Three Weeks Out: The Supposedly-(but-not-really)-Pre-Campaign Round Up


63madartcokmes24mLet’s recap of the first seven days of non-campaign campaigning, or in criollo doublespeak: pre-campaña. Technically, you see, the official campaign only starts on April 1st and lasts a mere 10 days. Obviously neither candidate has taken the CNE campaign schedule particularly seriously.

Capriles began a nation-wide stump tour, hitting two states per day, holding mass outdoor rallies that follow, more or less, the same format. His Asambleas Populares, as they’re called, kick off with four or five speakers who articulate their grievances – campaign sources confirm the testimonials always center on five key issues: Education, people with disabilities, crime, the economy, and justice. These Professional Gripers then hand off to Capriles who gives a rousing speech drawing on their themes before circling around to his broader messages (Truth over lies, Maduro’s govt. is inept, Venezuelans don’t deserve all these problems.)

That last bit is the part that you see on TV.

It took some doing to piece together that last paragraph, because this pre-campaign is not nearly as dospuntocero as last October’s. Back then, budgets and official rules allowed for a Capriles YouTube channel to be the permanent source for almost real-time, all-inclusive coverage of campaign appearances. That’s not really possible this time around. Maintaining a constant video web presence requires a fully staffed unit exclusively dedicated to filming, recording, and uploading videos, not to mention expensive servers on which to host your data and permanent monitoring and marketing of the material via social networks, which is also not free.

Last year, Capriles’s public addresses were immediately accessible in full, minutes after they happened, indexed and searchable through his website. Today, I tried to find the talking points I’m citing, and all I could find is a blog,, last updated on march 21st – five days ago, which is an eternity in a campaign as short as this one. So that right there shows you – if last year’s campaign was run on a shoestring, this year’s is being run on a tatty old cabuya.

Yesterday’s campaign events featured a particularly poignant testimonial. Before Capriles and a large crowd, a father of a dead chavista member of the armed forces, related the grotesque story of how his son’s death was kept secret due to interests on behalf of organ trafficking mafias, allegedly linked to the government, aimed at making a profit off of his son’s death.

I was awestruck by the candor of said speaker, since I cannot conceive of a similar story being told to the public 6 months ago. That man had way too much to lose, and Capriles would’ve deemed it way too risky to highlight such a controversial example of chavismo turned sour. Which might explain why this clip, and many of the other testimonials, have not been publicized by any campaign, including such Capriles-friendly media outlets as LaPatilla.

On the Maduro front, his non-campaign campaign appearances this week were framed both as formal State functions, as acting President of the Republic, and as strictly electoral events, as candidate for President of the Republic: a mass rally to graduate community doctors, broadcast en cadena nacional, (in which he led the crowd to sing a rousing version of Cuba’s National anthem), a live TV event in Apure to give loans to farmers (while wearing a cool hat), another live TV broadcast to address political allies, a third live TV visit to an oil site in Monagas (oil workers broke out into spontaneous song, musical instruments included). These do not include last night’s TV address to welcome newly-added supporters to the high-profile farandula chavista sphere (he blamed the opposition for the electrical failure), or the spiritual homage to commemorate 9 days after Chavez’ farewell ceremony.

Oh, also, he opened a Twitter account and tried to coin a new dance craze. Gangnam Style, watch out.

Substantively, talking points worth mentioning, Maduro-wise, are his defensive stances towards those who criticize him for mentioning Chavez a whole bunch (“I feel guilty, I should mention him a million times.”), insults to Capriles (pelucón is the new majunche), and finally, an interesting focus on crime.

Having acknowledged in several public speeches that crime is a big deal, Maduro based his call to action, around the colloquial “vamos a echarle bolas entre todos.”   He also founded the Movimiento por la Paz y la Vida yesterday, which will receive, via Twitter, suggestions from the general population so that “artists, athletes, doctors and anyone willing to participate” may pitch in to help bring down crime and raise moral values to help stop violence.

Maduro has also made a point of pitching the launch of  so-called MicroMisiones, social programs aimed at targeting inefficiencies in…other social programs. Part of the baroque turn in late-stage chavismo. Take it away, Nico:

 “Cuando se detecte algún tipo de ineficiencia, como por ejemplo en el caso de la dirección de una fábrica o de un hospital, se activará una micro misión conformada por un equipo especialmente entrenado donde están expertos en la materia, donde están cuadros políticos comprometidos con el proyecto, donde está la FAN, y ellos juntos intervienen ese objetivo”

Of course, this round-up gives a false impression of equivalent access. Readers abroad should not be confused, though: Maduro’s y-que-pre-campaign is a million times more visible than Capriles’s – splashed all over the growing state media behemoth, billboards, the metro, everywhere. Capriles’s campaign, largely shut out of mass media, isn’t even that easy to find on YouTube. Así, as the man said, son las cosas.

