Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ideas anyone? 

I’ve never been sure why the same news is often regurtitated in Venezuela. Maybe it is just indolence on the part of media. Why work hard if you don’t have to?

But in this case it seems to be a case of outright sado-masochisim. After all if your the opposition why would you want to keep reminding yourself how popular Chavez is? But nevertheless this is what was headlined on Union Radio:

After nearly six and a half years in office president Chavez still has the support of 70% of the population and is the favorite to win the 2006 presidential elections, said the private polling firm Datanalisis.

Chavez has said that he will be a candidate for re-election in 2006 and, with no opposition leader with sufficient support to contest these elections, Venezuelans of both sides consider it probable that he will win.

The poll was carried out last April, with 1,300 people throughout the nation and has a margin of error of 2.71%

It also said that the Chavez’s hard core support is about 40%....

I’m pretty sure that this is the same poll that has been referred to constantly for a few months now. Maybe they are re-running it to drive home to the opposition how dire the situation is and that they better think of something fast or they are looking at another 6 years of Chavez.

Speaking of thinking of something, none other than the president of Datanalysis, Luis Vincente Leon, wrote an Op-Ed piece in the opposition newspaper, El Universal, today giving some of his own ideas.

Here are some exerpts:
I have spent hours in trying to answer the question that is most often asked of me – what should be the program of the opposition to confront the atractive, populist, and dangerous program of Chavez.

A friend mentioned to me: “The only way to defeat Chavez is to offer more to the people than even Chavez offers them....” Another friend helped me understand this concept more deeply by explaining tome the concept of “triangulation” which was devised by Clinton adviser Dick Morris.

What does “triangulation” consist of? It is a strategy, in a polarized situation, in which one of the sides tries to win over segments of the population that are linked to the other side but that can be won over with attractive proposals. Attractive in the sense that these ideas compete with and are based on your opponents ideas. In other words, this is equivalent to sharing with Chavez concern for the poor, equality of oppertunities, and social responsibility....

Actually, the ideas being expressed by Leon are not new. The opposition tried precisely that, out Chavezing Chavez, during last years referendum with obviously disasterous results and even before that with Arias Cardenas who didn't fare any better.

The problem really should be evident for all to see. For fourty years when they were in power the opposition never gave a hoot about the bottom half of Venezuelan society. They geared everything - job oppertunities, education, heatlh care, etc - to the middle and upper classese. A very large segment of Venezuelan society was always on the outside looking in. And when Chavez attempted to change that by implementing new social programs specifically geared to the poorest and most neglected segments of Venezuelan society the opposition fought him every step of the way – to the point of actually trying to shut down the whole economy. They can’t seriously believe that this is going to be forgotten by most Venezuelans. And even if it somehow were, they have to realize Chavez is going to run commercial after commercial showing all the virulent attacks by the opposition on these social programs.

So to out flank Chavez by coming across as leftists or populists is not going to work for the opposition. “Traingulation” has as much chance of working in Venezuela as Dick Morris has in getting a job working for Hillary Clinton.

So where does that leave the opposition and what chance do they have of unseating Chavez in 2006? Not much. As long as the economy keeps growing and Chavez has money to lavish on these social programs it is inconcievable that he could be defeated electorally. And what does Chavez having money depend on? Simple. Oil, and more precisely the price of oil.

As long as world oil prices stay north of $40 barrel Chavez will have the money he needs to keep his programs going indefinitely. And obviously the opposition can’t do much to control world oil prices so they are left to wait, and watch, and have their fate determined by things completely out of their control.

Well not quite out of their control. See the main reason oil prices have been so stubornly high is that the U.S. botched the whole Iraq invasion and hasn’t been able to get Iraqi oil production up enough to dampen oil prices. Iraqi oil exports have been stuck at 1.5 million barrels a day for a long time now and don’t seem to be budging. For whatever reason, the people in charge of the Iraqi oil industry (Halliburton?) can’t get the job done. But wait, what about the thousands of oil workers from Venezuela that were fired by Chavez after they went on strike? Couldn’t they go to Iraq and use their great expertise to get the Iraqi oil flowing, bring oil prices down, bankrupt the Venezuelan government, and enable the opposition to win the 2006 election? Definitely sounds like a plan.

Oh no, I forgot, most all those oil workers who were fired were executives, managers, accountants, secretaries – ie. desk jockies. So I guess they wouldn’t be much use in getting the Iraqi oil industry off the ground. On second thought then, the Venezulean opposition is screwed. See you in 2012.


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