-one. Moreover, in that slot, there aren’t two but one, MCM; DA, as a non-candidate-candidate, looks to have taken on a role as a more mature backdrop to everyone but, positioned as she is, MCM draws most benefit from that.

    As for the demographics appealed to, Margaret Thatcher famously declared, “I am not a concensus politician; I am a conviction politician”. That approach, “What you see is what you get: you like? Vote for me” worked for her and, mutatis mutandis, could do so for MCM in this primary. For the same reason, namely, projected authenticity, neither of the more ‘professional pols’, HRC nor LL came across as sincere as MCM though PP was doing fairly well in that category until his sadly ill-advised “Everybody’s Daddy” remarks.
    MCM won this one; as developments unfold, we shall see what practical impact that may have at all.

    • Neddie,

      The reason for these radical- right commentaries by ‘Venezuela’ and its representatives in the blog world, usually resides in the view from the only safe haven the fashion- conscious elite dare to linger: the ” Center- Left”…anything right of that is viewed with obvious disdain, ergo the term “radical”.

      • Hi Firepigette,

        I see your point, but I disagree that Diego Arria is a right-wing radical. I think he is only saying that Chávez is criminal (which he is) and should be judged. I don’t understand how the idea that Chávez should be tried in the Hague is so “radical.” If anything, it should be considered a concrete and peaceful solution to the future transition. Or should we expect or want Chávez to stick around the country after he is defeated?

        Following Quico’s logic, which I agree with, primaries tend to invite hard-core voters (i.e. the Maria Alejandra López’s of the world). The ninis and los arrepentidos, which are the core of HCR’s support are not necessarily going to participate in the primaries. It is those who have been hit the hardest by the Chávez policies, those who really want to make their voices heard that are going to show up. Also keep in mind that those outside of the country may be allowed to vote in the primaries and these people are going to be heavily entrenched in their antagonism towards Chávez.

        I think if Diego Arria looks at the voting data and targets the most “radical” precincts and spends the next two months going door-to-door and getting to those people who supported the paro petrolero and went to the bailaterapias, etc, he has a decent chance in winning.

        Finally, if the opposition does win on October 7, 2012, then we need a candidate that is actually going to hold the CNE accountable and not let Chávez, Smartmatic and Tibi get away with stealing the election. I think Diego Arria could do this, and maybe Pablo Pérez with the AD/COPEI/UNT machinery behind him but not the others.

        • Neddie,
          Because anyone who doesn’t believe that the bigger the State, the better the society, is obviously some sort of loony-tunes radical. And if you insist, they will come occupy your ass.

  6. Great analysis, but I do wonder outside of this esteemed site how many people actually give a toss. I think having the debate has been good for the opposition, but in terms of garnering wider support I’m not sure.

    The problem is there have been no big new stories to accompany it. You almost need a Rick Perry sized gaffe or a Nick Clegg shock winning performance to raise interest levels. It still feels like the opposition are playing football whilst the government are playing chess.

  7. Francisco, I think your analysis is right on target. I too agree that just by not losing HCR won. However, I also think that from the other four MCM was the best. She was really good in her delivery, with clear examples (very much like Hillary in 2008). She didn’t come off as that crazy (and coming from me that is a lot). I agree that DA is taking her right side and that will make things more complicated for her but if she does move to the center, with those skills, she might just get the PP and LL votes specially if they continue to underperform.

  8. I understand that for a general election PP, LL, and HCR are better candidates. But Diego Arria is now second in the poll of Noticias24 for the primaries, whose voters consist of the radical opposition. Overnight, he has become a strong candidate for the nomination.

    Have you entertained the idea of executing “Operation Chaos” by the pro-chavez machinery so that Diego Arria gets the nomination?

    This would be with the intention of getting the weaker candidate to compete against chavez.

    • Well, it *is* an open primary – just imagine the throngs of Chavistas lining up all over the country to go vote for Diego Arria on Feb. 12th!!


      • They are not that smart. Besides, they will be so afraid of being tagged as traitors (by showing up to vote in an oppo election) that I bet you won’t see many around. I would not worry too much about that possibility.
        There is a lot of concern in the chavista ranks, not because of the current situation, but because of their sense of having a very fragile electoral majority (if they really have it, which is questionable). They believe the poll numbers that show Chavez’s popularity, yet they appear very nervous. Examples are the sudden announcements of giving away more money for the poor (nothing shows more desperation than when a president of a banana republic offers to give away money to appease the population), the lengthy pointless cadenas to attack the opposition because “they are obsessed with him”, as Chavez says, the disgraceful chavista members (valga la redundancia) of the national assembly insulting opposition members on every intervention, the announcements that they have constructed more houses than “ever before” (in the absence of anything to show, they find no other recourse but to blatantly lie and make up figures), etc. If they are reacting like that when the opposition still has not elected the unitary candidate, imagine how bad this will get when the candidate is elected. There are many reasons to feel optimistic if you are on the side of the opposition. Or as Teodoro said once: “estamos mal, pero vamos bien”

  9. Don’t forget something: 33% of Venezuela’s population could watch the programme, not more than that (Daniel Duquenal has the stats wrong)

  10. The analysis is good, though I do not think that HCR won. Describing MCM and DA as radical Right, is, of course, BS. Describing millions of people that want to see Chavez rotting in jail, as radicals to be ignored, coming from someone who for years has been arguing in favour of winning Ninis, is also wrong. To win this thing we need everyone who is against Chavez, and then some. Alienating millions of people predisposed against wonkish, ‘progressive’, effete comeflorismo certainly is not going to add anything to HCR’s CC’s-sanctioned winning formula.

  11. Sounds like you were discribing the Republican primary debates in the the US, the center right, the right, far right,the farther right and the farthest right.
    The only difference in the US we have the DLC Democrat Obama so what right-right rather than President Chavez with the people and Left.

    MCM is still getting the play in the papers here, time to pack up and head out y’all…


  12. If you’ll notice I’m describing a segment of the opposition electorate as the radical right, not any of the candidates…though I think Arria gets very close to that characterization when he proposes sending a guy half the country considers a National Hero to The Hague – to face charges of crimes against humanity no less.

    I think it’s trivially easy to make the case that Chávez should be tried in Venezuela on malversación charges. But that’s specifically not what Arria is doing. He wants Chávez tried at the ICC, which is where you send people who’ve personally and deliberately ordered the rape or murder of thousands of people.

    (Hint: if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “but that’s exactly what Chávez has done!” chances are good you’re a radical right winger.)

      • Right. Three of the four crimes discussed in the Rome Statute refer narrowly to things that happen in the context of *War* – Genocide, War Crimes and Aggression are things that happen in the context of armed conflict. Only the fourth, “Crimes against Humanity” could imaginably be applied to Venezuela. Now, which of the following charges is Diego Arria considering charging Chávez for?

        Article 7
        Crimes against humanity
        1. For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

        (a) Murder;
        (b) Extermination;

        (c) Enslavement;

        (d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;

        (e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

        (f) Torture;

        (g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;

        (h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;

        (i) Enforced disappearance of persons;

        (j) The crime of apartheid;

        (k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

        2. For the purpose of paragraph 1:
        (a) “Attack directed against any civilian population” means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph 1 against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack;
        (b) “Extermination” includes the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population;

        (c) “Enslavement” means the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children;

        (d) “Deportation or forcible transfer of population” means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law;

        (e) “Torture” means the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions;

        (f) “Forced pregnancy” means the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law. This definition shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy;

        (g) “Persecution” means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity;

        (h) “The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime;

        (i) “Enforced disappearance of persons” means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.

        I guess you could try to hang a charge of “persecution” on Lista Maisanta but man is it a stretch…

        • I don’t know mate, I’m just saying that your dismissing millions of people that have very legitimate cause to see Chavez before an independent and, preferably, international tribunal does nothing to that other cause of yours of bringing everyone together so that we can get rid the country of the chavista pest.

          I guess DA has lawyers that are better equipped than the both of us in legal practice so he feels he can be making such announcements. The man is no fool, I know you’ll agree with that.

          In any case, let me just say that your “quips” at anything not comeflor is as tiring, and unnecessary, as my “quips” against your lot. Paraphrasing someone: “we’re all in this together”, right?

          Let us see this through to a democratic candidate win in October 2012. After that, much work and difficulty will follow. Even later, we can engage in mudslinging to our hearts content. We all have a monumental task ahead of us, radical right winger or comeflor, we need every able body jalando p’al mismo lado.

          • I agree with you Alek, however if we read the above phrase, we will see the phrase: “the opposition’s Unity Fetish” used by FT.

            A fetish usually refers to an unquestioning reverence.When we don’t question something it has a negative connotation.Does he feel that opposition is operating in a highly irrational way ? …and not even considering multiple and/or intelligent options ?What does he think these options are?

            This would seem to imply ( though I am up to further clarification) a seeming or possible dislike of Unity, in this case.

          • I didn’t see the debate, but I just read Marianella Salazar saying that DA announced that he will travel to The Hague to formally accuse Chavez on November 21st. DA is not going to win until the elections, he’s doing it right now.

        • I don’t think persecution will fit, because of the last phrase: “in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court”

          How many people in jail does it take to trigger 1.(e)?

    • Sorry Quico, proposing to send anyone to The Hague has absolutely nothing to do with being radical right-winger. And half the country doesn’t consider Chavez no national heroe. Opposition plus Ni-Ni’s are way more than 50%.

  13. I have to agree with Mr. Arria and Cort Greene (YUK!!): Pablo Medina, or some other Lefty/Labor Union candidate could have improved the quality of the debate. Had Andrés Velásquez won Bolívar in 2008 (Thanks again, Manolito Borges and Ismael G.!), he could have been that. Unfortunately, Velásquez is out of the picture and Medina is out of the race and the voice of the workers and left parties is nowhere to be found.
    Yes, HRC is endorsed by Podemos, but that’s not the same as having a candidate coming from behind the barricades, so to speak.
    Yes, I konw the candidates were supposed to pay the MUD a gazillion and Medina couldn’t. Still, I think they could have added some flavor to the mix with a left-wing candidate, just like Arria added some punch with his right-wing stance. A token lefty-candidate is too much to ask for?
    I guess we can file that under “shoulda, coulda, woulda”…

    • Medina could have gathered 200K signatures as a MUD alternative to the “gazillion” payment. But he didn’t, he couldn’t, unlike MCM.

      I hope that the next airing of pre-candidates, call it a debate or a public interrogation, is worker-centric.

      • As far as I know, the guys had to gather the signatures AND pay the huge sum of money. Because if that wasn’t the case, why would anybody pay the money?

          • Medina got the signatures and promised the money (which is only partly for the MUD) since May (when the rules were set up and he was informed of them). He failed to deliver in the time given to him. Many candidates had stepped down given that requirement; Medina wanted to squeeze his way in, playing the “poor candidate” card (which, to me, deflated much of his case). What would happen with the CEP’s authority? How could the CEP enforce the rules if it seems as keen to bend them for some eventful political expedient?

            Now: is Medina a worker’s candidate? Does he really bring that to the table? He hasn’t been near the labour movement in ages, and his Movimiento Laborista (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movimiento_Laborista_(Venezuela)) credentials are not akin to real trade union support (not that it would matter in the current status of the Venezuelan sindicatos). His political speeches in the last decade are even more radical and hardcore antichavista than Arria (don’t we remember his menacing poster “Vamos por ti” after the Government’s 2007 defeat?). There is no gravitas, no political credence, nothing that could really be gained by having Medina in in those terms.

            Let us be reminded: Cecilia Sosa and Pablo Medina both tried to run in the Sumate primaries of 2006. they reflect the field of capable oppo candidates from back then. Nothing to be missed.

          • Yes, it’s true that Medina qualifies nowadays hardly as a workers’ candidate, but he still got the Causa R left movement background, which is something that the other candidates don’t bring to the table. No matter how much support the candidates get from Bandera Roja (an almost irrelevant party) or Podemos/PPT (opportunist in the view of some after abandoning chavismo), nobody is going to mistake any of them for Lula. Go figure, the closest thing to a left-wing candidate was Medina!
            It’s true that Medina is among the most radical opposition figures in Venezuela, but it is also true that recently no candidate has criticized so openly as Medina the poor conditions of workers and the ambiguous role of chavismo as employer AND legislator.
            Trust me, I’m not a fan of the strident Medina, but it’s obvious that a lefty candidate – token or whatnot – would have been a nice addition to the mix.

          • So… I guess you were right: Medina’s in, but the Left is nowhere to be seen…
            I was expecting a campaign based on the vindication of the labor movement, but Medina’s first speech was just a copy&paste of Arria’s constituyente proposal. Bah!

        • relevant articles to this discussion: 16 and 40 of th Reglamento de Selección de los Candidatos (http://www.innovaven.org/quepasa/elenor24.pdf)

          The money issue in art. 16 does not clarify how much is to be paid to the MUD. Rather, it requires that all candidates backed by a party or by individual initiative will contribute towards the costs of the elections. Los candidatos postulados por partidos políticos y los candidatos postulados por iniciativa propia contribuirán a sufragar los costos de las elecciones.

          Art. 40 states a clear requirement for signatures, but only from the candidates that are not backed by a political party. (That’s what I thought I read, weeks earlier.)
          Los candidatos a las elecciones presidenciales podrán ser postulados por partidos políticos nacionales o por iniciativa propia ante la CEP. Para la postulación, los candidatos por iniciativa propia presentarán un respaldo de firmas de electores equivalentes al 1% del Registro Electoral.

          • It’s true that the reglamento doesn’t say how much goes to the MUD (or rather, to the MUD’s support for volunteers during the primaries), but it must be noted that the rules were passed before the CNE gave its budget.

            All candidates had to ship in proportionately: the lesser number of candidates who joined, the less money thay would have to pay overall. Last week’s quota was a significant downpayment pending the final tally of candidates.

            Why does this happen? The Constitution forbids public financing of party political activity; and the “big donors” have been reticent to give big to the proceso electoral, preferring to give to the candidates. As it happens, though, most of the money given by the MUD (even from the candidates) was given in small deposits from a myriad of donors.

            In any case, the MUD’s Electoral Commision for Primaries, and even the MUD secretarias, is composed by people who’s not going to be made or broke pilfering the primarias money. Moreover, they would have little incentives to do so.

  14. I hope that we can see some interaction between the candidates in the next round. I believe they should be able to present their programs in detail and discuss why their opponents’ proposals are lacking. If they’re smart, they can do that without ruffling the feathers of the unidad-unidad-unidad mob.

    • I think the format was too limiting for the candidates, so they decided to play it safe. The next one should be more challenging and it has to be hosted by a real journalist.

      Sadly, it looks like Venevision is doing it and Eduardo “Your lameness” Rodriguez is the moderator. I have seen enough VV to know where this is going. December 4th.

      • Probably it was too much to ask for in a first debate. It was nice, but it was not a debate: the guys knew the questions before hand, they couldn’t interact with each other, etc. It felt more like a test drive. However, given that expectations were high, it was probably the right thing to do it under controlled conditions.
        The next time, I would like to see a panel of journalist – and bloggers – making tough questions. I would also love to see some back and forth between the candidates and journalist and their rivals. That’s what debates are for, right?

        And I totally agree, Eduardo Rodríguez is booooring. But probably is a better option they have. En el país de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey.

  15. In regard to the “Half the country considers a National Hero”, I have to demur; where’s the half referred to? I suspect that the old adage, “better the devil you know than the one that you don’t” has some aplication here. Once the primary is complete and the opposition champion has been fitted out for the oncoming turbulence, the comparative benefits of incumbent and challenger will be more clearly definable and the National Hero will be the last qualifier on peoples’ tongues.

    • “Half the country considers a National Hero”…

      My impression coming from my largely Chavista family, is that fear of losing a sugar daddy is more like it… which could not be equated to (using any measure of clarity anyway) as ” heroic”.

  16. “Even though his answers were often substantive and very smart – his warning on the pitfalls of a Mexican style drug war and his advocacy of Cash Transfers for Schoolchildren’s moms were special favorites for me – it was easy to get the sense it was a robot delivering the lines.”

    Cash Transfers to SchoolChildren’s Mom’s already exists. Its called Plan Progresa and has been implemente by Carlos Ocariz in Sucre for a while now. Albeit with great success, its nothing new under the sun.


    • I can’t access the link you provide, but I was under the impression that Plan Progresa was an umbrella name for a dozen or so sub programs. One sub program provides cash incentive for prenatal care. Another of those sub programs provides 150 bolívares to the parents per month per child with 80+% school attendance record. It includes 12,600 kids, but is projecting 46,000 for next year:

        • I think Ocariz’s talent would be wasted in the Miranda governorship. I want him coordinating social policy from Capriles’s cabinet.

          • Come on, he is the mayor, he is not actually coordinating the social policy. His policy-wonks are 🙂 PJ doesn’t have that many liderazgos to spare. Ocariz pa’ Miranda … there aren’t other viable options, really. I don’t think anyone wants Enrique “mano dura contra el hampa” Mendoza back, right?

