Photo: Correo del Caroní

Over in The New York Times, our very own Carlos Hernández writes a brilliant slice-of-life piece about what his neighborhood in Ciudad Guayana felt like on election day. There are lots of good reasons to go read it, the first being that Carlos is so friggin’ talented it’s outrageous. He just has a natural knack for this simple, unhurried, unadorned but piercing narrative style a soft-spoken, this-is-just-what-I-saw way of telling the story that makes you feel like you’re right there next to him, seeing what he sees.

“I spent all day Saturday talking to people I know, on the phone and in person, and all of them were like me: They hadn’t made up their minds about what to do, let alone chosen a candidate. The government has made sure to bar all the good candidates; the ones left are opportunists. Who runs in an election after Broad Front and the Lima Group, a coalition of governments in the Americas, said it couldn’t be free and fair? And who wants to vote for those candidates? No one I know, apparently.

So, I have a mission this Sunday: I want to find someone who truly cares about this election. Schools are used as voting centers, and my plan is to visit four within walking distance of my home.

I live in a sprawling middle-class neighborhood of three-story buildings, mostly residential with some small businesses. Although the anti-Chavistas usually win here, it’s always a close call.

I go out at about 9:00 a.m., and the streets are empty. No cars — sure; after all, the streets are closed off. But there are no pedestrians either. And no flags.”

The kind of writing Carlos does — unadorned, unstuffy, militantly specific, allergic to abstraction is rare and precious. It ought to be the simplest thing in the world, but actually it’s horrifically hard to get right. Strip a piece of generalization, of theorizing, of grand pronouncement, adjectives and bluster and, suddenly, there’s no place to hide. You either have a precise observation to convey, or you have nothing at all. This is the hardest kind of writing to do. Simple, it turns out, is absolutely fucking grueling.

I can’t write like that — wish I could. My mind isn’t wired for it. It rushes off into abstraction at the slightest provocation. Like here. I couldn’t help read Carlos’s beautiful, crisp prose and think of the main puzzle of the last 48 hours.

Omar Zambrano has been fulminating on Twitter about it. And it genuinely is a puzzle. As recently as the first half of this month, 60-70% of voters were telling pollsters they were “sure” or “very sure” they would vote. It would now appear that between a third and half of them (depending on how inflated you think CNE’s official turnout tally was) were lying.

What happened?

Carlos’s piece gives us a good clue. On Sunday, oppo voters faced a coordination problem: most of them wanted to vote provided everyone else was voting too. But if others weren’t voting, even people minded to do it saw little point in turning out. Boycotting only makes sense if everyone else does it.

Why didn’t anyone turn out? The answer is right there in Carlos’ piece: nobody voted… because nobody was voting.

60-70% of voters were telling pollsters they were “sure” or “very sure” they would vote. It would now appear that between a third and half of them were lying.

On Sunday morning, voters like Carlos unsure whether it was worth their time  were making the same decision everyone had. They went out tentatively looking for lines and, finding none, they had their answer: the boycott had worked.

This suggests that it’s not so much that voters lied to pollsters about their willingness to vote. The question wasn’t framed properly; people were willing if everyone else did.

Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, but it does suggest an intriguing alternative scenario.

Maybe if the Falcón campaign had focused its resources on mobilizing enough people early in the day to generate lines outside key, highly visible voting centers, people like Carlos would have seen them and thought “hey, the boycott failed, let’s vote!” They’d have gotten in line because there was a line — and they would’ve made it longer, enticing yet more people, in a self-reinforcing cycle.

Which is to say that maybe we don’t need to be so harsh on those pollsters. The people who told them they were willing to vote were telling the truth. They would have… if everyone else had, too.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

18 COMMENTS

  1. “Maybe if the Falcón campaign had focused its resources on mobilizing enough people early in the day to generate lines outside key, highly visible voting centers, people like Carlos would have seen them and thought “hey, the boycott failed, let’s vote!”

    In which case, Maduro would have stolen those votes, so nothing would have been different. In fact, a big showing would have at least given Maduro the opportunity to seriously defend the participation they claim that took place. This election was lost on day 1 and there is nothing (NOTHING) that anybody could have done to prevent it from happening.

    • Bingo.

      Why Venezuelans just don’t get it yet, I’LL never get.

      The fact that people were even DEBATING the merits of voting (as championed by CC at times), as opposed to a strong boycott, is beyond absurd.

  2. So many thoughts: 1) Here we go again–HF might have won IF ONLY: abstention were less, people for him turned out earlier, etc. etc.–NOT;2) The reason HF, whoever had tried, lost–THE ELECTIONS ARE FIXED/RIGGED; 3) The NYT video cited by Rory above completely misses the point–it shows as NM’s support a “crowd” of supporters tight shot of no more than 10 screaming at camera pro-NM, and a Punto Rojo with another 10 or so-GIMME A BREAK; 3) The video does, however, in the same breath, show the real reason for NM’s “support”/win–a Fraudmatic machine; 4) Yes, Carlos Hernandez writes well, and so does FT when he’s not completely off base; 5) But, the streets were empty, because NOT EVEN THE CHAVISTA PUEBLO WENT OUT TO VOTE IN SIZE (Meganalysis 17%/3.6mm total particioation)–I expect Encovi/UCAB market/consumer research, if done, and avoids the traditional fear/pro-Govt. respondent factor, to be not much more.

    • “The question wasn’t framed properly; people were willing if everyone else did.”

