Petrochequera mata galán


Over on the IHT, I process my despecho and get down to brass tacks in my Monday morning quaterbacking. It wasn’t the REP. It wasn’t the lop-sided media access. It wasn’t the marches. It wasn’t even some sort of Schemelian mystical bond.

Nada de eso.

It was the Petrocheckbook:

Over the last few months, as I’ve hoped against hope that a brilliant opposition campaign could somehow short-circuit the bedeviled logic [of the petrostate], one Chavista program kept bringing me back to a dour realization that it just wasn’t likely. The program, called “My well-equipped home,” essentially is an oil-for-appliances deal signed with China under which over 1.3 million Haier brand appliances — stoves, washers and dryers, flat-screen TVs — were distributed to government supporters at deeply discounted prices. Chávez’s face is, as you’d expect, stenciled right into the program’s logo.

It was a brilliant gambit, cynical and effective. Imagine, for a second, your life without a washing machine. Then imagine how thoroughly it would be transformed if you suddenly got one. Now multiply that by 1.3 million households, and you begin to see the extreme, possibly insurmountable structural advantage an incumbent has in a reelection race in a petrostate.

I really think Mi Casa Bien Equipada was like the Sleeper Issue of the campaign: silent but deadly.

That last link, incidentally, leads to an amazing TED Talk that everybody should take 9 minutes to watch.

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  1. Just a question. Would you swing your vote for a chinese stove or washer? Probably not. Chavez is the only one handing out stuff to the poor. So they vote for him because he is the only one who cares. It is history that defeated the opposition because the never cared for more than half the population.

    • dianuevo,
      Social programs are nothing new. Even the evil CAP in his second term had them: hogares de cuidado diario, vaso de leche escolar, dispensarios y modulos policiales in shanty towns. They are even older: the Mision Vivienda is nothing but a bad copy of 23 de Enero and all the housing projects build during the last decades. And even the Junta de Gobierno in 1958 gave people cash handouts to alliviate poverty.
      What’s the difference between the old social programs and the misiones? The amount of money available to finance them. As Toro clearly explains in his article, it’s simple math:

      $10 < $150

      If you are not able to grasp that simple inequation, you are nothing but a lost cause…

      • That’s not the only difference IMHO. The way the misiones are publicily promoted (through the media landscape) blow the pre-Chavez social programs out of the water.

        • I think that apart from having a lot more money to spend, Chavismo has handled brilliantly the symbolism of the misiones through the media. Caldera built more houses than Chavez, who statistically has proven a disaster in houesbuilding. However, whenever the Chaverment builds a house, they make sure that people know is a gift from Chávez himself, there is a cadena showing him magnanimously giving away the house to a family, people thinks that Chavez is great because he gives houses away (ask many chavistas and they will name misión vivienda as a reason to vote for Chavez) and the evils adecos and copeyanos didn’t, Caldera built more, he just didn’t exploit it like Chavez. We tend to vote much on feeling and symbolism rather than fact, no one went looking for statistics before Chavez before voting for him.
          Apart from that, the campaigning and regaladera the last week was just brutal, on Friday a bonus o several thousand bs was paid to several public employees (the Bicentenario banks were packed with people withdrawing the money). I have an acquaintance who works at a public office who has been left behind for promotion for years, because he is an oppo, suddenly getting one this week to vote for Chavez (he didn’t change his vote because of this, but I’m sure these tactics worked for some people) In Banco Bicentenario they had the fingerprints of the employees taken and told them that thanks to the captahuellas they would know whom they vote for. They repeated incessantly to each and everyone of misiones recipients and public employes that Capriles was coming for them.At 1 pm they went to the house of many misiones beneficiaries to pressure them to vote for Chavez (Operación Galope)
          The results are very complicated. Some people voted because they just really like Chavez and really think that’s the best for the country, (thanks to actually improvement in their life in the life in the last years, but also because of the brilliant media campaign surrounding the misiones I described above), some people never identified with the oppositions and saw them as the representatives of the rich, but that’s not the 55%. The regaladera, fear campaign, lies, and blackmail also counted. The government took advantage with no shame of the vulnerability of many people to win the elections

          • There’s one book recently released by media analyst Andres Cañizarez, called “La Presidencia Mediatica”, when he studies and explains the power of the Chavez media machine he has built during all these years. Communicational hegemony has worked.

    • Point is? Chavez spent a lot of petro dollars on staying in power. But that’s not something new. What also happend was that well of chavista’s needed to pay large amounts to their party. What if the opposition did the same thing? A lot of the 6 million opposition voters are well of. If they just had put their money where their mouth is..

      • Well-intentioned people have warned us about the dangers of innumeracy, but I never thought that the problem was SO serious… If you have problem interpreting the facts and figures we are discussing here, you may as well ask some Venezuelan 8th-grader for help. If they are good students, they’ll be able to explain you inequations and some things about contemporary Venezuelan history.

        Or could it be a vision problem? You should probably take off your pink-colored glasses and read again Mr. Toro’s article. That should help!

        • That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are talking about a man with complete control of the 90-95% of the state income under his control. He has no scruples and no restrains to do whatever he wants with these resources. He can use cadenas, pressure private channels to run campaign ads disguised as “institutional messages”. He can use state resources to finance political rallies, like vehicles, radio and tv stations. And, of course, we should not forget about the giveaways like houses, electric appliances, small fishing boats and many other things.
          No matter how hard the opposition tries, they’ll never be able to match the petrostate that the official party uses as its own. dianuevo, try harder and do the math…

        • If the opposition did not make the mistakes that they made in the past, we would not be here.. It will still take time and building bridges to establish a mature democracy here That’s all

          • And what do you think the MUD has been doind since 2006? What do you think the primary election was all about? Haven’t you heard or listened to what Capriles said 2 days ago? They are doing that. But it does not change the matter that money speaks loud. Much louder that the good deeds and hard work of the MUD. And apparently also much louder than the inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption of this government. Money can buy LOTS of propaganda and giveaways. That’s the part of the thing you’re not getting…

    • Dianuevo,
      I think you are misinterpreting what is mentioned by the author. There are a lot of reasons why Chavez one, one of the biggest is the complete misuse of state funds (and yes, the opposition does not have the largest oil reserves of independent wealth to compete) to fund his political campaign. Whether it be through bribes, pressure on the public sector workers, worry by some that like in the past the vote would not be secret, and many others, the opposition did not win. I still think it is almost impossible to take out a dictator via democratic means (as it was argued here:

      But at the end of the day, whether 54% or 50% or 40% of Venezuelans still want the Chavez government and they continue to fail to grasp (or some are making millions by the working with the current regime) the long term repercussions that this government will have on the country.

      • “it is almost impossible to take out a dictator via democratic means”…

        Oh my gosh, we ought to tell the Chileans that, because they obviously did not get the memo!

        Oh, wait, you did use the adverb “almost”. That’s alright, then, I guess. ¬¬

    • Good lord, “he’s the only one who cares”?
      Giving away stuff just to get their sympathy, how do you raise your children?

      Care, is developing a country where people are able to sustain themselves without a controlling government handing out “gifts” like a house, or a car, or water, or health and electricity..
      That’s not care, that’s an insult!
      A manipulation to keep people low while he is high..
      Grow up!

  2. Francisco,its time to let go and get that plane ticket, travel some and get out of dodge( Doral would be nice for you).
    Your health is suffering and the insanity is taking you over like most of the oppo’s, the revolution is going to be extended no matter what you and the oppo’s, the Boli- bourgeoisie, the bureacracy and such want( tried to throw roadblocks up to stop it) and it won’t be pretty for the likes of you but the masses long and want that socialist revolution now more than ever…

    • I love how all these retards seem to think that the revolution would achieve optimal functioning if only it wasn’t for that meddling bureaucracy! The only reason the Bolivarian government exists is to govern corruptly. Corruption isn’t an aberration, it’s the norm, like pretty much every other Latin American country. I have no idea what mechanisms would be used to root out the narcos, the graft, the incompetence, the crooked cops and everyone else making a buck off the public treasury is the day pigs fly. Popular power? No, let me guess, the will of the people! Meanwhile another six years means that Chavez, Diosdado and everyone else involved in the illicit herbal remedy trade will be lining their pockets and laughing to the bank.

    • You are the one who should get a plane ticket and come here, since you like it so much. Seems like your health is suffering too… all that alienation, living in the Empire, surrounded by all those crackas and their money. Come to this tropical place, you might even get lucky and find a wife! The world is bigger than mom’s basement, Cortie.

    • Cort, its time to let go and get that plane ticket, help the revolution to be extended, stop the roadblocks in person and join those masses who long for your view of how they should live. You could get a paid writing gig in Merida, I’m sure of it.

    • Cort, the masses don’t want the socialist revolution, they want the petro dollars, which they would have gotten to some degree regardless of the government in power; in chavismo’s case, they’ve gotten DESPITE the revolution.

  3. How true Francisco, sadly, but not the only country with the problem, Saudi Arabia etc..
    An uphill battle, but not an impossible one. Hopefully.

  4. “More than a president, Venezuela has something like an elected monarch, who rules with absolute authority and no checks and balances”
    You fell short there. IMHO it is a democratically elected tyrant. You just have to take a look at wikipedia to realize that:
    “one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others”
    Yes, some people might be profitting from the electorally oriented manouvers of the official party, but you cannot deny that Chavez, as any tyrant, is above the rule of law. As a matter of fact, as Judge Afiuni and many other victims may attest, Chavez is the law in itself. And that, at least in my book, is tyranny…

  5. And the TED talk is very good! I think it is good to help with economical appliances, wrong is to put that as a gift from a person/president. It is done with the money of all! Also subsidizing 23″ flat screen TVs … come on, if that is not populism…

  6. For god’s sake, nobody cares about your refined, educated and well put excuse of why Chavez once again manage to keep the office.

    This article is basically saying that people is voting for Chavez because of the “bozal de Arepa”, that’s just demeaning and borderline racist, and that’s why the chavista people will never accept to be in the same side of the road with people that are always looking and talking down to them.