          • Thanks for the link. I cringe, however, at an Alaska implementation of cash transfers. I don’t like that it’s about dividends, or that it’s in lump sums, or that it is conditioned to residency. I’m even uneasy with Ocariz’s payout being monthly, though, given the amount of 150 VEF per month (35USD/mo). That 1USD/day guarantees the child above critical poverty. That’s awesome.

            He also has a 3 children per household cap . If UCT were set up the way I envision, a family of 2 parents and 3 children that with Ocariz are getting 450VEF per month (104.91USD/mo) would be receiving over 6.400 VEF per month (1,500USD/mo). The whole family would be guaranteed, not only above critical poverty, but 10 times above critical poverty. Even more awesome.

          • Alas, the naysayers… Refuse to accept the reality and the future, and the only way to trump chavez:

            “El presidente Chávez anunció que propondrá que se haga por vía Habilitante un decreto para asignar a las madres con menos recursos 300 bolívares mensuales por hijo, en esto aplica un máximo de tres niños por familia y con edades hasta los 15 años. En el caso de mujeres que tengan hijos con alguna discapacidad, recibirán el doble de dinero (Bs. 600) sin importar la edad.

            “El mandatario dijo que una de las variables para este recurso, será que la familia gane menos de un salario mínimo. “Quiero empezar pronto. El 1ero de diciembre sería una buena fecha”, señaló Chávez.”


            So chavez is offering twice what Ocariz is offering. Will moms who meet chavez’s criteria move out of Ocariz’s program? Would you?

          • Extorres,

            To keep our exchanges going, how much of that would have to be taken away (or taxed away) to provide for healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc?

            I think in a way Venezuelans receive some form of tax incentive given that the oil money pays for a lot of stuff (poorly spent yes).

            I still think that Venezuela’s issue are not so much of uneven distribution but not enough income.

            Also, following your post. The fact that UCTs are offered (such as Chavez is doing now) will make options like Chavez more appealing to the voter than others because he offers more cash, where other might be offering less at the expense perhaps of better education.

            Perhaps you will say that everything should be private from education to healthcare and everything will be solved by the market’s invisible hand.

          • Rodrigo Linares: “how much of that would have to be taken away (or taxed away) to provide for healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc?” The thing to keep in mind is that cash distribution is not a transaction, it is a flow of money. If the money is distributed evenly to all citizens, it is still spent on goods and services offered by others. Those, in turn, spend it on goods and services offered by even others. As soon as one of the providers in the chain make a given amount of income, it gets taxed, which ends up in the hands of the government. The more providers fall within a tax bracket, and the more money they make, the more money the government gets in taxes. In a country with no natural resources, taxation is sufficient for whatever public spending is necessary. In this scenario, the taxation increase from the oil money is a mere bonus, so the government would still have the income necessary for whatever public spending it deems necessary, including the ones you mention, and then some. They should only have to dispense with social programs that today target lifting people out of poverty, since there would be no citizen below the poverty line (heck, they’d all be at least 5 times over the poverty line).

            “Venezuelans receive some form of tax incentive given that the oil money pays for a lot of stuff” I would call it disincentive. The government does not spend well because it has no one caring how they spend the money tree money. The taxpayers don’t care because they see the government not spending well, and they see the government isn’t going to go broke without their money, anyway. And the non taxpayers don’t care because they don’t feel the money from the money tree is being stolen from them because it was never in their pockets. Besides, they actually have to beg the government for money tree crumbs, so it’s quite the contrary to being citizens willing to demand anything of their government; they are supplicants.

            “Venezuela’s issue are not so much of uneven distribution but not enough income.” Do the math. If oil money alone is sufficient to lift and keep all citizens out of poverty, five times over, and on top of that the government has normal taxation money to spend, the problem is not income, it’s distribution. The reason it may not seem like that amount of money is sufficient is because the money is being mispent, mismanaged, and misappropriated. But it is definitely sufficient. CAP had 1/5th the oil money than chavez, and chavez still has to borrow?! That is a direct result of the petrostate model, not of insufficient income.