      No, people would have only came out and vote if there was something worth voting for.

      Yes, there are plenty of FALSONISTA DUPES who would have fell for: “people were willing if everyone else did” BUT AS NET SAYS, CHAVISTAS, PUBLIC WORKERS AND PENSIONERS OBSTAINED IN MASSIVE NUMBERS!!!!

      Again, the FALSONISTAS AT CC CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN AGAIN!!

      EVEN CHE GUEVARA VENEZUELA DID NOT VOTE!!!!

  3. Quico, nobody is falling for this Falsonista shtick!

    Clearly the Venezuelan people in Venezuela did not fall for it.

    How long before you get off the Falsonista bus?

    We just had an “emperor has no clothes moment” that should be celebrated and you want to belittle this historic moment with the pathetic analysis of people didn’t vote because nobody else was voting.

    Sorry it runs deeper than that…20M is a day that should be celebrated for what it really was: A COMPLETE REJECTION OF MADURO, not Falsonistas sitting in their house with their thumb up their ass waiting for others to start to voting first. Pathetic…

    • Guacha, absolutely RIGHT-ON. 20M is the first tolling of the death knell of the Regime–“Ask not for whom the bell tolls–it tolls for the(m).” And, it was finally done by the “Pueblo”.

  4. So, no one voted. But the international press is dutifully repeating the CNE official line that 48% of registered voters cast ballots. How do we reconcile this?

    Well, obviously, the CNE and the regime lied. But how? The press is reporting on the irregularities of the coercion, the puntos rojos, and the bribery. But they have failed to report on the one most egregious manner in which the regime cheats, and the one that has had the most impact. The CNE controls the Electoral Rolls. These are packed with dead people, fictitious people, and people who have left. And guess what? They all vote! And they vote rojo rojito! The regime starts every election with a few million votes already in its pocket. I read that this year there are now 800,000 more people on the votor rolls than the year before.

    This is just a guess, but I would estimate, from all the reports, that perhaps only two or two and half million people actually voted. Add that to about three or three and a half million ghost voters, and we get to what was being reported as of 6pm when the polls were supposed to close. After that, the “final” results were just invented.

    Well, I got off track… The point I was getting at is that the press is not reporting on the “ghost voters” because the Opposition spokesmen are not getting that message out there. The lie of 48% participation in the vote is not being contested and has been accepted by the press as a fact.

    The Opposition needs a better Press Spokesman.

    • The BBC did report the whole thing.

      “The CNE said turnout would probably rise to 48%, still well below the figure in the 2013 presidential election, when almost 80% of eligible voters cast their ballots.

      The opposition, however, accused the CNE of inflating its figures and claimed the real number was closer to 30%. A source within the CNE told Reuters that only 32.3% of eligible voters had cast their ballot by 18:00 local time, when most voting stations closed.

      Including that the CNE is packed with Chavistas

      “Under the Venezuelan constitution, the CNE is the official independent body responsible for overseeing and guaranteeing the transparency of all elections.

      It is made up of five members. The opposition alleges that four of the five are government stooges and therefore does not trust the body to be independent.

      Luis Emilio Rondón, the one CNE member which has been critical of the government, said he did not recognise the results because “Venezuelans’ freedom to vote” had not been respected.”

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44187838

  5. The most telling part of Carlos’s article is this

    “On the other hand, it has helped me make up my mind: If so many others are abstaining from voting, then I, too, will abstain. At least the result of all that might look like an actual strategy.”

    And that is what the opposition seems to be reduced to. Something that, by accident, or by default, or just by chance, looks like an actual strategy… if you dont look too deep.

    And that is even if you, like me, think Falcón can just go shut up and get lost. Ok, people didnt fell for his I ALONE AM THE SAVIOR thing. Can we really say the people massively, enthusiastically, actively boicotted this?

  6. So history repeats itself. Parlamentary elections 20005 and 20M2018.

    Conscious Abstention is not taken advantage off politically and militarily. No one voted because no one believed elections were competitive nor effective. Both sides. Why bother if we know our NM will win on the dhavista side, and why bother if Falson is just a puppet to legitimize the charade, and there is no conditions to vote. (and its totally illegal coming from the ANC etc…)

    So, we showed up again, by not showing up to vote where the majority is, and no one takes this reality and acts upon it.

    Granted, the abstention camp is divided still, but is a good start to message at least the majority IS NOT in support of the regime. Crash the populist talking points and get real.

    No comments on FT’s falzon apologist postures of late. Shameful. And a big fail. Wait- lets do elections again and then we will participate again…

  7. Mucha gente dijo que iba a votar para evitar represalias. Eso aplica tanto para el lado de Maduro como para el lado de Falcón. Lo que pasa es que Francisco Toro todavía cree que hay una diferencia entre los dos lados. Nadie votó libremente, todo el mundo votó bajo coerción de algún tipo.

    No tenía ningún sentido participar en una elección falsa cuyos resultados nadie iba a reconocer
    Si ya sabíamos que los países importantes no iban a reconocer los resultados, teníamos que intentar sacar provecho de eso. Saber de antemano lo que iba a pasar, nos daba cierta libertad de acción. Ni siquiera eso lo pudimos hacer bien.

  8. Come on, again with the “we could have won but we didn’t because we didn’t vote because arenitaculitoplayita” rubbish again?

    Everybody was clear that this was a FRAUD from the start.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here