Rah rah rah


Fifteen months ago, I was visiting some friends at the campaign headquarters of Henrique Capriles. We were shooting the breeze, excitedly talking about the nascent candidacy, looking out at the Ávila on a gorgeous afternoon, when in walks a lady.

“Juan,” my friend says, “meet Fulana de Tal.”

I remembered him mentioning her an hour or so before, talking about the important role she was playing in the campaign-messaging decisions.

“Fulana,” says my friend, “this is Juan Cristobal Nagel, from Caracas Chronicles.”

“Oh yeah,” says Fulana, “great website. We monitor you guys – our media guy scans websites for information on Henrique every day.”

“Oh wow,” I say, somewhat flattered, “then I hope you don’t read today’s post, because I just wrote something that could be interpreted as mildly critical of Henrique. Basically, I wonder out loud what his positions are.”

“Well,” she says, “you have to decide, are you a friend … or are you an enemy?”

The question took me aback. I was half-expecting Fulana to wink, or chuckle, or not give my post any importance. After all, don’t people write negative stuff about Henrique every day? Who cares what someone writes in a little blog … written in English?

But her response, with her eyes narrowing to slits and the smile wiped from her face, was all business. She was serious: was I a friend … or an enemy?

“I… I…,” I said, sputtering, “of course I’m a friend!”

That’s the point I lost my way.

This post is a mea culpa of sorts.

As I digest what happened on Sunday, one of the things I regret the most is how this blog – or at least the small part I am responsible for – lost its ability to think critically and found itself increasingly in the role of cheerleader.

The reasons for this are varied. Obviously, the desperate desire to get rid of Hugo Chávez is tops. But it goes beyond that. I have several close friends working with Capriles, people I admire and respect and who I am in touch with.

As I continued writing about the Capriles campaign, I started noticing that many of the campaign’s themes were stuff we had been barking about for years: the focus on the small cities and the country-side, the appeal to moderate chavista voters, the emphasis on building on Chávez’s legacy rather than running on vows to destroy it.

Without being a part of it, I felt completely in synch with the campaign. I willfully put myself in the bubble. I was…inebriated.

One of the consequences of my experience in the bubble – and let me stress that I was never part of the campaign – was that I stopped looking at things critically. When most polls were saying that Capriles was way behind, I insisted on believing the one poll that put him ahead. (Granted, this one poll had a good track record until Sunday, something I still believe, despite claims that I was “willfully” misleading CC’s readers.)

When people I have known forever and respect, such as BofA’s Francisco Rodríguez, insisted Chávez was going to win comfortably, I pooh-poohed out the negativity. When another friend I respect insisted that the whole “the undecideds are hidden Capriles voters” conclusion and other such nonsense were wrong, I ignored her.

“When, in order to convince yourself you’re gonna win, you have to take a poll and start projecting, taking the second derivative, and applying logarithms, you’re not in a good position,” she said.

No, I thought from safely inside the bubble, there is something wrong with those polls. Whenever I asked my friends inside the campaign, they told me “look at Consultores 21, they are doing a good job. Why, they are even working with firm ___, which is known the world over. They are not biased. We’re tied, and have momentum.”

It was too comfortable inside the bubble, and applying critical thinking was going to lead to painful conclusions. Shun the pessimism, I thought, much like what many are saying today. The oil boom is a mirage, and only one factor of many. If people are killing themselves in the streets, I thought, that surely has to weigh about as much. After all, what good is a washing machine if there are daily blackouts? Surely, Henrique’s perfect campaign will capitalize on this – and let’s face it, it was a pretty darn perfect campaign, I still believe that.

Part of being in the bubble meant glancing over deep differences I have with several of Capriles’ main proposals. “No public employees are going to be fired” sounded like a terrible idea to me, but I didn’t say anything about it because it seemed like it was a winning position to take. Besides, if Capriles really believed in that, what was I going to do, vote for Chávez?

Continuing to say we can have cheap gasoline AND no rationing chip AND no rationing of any other kind was simply illogical, but I chose to simply comment on the brilliance of the latest Capriles ad. Vowing that the Misiones would not be changed, only improved, was simply hogwash, but I only criticized it mildly … and moved on. And let’s not even mention “cada vez son miles y miles y miles, cada vez son miles que están con Capriles” … which is not even grammatical! But I chose to keep quiet.

I truly believe Henrique Capriles meant all the stuff he said, but looking back, I should have been hammering him for it. I deeply admire Capriles and continue to support him, but I shouldn’t have looked the other way. I don’t do him or his people any favors by withholding my criticism.

So yes, dear readers, I was wrong, and I misled you. This, however, does not mean I did it on purpose.

I did not knowingly mislead. Everything I wrote, everything I write, reflects what I believe in the moment that I write it. I was in the bubble, but I did not realize it until now. I chose to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, but I did not do so with the intent of misleading. And writing my opinion is something I cannot apologize for, since that is what blogs are: opinion pages.

There is still time to reflect, and there will be another post talking about where I think the opposition goes from here. But from now on, I promise to sharpen my critical thinking, to do my best not to fall into group-think again.

The results of writing from the bubble are too painful, and I owe it to you to be better than that.

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  1. “Well,” she says, “you have to decide, are you a friend … or are you an enemy?”

    When someone takes such a ridiculous stance (Need I remind you that’s basically Chavez’s slogan), it should ring alarm bells.

    • not only is that the perspective of a die-hard chavista, it also goes contrary to what Henrique’s philosophy: that there’s room for everyone. Geez, I’d be tempted to publish her name.

      • Nah, I don’t hold it against her. One has to understand the incredibly hostile media environment that the campaign was operating in. I, on the other hand, should have known better.

        • Not true, not true, not true. No pollster told you abstention would be 20%. Move abstention to 28% and C21 would have been right and Datanalisis terribly wrong. And Rodriguez stayed the course, because the pollster he follows was saying Chavez ahead by a mile (18%). Fifteen days before the election that pollster said 10%, Ten days before it said 6%, two days before it said it was tied, So, there was reason to be cheerleading and hopeful, the pollsters failed miserably.

          • Miguel, that sounds like a whole lot of complicated self-justification. But I’m glad C21 still has some believers out there!

          • Please Juan, that is a terrible conclusion to reach from what I said. This is nothing complicated, to understand this election, you need and have to understand that: look at the numbers, Chavez said it today, Chavismo got 3 million more votes than in 2010. That was the whole story. No pollster predicted that, they are all terrible. I dont believe in C21, but I dont believe in the rest either, their results were random mathematically speaking.

          • I think it’s clear that Datanalisis was pretty darn close and C21 was off by a mile. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. But anyway, everyone has their own opinion about Vzlan pollsters.

  2. The whole point of the campain was to create the illusion we were going to win. You can’t blame yourself for falling, most of us did because that was what it was designed for.

    The whole unity movement in the opposition led to this, there was no space for critique because that would have scared voters away and the stakes were just to high to let that happen. Yes, it was wrong, but it was the only way since we we’re going against the propaganda monster that is the Venezuelan government.

    I’m just a kid and most likely the most ignorant person in this blog but what I understood from everything the MUD did is that first they had to win, no matter what, and then they could move on to actually finding the failures in the proposals and correcting them. After all, Venezuelan voters have a really short political memory span so the consequences would’ve been minimal. Politics are disgusting but sometimes “el fin justifica los medios”.

  3. Juan, let’s admit it. We all knew deep inside Capriles was not going to win. You know when you have that “it’s too good to be true” feeling? We just couldn’t express it. That would have appeared too defeatist AND in the end we all wanted him to win so expressing our frustration would have been nothing but detrimental to the campaign and our own motivation to drive thousands of miles to go vote.

  4. We don’t expect you to write without bias. Everyone in the world is embedded in a matrix of relationships, convictions, hopes, and fears. You wrote what you saw, and what seemed true. Compared to other blogs, CC did a fairly good job of providing reliable info. I think you guys were among the most persistent in talking about how hard it was for the opposition to penetrate into the countryside; ultimately it seems that Chavez won his majority right there.

  5. Ya que estamos en la onda de sincerar la discusión (y espero que respondan los autores del blog, aunque yo escriba en español), pregunto: cuánto pesa en la derrota de Capriles (y de cualquier otro candidato con las mismas características) que siga siendo percibido por una buena parte del electorado venezolano como un “sifrinito” de la clase acomodada? Habría manera de contrarrestar esa percepción en ciertos electores pobres para lograr la mayoría? También me pregunto: qué hace que ciertos electores de sectores populares (que forman parte del 45% que votó por Henrique) no consideren que la imagen de “sifrino” que podría transmitir un candidato como Capriles (cosa que él ha logrado manejar bien, con la vocación heróica que mostró en la campaña) no sea un obstáculo para votar por él? Espero sus comentarios.

    • Puede ser, pero ¿a quién mas teníamos? Pablo Pérez no es un sifrino, es percibido más como del pueblo, pero Chávez se lo hubiera tragado vivo. Capriles era el mejor candidato que teníamos.

        • No pienso nada más en Henrique como caso en particular, pero en ese obstáculo perceptual que existe y que habrá que considerar en futuras campañas. Insisto, Henrique ha hecho un montón por contrarrestar esa percepción, pero creo que es algo a mejorar de cara a próximas elecciones. Por eso pienso que hay que entender mejor a los pobres que votaron por Capriles y que forman parte de ese 45%, un tema que no he visto analizado en ninguna parte. Seguiré preguntando a ver si alguien me ilumina al respecto. Qué me dicen del 45%? Hay algo interesante que explorar allí?