            “The fact that UCTs are offered (such as Chavez is doing now) will make options like Chavez more appealing to the voter than others because he offers more cash, where other might be offering less at the expense perhaps of better education.” chavez is not offering UCT, his is a CCT, like Ocariz’s. I know that giving people cash the way I suggest, unconditionally, seems like it does not affect education, but it would in very important ways. To begin with, the children and all their friends go to school fed, with better and more food. They feel better with better clothing and school items. At home, they sleep better with parents having money to fix things and parents fighting less with less economic pressure. They may not even continue living in the city anymore, since now going back to the interior is a valid option, maybe with more family and friends. Now the parents may be able to risk some savings into small business ventures. Even the young adults would be able to avoid a job while in school, letting them study more. Employers would have to start giving better work environments because with UCT, a worker may choose to leave rather than put up with a low paying, lousy boss, disrespectful environment. The key to remember is that UCT affects pretty much everything. It gets the cash directly to where all other alternatives can only promise to try to get to through various trickle effects. There is no need to skimp on education because of UCT; government will still have more than enough money for that from taxation money. The important thing, is that while government gets its act together with its taxation money, no one will be going hungry, and the market will be booming. That is huge!

            “Perhaps you will say that everything should be private from education to healthcare and everything will be solved by the market’s invisible hand.” Perhaps, but no, I won’t say that. Remember that I believe UCT is not an option; it’s people’s money to begin with. It’s you who would have to be explaining/justifying why the government is taking over the spending of this money that belongs to others, especially when it is so regressive to do so. I do lean towards privatization in as many things as possible, but *only* after it is very clear that I am *only* talking about how *taxation* money is spent. UCT, to me, is independent of social spending of taxation money. UCT is a must. It’s the future, though we should do it *now*.

            We need to kill the petrostate, we need to kill it before chavez uses it to kill us, and we achieve that by trumping any offer he can make with one simple UCT.

          • Rodrigo Linares, I keep getting the feeling that there’s something I’m not explaining properly. So, in order for me not to keep going off on a tangent, do you agree that government spending of oil money is regressive? That is, if government spends 20billion of oil money on education, then the poorest 1% would have pitched in the same amount of those 20billion as the richest 1% would?

            Consider that if the 20billion comes from taxation money, then the poorest 1% would not have pitched in any of that money, at all, and the richest 1% would have pitched a larger amount than the 1% from any lower income bracket. Do you agree that oil money is a different animal than taxation money, when it comes to government spending?

            *Do you see why, given that distinction, I disagree with the government spending oil money?

            But to answer your first question very directly: No, the government should not need to reduce spending on education or healthcare or other social programs, unless it cannot afford it given two new realities:

            1) citizens would have 10USD/day less need than before, and
            2) government spending budget is limited by taxation monies, which would increase considerably, given that citizens are spending 10USD/day more than before.

            *Which of those two conditions do you think is/are detrimental?

      • Ocariz is not from Caracas-Maracaibo-Valencia (he is from Maracay) and he is NOT a lawyer or an economist or a military or a sociologist, for a change, but an engineer.
        Unlike Scarano in San Diego, he is not a mini-caudillo either, at least so far.

        I very much like that. It’s a pity he cannot run as a governor for Aragua. We need to penetrate that region more.

  17. I suppose Obama could have begun his Presidential campaign by announcing that Bush would be prosecuted for war crimes such as authorizing torture. He didn’t, because he also wanted to inherit a governable country. While the popularity of an earlier leader is not mentioned in the statute, political leadership encompasses more than just law.

    Meanwhile, what possible excuse does state tv give for not covering this debate? Surely Venezuela cannot claim fair elections have occurred when obviously newsworthy events are blacked out in half the country.

  18. This is the way I saw it.
    HC might be a great guy but, when it comes to talking, he does not say anything. If he doesn’t change, these debates are going to kill him.
    PP is like a tour in the steamroller. I will record his speeches to use them when I cannot sleep.
    LL is so full of himself that he thinks that just showing up there is enough.
    DA has nothing to loose and he is going to repeat his attacks against HCh until the end.
    MCM came up much better than expected. It is so funny that we have troubles accepting a strong woman but we want an strong man. Time to change in this country.

    • Agree with you on the following:
      HCR. His oatmeal, as Daniel commented, has no grit.
      LL. Outside the well controlled environment of his theatrical videos, he looked very much like the pichoncito of the group, thinking that his impeccable attire would fool us into thinking he was prepared. Puro bluff, as one commenter said on ND.

