Thing is, those grapes really are sour


grapesI think Juan is looking for silver lining’s in all the wrong places. The reality is that yesterday’s election shows Maduro as a hands down favorite to win a quickie election following Chávez’s demise: Capriles needs to do 12 points better against Maduro than he did against Chávez, the five point swing he got against another colorless VP is nowhere near enough.

Despair? Not at all. We need to fully grasp that holding power in 2013-2014 is not likely to be good for the political longevity of whomever’s forced to slash socialism spending. As the inimitable Daniel Pratt puts it in a romp of an essay over on PN, 

Por puro schadenfreude estas han sido unas de las elecciones que más he disfrutado. El país se prepara para el gran amanecer macroeconómico que se viene en 2013. Nadie podrá decir que no lo avisaron. Votaron dos veces por el continuismo, así que todos de frente a la pared y con las piernas abiertas.

Folks, just this once, the old Aesopian rationalization is grounded on cold hard realpolitik. 16D presages a Maduro win. The silver lining is that at least our fingerprints are not likely to be on the austerity package that’s arithmetically guaranteed in the next 6-18 months.

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  1. Oh, I don’t know. You’re almost making the case for … voting for Maduro! Imagine the motto, “Vota Maduro … pa’que se jodan!”

    I have my doubts about the inevitability of the adjustment, I really do. Dire predictions of hyperinflation in, oh, 94, 98, 01, 03, and 08 come to mind.

  2. A lot depends on the ability of the opposition to attract newly minted “chavista” moderate governors such as Arias Cardenas and Vielma Mora, by making the very apparent case that chavismo sin Chavez is gonna be sinkin’ soon with anyone but Chavez at the helm. Maduro is an apparatchik and all, and not the worst choice from PSUV’s point of view, but… he is not Snake Charmer in Chief.

    It is a strange thing that for once chavismo ran a smart campaign with reasonably presentable candidates in important opposition bastions. It must be the effect of the absence of the Comandante, and of the waning of influence of his hardline compinches.

  3. >>>The silver lining is that at least our fingerprints are not likely to be on the austerity package that’s arithmetically guaranteed in the next 6-18 months.
    And that package[disfrazado] will be borne on all of our shoulders.
    Printing presses going haywire, moneys regalado a diestra y siniestra.

  4. It’s also a matter of how well the PSUV transformation works out from Hugo Chavez dictatorship to whatever the future holds. In my experience, it is very difficult to build a team of people working synergistically. It is especially difficult when their is no history of it! More likely, crucial decisions will be made with lots of disagreement and lots of “finger-pointing” as things continue to go from bad to worse. It will probably be best for the opposition to be spectators.

  5. Maduro is going to win. If you add pity, martyrdom, nice economic growth (it can still be felt), and a demoralizes opposition we have the perfect storm. Better throw an expendable like Ledezma (or even Capriles: is it only me or is this guy is already burned?). Things should start rolling down the hill pretty fast by June. I don’t see this proto-communist of Maduro’s gang holding easy to power (he is no chavez). I think in a year or so we could see a power grab by the derecha endogena (Diosdado and his military buddies) or a hurried election. We’ll see …

    • Nah, it’s looking at the long game. Venezuela isn’t governable in 2013-2014. The narrative where Chávez holds off the neoliberal onslaught right up until he dies and then the people get sold down the river by the evil capitalists right after he’s gone would do huge, lasting damage.

      • I get it. But I dunno. If a big hit/paquetazo is really unavoidable (and I note even your wise but conservative colleague’s skepticism that it is), does Venezuela want to elect a divided house under Maduro and then lean right into that hit? There will be the same propaganda machine. You will have fanaticism and example-making on a new scale if everyone is competing to be the true successor. If things get really bad, I would be worried there would be scapegoating and blaming of the usual suspects on a scale that would make an expropriation look like nothing. If it gets much worse, the horizon for any election whatsoever in any form may disappear.

        • We’re down to speculating over what scenario makes civil war more or less likely. I think a mobilized, still armed chavista militia/paramilitary movement facing a MUD-administered paquetazo would have to be shot out of the streets by the army. It’s harder to have a civil war with all the guns on a single side.

  6. What I fear is chavismo’s constant “pipicheteo” and perfect political timing.

    They have too much to loose; they’ll never attend a presidential election where Capriles has a chance.

    If numbers start looking gloomy, there won’t be an election, or a Capriles. Tan tan taaaaaaan… estoy hablando de una inhabilitación política.