          • Chavez forever!……..amen……….self-delusion-self-center-self-importance-self-focus is the destruction of any political party……….the opposition is the acme of Venezuela’s political party self-destruction………..they never care for Venezuela much less fort the poor which represents 80% of the population…….amen………

          • and remember, to be somebody, to be a person, to be a being in Venezuela you have to be rich, dress well and be dishonest and ready to take a down payment…..remember the campaign manager?……………….sorry but it is the truth………..

        • Sea como sea, eso no se dilucidó en un laboratorio, sino en las primarias. Preferimos a Capriles y, salvo algún detalle, es hora de exigirle tanto como su rol implica.

          Lo digo con todo el interés de seguir apoyándolo y, claro, de ganar.

    • Imaginate !!! Un doctorado no seria suficiente…sin hablar que tendrias que diseñar un instrumento de medición carísimo ( si quisieras alguna respuesta un poco más cientifica) … Desde los que no confian en el cne, y quieren guardar su trabajo ( por mas de que se demuestre lo contrario) hasta la esperanza de la dadiva concedida o por conceder…hasta que de repente esos pobres con capriles identifican en algo que quieren ser… Y si quieres tambien te meto el de sindrome de mujer maltratada, el me pega pero me quiere?
      ?Como contrarrestar? bueno no hay una estrategia…Han sido 14 años de propaganda , donde yo he pasado a ser una catira ( y creeme tengo pelo negro ojos marrones, si clara, no blanca , porque bastante que me bronceo) Pero me han llamado asi en mercados ( y yo en la luna porque por supuesto no me identifico… En fin

    • No creo que haya tenido mucha importancia excepto en un sector minoritario y radical que hubiera sido igualmente impermeable con otro candidato mas aceptable. Hay que seguir haciendo énfasis en discutir los problemas de la gente. Buscar un candidato “no sifrino” seria un grave error estratégico. Lo que sí me parece buena idea es tender puentes con líderes del chavismo moderado para lograr que desaparezca el miedo a criticar a Chavez. La gente tiene que demandar soluciones. Y si el Chavismo provee esas soluciones pefecto, pero si no, entonces tendrán una alternativa.

    • Isaac
      Te puse mi opinión a tu pregunta del 45% en tu comentario original en: https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2012/10/09/petropopulism-mata-galan/

      Respecto, a lo de la imagen de “sifrino” mi impresión particular, y no tengo argumentos de peso para sustentarlo, es que tiene poca importancia. Normalmente, ‘ceteris paribus’ , es decir siendo las demás cosas igual, tener afinidad con el candidato en aspectos como el acento, la clase social y el origen representan una ventaja. Pero teniendo candidatos tan distintos como Chávez y Capriles en cuanto a personalidad e historia política me parece que el peso relativo de la afinidad es menor. Me explico, por un lado tienes un candidato que es un showman, habla de epopeyas, canta, grita, insulta, es pendenciero, exagera y miente con facilidad y por el otro uno que habla pausado, con cuidado, parece honesto, sincero y moderado. Por un lado tienes un candidato que ha creado grandiosos (desde el punto de vista propagandístico) programas de vivienda, educación, salud, electrodomésticos y comida y por el otro alguien que ofrece mejorarlos. Por un lado tienes un país que parece que se cae a pedazos con apagones, crimen, escasez, subempleo y por el otro lado tienes unas promesas de mejorar la situación. Por un lado tienes un candidato cuyo rostro aparece en todos los canales de televisión y empapela media Venezuela y por el otro un candidato que un día se apareció en tu pueblo en persona en mitin político. Por un lado tienes un candidato que ha estado en el poder durante 14 años y que parece que ha pasado todos esos años frente a las cámaras de televisión y por el otro lado tienes un joven gobernador que lo conocen y estiman en Caracas.
      Considerando todos esos contrastes me parece que cuando se llega a evaluar la calidad de sifrino de un candidato versus lo ordinario del otro ya la decisión ha sido tomada previamente.

  6. I don’t understand all this handwringing about following the wrong poll.

    To me, there is a degree of opinion and advocacy in this blog which is welcome, and is not exactly over the top. You’ve got the “Beyond the cliches…” but you’ve also got the quote from Bolivar above. If this is going to drive the analysis deeper into polling data next time around, many of your readers may flee for the hills. The main attraction of this blog is not the polling analysis and the horserace coverage, IMHO.

    If there was an election call in favour of Capriles in your analysis, I don’t recall it: maybe you can remind us. I detected optimism, and frankly, you came to that late. It would not surprise me that you came to it: you are from Venezuela. It may have been different if you were covering the elections in Russia. And otherwise less interesting or valuable in that case.

    As for the “bubble”, there are people firmly outside the bubble who didn’t call it either. Hard boiled people.