      As foryour comments on MCM, I don’t think the population has difficulty accepting a strong woman. People are not that stupid. I think they recognize the difference between a strong performance by a woman (on a few topics), and that of a strong woman who has paid her dues by cutting her political teeth, without shortcuts, and who is fully prepared for the enormity of the task ahead: the transitional government that DA spoke of. Personally, I don’t think that MCM is that woman. Yet.

  19. That Gentleman is right: among the array of opinions, there’s been nothing about what a failure the initiative turned out to be, no monumental coque-ups, no “but had we known” comment. Everyone’s posts seem to carry a little degree of glow. What a good job they all did, from the outset, organizers, format (for 80 mins, including commercial-break time) and moderation. it all went swimmingly. So, yes, there’s a place for pride there, a pride that might just be couched in terms of a light at the end opf the tunnel.

    • I absolutely agree.
      I couldn’t see the debate, but don’t think it matters much. What’s important is that everyone woke up talking about it with optimism, knowing that change is on its way.
      The results, who was better or who was worse don’t really matter much. Venezuelans are not talking about Chavez today, for once.
      I think that knowing that all of them will be working together and supporting each other, is what matter the most.
      I am proud.

      • Carolina,

        “I think that knowing that all of them will be working together and supporting each other, is what matter the most.”

        And you should be proud.The opposition Unity has been a long time coming,and under circumstances where there were many against it!!

    • Those thugs that did this are spawn of Chavez.
      (Not human).Why no photos of them. I could hear the bullet casings
      hitting the ground. Nobody else had a camera?
      ALso, looks like a bad neighborhood.
      Thank you for posting this. Isn;t it time for women in Venezuela to
      wake up and demand some security and respect?

  20. I mostly agree with Quico’s analysis. However, I don’t think having DA throw the red meat to the base hurt MCM. On the contrary, I think she came off as more balanced than what I expected. She even talked about forgiveness on the 8th of October! She was very articulate, did her homework, and just sounded very much in command of the room. She exuded passion and commitment. This may have been the break she was needing.

    DA will not pick up many votes, and I would not be surprised if he drops out eventually. He just wanted the spotlight for a while.

    I agree that LL did not help himself last night. He just did not seem to project any gravitas. He seemed to young, a bit out of place. I thought that his charisma would propel him, but he just looked like a little kid dressed in grownup clothes.

    PP looked the part, and was doing quite well till he put his foot in his mouth with wanting to adopt us. I’m sure that focus groups have identified that Chavez is a father figure to many chavistas, and PP does have a beautiful family and knows this is an asset, but the strategy was just creepy.

    By not making any mistakes HCR probably won the debate, but he needs to stop pouting. Hopefully he will improve with the campaign, but last night he did not command the stage.

    All in all, the event was a huge step forward!

  21. I wish so many of us would stop being so simplistic using “right” and “left” as labels, arguments and blinders. This has gotten us nowhere in the 76 years since general Gomez died and has prevented the adoption of many public policies that have demonstrated their effectiveness elsewhere. Venezuela needs effective and efficient public policies not fossilized by ideologies but based on the ongoing discoveries by man of the laws of nature, those that do best predicting outcomes. Man made “laws” that go against the laws of human nature have gotten us into this mess.

    • Huh?
      Part of the human nature is to kill, obliterate and take the land and resources of your enemies. It’s not the only part of human nature there is, but we cannot deny it, or assume that it is a good thing. I am all for laws or customs against that.

      Aren’t you?

    • Sincero,

      I would agree, in fact I’ll take it a step further,and doubt that we will be able to fix our major problems until we get rid of dreadful ‘ideological’ labeling.

      A pre-packaged deal( ideology) is a twin soul with prejudice.Prejudice is a twin soul with lack- of- clarity.A lack -of- clarity doesn’t permit us to see, much less fix the problems at hand.

      Of course there will be quite a few people who live by memes and automatic thoughts,and they will not understand this.

      Then there are others who might halfway understand but who have vested interests in not

      doing so.

  22. I have not said it, but it bears repeating my peers here at the fray: it is a good and sensible analysis, Quico.

    In that sense, I was positively surprised by the debate. Save for Arria’s Hague comment -understandable, but politically implausible- it was a very good night. VTV devoted most of yerstaerday’s politicial programming trying to portray the debate in a poor light… They must have felt somehting amiss…

    I can only hope that the coming debates, with better questions, structure and format, and more media support (VV and Televen are in the middle of negotiations with the political parties’ leaders), will be even more of a success. This was a great effort.