    You just don’t get it.

    • Let’s review the score: Chávez pays for washing machines he’s giving out to his supporters today with oil we’re going to pump out in 2027. But I’m the one who’s demeaning and racist. ‘tamos chévere…

    • So you think giving out washing machines did *not* have an electoral effect? Please expand on that.

      It’s funny how chavistas who come to this blog very rarely use their own names or email address. It’s only fitting – if I was spouting the same nonsense, I wouldn’t want people to know my name either.

      • So now I am an imbecile, a lair and a chavista? It gets prettier by the second. A good discussion is not possible I suppose? It is easier discussing with a hardcore chavista than with you guys and that ain’t easy either..

      • So if that what it takes so you can understand the point, I sure can give you my full name, address and for whom I have entrusted my vote in the last elections in Venezuela.

        • That would help. It would also help if you could explain this interesting theory that giving away washing machines had nothing to do with the election.

          • Everything the revolution has done has impacted to a certain degree the vote of those who benefit, and even those who haven’t. Singling out any one mision must necessarily be an over-simplification. The misiones are diverse, but even taken together only explain one aspect of why the poor support chavez.

          • I didn’t said such thing, I acknowledge that giving away money had * some * influence in the elections.

            Allow me to elaborate, first Chavez used those programs for two purposes, one that it makes look him like the good person, and second it makes look the alternative like the bad guy.

            Chavez repeat over and over that the alternative is planning to take away all the benefits that they are receiving. When articles and opinions like this get aired over TV and internet, it reinforces the chavismo main’s argument. You are unwillingly helping the other side. The perception is that there are people behind Capriles that will take them away the benefits one way or another, and wants to pocket their money.

            If you talk about the size of the debt, the chavista supporter will think that’s just an excuse to remove and cancel the benefits that they are receiving. And that will inevitably reinforce the chavista argument.

            It’s a double edged sword, when you think that you evaded one side, the other side will get you for sure, no matter what.

          • Well, I doubt many chavista supporters receiving free washing machines are getting their news from the IHT. What you’re saying is that Quico’s argument is bad politics. What you said before was that it was elitist, demeaning and racist.

          • You tell me, you are not the only thinking that way. that’s for sure. I saw articles of several journalist in El Universal and El Nacional stating the same thing, and they are nationwide newspaper.

            I’m just pointing out the strategy that chavismo used. Clearly they know the ins and out of such politic and how to make the enemy works for their cause.

          • Until I finish my last bottle of gigantic and enormous bottle of rum I will post using this pseudonym. If I’m bothering you I will just go someplace else.

            Sure you can tell for whom I have entrusted my last votes.


      Explain to me how it’s racist. I want to see exactly where FT said something demeaning about a particular ethnic group.

    • “For god’s sake, nobody cares about your refined, educated and well put excuse of why Chavez once again manage to keep the office.”

      Yes we do.

  7. It’s not racist or classist to point out that people vote in their interests even if these interests are limited to having a better stocked home or cheaper food. In the long run the damage done reelecting a man to office so that he stays 20 years is disastrous. A brilliant paper written about ten years ago called “Does Oil Hinder Democracy” basically outlined that in petrostates democratic institutions are stymied because whomever controls the oil pretty much controls the country. A simple premise but in light of yesterday’s elections it just goes to show that no term limits+deep pockets always result in the incumbent’s reelection. I’m sure some people may not see a problem with that but the ideological stagnation coupled with the deepening of corruption networks would give me pause.

    • I Agree partly with your post. 20 years is just to much. It also says a lot about the quality of the opposition. But even if Capriles would have won it would only take time and the whole corruption carousel would start all over again.

      • Well corruption exists regardless of government. However when the same guys have been in power for twenty years they refine their corruption to an art. It’s why 727s loaded with several tons of the good stuff crash out in Mali, West Africa. It takes some serious logistics to load up something like that, a hangar, complicity from authorities, etc. Would a new government have been just as corrupt? Probably so. However, allowing these guys free rein for another six years in the name of some nebulous social experiment which will never be accomplished (because that wasn’t the point anyways) is just catastrophic.

      • “it would only take time and the whole corruption carousel would start all over again”
        Yeah, right. So why bother? Let’s just keep things as they are because nothing is gonna ever change. All politicians are corrupt, so it does not matter if Capriles or Chavez or the second coming of CAP is the president.
        The thing that you miss entirely is that we are not talking about choosing among two parties like in any other country. In Venezuela it was about replacing a tyrant with a democrat, law-abiding president.

        • I thought we were in bad shape in 2006. Back then I thought that things could not get any worse. They proved me wrong. I am quite sure that in the next 6 years they are gonna do their best to take incompetence and mismanagement to levels that we have never imagined before. To expect that things are not gonna get worse is simply naive…

          • Chavez will do as he always does: he will ignore the +6million votes against him and rule as a tyrant, just like he has done during the last 14 years. Nothing’s gonna change, because a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. Socialism was Chavez’s promise, so that’s what people will get.

