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Venezuela: let the poll wars begin...

By Aleksander Boyd

Maracaibo 10.11.06 | Hugo is very worried. When he is in such state he starts making all sorts of stupid mistakes. One of his biggest to date is to have underestimated his constituents that after 8 years of unfulfilled promises have given up on him. Chavez said once "what my enemies don't understand is that Hugo Chavez is not Hugo Chavez, rather Hugo Chavez is the people of Venezuela." That was true up to a point, but the weather turned. For instance blackouts are nowadays daily occurences in many Venezuelan cities and towns. The Maigualidas of Venezuela have noticed that after a visit, a hug and a promise from the militaristic caudillo very little, if that, ever materialises. Some say that he's kept in the dark, some say that is not his fault, rather his minions are so utterly incompetent that orders aren't followed through, earmarked monies end up in cronies' pockets instead of reaching its intended destination. However what no revolutionary pundit can spin is the largesse of Chavez in the international front, what no one can deny is that la regaladera is a direct consequence of Chavez's very selfish and unpatriotic goal of becoming an radical-chic icon. Thus he travels the planet offering subsidised oil to some of the richest cities. This largesse, coming from the self-appointed saviour of the dispossessed, is having a huge impact, after all Venezuelan Maigualidas still live in subhuman conditions. So what does Hugo do to tackle the sustained fall in popularity? He contracts suspect pollsters to paint a surreal picture of reality, as he did during the recall referendum in 2004.

The trick has worked thus far, as far as some MSM outlets go. We see how Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press et al irresponsibly print Chavez's unsubstantiated bullshit and quote highly suspect poll results. Since the conflict of interest and dodgy nature of North American Opinion Research Inc. (NAOR) was revealed Chavez has had to recourse to other equally suspect international pollsters. The first one to appear was Zogby. They contracted some Mexican company -DATA, Opinión Pública y Mercados S. C.- which in turn subcontracted a local operator to conduct the field work. Phone calls to enquire about the Venezuelan operator to both Zogby and DATA went unanswered. The methodology used by Zogby was flawed and the numbers used for the intended extrapolation of votes for Arias Cardenas in 2000 to Rosales in 2006 do not even correspond to results published by the electoral council (CNE).

Then came Evans/McDonough, Inc. that included in its press release about the latest Venezuelan poll that PDV Holdings, a fully owned subsidiary of PDVSA, commisioned the poll. It appears that they do not see a conflict of interest there. While PDVSA's director and Venezuela's President and Vice President declare that the energy corporation is but an arm of the revolution, its chosen pollster pretends to be taken seriously by revealing its contractor. Tellingly the actual field work was conducted by 30.11 Consultores. Most people in Venezuela have said, Consultores 30.11 who? Julio Makarem's name -one of NAOR's directors- has been mentioned as being in charge of the local operation for both Zogby and Evans/McDonough, Inc. The methodology is strikingly similar; i.e. surveys conducted face to face at people's homes in a country that has a huge catalogue of examples of prosecution and discrimination due to political stances. However the best example of how unreliable this new poll is comes in the first question: "For you what is Venezuela's biggest problem?" 58% of people replied "unemployment" while "insecurity" concerns only 22% of those interviewed. The way the questions have been phrased voids the overall result.

In the meanwhile Rosales keeps conducting polls nationwide: yesterday it was the turn of San Francisco, a poor area south of Maracaibo city...

End of 8Km rally in San Francisco, Maracaibo

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