    So we have cynicism and fatalism on the one hand, and cheerleading and looney tunes radicalism on the other. And somewhere in between, you all are in a good spot.

    You’ll hate this guy, who is recommending a ban on polls:


    By the way, they are killing Toro over in the Latitude comments section right now. In my view, there was no deception going on here, willful or otherwise. Its just Monday morning quarterbacking, and Monday morning handwringing, to throw out a couple of cliches…

    • Just as an observation, in no way intending to stir things up, the trouble with the Latitude essay is this line: “… that a brilliant opposition campaign could somehow short-circuit this bedeviled [petro-populist] logic.” As Nagel’s very compelling post points out, that’s not actually – or even at all – what Capriles was offering, a short-circuiting of the petro-state logic. Distilled, his stated programs rested on a claim to more and better of the same, without the ideological overlay and its attendant polarizing dynamic, at home and abroad. And at that point – petro-populism without even the pretense of ideology – it really does begin to resemble what came before, and it’s a difficult argument to make in the fray of a very uneven campaign.

      • Isn’t this exactly what CAP did during the ’87 campaign, promising that he was going to continue the 70’s petro state spend when in turn he surprised everyone with a macro adjustment program?

        Not that I expect HCR to make a CAP style turn but I felt it was expectable and even logical for his government to reign down in some of these programs, especially those with the biggest spill (i.e. corruption) factor.

        • And that’s exactly why the leaked memo purporting to show a structural adjustment plan in an eventual Capriles presidency was such a powerful – to my mind, anyway – weapon against his campaign. Whether or not it was true (and putting aside the question of how it was leaked), it seemed to play precisely on the contradiction that Capriles on one hand was promising more of the same, just better and more efficient, and on the other hand critiquing the underlying logic of direct disbursements. I realize that many, not necessarily here, believe that Venezuelan voters, especially those who vote for Chavez, are generally unsophisticated. But it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to realize there’s something strange about a discourse that at once condemns the practices of petro-populism as unsustainable, and doubles down on its most salient features. And certainly not with the very effective (for discrediting purposes) historical precedent of, as you note, CAP II. Incidentally, it also doesn’t take a PhD in economics to realize the contradictions of having a practice of direct disbursements while drawing on a discourse of socialism. But that’s a petro-state in the midst of an oil boom: magical.

    • I’ve never met Juan Cristóbal, but I’ve read all his posts since… when? I can’t remember. Fact is, I thank him for this honest and I presume painful for him to write post.
      I’ve linked it to my e-mail list (I’m an extinct dinosaur. I know). Under the heading ‘The Bubble’. And if you guys here forgive my Spanish, I will definitely make bold to quote part of it:

      ———- Forwarded message ———-
      From: Ana Nuño
      Date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 2:59 PM
      Subject: The Bubble
      To: Ana Nuño

      Honestidad, llamo yo a estas reflexiones de Juan Cristóbal Nagel: https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2012/10/10/rah-rah-rah/

      Mientras haya venezolanos en la oposición capaces de decir ‘pequé por exceso de entusiasmo’, y que a la vez sean capaces de separar el grano de la paja a partir de ahora (defender la Unidad, por encima de todo; revisar las estrategias, críticamente pero no autodestructivamente), en Venezuela hay motivos para la esperanza.

      Y quienes quieran seguir dando la machaca con que cualquier análisis centrado en la realidad y no en el wishful thinking del momento merece ir al Infierno, que se lo hagan mirar: en el fondo, su actitud es la otra cara de los que gritan ‘fraude’.

  7. I think an expectation of a Capriles’ win was not far-fetched. In a normal, non-petrostate SEMI-well-educated country ; what with all the day-to-day problems the average citizen faces, he would have won easily. But, we have an unbelievably poorly-educated electorate in general, many of whom, particularly in the rural areas where Chavez has a 2/1 advantage, simply depend on the State for their very existence. Even with all this, Capriles had a good chance of winning, if he could overcome the fear factor in the larger more-metropolitan areas, along with witnesses at every voting station, to avoid visible fraud, which he did achieve. But the “invisible fraud” won out. In normal democracies it is fraudulent to:1)Utilize (massive) public funds/personnel for electoral propaganda, rallies, media Government Institutional ads/”Cadenas”, and outright payments for voting; 2)Intimidate/coerce voters by threatening them with losing their State job/Mision/Pension/university; and3) (Where I was blindsided in my optimism) On Election Day, at 2 P. M., when things were not going well for Chavez, utilizing 10M+ State /Local Government/State-paid-for transport to go house-to-house to physically transport (intimidated) Chavista voters to the polls in “Operacion Galope/Rescate”. A true democratic vote must be independent/free//non-coerced/non-intimidated/non-threatened/unaided to be valid/non-fraudulent, and in this sense those crying “Fraud” are entirely correct. And, this reality puts the lie to the thesis that Chavez was really elected because of the “Amor” of his “Pueblo”. At least/probably more than 1/20 voters was affected by these fraudulent practices, and that was the difference in Capriles” winning or losing.

