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Venezuela’s presidential race: One month to go...

By Aleksander Boyd

Flying en route to Puerto Ayacucho 03.12.06 | The beauty of this country is soul piercing, as we flight between Maturin and Puerto Ayacucho deep into the Amazon state I found the perfect moment to write this article. With one month to go things are looking promising. I must say before anything else that I don’t trust polls, no matter their origin, however what I do pay attention to is to the word in the streets of different towns and cities of Venezuela. To the disposition of people to show up spontaneously in massive numbers in rallies across the country, to the safety that participating anonymously in such events provide. On Wednesday, just before leaving Caracas for Maturin, I bumped into Oscar Schemel, director of Hinterlaces. He was feeling blue, he said “we had the chance alas we missed it.” I asked him when was the last time he had conducted polls in the provinces. See the problem with Caracas’ pundit is that they keep thinking that Caracas’ reality is Venezuela’s. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Caracas has become an echo chamber, political analysts, enamoured of their own voices assume that they posses the absolute truth, no one but them know what goes on this country. It’s a poisonous environment where everyone suffers from attention deficit disorder. Graver still dissenting voices, such as mine, are met with scorn. Fortunately that does not change the situation nor does it alter reality in the slightest. This country is highly mobilised politically speaking, every person has an idea of how things should be. While the myth of NI-NI (neither chavista nor opposition) and how to entice them occupies the time of most Caracas’ pundits in reality it’s very difficult to find someone completely indifferent to politics.

In the meanwhile Rosales goes from strength to strength while Chavez goes from fiasco to fiasco. My sister in law, who is a civil servant, tells me that they are being forced to go to political events. The checks that Chavez gave to public employees in Teresa Carreño’s event a few days ago were not to be cashed, it was just for the cameras. The equivalent of two months salary will be paid into their accounts, but that doesn’t make great populist moments on TV, does it? She also said that there’s much nervousness and anxiety within chavismo. Revolutionary bosses know they are doing badly, they have seen the rallies, they have sent their filming crews, something impossible for other media networks to do in Chavez’s rallies. Yet their response is the crassest ever, talk about ‘the devil’ will get them nowhere in a country ravaged by abject poverty, unemployment, blackouts, lack of security, etc.

Thus far I have seen poor participation in rallies in only a handful of places, namely Vargas, Carabobo and Aragua. Although the last two are considered important regarding number of votes is no less certain that Caracas, Zulia, the Andean states of Trujillo, Merida and Tachira, Monagas, the Llanos, Anzoategui, Nueva Esparta have seen huge rallies in favour of Rosales’ ticket. That’s the measure I take into account. It would be foolish to think that Rosales will carry the vote of all states. However it must be borne in mind that in the two areas with Venezuela’s largest voting populations, i.e. Caracas and Zulia, Chavez was defeated. The regime is trying desperately to regain the upper hand. However the people are not buying the revolutionary bullshit any longer. As an employee of SIDOR said to me in Puerto Ordaz the other day “we are taking the money [Christmas bonuses] all right, but we won’t vote for Chavez, enough with the abuses, the red t-shirts and the revolutionary crap.”

Avalanche of hope in San Fernando de Apure (02.11.2006)

Rosales keeps walking, he keeps taking his proposals to the people, in person, he keeps talking about issues that affect regular folks, his message rings true with the majority of Venezuelans. Work, development, safety, depoliticised education, efficient health care are topics Venezuelans want to hear about, they want to hear how these problems will be tackled. And people in the provinces are most enthusiastic about Mi Negra plan, they want the card, many of them have asked me for one, they want to know where they have to register to start receiving their part of the oil wealth. It’s another world, where worries about the source of the funds or sustainability of the plan in time are meaningless. Certainly the programme is a masterstroke of Rosales who, even in private, is absolutely committed to it. He believes in it with passion.

"Vote against the devil. Vote against the Empire" (Chavez's propaganda in Catia)

Officialdom on the other hand is crying wolf, inventing things, smearing, covering the country with ‘love messages’ while high officials exude the most profound hatred and chavista thugs keep attacking peaceful rallies. Their time is up. I am trying to arrange a meeting with groups thought to be prepared to defend the revolution by violent means, I am talking about Tupamaros, Carapaicas and other urban guerrilla groups, but even them are complaining about the way the revolution has taken, they feel betrayed, their ideals trampled upon for the sake of instant wealth. Apart from that there’s much infight among them. Same applies to the military, many people think the army is squarely behind Chavez, again forgetting that his former nemesis Carlos Ortega was set free by the military from the country’s most secure military prison, 14 doors needed opening to allow for Ortega’s unnoticed escape. The alarm was raised 10 hours after he had left with 3 military men. Anti-Chavez leaflets and pamphlets are appearing in garrisons all around the country. Defense Minister Raul Baduel is believed to have warned Chavez about potential unconstitutional tricks to disrespect the election’s results.

Then Chavez’s image has never been so bad in the international arena. He didn’t get his seat in the UN’s Security Council, ergo, as Pedro Burelli commented the other day, his attempt at armour platting himself for an electoral fraud failed espectacularly and most certainly the visit of comrade Ken Livingstone in a couple of days time is going to be an exercise in futility. He didn’t get errand boy Evo Morales in either and had to settle for Panama, an option allegedly proposed by the US. And rigged Zogby polls will get him nowhere in a hurry either. Rafael Ramirez statements, although mere confirmation of violations we have been denouncing for a long while, did provide a window into the thinking of chavismo vis-à-vis its imperialist designs “we will do whatever it takes to defend Evo and Bolivia from American aggressions” stated Ramirez, who just before the recall in 2004 threatened the world with instant oil disruption and chaos had his boss been defeated. There’s talk about coups, about murdering innocent civilians, Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel is surely busy trying to get Rosales to react to his nonsense, luckily though he’s getting exactly what he deserves, i.e. nothing.

In sum this last month will be very interesting indeed. I reckon a bloodbath is in the works for Chavez and the bunch of criminals in his immediate entourage know what comes after an electoral defeat. However I am equally certain that they will be defeated in whichever scenario they want to play. The people of Venezuela have had enough.

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