  8. Three million Venezuelans are on a list to get free (Chinese built) housing. Although Chavez promises a house to everyone, it is just a lottery ticket. Moreover, ownership is not given and the houses, while better than a rancho, are minimal. This alone could account for 2 to 3 million votes for Chavez, if they felt Capriles would drop the free housing. This effect was likely greater than the Chinese appliances.

    • If your family benefitted a lot from Barrio Adentro, that mision will be foremost in your thinking when placing that vote. If you got a new house already, obviously that’s fresh in your mind. If you couldn’t eat properly before but now shop at the Mercal around the corner, that’ll probably be it.

      If you didn’t personally benefit from any mision at all, but appreciate the president that sides with the poor in almost everything he says, that’s enough too.

      • Chavez’s policies are nothing but “pan para hoy y hambre para mañana”. Sadly, people do not realize that. And even if we tried to explain that to them, they’d never believe us because we are not “pueblo”.

      • All of that is true, and I think that someone in the opposition with enough introspection would realize at least the good intent.

        But here’s what I’ve always found sad: this government has had the biggest bonanza since CAP #1. It’s a lot of money, and the bang-for-the-buck that we’ve had in terms of social spending has been dismal. Look at the housing figures, just slightly better than those of the economically depressed cuarta. Just look at our infrastructure…

        Even after assuming good intent and a lack of ulterior motives, there’s still a lot of incompetence and inefficiency to criticize… a blank check and 14 years enough to build a palace, and all we’ve got is a half assed churuata¹ that could fall on our heads tomorrow.

        Really, it’s appalling.

        ¹: nothing against churuatas. I just meant it for comparison.

    • ownership is not given

      There’s actually a good reason for doing this. Given that houses are scarce and that there are waiting lists, restricting ownership is a good way to dispel the vivos who would want to get a house and then rent it or sell it to someone who really needs it.

      I don’t disagree with such a large-scale housing program in principle. But there are so many disheartening things about this one… the Chinese and the Iranians? Man, we have excellent masons here and lots of construction companies to employ. And the record of this program isn’t particularly stellar, in terms of numbers — there’s still a huge deficit, and the rate doesn’t seem like it’ll cover it in the long run.

  9. Guys. Hey.

    While I don’t agree with dianuevo, I think it is a discussion worth having, and it should not be beneath anybody here to argue a point, even if they think it’s obvious. Wasn’t that the intention of this blog a couple of years ago? to have a place for discussion? That idea will never pan out if you dismiss someone’s comments instead of arguing your point.

    I know emotions are running high. If anything, it should be the perfect time to have serious discussions about these issues instead of deepening the divide.

      • I think what Quico meant to say was that it’s not only that Chávez cares, it’s that he has objectively improved the lives of millions through his generous use of the petro-chequera. It’s a combination of affection and stuff, more stuff than affection. Dianuevo’s main point was that it was all because the opposition “never cared” for the poor. That’s just not right.

        • The difference is that while you might care about the poor, chavistas want to eliminate poverty. While you might want to reduce inequality, chavistas want equality itself.

          • Another difference, and that’s what lies beneath it all, is that Chavez has lots of petrodollars to back up his claims of “caring” for the people, while the opposition does not.

          • once again, dia nuevo: Chavez controls over 90% of the national revenues. He can doe whatever he wants with that money. Even if you put the Cisneros, Mendozas and many other well-off families and businesses together, they’d be no match against the whole Venezuelan petrostate.
            Stop pulling things out of your ass and DO THE FRIGGIN MATH!

          • In Mexico people sold their vote for $30, or so I heard. So it seems very reasonable that poor, desperate people would sell their vote for washing machine.

            And what’s your point about inequality? Poverty does exist. It was always existed. The government is supposed to do its best to erradicate it or alliviate it. It has the mandate – and now the petrodollars – to do that. That’s its job. What is absolutely unfair is to take advantage of poor people scaring or luring them into voting for Chavez by giving them cheap or free stuff used as mere political propaganda. That’s very, very wrong.

          • I would swing my vote for a chance at a washing machine if I was convinced there was nothing else of any significance that government could offer me. The example of Mexico is a good one. People just assume there will be massive corruption and incompetence, so they look to what they can get out of it in the ‘here and right now.’ It is not that people are ignorant. Quite the opposite, their choices are based on their experience. The truth is, Chavista or no Chavista, people don’t know what good government can do. So the price of a vote is low.

          • Its not only the national revenues, chavismo uses everything at their disposal to win, blackmail to public employees for votes, promotions. The National Media System. The ventajismo goes well beyond having more money.

    • I have no problem with having a discussion. What bothers me is that dianuevo is not bringing anything of use. Toro says that “petrochequera mata galan”. dianuevo says it’s false.
      Sorry, but if you wanna have a serious discussion, you need better arguments than “you are wrong”, which is what dianuevo is basically doing…

      • If you read between the lines what is said that Chavez has won only by misusing state funds. I think the reason lies in the past. The poor where overlooked by the CAP administration which was also corrupt and was misusing state funds. The main reason for getting reelected I think is distrust from the poor, and they have more than enough reason to distrust the opposition.

        • Coño viejo, your problem is not only just plain innumeracy, but confirmation bias. Let me repeat it once again. First, social programs are nothing new. CAP II had them too. Second, 10 <150. Third, yes, there was corruption during CAP II. But there's also corruption under Chavez.

          Yes, mistrust is part of the problem, but it's not the only one. MUD is working hard on the trust issue, but the state-funded hate/fearmongering/paranoia campaign is not helping to get the message true.

          • I do not have a problem to be honest. I do not even have a problem with the fact that chavez got reelected. There’s a saying quite apt for this sort of situation: “cada pueblo tiene el gobierno que se merece”. That’s our reality, it’s been smacking us in the face, not since 1998 but since 1811. It’s about time to man up, and start dealing with it, both individually and collectively.

  10. No puedo escribir en inglés y expresar adecuadamente mi punto. Muchas personas un poco ajenas a la situación de Venezuela les puede ser difícil entender cómo un programa de entregas de electrodomésticos puede hacer la diferencia entre votar por uno o por otro. Hay grandes estrategias de manipulación detrás de la campaña, que son geniales. En primer lugar, te dicen que están aprobados millones de productos que se distribuirán eficientemente en la población. En segundo lugar, los operativos son místicos, secretos y cuando por fin encuentras uno, deficiéntemente lentos. Una persona, para poder obtener su producto, debe esperar unas 24 horas nadamás para que se lo aprueben, sin contar con la cola para retirarlo. Yo personalmente estuve en el programa unas tres veces, intentando obtener los productos a bajo costo, y debo decir que me sentí muy humillada, como si en el país no tuviesemos derecho de disfrutar productos de bajo coste sin hacer una cola de tres días. En el rpoceso el autoestima se reduce, y en todos sitios está la sempiterna cara de Chávez, por lo que parece una peregrinación de una extraña religión en la que debemos pedir a nuestro jefe de estado que nos regale una casita o jalarle b… para obtener los productos que fueron comprados con nuestro petróleo. No estoy diciendo que sea justo, pero funciona: se traduce en: no-chavez, no casita, bequita o neverita. Gracias.

    • Si alguien en el foro conoce Cuba, y el sistema que usan para las dádivas. Por favor nos lo cuenta? Yo creo que la cosa es muuuy parecida a la historia de Al-ih.

    • “En el proceso el autoestima se reduce, y en todos sitios está la sempiterna cara de Chávez, por lo que parece una peregrinación de una extraña religión en la que debemos pedir a nuestro jefe de estado que nos regale una casita o jalarle b… para obtener los productos que fueron comprados con nuestro petróleo.”

      Excelente comparación.
      Dime una cosa: al final obtuviste los productos a buen precio?

      • NO, a pesar de trabajar para el estado, y haber hecho colas de hasta 6 hors, los sitios de venta estaban muy abarrotados! hubo una oportunidad en la que llegué a averiguar y ya había cola para el día siguiente, que deprimente no? poco a poco el venezolano se acostumbra más a colas eternas por algo que NO le regalan, y que todos y todas nos merecemos. El carro por suvinca si me lo gané pero, grcias a Chavez?, no lo creo, creo que fué gracias al sudor de mi frente….

  11. Why does not the opposition commission a study among pro-government voters to test some hypotheses? Why did you vote for Chavez? Why did you not vote for the opposition? That would be a good start. We suspect some factors for a Chavez vote: propaganda juggernaut, welfare state, emotional bonding with el comandante, and fear of retribution (hard to measure in a poll), for example. Same goes for a vote against the opposition: fear that the new guy will be worse than the old one, those guys are oligarchs, etc. Design a good study that might tease out whether any of these is (more) significant than others. You need more data and less speculation! Where is the science in these political scientists? (not referring to Quico et al., here).

    • Well, Quico in his article states a hypohesis and give some arguments to support it. Geha correctly pointed out that it is not only about the giveaways, but also about the propaganda machine that runs in parallel to them. Of course it’s not as simple as: give money away, make ads, then become president. There are many factors.

      There are as many reasons to vote for Chavez as there are people out there actually doing that. And it’s not simple to figure it out. And there are people out there trying to understand what’s going on. I remember that Schemel did some focus groups a few years ago and then came with the hypothesis of the “mystical connection” Chavez-people. Is that right? It could be. I dunno…

      Sadly, if Toro or Schemel (or both) are right, it’s very likely that Chavez will be President for life, regardless of blackouts, corruption, insecurity or incompetence of the government….

      • it’s very likely that Chavez will be President for life, regardless of blackouts, corruption, insecurity or incompetence of the government….

        Yes. One big assumption that the opposition works with is that support for Chávez dwindles with a perceived decrease in quality of life. This sounds plausible, but the electoral results tell us a very different and complex story.

        Let me set aside, for a moment, the question of a subjective perception of quality of life — getting a house or a fridge might be a good thing for you, but blackouts, bad infrastructure and crime affect us all.

        There’s a piece of data that, in my opinion, explains may things: Chávez has always been more popular than his congressmen, governors and mayors. For example, he won in Zulia, but I don’t see Arias Cardenas winning there in December — the same thing happened last time; Chávez won in 2006 but Pérez and Rosales won in 2008 with comfortable victories and a similar degree of absenteeism.

        So, what is going on? My hypothesis is that people do perceive some decreases in their quality of life, but that they just can’t bring themselves to take it out on Chávez, so they go after his other guys. Their connection with him is different, and runs on a deeper level than the basic “see results, decide vote” model we’re operating with. We’ve all heard the “he’s a good man, but he’s surrounded by too many incompetent crooks” story from our chavista acquaintances, which serves as a nice explanans for the bad stuff. Note that I don’t even mean this condescendingly — after all, you have to recognize that he is incredibly charismatic and knows how to talk to the common people.

        • Well said. “The buck stops”, not at incompetent/corrupt Chavez’s door, as it should, but at the doors of all his personally appointed incompetent/corrupt minions. Messianic mis-interpretation (Heck, even the King stood up when he heard the glorious chorus of the “Messiah” for the first time!!)

          • I think the mystical connection has been hugely underestimated, and the rational aspect of the voter hugely overestimated, by the opposition. Check out this TED talk. I might not agree with 100% of what this fellow says, but one remark stood with me: “Martin Luther King gave the ‘I-have-a-dream-speech’, not the ‘I-have-a-10-point-program-speech'”. “Hay un Camino” was a decent start on the war of memes between the opposition and Chavez. Yet, a three-month campaign by a candidate relentlessly attacked as an oligarch, might not have been enough to undo 14 years of bonding and indoctrination. Again, a serious study by serious political scientists is possible. The money spent would go a long way to escaping our self-imposed intellectual straight-jacket.

      • “Sadly, if Toro or Schemel (or both) are right, it’s very likely that Chavez will be President for life, regardless of blackouts, corruption, insecurity or incompetence of the government….”

        I disagree. This election was much closer than any other presidential election against Chavez. If only 1 in 20 would change his mind, even with all the propaganda machine and all the money and abuses, the competition would be a dead heat. Most people can only see the result of the election in digital terms 1 or 0, on or off, black or white, win or lose, and not notice the percentages. Politics is a game of percentages, of growing a following, of creating an image and building a perception among the people. It’s about swaying masses of people. The more people you sway the more others can be swayed. There are also rhythms off back and forth, up and down like in the waves of the sea. Some of it takes time and perseverance, and sometimes there are tsunamis like Chávez. Tsunamis are unpredictable, so the only thing we can really do is persevere.

        The real test comes in December, which side will have more steam?
        will the people swayed by Capriles support the opposition candidates?
        Or will that support deflate because is not transferable or people are sad?
        Will the chavista machinery be as effective for that election?

        • I practically read the transcripcion of the words that Capriles said a few minutes ago in his press conference. The tendence is very good for the op, but for me, the problem is deeper… Is not about the people that likes Chavez, is about the millions of people that preffer the porject of the PSUV. If Chavez die tomorrow of cáncer, It wouldnt change that reality. I live my life surrounded by the chavismo, and the ideology planted in the mind of the pueblo in 14 years is really strong… almos psychotic in some cases. This goverment project has invested a lot of money in education, is true, but in a curricula that chooses an significnt amount of time teaching “pensamiento bolivariano y socialista”, on detriment of the actual education of the profession itself. I share a pot from a friend of mine, that gives an analysis of the situation, just like your. I agree with him in some points, disagree in anothers, enjoy it an post your comments.

  12. Now if one of you gentlemen wants to pay my way down that would be great but TS Issac did me in recently and being a working class kind of guy things are kind of tight.Have been in Venezuela before and even though I am in contact with the comrades of VA I think Caracas and the Jan.23rd is the place to be.

    As for the Chinese capitalists no one has been more critical than I of them, I say cut off the oil to them, the USA,Syria, and Iran…

    As for being in the belly of the beast in the US

    • “Cort En El 23”–ha,ha–Once they’ve finished off the “Clueless Gringo”, they might even turn the experience into a Reggueton or Tuki they can dance to. (like “Hay Fuego En El 23”)

    • I could have a member of my family pick you up at the airport and deliver you to el 23 de enero, where you will undoubtedly enjoy your stay. No pick-up service is available at the end of your stay. If you live that long.

      God, what a clueless idiot.

    • Deal! Let’s set up a vaca. How much is a one-way ticket to Maiquetía? Let’s add in the cab ride to and from the airport. Can anyone come up with a number? We set up a web page (Cort, can you provide a picture?) with some choice PSF quotes and we should have the money soon. Let’s all put our money where our mouths are.

      • I’d personally throw in $200 if there was some way to ensure Cort would actually keep his word and make a go if it in 23 de Enero.

      • Cab from the airport? I think we’d want him to enjoy a night or two having “revolutionary meetings” in Vargas, no?

  13. I would like to know how much the fear of the vote not being secret, true or not, the fear is enough, influenced the result.