  8. Capriles put himself directly in the sights of Fidel and his henchmen. That is and always has been a challenge accepted by only a few.
    Under those circumstances a balanced blog on the democratic rights of Venezuelans should concentrate on those who abuse that which should be a privilege.
    I get the uneasy feeling that we are now about to experience a witch hunt that will further seal the fate of Venezuela.

  9. The campaign was as good as it was going to get for the intention that it had, which was to beat Chavez. Not present a viable option for government, or a way out of the current infra-structure crisis. Just take votes away from Chavez, and introduce the people to a new, different way. Any great idea that the campaign may have had with respect to government would have surely resulted in polarization that it did not need.

    Could the campaign have been better? If by better you mean a different campaign that would have resulted in more votes, then I highly doubt it. Chavez is, unfortunately, unbeatable the way he stands. I’m afraid this just means that Chavez needs to lose votes by himself. They simply cannot be stolen from him, no matter how high above the waist is the water you’re treading.

    The idea of someone replacing Chavez was too good to actually bother in analyzing his alternatives. We’ve had it with the frustrations of dealing with the widespread corruption, crumbling economy, rampant crime and decaying infrastructure that can be solely attributed to the administration for the past 14 years. Any new start would be a fresh start and we all had our different hopes for whatever would happen if Chavez was out of office.

    The good part about all this, is that Capriles has just dodged the bullet of the inevitable economic crisis that would have surely been blamed on him. Cacerolazos by year 2 and a recall election spearheaded by a revived Chavista movement. The way the country stands, Chavez will surely bleed votes away as the duct tape and paper clips stop working. As his administration collapses, voters will know that there’s indeed a way.

  10. Let me start by congratulating you for being so honest, open and forward about your opinions and perceived mistakes. It takes courage.

    Now in this post I see you’re kicking yourself for two different things:
    1).- For softening your stance regarding HCR offerings
    2).- For believing against the polling evidence that HCR was going to pull it off

    Regarding 1) it’s a choice and I think it’s completely valid to do so. Politicians may envision many things while in campaign and then when they take office, reality sets in. To dissect every promise is a little futile when the basic differences between the candidates trumps all those details. Besides you did criticize.

    Number 2) is the painful one because the higher the expectations the bigger the disappointment. But we have nothing to blame you about. You didn’t lie to us or anything like that, you gave us your sincere opinion. Yes, turns out you were wrong but everyone is wrong sometimes (actually we are wrong most of the time in one way or another).

    Regarding that comment, I’m not suggesting you shun the pessimism. I’m saying you’re being pessimistic. You’re being blind to the positive aspects and only seeing the negatives. Please don’t confuse positives/negatives with optimism/pessimism. Every situation has positives and negatives and being objective requires you to see both. Being optimist/pessimist means giving too much weight to one side and too little to the other.

    If you can’t recognize the positive aspects of a situation then your tinted glasses are not letting you see them. Take off those tinted glasses and see the whole spectrum.

    • In fact regarding Number 2) I blame Quico.

      Just kidding. But I remember when in 2006 we were all kind of delirious with the possibilities of Rosales Quico wrote a post bringing us back to earth. I was grateful for that.
      I was kind of expecting him to do it again this time but it didn’t happen so I thought maybe something is different this time around and the polls may be wrong after all. It happens, right? I had high hopes but I still had some doubts, for example I couldn’t put an answer on Daniel’s predictive poll.

    • Oh, I just remembered something else. There was one thing I remember having consciously bitten my tongue about: Capriles’ sudden burst of asking for a debate all the time. Who told him to do that? Ever since Caldera-Lusinchi and the infamous “quiero mas debate! quiero mas debate!” parrot ad, there is a rule in Venezuelan politics: if you’re asking for a debate, you’re losing.

      It made him come across as weak. But me being in the bubble, I kept quiet about it. Shame on me.

  11. I didn’t knew the size of the moral mouse (ratón moral) that you were feeling. You’re only human that’s all. We are prone to error, to get biased, to let the emotions rule over reason. It’s understandable and perfectly natural. I believe that none of the readers arounf here may or should blame you for loosing perspective and if you somehoe mislead some of the readers, they were wishfull to be misleaded.
    Don’t be so harsh with you. In fact, one of your articles was the one that kept me centered, this one here https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2012/09/07/a-call-to-pace-ourselves/.
    I was almost shouting “There is a way”, and feeling triumphalist until I read this. This really helped me to rethink the whole thing and to keep calm and understand that we are not in a 100m race but in a marathon. Yes, we did lose, it’s sad, it’s depressing, we are grieving, but this is not the end,
    I hope i’m not biased, but I see how a well structured alternative has arised different to the “we have to get rid of Chávez”. We have to get up to confront December (which is a lot possible that we loose big time again), but this time with a little less disorder.

    • “We are on a kinfe’s edge, and we may well lose. We could even lose big.”

      There you go, JC did keep us down to earth.
      And then there was this:

      “So even in the worst possible scenario, this is not our only shot at the well in the near future”

      A positive.

      • Thanks amieres. That was one of the few spots of clarity throughout the whole thing.

        BTW, I just remembered another thing I kept quiet about (consciously): the whole Barclays – Grisanti nexus.

  12. I liked being in the bubble. It was a painful ending for me but the reality is Capriles ran an amazing campaign and the electoral drama and the fun and the wonder of it all was worth it. Hell, I kind of am OK with him losing with how he and the opposition handled it. Capriles is still campaigning on social media, he’s not giving up. He’s build an amazing, massive, social media presence.

  13. Big hug.

    Reinaldo, other friends and I were what I called “Emectoral”. Emo + Electoral. We were basically predicting doom and gloom and a Chavez victory, insisting in it. It was hard for us to read what you wrote here, because we felt hope, but we consciously decided to crush that hope. Yet, it was still a tense day, and we lost by a much bigger margin than we expected. So, it was a bit easier for us, but we were also disappointed by the margin. To keep expectations down is something extremely hard, and even in the case of proud rationalists, emotions take your brain and won’t let go.

    Reading this brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes, in different point. Ojos aguaos, coño. You, sir are one of the bravest men, and your intellectual honesty is something we must emulate. They won, but their victory brought the best in you. I am proud we are both on the same side, I am honored to be your friend, despite the huge differences in our politics.

    From now on, a Catholic right winger is one of my role models in intellectual honesty.

    You rock, Juan.

    • Thanks, Guido. As I said on the phone, if this

      “From now on, a Catholic right winger is one of my role models in intellectual honesty.”

      is true, then you have serious issues!

      • Dude, I’ve been commenting here for almost 4 years, you have known me personally for more than a year and now is that you realize that I have serious issues?!

  14. Well, Juan…the question for you is: Are you a journalist or an advocate? If you think of yourself as the former, then you have reason to worry. But I never thought of you as such, not even an analyst. This is a blog, for Pete’s sake! This is not the New York Times. So, you got carried away, ;like most of us. And there is a great deal of group thinking here (as in most niche blogs). So, your perceptions tended to be reinforced by the readers’ comments. Now, since you are starting to get some press in serious journalist outlets, you might want to examine your views when you write for those. I think I knew Capriles was going to lose when I saw the this last Friday: http://yvpolis.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/un-llamado-la-transparencia.html

    The mean of all polls consistently had Chavez winning the entire campaign by at least 10%. Because the mean of all polls averaged biases, this had to mean that there was no way Capriles was going to win. Yet. against logic, I still thought Capriles would win. So, we all choose to believe things against all evidence.

    • I’m neither! I’m an analyst. Not an advocate, not a journalist. I advocate my positions and the way I see the world. I don’t, nor should I, advocate a candidate.

      • Juan, I think you are in a bit of a dilema, as I think a lot of us are.
        Do you advocate what you believe are the best policies for Venezuela? or do you advocate the best policies to win an election against Chavez?
        If a candidate went to the election with the policies that I wanted he wouldn’t get 45%, more like 5%!
        So, just make a decision on where you stand on those questions and report from there, use any diclaimer you want, for example “to do X will be wrong but may win some votes”

  15. The problem is that Capriles is good and in normal circumstances he probably would have won. But Venezuela is no longer normal. Chávez and Chavismo, which are the same thing, is a formidable foe, an immense power, and you can’t beat that with an ok candidate, a “good enough” one. We need a special individual with a constellation of virtues, with absolute merits, but also with the power to stir the heart of the people, kind of like Chávez has done, but in a positive way . We need a sort of “Chávez al contrario”, where all the corruption and crapulence of Chavismo, all its sordidness and cynicism are turned around into their complete opposite. We need a kind of mirror image of Chávez.

  16. A point I have been trying to convey is that politics is not something that happens just in elections. It’s a continuous process with elections being very important and defining moments along the way. But politics happens before, during and after elections, in fact happens all the time. Most people only notice the elections and think they’re the only important thing, so for them it’s game of all or nothing:
    – We lost the election
    – Oh! All that effort wasted
    – Lets pack our things and go home
    – Maybe we’ll try again next time.
    – Yeah we’ll do things differently, this strategy didn’t work.
    That way of thinking makes people disregard the advances and the political capital that was created. It also makes people see in black and white: the loser’s strategy was wrong and should be discarded. But politics is a game of percentages and those percentages are built over time with persistence. The strategy maybe right but the time may not be enough.

    Capriles is a good example, he had a lot of success with his moderate stance winning the presidential primaries and giving Chávez a good fight but back in the more polarized years of 2002-2006 very few people would have accepted that strategy as valid. He persevered and kept pitching his point of view and now the majority in the opposition see him as a great leader. If he keeps persevering that majority will soon be national and not just the opposition. Remember, just 5% (1 in 20) need to change their minds.

  17. I think that the overall problem of this blog (and the opposition) is that things are looked at from the point of view of intellectual-middle class people. Saying that Chávez’s supporters are in there just for the money or that are just “marginales” it is a bit like saying that all north american natives are a bunch of drunks.
    There is reason for the support ( I cannot explain it) and while you keep hearing that the people that supported HCR are for progress and the future, I imagine that a lot of people that like HCF see an insult in being called, indirectly, retrogrades.

    • “Saying that Chávez’s supporters are in there just for the money or that are just “marginales” it is a bit like saying that all north american natives are a bunch of drunks.”

      We’re not saying that. #StrawMan

  18. Juan Datanalisis results were chance, they said abstention would be 28%, that number is as important as saying there was a 10% difference and they had it wrong, to say nothing of saying the undecided would go more than 60% to Capriles.

    • Privately, they were apparently saying that the undecideds were gonna stay home. They stood by their 10-point prediction. So I hear.

      • They did not stay home, abstention was an unheard of 20%. Doubly wrong. Remember, they were saying 28% abstention PLUS 15.5% undecided in their latest poll. If they stayed home, thats 43%. Datanalisis question asked: Who will you vote for: HCF, HCR, Other, Undecided, No voy a votar. They clearly did not get to the answers in my opinion. In some crazy way, Varianzas was the best, they said 2% up for Chavez with 2% undecided low 20’s abstention.

        • The percentage abstention is not the important number, Miguel, the margin is. But we’ll agree to disagree on this. Y que conste … that I am on record bashing Datanalisis a few weeks ago.

  19. I disagree, before the election, I made a model with the 2010 results. I had the numbers from that election broken down in terms of the abstention in pro-oppo polling stations and pro’Chavez polling stations:


    Using those numbers I made a little model that showed that less than a 4% shift in abstention would have given Chavismo a tie, rather than a loss in the 2010 election


    If you think abstention is not important, think again. Our (the opposition’s abstention) abstention did not change, in Chacao it was the same as in 2010. Theirs changed by almost 12%!!!! That is a HUGE number.

    • I agree with the abstention issue and have a question that I’m not sure if it has been addressed:
      Does the PC stations used to give info on mesa, pagina de cuaderno & renglon, could have been used to track voter turnout and mobilize possible abstentionists?

      If you think of it, these stations besides creating bottlenecks were not needed for every voter as the same info could have been gathered from the printed lists outside voting centers or CNE’s website (using your cedula).

      If you are able to track voter turnout and, even better, exactly who has not voted you have a potential powerful tool to mobilize.

      Match this with your patrullas de 1 x 10, who can call you, remind you are a beneficiary of X or Y mission and dispatch transportation to your voting center, and you have a heck of an abstention killer.

      I don’t have any facts on this, and don’t believe in fraud theories, yet wondering is this could have been done…

      Any educated thought on this is appreciated.

      • Of course the laptops were used to monitor real time (or every few minutes) who was voting, why were they equipped with a pair of BIG Wi Fi antennas if they were supposed to have a database of the voting center ?

        On the simulacro I asked one of the persons who was using a laptop if he could tell me which were the voting centers that were offering a demostration on how to use the voting machines, and he said a little nervous that he had no access to Internet, so he could not give that information…. of course he had access, why did he use pair of Wi Fi antenas he had for ?

        it would have been simple to cross voters with tascon list and misiones database and estimate votes on real time. Nelson Bocaranda has an article about a strategy used by PSUV: http://runrun.es/runrunes/56288/runrunes-el-universal-11-10-2012.html

        The first time that the captahuellas (fingerprint scanners) were used, Jorge Rodriguez had a slip when he said that so many people were voting per hour…

  20. Hats off to you, JC. While it’s easy for us anonymous commenters to throw stones cloaked behind our pseudonyms, it takes “gallardia” to write something like this. I look forward to continue reading CC and following your work!

  21. Juan,

    I congratulate you for such a display of self-reflection, responsibility and respect for your readers.

    For what is worth, I truly think that other than being true to your own self, dispensing advice and criticism would have been of limited effect. Even if Henrique would have adopted your recommendations, he would have not won the election. Under the current circumstances (control of CNE, Venezuelan state money being used as campaign money, the media blitz of TV and radio, the ability to change the date and the duration of the campaign, the constant pressure over public employees, among others) are simply too many and too big obstacles to overcome.