  7. I have two Christmas wishes:

    1. That Chávez gets “magically” cured and has to implement some good ol’ FMI recipe in 2013, disguised as The Socialist Plan for Economic Independence, better known as “palo po’ ese culo”.

    2. To be included –somehow– in one of the drug trafficking communes. The only ones bound to succeed.

    If the guy dies and some poor soul has to save the country by telling the truth, it would be terrible for our collective learning. Everyone would think that we deserve free stuff.

    Taking over an empty shell after pathetically trying for 14 years would be too much like Rajoy in Spain. But without the exquisite band of disconnected motherfuckers that Rajoy lined up for his ministerial team.

    If I were Capriles and Maduro approaches me with some electoral nonsense, I would say “¿Elecciones? No me jodas. Resuelve tu peo”

    (LOL, I just realized that someone may think that I’m joking about the drug trafficking communes. Uh… I’m not. And I bet they’ll have entry fees)

  8. I agree with Juan Andrés about the perfect political timing. Please, nobody, for ONE second think that any of what has happened in the past 8 months has been left up to chance. While in matters of actual governing, the Chavez machine reeks of shoddy, inefficient improvisation and incompetence in all that they do, in matters of strategy (and I HATE handing them this much credit), they are a galactically scary machiavellian machine of calculated premeditation. Everything was planned to a tee: the electoral calendar was spread out in order to maximize desgaste of opposition resources and morale, the campaigns were all scheduled carefully around Chavez´ ailment, masterfully choreographed to tune our minuscule attention spans away from structural problems and plug them instead to the never-ending orgy that is an electoral campaign….And now, for the coup de grace, they have successfully managed to strip from the opposition their last remaining coffers by way of gobernaciones (if you still think the oppo funds their campaigns through the generosity of benevolent donors you should just stop reading this and take up a new hobby), so as to choke off any possible resources that they may need in the vain attempt of campaigning against Maduro, or a tree stump, (at this point, it really makes no difference) I´m just picturing the chavista politburo in their villain´s lair, rubbing their hands together, smirking in utter satisfaction over how well things have unfolded according to plan. Maybe there really IS a room with someone pushing buttons that say “stop-monkey-coconut” (JAR eso es contigo ; )
    The sooner we realize what we´re up against, the quicker we can understand that it takes much more than conffetti rains at rallies and hoping for metastasis in order to plausibly map our a future.

    • This is an argument for abstention, which, by the way, is an idea I was selling to Capriles’ team yesterday.

      So according to this (and Quico’s) theory, it’s not even worth participating in this election. It’s not even worth voting. Let Maduro have his cake, and eat it too. We will watch from the sidelines as the country goes down the drain, a proverbial bus driven off the cliff by Maduro-nomics.

      In this scenario, wouldn’t it be better to simply not vote? To ask people to stay home? Let Maduro participate on his own and get, I dunno, 2 and a half million votes. En la bajaíta lo esperaremos. It would completely de-legitimize him and the CNE. The end result would be the same as if we participated fully – Maduro gets elected – but
      a) we save ourselves a ton of cash
      b) Capriles doesn’t lose his second presidential election in a row, and
      c) Maduro is elected in a tainted election, thereby increasing the chances he will be seen as illegitimate within his own party.

      The Capriles people were horrified at my suggestion, pointing back to the 2005 debacle. It wasn’t a suggestion really, just a brainstorm. Still, what are the costs, and what are the benefits? For Capriles, for the opposition’s chances down the road, for the country… I dunno, it’s worth pondering, and if you guys are serioius about the “Vota Maduro” strategy, then this is where it all leads.

      • I think this compares with a Python, every time you let some air out, the grip becomes tighter… If you were against democrats, fine, but this is not the case. They will couple a constitution change, a couple of new laws, whatever they can and will be fine with your abstention…

      • In that sense, perhaps the opposition should stay silent and let the chavistas have it. But don’t you think it is profoundly anti ethical to not try to steer the bus off the cliff?

        We are all in that bus and you may be right that the damage is already done, but the way we choose to fix it can determine what would be the healing time frame. Will we let them do what ever they want so the crisis lingers a lot longer or will we give the support they need to get the whole country out of the hole where they threw it in?

  9. Yeah, the perfect plan, let the socialist drive the land to the economical failure, then people will vote for us, hmmm, like in Cuba? Like Eduarte said, don’t underestimate your adversary.