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  1. Asi estan las cosas, indeed.

    I mean, once you get the “Chapulin Colorado” on your bandwagon you may as well rest on your laurels!

    Seriously though:

    What is the perception amongst “non polarized” voters?

    What is the feeling on the street about the campaigns?

    Thanks, by the way, for your articles so far. Definitely nice not only to have another viewpoint from Caracas, but a different one as well.

    • Non Polarized voters? ha!
      The regime’s strategy clearly drives polarization again. a lot of Pan y Circo, and a total illegal use of public funds for partisan use….So what else is new?

      My prediction is that, similarly to August 2004 (RR), the rigged electoral “system” (read the broader sense of the word system) will be used to churn out a Maduro win in April 2013.

      Regretfully, the nation continues to be “sedada” by the noise, and the bread and circus, and has been unable to make the electoral system trustworthy. Furthermore, pushes forward in a suicidal meme, to again legitimize the status quo by going to unfair, rigged elections.

      Quien se beneficia?

        • I have never proposed abstention as a pure strategy. Abstention was a great first hit in 2005 but failed to be followed up by a second punch when nothing was done with the 15% participation achieved (the emperor was naked)

          Similarly, naive participation is futile (actually counterproductive as it legitimized the election and the regimes democratic charade), if yo do not guarantee a fair process.

          As I have maintained, in today’s Venezuela, fraude is systematic. dead by a thousand cuts: it Happens before, during and after election day.

          This illegitimate, Illegal, Criminal regime will not finish until the day people go to the streets in force and fight for their interests. This can be triggered by a election cycle, yes.

      • Yes, LuisF, non polarized voters.

        There are roughly 30% of the electorate on each side that will vote for their candidate no matter what they say, what they do or how they behave as long as its not the other party.

        The remaining 40 % either do not vote, don’t care or vote according to some internal logic only they know.

        Many of these went out and voted in October either energized by Capriles’ message or your aforementioned machinery.

        While politics in Venezuela definitely drive towards polarization there is still a large part of the voting population that are called Ni-Ni’s. Are you not familiar with the term?

        These voters hold the key, as they have every election since 2006. Trying to gauge their intentions is key.

        I’m surprised this has to be spelled out to one such as you.

        • Roberto N thanks for tour civilized response. I do know the concept and definition of a non polarized voter, swing voter, etc.
          The Ni-Ni- concept has however a different connotation in my book. I know firsthand of the massive, organized, systematic way by which this regime has inflated the voter franchise register (Registro Electoral), and how nacionalization drives, cedulaciones express, and many systemic means have been progresivelly been employed, specially in the delays leading to RR and since, to show the nation a extremely obscure, unaudited and rigged system. Worse off its the lack of intent by the administrator (CNE) to show transparency and put down attacks and trust issues by the opposition. Simply stated, the regime has motive, means and opportunity to be criminal with this device.

          This regime’s followers are not mayoria, but the noise and the pretended grandeour presented in camera by the regimes production aparatik aim to make you think so.

          El dia que se pueda volver a votar en venezuela con escrutinio manual, se podra confiar en los resultados.

  2. “if last year’s campaign was run on a shoestring, this year’s is being run on a tatty old cabuya”

    Great analogy! Clarito.

  3. Hmph. Maduro is coming out as pathetic as hoped. Crowdsourcing the solutions for the ongoing crime problems is a ridicolus low. A pity that the average Chavista voter is too narrowminded and too brainwashed to realize just how pathetic and desperate this is. This will be a battle for voter participation and little else.

  4. Capriles had a great response to Maduro’s dance:

    “Yo nunca había visto a un Toripollo Bailando”

    I had to look up Toripollo:

    TORIPOLLO (Cuerpo de toro y mente de pollo): Persona grande, robusta pero su comportamiento no se considera adecuado (inmaduro).


  5. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Internet deficiency. Who’s going to watch Capriles videos who isn’t already going to vote for him? Maybe I underestimate, but I don’t think the Internet penetration is high enough in Venezuela to make it a critical factor.

    At a guess: nearly all those with broadband Internet access are upper middle class or upper class (the top 30%). Those people are either oppo voters already, or they’re committed chavistas (boli-bourgeois, government apparatchiks, or rojo “intelligentsia”).

    While many Venezuelans of lower classes (middle-middle, lower-middle, upper-working) may have access through smartphones, that’s a physically narrow channel, even if the data rate is high. A friend of mine had this problem recently – his computer died, and while he could get e-mail and pull files to his smart phone, using it to look at the data files I was sending was right out. (We were prepping for a baseball draft.)