    • Well, my cousin works at PDVSA, she told us she was going to vote for Chavez because she couldn’t afford to lose her job. I wonder how many more got scared by the fingerprint scan and don’t really think the vote is secret.

      • As I commented above in Banco Bicentenario, they took their fingerprints and told them they would know whom they were going to vote through the captahuellas (We know this was not technically possible, but many people believe it anyway). Probably one of the things to reflect on now is the impact of fear on the results, and if maybe we should have fought to eliminate the captahuellas altogether from the system. Its impossible to know the impact for sure, but the government scared and blackmail a lot of people with this.

  14. Pregunto a Quico y otros lectores: cómo se explica el 45% que resiste a la “persuasión” del petro-estado, rico, corrupto y corruptor? Hemos hablado mucho de la mayoría que eligió a Chávez por seis años más, pero quisiera saber porqué muchos de los pobres que forman parte de ese 45% se resiste a las maniobras populistas y vota por Capriles. Cómo lo explican? Agradecería sus opiniones.

      • It may sound bitter, but sometimes the truth is bitter.

        I’ve caught hell on CC more than once for saying that to vote for Chavez, you have to either be ignorant, or a crook. You either buy his lies, or you’re profiting from them. I’ve been called de fascista p’abajo, but am I wrong? I don’t think so.

        “Ignorant”, crude though it sounds, is something all of us are about certain things. For many of our countrymen, ignorance is widespread regarding how Chavez’s populist spending will have to be paid for eventually, and how they’re likely to be the ones who suffer the most when the chickens come home to roost.

        A much larger proportion of Venezuelans supported Chavez in 1998 than today, and many of them have had their ignorance stripped away by fear, insecurity, hunger, financial ruin, and sometimes, violent death(s) in the family. To the rest, well, ignorance IS bliss. For a time.

    • It’s a good question because it makes us approach the problem from a different angle. It’s always very easy to explain the other guys: they’re dumb or evil.
      We cannot be so simplistic with ourselves. Of course each one of us in particular have his own reasons to vote for Capriles. But if we wanted to explain all the voters we need to first separate them in the big groups:
      1- Die hard opposition. Have never voted for Chavez and would never do. There may be many different subgroups here with different reasons but why bother studying them? They’re a sure thing.
      2- Voted for Chávez before but opened their eyes and would never do it again. They were confused about Chávez but opened their eyes. They’re just like the previous group except they didn’t know Chávez that well before. They’re also a sure thing.
      3- Have voted for Chavez before and may do it again in the future.
      4- They’ve never voted for Chávez before but may do it in the future.

      Groups 3&4 are the interesting ones,
      why do they resist the pressures? why do they resist the offerings? what sways them?
      There could be several reasons like:
      – They saw Capriles in person and were impressed by him.
      – They’re independent, the government can’t pressure them
      – They have no need for the Misiones.
      – They believe the vote is secret
      – They don’t like being pressured
      – They tried the Misiones but were disappointed
      – They suffered directly because of the government: crime, job, scarcity, blackouts

      Other ideas?
      It would be good to have percentages for each category and each reason.

      • Gracias por el análisis. Es el comienzo de una respuesta que creo necesitamos profundizar. Nos hemos concentrado en responder porqué votan por Chávez (lo que es muy importante), pero no entendemos de qué están hechos los venezolanos, sobre todo los pobres, que se resisten a los cantos de sirena del chavismo.

  15. Hi all,

    I think it is time to seriously consider what I call the “Torres strategy”: Taking the oil revenues and directly deposit (after taxes) to each living Venezuelan his/her corresponding share of the oil wealth.

    This option is considered by some as the “ultimate populist” move. I consider that it is quite the opposite: It is the only realistic measure that can, once and for all, dismantle the perverse distortions of the petrostate.

    I will add that it is not only realistic, but self-sustaining: Petrodollars in the hands of the citizens will take them away from money-squandering, corruption-prone, quixotic projects, and funneling them to what the citizens really need or care. Citizens interested in getting more oil revenues will politically pressure for better management and further development of our oil resources, and political wanna-be’s will need to court the citizens on those terms.

    The more I think about it, the more doable and self-reinforcing (in a virtuous circle way) I find it.

    Let’s give it a try and discuss in full the pros, cons, potential pitfalls and implementation issues, shall we?.

    • Rosales promised this in the last stages of his campaign, and he still lost big. The Pueblo Venezuelan voter is more of the here-and-now, and promised future abstractions don’t seem to reach him, in general (one of the many possible contributing reasons to the Capriles’ loss).

      • Rosales did not promise this. He only promised 20% of revenues, to families, in sporadic spurt amounts, and in the end under certain conditions. Very different.

        Rosales’s big loss was because his promises were too little, too late, and lacked confidence. The number of people registering for the Mi Negra was growing exponentially despite the very iffy and late sell.

        • You can’t direct deposit much/ if any more than 20%. You still have a bloated Government bureaucracy to run, payments to States to make, a huge debt interest/income to pay, etc. Great Mi Negra (was a good idea, however) exponential growth in the 2/1 or so Rosales’ loss! And you don’t think that lack of confidence in Capriles’ promise not to cut back/eliminate Misiones was not a factor in his loss??

          • NET, you can direct deposit 100%, and that is what is being suggested, and that is the reason you should not compare the Rosales plan to this. The money for the things you mention and everything else would come from the taxation that results from all that money flooding back up through the market.

            As to the mention of exponential growth of supporters, the point was that had Mi Negra been announced earlier, it would have gathered many, many more voters, enough to win.

            I do think Capriles’s lack of clarity and consistency with respect to the misiones was a factor, but I lean much more towards the rule of thumb of “people vote with their pockets”. In this case, people see the misiones as part of their pockets, especially the washing machine type misiones as Quico points out. If you look into real estate, you’ll see people spending way too much time worrying about the appliances that come with the house as if a lousy appliance was a deal breaker in a purchase of a home that is 200 fold more expensive.

          • 100% Direct Deposit is a Utopian Politically-Unacceptable Practically-Unworkable Impossible Dream Mi Negra announced earlier would have gathered more voters, but I don’t have your crystal ball to know that it would have been enough. Remember, Rosales even lost in Zulia!

          • NET, consider that the government of a country with no oil can live off of only taxation. Why would you consider it Utopian to support a system in which Venezuela’s government lives off of taxation, with the oil money simply serving to increase the amount received by the taxation venue?

      • Good way to start the issue: Why taxation should come later and not after?.

        It is an income, and therefore it is taxable as the salary is. The citizen MUST feel the pressure beforehand if a bloated government bureaucracy, huge debt, all the stuff mentioned by NET, or any other inefficiency starts to cut down on her oil income.

        If the citizen sees her oil revenue dwindle, then she will pass the pressure on to the government, and a balance could be reached.

        As I said: Properly implemented, it is self-sustainable and self-balancing.

        • The reason is mainly two-fold.

          The first is that oil money, comes from oil that already belongs to the citizens. By selling the oil, the money from the sale should, therefore, go to its owners. It’s not a salary. It’s not a handout. It’s already ours.

          The second reason is that, since only those above a certain income pay taxes, and since only after adding this income to any other income can one know the proper tax bracket, the taxation should be calculated after all the incomes have been added.

          So there should be no tax withholding.

          The pressure that you mention would come from the government’s attempts to increase taxation to pay for the bloatedness and inefficiency. The levels of taxation required for current government spending levels would cause a true revolution.

  16. Is that “Torres strategy” named after Gerver Torres? Didn’t he actually propose something more like selling stock among the Venezuelan population?

      • Well, I indeed call it “Torres strategy” because user “extorres” has being pushing it here for a long time. At first I dismissed it, but the more I think about it, the more sense I found at it.

        Whether “extorres” is related to Gerver Torres or not, I don’t know.

    • Several have pushed for selling PDVSA stock (I think Gerver Torres is one of them). I disagree with that venue for various reasons. In a nutshell, my main argument is that there is no advantage to providing people with stocks over providing them with cash, and there are many disadvantages. Besides the pragmatics, my greatest concern is that I don’t think the government should own oil companies, including PDVSA, nor that Venezuelan citizens should be forced to own a share of a company to reap benefits from what is already theirs, the oil. Let oil companies pay for the oil, and let that money go to its owners. The government provides the service of administering the sale, but it should only benefit via taxation for that service.

  17. Thank you for the TED talk on washing machines–I’m old enough to remember the washer women in Venezuela who washed in the streams of Anzoategui and dried clothes wherever they could. And until someone introduced the platforms on which to wash the clothes so they weren’t on the ground beside the stream they sometimes lost arms or other body parts to the caymans. And I remember in a village near Barcelona someone had caught a cayman held responsible for a washer woman’s lost arm and they tied it to the back of a truck on a rope and dragged it through the village ’til it died. Washing clothes was perilous in Venezuela at one time and we should never forget that. Yes, washing machines are important to the women of the world and those of us who have them forget how much they mean to the women of the world.

  18. Not sure there’s much different here beyond what we already knew from reading The Magical State. Except perhaps that oil rents are flowing more directly and in greater quantities into the lives of larger chunks electorate. And there’s an inchoate overlay of socialism at once enabled but also hamstrung by that same rentier dynamic. What does seem central is that changes in quality of life are relative, at least insofar as material conditions are concerned. That much seems clear.

  19. Okey, okey. Now that we know why Chavez shall win until death doth him part from this Earth, and how Venezuela had some 40 years of governments that did many of the things he did, thus allowing the situation to degenerate to the point we got Chavez…

    There’s first the question that tortures our minds now: How do we get to WIN UNDER THESE SH*#@Y CONDITIONS?

    When do we start discussing the nagging question, namely, the one that should be torturing our minds now and for all the remain of our lives. HOW THE F*$& do we get Venezuela TO STOP BEING A F*&@ING PETROSTATE, if that’s possible, BEFORE OIL ENDS, or rather BEFORE IT BECOMES A F$&@ING FAILED STATE?

    Pardon my French…


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