  10. I’ve long thought about this particular scenario. I’ve mentioned it before, but I think the best way to draw the serpents’ fangs, (and I am intentionally pluralizing that, since there are many potential successors, not just the strongest,) is to rally the opposition and begin branding the non-entities OTHER than Maduro immediately. I know a lot of prevailing thought is to attack Maduro before the elections, but quite frankly, if I were a strategist looking into the future, I would let him take the fall. I know Master Nagel and others think it is unlikely, but, based on what I am seeing, hearing and plumping together from multiple sources, the financial mess that is already coalescing is just the tip of the ice berg. Its like roaches in the kitchen when you flip on the light, you might see a few, kill a few, but there’s thousands inside the walls.

    Focus fire on those most likely to pose a post-Maduro threat within Chavismo because they will undoubtedly throw Nico to the wolves if the situation gets bad enough so they can distance themselves from any odium he might incur. Nail them now while they are formless and split and they will be far easier to pick apart as being a part of the Chavonomic mess rather than after the fact.

    First target of opportunity? Diosdado.

  11. Epduarte is right , careful planning has gone into making Maduro a very credible candidate once Mr Chavez becomes inhabilitated or dies , the picture becomes more interesting as he takes over a country which is becoming increasingly dysfunctional and economically distraught , ultimately he will be forced to take some harsh unpopular decisions and he lacks Mr Chavez charisma to pull them off with no serious political backlash , most people in government are utterly incompetent and often corrupt, there are stirrings of inner struggles and fights which will bloom when things start getting difficult , the level of popular discontent is bound to rise as runaway inflation and greater scarcity of goods abounds, he will of course trie to put blame on the regimes adversaries and take some wild radical measures to show people he is more chavista than mr chavez himself . Still he will be facing very difficult times while confronting very wily and strong enemies from his own side . All of the above will take time . This does not make an opposition candidate an automatic ‘shoo in’ in any future election , it only points towards a general weakening of the Chavista regime and the appearance of inner conflicts and contradictions which will make Mr Madures tenure a difficult one . The greatest opposition weakness has to do with how easily it is dispirited and how difficult it is to find someone who in times of defeat and persecution and peremnial dissappointment can rouse them to a more resolute stance. The other is that so many venezuelan’s have such primitive ,lakadaisikal view of economic realities and such hopelessly bloated expectations of what government MUST do for them that it will be very difficult for a responsible opposition governemnt ( where we ever to get one) to electorally keep itself in power.
    but this is a different story….

  12. You all are forgetting that not everyone in PSUV wants Maduro to be president. (Diosdado and he Military, among others). Sure, the’ll pay lip service to him while Chavez is still around but secretly plan for his demise, including by financing a possible opposition run (without our express knowledge) and keeping the chavista machinery home if needed at election time.
    Like us, they realize that an oppo president, without majority in the AN will not be able to push reform without losing the support of the hoards in the near term, after elections. I believe that Capriles or Falcon, (we really have no other candidate) should begin screaming ASAP, as loud as they possible can, our economic reality and what needs to be done in the future, if they want to have any political capital after the elections. At this point in time, whether we win or lose, that is the only way we win in the medium term. If we play our cards any other way and manage to be elected, Chavismo without Maduro will be more than ready to regain power in a flash by blaming us for the crisis and the loss of their entitlements.

  13. The conversation about the recent presidential election is one I had with some Mexican friends recently… I made the point that Capriles was betting on what they call here “La Rifa del Tigre” (whoever wins the raffle wins the tiger) and that if anything, a MUD government was going to be one of the most unpopular in history, as it would’ve had to unravel the whole crazy financial structure the current government is based in, and maybe go about the long postponed sacrilege of raising gasoline prices to something close to international levels… So six years later a lot of people would’ve been missing Chavez and his abundance times (remember the chronic short memory span we have as a country).

    On the other side, I wouldn’t underestimate the capacity of the current administration to keep the “good times” rolling for a few more years via debt… Venezuela is still at a relatively healthy 46 pct debt-to-GDP ratio (as compared, for example, with Brazil’s 66 pct) and the country can keep borrowing for as long as the oil keeps flowing… even if country’s debt spread to JP Morgan’s Embiplus emerging debt index stands at 774 basis points, WAAAY over what Brazil is paying and basically the rest of the region barring Argentina.

  14. This from today’s HSBC Andean scenario … “Our view is that the macroeconomic imbalances are unsustainable under any scenario. The build-up of macroeconomic imbalances in 2012 calls for a weaker currency and lower public expenditure. However, the political cycle could delay the adjustment, potentially increasing the distortions”… the last bit says most of it…

  15. >>HOWEVER, the political cycle could delay the adjustment, potentially increasing the distortions”…
    wiffle here, waffle there …
    AKA “analysis paralysis”


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