    The real challenge for the oppo is to contact as many middle-middle and lower voters as possible with some version of their message. That may require volunteers going door to door.

    Capriles should have packets for volunteers at every rally, with a guidebook and and a stock of leaflets to distribute. Don’t just give them out – get name and phone # or address, then follow up in a few days. Of course there isn’t much time for this, but it’s not too late to start.

  6. Toripollo was the nickname given in Officer School to General Acosta Carles , former Governor of Carabobo and the protagonist of an incident when having intervened the Coca cola factory on Chavez order he took a gulp of the beberage and eructed loudly before TV Cameras. A man of large hefty built he had a reputation among his fellow cadets for limited intelligence. Once saw him in a Valencia restaurant take a strepitous fall from his chair from too much drinking .

  7. What did the father say about his dead son? Did he accuse the government of harvesting his organs? If so, was there any proof for this?

    Isn’t this a potentially HUGE issue?

    • El pueblo (the ppl, just in case) apparently is not concerned with clearly HUGE issues such as rampant crime, scarcity of basic foodstuffs, shortages of basic and important medicines, crumbling infrastrucure, electricity rationing, etc ad nauseum. They will probably not be concerned w/ one man’s story, however harrowing it may be (and I agree that this is indeed a harrowing and despicable story).

      It having happened to a Chavista soldado, would demonstrate (one would think) to rabid Chavistas that this inept and downright corrupt Govt is blind so to speak. It treats everyone poorly regardless of affiliation.

      While Henrique Capriles is traveling the ENTIRE country, rehashing REAL PROBLEMS effecting ALL VENEZUELANS and proposing SOLUTIONS, Nicolas Maduro is making a few paltry and blatantly staged appearances, as well as appearing en cadena, doing what Emiliana describes in her article, ie, NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE. And unfortunately, as much as it pains me to say this, he will probably win el 14ABR.

      Ain’t that about a B?

  8. You are missing Capriles’ last gaffe (or lack of political maturity, you make the call): repeatedly referring to Maduro as “toripollo”. I’m sorry, but although I’m 100% in for a tough Capriles, calling issues, abuses and threats by their names, I cannot accept insults and name-calling as an ideal campaign behavior. This clearly is one of the most depressing legacies left by Chavez. Small detail, you may say. However, it shows that the king is naked and all that “I never insulted Chavez” was only a political position and not a matter of principles. I’m afraid we’ll remember his two campaigns with the same fondness we look at Rosales’.

    • Hugo, Completely agree with you. I came out of primary school years ago and I expect our leaders to behave as if they came out as well.

  9. Hugo: I guess it can be almost inhumanly difficult to be insulted constantly and maliciously by another person and just take it with heroic stoicism . Generally we admire such stoicism but its not impossible to be tolerant of an ocassional natural human reaction !! Your comment seems on its face not only priggish and morally snobish , but spectacularly unfair as your seem to ignore the many malicious insults that Maduro has made against Capriles . If your view was balanced you would criticize each candidate in proppportion to the times each has breached the rules of civility in the conduct of their political campaign, and there Maduro undoubtedly holds the prize .

    • Bill, I’m not claiming to have a balanced view: Capriles was the one that collected fair and square points from being a true gentleman in his last campaign. I just want to see more of the same. To respect Chávez in one campaign and offend Maduro in the other only tells me that Capriles is setting his strategies based on focus-group or consultant recommendations and not from his own political wit or ethical standpoint. To me it’s not a natural human reaction as it’s not happening in the heat of a debate or live confrontation but in public speeches that have been planned in advance. I’m sorry if it seems priggish and snobbish, but I expect my candidate to be the better man/woman, and be less gullible. I refuse to be happy if Capriles insults Maduro n-10 times, n being the number of times Maduro insults him (and the rest of us).

  10. Well Hugo let me welcome you to the real world were people , no matter how good and honest and smart are never totally free from ocassional frailties or incongruencies in their behaviour . To try and make a good person into an idol of absolute perfection and unbreakable self control dehumanizes him and reveals a certain taste for candified fantasies .. By and large Capriles has been very respectful of Maduro despite the latters many provocations , but we musnt scandalize ourselves if every so often he jabs Maduro with a taste of his own medicine . Calling Maduro a Toropollo is no great insult and may give many of his followers some sattisfaction at seeing their man a bit more aggresive in his responses . Maybe your setting yourself to be dissapointed on very stringent moral grounds because thats were you intimately want to go anyway . I think your response to Capriles calling Maduro a Toropollo , for a partisan of Capriles, is a bit odd and overscrupulous when most of his followers in their own minds and perhaps in their own conversations are addressing him by much worse names , Time will tell how far this indignation takes you , it may yet make you into a Maduro follower, who knows ? Im not sure it would surprise me !!


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