  23. Will there be any discussion about the content of the speeches, or are we going to stick to the non-sensical winner/loser stuff?
    Yes, I know that it would be cool to predict who is going to win the primaries, but shouldn’t we be talking about content? Should we believe the numbers they threw at us? Was there some meat in there? If, so, who presented the best proposals?

    • I second that.

      I personally believe that Maria Corina was the most effective candidate in offer his plataform and proposals, given the format of the debate.

      I would like to explain this more, but I’m kind of busy right now.

    • Verga, chico, ¿ahora nos estamos poniendo primermundistas?
      But indeed.
      I wonder if anyone before October 2012 will utter the words “sustainable (economic) development” or go into depth about how to enforce transparency, pluralism or such items.

  24. Due to being Spanish-impaired, linguistically, I didn’t see or hear the debate. Is there an English version anywhere?
    Off topic but, it seems that a lot of folks seem to be a little blindered when it comes to the make up of the electorate for the upcoming “battle royale” between the oppos and chavismo (with or without Hugo the Hut) – if a presidential election even comes to pass.
    I see a lot of talk about the various shades of oppo, ni-ni and chavista (e.g. soft, medium, hard) as well as where people stand on the economic ladder (i.e. A, B, C, etc.) or how much education they have or haven’t received.
    What I don’t see is a lot of thought given to discussing the age demographics of the electorate and a strategy to reach out (Obama-like?) to the bloc of new and/or younger voters who will (hopefully) be at the voting booths. I don’t have the age demographics of Venezuela at hand but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Venezuela is a “young country” and to ignore them as an important ingredient in the recipe to un-seat chavismo is folly. Note: I’m not talking about the anti-chavez university crowd here but the other, more numerous and just as impressionable, young.
    Am I wrong? If so I have no problem being corrected.

    • Mike E.

      You don’t live in Venezuela?

      Well, I have no statistics,but Venezuela has always been a young country.Very young if you ask me.

      Not only are there a preponderance of young people, age-wise, but people in general idealize youth to an extreme, and now that the dinosaur meme has caught on, the problem has gotten even worse.

      Just look at the above video of LL…The cartoon makes him look 4 or 5 years old…and then suddenly he becomes the ” real” LL…it’s almost bizarre.

      • Hi firepigette,

        Nope, I live in Vancouver, Canada but have been visiting VE semi-regularly for a decade and a half and am happily married to my Caraqueña esposa. :>)

  25. Mike N, not Mike E cochinita ;)!

    The goverment is very well aware of this demographic rift and is not allowing new voter registrations in REP (voter franchise) unless it is sure of ideological affiliation.

    Further, it is also very aware of the diaspora vote (ptential diaspora vote I shoud say) which is predominatelly oppo (90/10 I would say), so it also hinders any from of voter registration abroad.
    These 2 streams alone are significant in a presidential election with a simple mayority winner in a single electoral district (Venezuela and venezuelians abroad).

    If pareto was to be taken into account, most the efforts of MUD lead electoral clean up and push back shoud come into these two fronts. (Plus a valid autit of waht is in the franchise database, and a push for manual polling)…

    • Thanks LuisF,

      I was just thinking that it should be a no-brainer for the oppo/MUD to keep on hammering the fact to *all* the youth in the country that Chavez and chavismo and what they represent (i.e. communism a la Fidel and Raul) are “old news” and that the oppo/MUD represent the future. Golly, so easy, photos of the three old goats alongside the ultimate oppo candidate would illustrate that fact easily.
      Regarding the REP, and electronic vs. manual voting I’m with you 100% on that. Big problems there and yet another reason the oppos should be focusing as much attention on the youth vote as possible as they’re the ones that will protect/protest the vote more “vigorously” than some outraged grandmas and grandpas.

  26. I have the stats.
    The average age for voters in, say, Northern Valencia or San Diego, is 3 to 4 years more than in Southern Valencia or Puerto Cabello. The same goes for upper to middle class in Caracas or elsewhere.
    I will write on this later on.

    In general I don’t think PJ has fully grasped the demographics of Venezuela. They have started to understand things, but they are not quite there. Otherwise they would spend less time preaching to the choir or talking about the choir to the others.


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