    By saying this I hate to take the wind out of the recovery process we all need to go through after the loss, by I also have to be true to myself. Every other discussion, like “we are not connecting with the poor people” or “we should have had the primarias in December”, or every other tactical argument totally misses the point. What we have in Venezuela is a dictatorship, and dictators are not to be thrown out of power by elections if they can help it. Unfortunately, in order to be able to beat him in an election there is a lot of work that needs to be done to level the playing field. Under the current conditions of state control and oil prices, we could have elections ad infinitum every three months and Henrique (or anybody else) would never beat him.

  22. Juan, gracias por ese Mea Culpa. El cambio de tono de CC se notó en su momento, pero muchos de los comentaristas te lo aplaudimos por esos mismos factores que mencionas. El que esté libre de pecado, ya sabe que hacer…

    Un punto adicional que, en lo personal, me llevó al bando de los cheerleaders es que ya estaba cansado de ser pájaro de mal agüero. Es tan sencillo como que vez en cuando provoca arrimarse a los ubber-optimistas. Por lo que he podido leer desde hace varios años, muchos de los que formamos el ecosistema CC somos lo que el resto de la gente llamaría “pesimistas”. Seguramente más de uno se atrevió a anunciar lo que Chávez y su combo representaban mucho antes de que lo eligieran en el 98. Pues bien, esta elección representaba un buen momento para saltar la talanquera del pesimismo. Capriles era el primer candidato creíble que se le ha plantado a Chávez en 14 años y a veces provoca simplemente “creer”. Como ejercicio, me encantaría hacer una encuesta entre lectores de CC para ver qué porcentaje de nosotros es considerado en su familia como “el negativo” o “la exagerada”. Mi ejemplo personal es que en el 2000 estuve varios meses en Haití, con sus apagones, calles deshechas y delincuencia desbordada. Cuando regresé a Venezuela y me preguntaban cómo era les respondía: “es la máquina del tiempo – así estaremos en Venezuela en unos años”. Por supuesto, a no mucha gente le gustaba la comparación entonces. Independientemente de que haya podido convencer o no a alguien con mi analogía de smart-ass, en un mundo amante de Coelho esas posturas no son muy apreciadas pero son muy efectivas para encasillarlo a uno como el nube negra.

    En fin, de nuevo gracias por el ejercicio de introspección y bienvenidas las antiguas Caracas Chronicles.

    • My dear Juan, you were not alone in thinking that something good was happening. The Maximum Leader said it himself: “está en juego la vida de la patria”. Why did he have to campaign to exhaustion if he believed his own polls? Why, for example, the colossal effort to fill the Avenida Bolivar a juro with thousands of busses if the election wasn’t in danger? Who was he trying to convince then? Did chávez himself fall prey to the “bubble”?

      On the other hand, I have heard no reports about the 8 million ecstatic winners of this election loudly celebrating the survival of the revolution. I hear the 8th of october felt more like a huge collective funeral. Please, somebody, explain this to me.

      OT: I cannot begin to tell you how often you guys at CC have made my day. Keep up the good work and the great comments.

  23. The best comment, besides Nagel’s post naturally (La noblesa obliga!) is the one above referring to Venezuelans viewing of politics as an electoral centric process. The fraud, YES FRAUD, is evident, if not electoral day related. I have commented here for a couple of years too, some of you may follow my position, here it is again:
    There are basically three types of fraud, pre election day, election day and post election day.
    Chavismo has spent (wasted) inordinate amounts of resources in all three.
    When we focus on election day fraud, they concentrate in the others.
    For years, voter’s franchise (REP) and all its sources for growth, especially naturalizaciones, have been under a black box. Political financing laws and practices are obscenely biased and criminal. Media use and control the same. The money spent in mobilizaciones during the campaign, using military and public institutions obscene. No wonder election day logistics can be so well oiled and executed (infinite resources, real time information, military logistics and communications)

    The opposion campaign was perfect IMO. if not for reaching the desired short term objective of 7), for seeding the idea of ” Hay un camino. THe Capriles camp needs to focus in its highets priority of building on its success and continue haciendo politica towards the next election.

    My biggest peeve, condiciones electorales. By avoiding campaigning on this issue (perhpas another od juan’s mea culpas) any electoral result is dammed and may be untrustworthy. My recommendation, voto manual.
    this takes away real time information advantage, provides transparency and auditablility, and strengthens the acceptance of the results by all parties.

    Capriles must try to keep the files from dispersing into an caothic retreat/ stampede. If we manage to keep the troops together and the message clear, the votes growth tendency will close the gap.

    La politica must be an activity of everyday, not only elections. We should be advocating for better public management, for accountability, for results, etc. I am afraid Quico’s post on the lack of response to FONDEM’s waste is an indication of the real societal mindset we play in. Sad indeed.


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