Thursday, December 01, 2005

Election update 2 

The big news now is that Primero Justicia, the yuppie party, has also withdrawn from the electtions. Now, there has been lots of speculation about this being a U.S. orchestrated event or whatever.

But before I get to that let me say something even more basic. The opposition is just NOWHERE to be found outside of the mass media. I´ve been looking hard for them and it is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. They had absolutely no grass roots campeign even before any decision to pull out. For example, supposedly P.J. was going to have a big grass roots campeign to whip up support. Not only have I not seen it, I haven´t yet spoken to a single person who has seen it. Not one. When I ask about them here in Barquisimeto or in San Felipe where I was yesterday I just get blank stares or that they exist in Caracas but ¨not here¨. But I didn´t even see them in eastern Caracas!

Regardless of who organized the boycott I think the reasons behind it are very clear. The opposition was about to be whipped BADLY at the polls and so to save what little bit of face they have left they decided not to play ball. Thats their choice. But then I don´t want any bitching when pro-Chavez candidates have a 90% majority. And they can´t even complain about the morochas any more because by them not participating, morochas or no morochas, the Chavistas are going to get more than 2/3 of the seats.

BTW, one more thing to show how stupid and cynical their strategy is. The New Times pary which is based in Zulia where an opposition governor is actually pretty popular is still participating. In other words, the one party of the opposition that has any electoral prospects at all is still showing up. Those who aren´t facing an embarrasing defeat participate. Those who knew they were going to get wiped out any ways have decided to withdraw. No disrespect intended to Ralph Nader, but the effect of all this is basically about the same as if he had decided to withdraw from the U.S. presidential campeign.

Although I haven´t been able to follow the media that much one good thing is that the international media seems to be seeing this whole charade by the opposition for what it is, people crying about unfairness when the reality is they just have no support.

Some random observations on the political situation here. For a while a lot of the polls in Venezuela have said Chavez has an approval rating of about 70%. They have also said that his political movement has the support of about 40 to 50% with the opposition being less than 10% and the people who like neither being around 40%. I have to say the anecdotal evidence I am getting here seems to very much confirm that. There are a lot of Chavistas to be see openly going around with campeign stickers on their cars or Chavez t-shirts. I haven´t seen anything by the opposition and am meeting few people who oppose Chavez. Yet I am meeting quite a large number of people who want nothing to do with either Chavez or the opposition. The larger part of this group are simply completely apolitical - they think the whole thing is a waste of time and just have no interest in it. Their concern is their daily life and they don´t see how politics affect that. A smaller subset of that group is interested in politics but doesn´t like either side. In total this group does seem to rival the pro-Chavez forces in size. But it doesn´t seem to respresent a political threat to him as most of them are people who are just more interested in their own personal lives than the abstraction of politics.

NOTE 1: Where I am now has no USB connection so pictures (and thus my post on housing) will probably have to wait until I am back in Caracas this weekend.

NOTE 2: Just casually observing one can see the economy is better than just a year ago. But how much would be hard to say. It is, after all, still a very poor country. But there is one change that is very obvious and dramatic. And that is traffic. I´ve given statistics before on how car sales have gone through the roof. Well, I guess all those cars have to go somewhere and they sure are clogging up all the roads. Everywhere you go traffic is very heavy (much heavier than just a year or two ago) with rush hour traffic being almost unbearable in both Caracas and Barquisimeto. And the highways between cities also seem to have very heavy traffic with long lines at the toll booths. One good thing is that there is a lot of mass transit being worked on right now that will hopefully help to alleviate this soon. In Barquisimeto they are building a rapid transit system and in Caracas they should be completing a big subway expansion next year. Plus they are also working on a inter-city passenger rail system. All that public trasport is very much needed if they don´t want to have all their gasoline just burned up in endless traffic jams:

UPDATE: The Lubrio blog has a good post, in Spanish, on all this. He lieves in Caracas but recently traveled to Maracaibo. And he can´t even find any campeigning being done by the opposition either!!! But he did find some posters by Primero Justicia and posted a picture. And I found a poster by A.D. in Barquisimeto. So together we´ve found a whopping two opposition campeign posters! He also thinks this withdrawal is a prelude to some bigger campeign to try to destabilize the government, in particular maybe another coup attempt. I don´t know about that but I do think this probably is a prelude to a more aggresive stance by the U.S. against Venezuela as they may try to paint the country as not being as being something less than a full democracy.


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