Bolivarian Awards 2012: The big winners

Your host, Danny G.

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez joins us for a guest post today. Take it away, Daniel …

 “A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd. For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo…”

In all fairness, the news of two dead Italians was probably quite shocking for its time, and it is entirely possible that Shakespeare’s target audience may not have been as numbly acclimated to violence as are the Venezuelans of today.

Yet not all would be woeful in Verone-nzuela, far from resulting in folks who are simply “pardoned” or “punished” these recent events were certainly not without their share of BIG WINNERS.

So now that the October 7th hustings are over, the bunting is down, and the mad hysteria is at an end, the rest of us can return to business as usual (or at least what passes for such in the Fifth Republic.) Yet I suspect that for these folks: the BEST is yet to come…

# 10: Luisa Estela Morales: For years the head of the TSJ has had to contend with playing second fiddle to CNE superstar Tibisay Lucena. Frustratingly overshadowed by the sassy, western-educated electoral chief whose creative hair styles, catchy sound bytes and ability to look sharp in red consistently spark tweetstorms, press conferences and angry op-eds in El Universal, the chief justice of the fifth republic has had to content herself with reruns of that one tired separation of powers quote from years ago.

With the election out of the way however, her star is once again in the ascendant, and she already has people talking. The president’s much-promised revolutionary “deepening” looms and, once again the need for legal veneers, favorable interpretations and wiki-constitutionalism should be great. This means that the TSJ will once again be on people’s minds. Case in point: Luisa Estela’s recent statements regarding the idea that when people vote they vote for a political process and not a person might, someday, clear the way for circumventing those pesky constitutional instructions that a new election take place should a president die within their first four years in office.

Which would be good news for…

#9. Nicolás Maduro: Our new Vice-President is a mainstay favorite in the tobacco scented revolutionary halls of Havanna. His meteoric rise from terrible choice for bus driver to much-vaunted-but-still-terrible choice for heir apparent has been nothing short of inspiring.

From lowly beginnings and armed only with his personal charm, sizeable mustache, imposing physique, impeccable Marxist-Leninist credentials, a penchant for marrying well, and an ability to capitalize on his chief rival’s much publicized case of foot-in-mouth disease, Nikki Maduro is certainly a big winner this week.

Which is itself great news for…

#8. The Castros:  No list purporting to identify the beneficiaries of the 2012 Venezuelan presidential contest could be complete without reference to Havanna’s lovable first family: Fidel, Raul and Mariela (whose celebratory victory tweet an hour before the CNE’s announcement has been responsible for more than a little head scratching this week.)

The Chávez victory has meant nothing short of a stay of execution for this regime, whose famous inability to negotiate their way out of a blockade, cover their own oil needs, or handle criticism well is justly famous. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, their previous sugar daddy, hard times were felt on the socialist island paradise. As such, the survival of Bolivarianism means the continuation of sizeable aid handouts, and programs such as the “Oil for untrained Cuban ‘Doctors’” Mission.

Which is excellent news for…

#7. The American Medical Association: Within hours of the official announcement, my wife, a doctor, had received nine separate Facebook messages from former medical school colleagues, anxious to learn about emigrating abroad. Even before the election, a majority of my wife’s Medical School class from Venezuela’s Central University had already opted to leave for greener pastures. This means more Venezuelan doctors on hand to fill the void left by the AMA’s insistence on not creating new medical schools, or enlarging existing programs, within the United States itself.

But also…

# 6. Russia And Iran: The more Venezuelan oil is given away in exchange for things like “doctors”, the more the international price is likely to rise even if ever so slightly. This funnels more money into the coffers of ne’er-do-well petrostates like Iran and Russia.

Yet the good news for these folks actually extends beyond oil and money.  Within the bad-boy club of nations the importance of having a friend – better yet one who’s own talent for ridiculousness and comic opera governance draws attention away from your own penchant for bat-shit craziness – can simply not be overstated.

Particularly for Iran, Venezuela represents one of its two strongest international relationships (the other being Syria) and the potential prospect of losing both, and of further isolating the Islamic Republic must have been deeply troubling for the ayatollahs. For his part, Vladimir Putin’s recent gift of a lovable three-month-old puppy named to Chávez may even be indicative of a sincere bro-mance, one that transcends the opportunistic vicissitudes of statecraft.

As well as…

#5. ALBA and other Cronies: Presidents Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Evo Morales in Bolivia, had great cause to be nervous before October 7th. While their countries might have been able to survive (at least better than Cuba) had the Venezuelan aid faucet been shut off, their administrations likely would not have. Without Venezuelan handouts the resultant economic vacuum would have had to be filled, most likely through foreign investment. Making this happen would  in turn have required substantial policy shifts from those currently en vogue among the ALBA states.

For other receivers of aid such as Argentina or the Dominican Republic, they themselves have been spared more than a little unwanted belt tightening.

But even…

#4. Santos and Dilma: For most of Chavez’s tenure the relationship between the two “sister republics” has been strained. However, since the ascension of Juan Manuel Santos to the Colombian Presidency, a sort of rapprochement has taken place between the two men, if not the two countries. Should Chávez’s role as mediator cum laude in upcoming negotiations with FARC rebels have been compromised, it would have come as a great blow to the Santos administration and its prospects for peace.

For its part, Brazil will benefit. While a Chavez defeat may have represented a validation of sorts for the type of “soft-left” approaches spearheaded by Brazil, Uruguay and Chile; in the absence of a “hard left” these nations may have been left looking simply “leftist.” This might in turn have translated into increased competition from resurgent ALBA states over regional investment, at a tricky time when – for example – Brazil’s nascent petro-industry is only just getting off the ground.

And now to round off the top 3… (drumroll please)

#3. Datanalisis: As the only “respectable” polling outfit in Venezuela that refused to drink the Kool-aid, Datanalisis emerges with its reputation not only intact but indeed greatly enhanced. While rival companies have been reamed in the press and forced to ask forgiveness for having been so far off base, Luis Vicente León is now able to pull off a degree of smugness that we suspect must have been slow-brewed to perfection by generations of professional smugmeisters.

#2.  Mysterious InTrader. The mysterious InTrade investor that quintupled their money at the cresting point of opposition optimism possibly through some sort of inside information…  Mariela? Was it you?

And our Winner:

#1. St. Jude the Apostle: Annointed by the Catholic Church as the “Patron Saint of Lost Causes,” this early 1st Century superstar has already worked his way into being the patron saint of Armenia… can Venezuela be far behind?

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez