Friday, November 17, 2006

Two punches the opposition is landing 

Reading the Venezuelan media and watching TV these days is truly watching democracy in action. The media is chock full of advertisments, programs, accusations, and all sorts of appeals. Just like in any election one would see in the United States or any other democracy the media are making out like bandits raking in advertising money. But that is what democracy is all about and that is what Venezuela is right now, a marketplace of competing ideas.

Clearly both sides in this two horse race are making their points. Unfortunately for the opposition the economic climate of the country makes it virtually certain Chavez will win by a wide margin - silly polls with colored pencils not withstanding.

Nevertheless, the opposition is probably showing more maturity and more savvy than at any time I can recall. In particular, they are exploiting two chinks in Chavez's armor as the following ads show:

This ad attacks Chavez on one of his main weaknesses, the crime issue. From the red (read Chavez) with the words "more worry" to the blue (read Rosales) with the word "peacefullness" this ad is cleverly put together. But more importantly, it attacks Chavez where he has a true vulnerability - 8 years of out of control crime.

The second ad is even more clever:

In the blue (Rosales) part is tells people about the "Mi Negra" plan with the headline of "your opportunity to get up from the bottom". In the red (Chavez) part it carries the headline "more gifts abroad" and then goes on to say that $47 trillion bolivares have been given away overseas.

Now, this is almost certainly an absurd and false accusation. Never has the opposition presented a list of "give aways" coming to anything even remotely close to that number. Nevertheless, this theme of Chavez caring more about his foriegn policy than what is going on inside the country has resonated. Chavez does indeed travel abroad alot, does indeed speak on foriegn policy alot, and has given assistance to other countries. So even though the actual accusation, that Chavez is giving away Venezuela's wealth, may be absurd it is probably the case that most Venezuelans believe it to be true.

This may not matter when the economy is growing at 10%. But when the economy is growing at 2 or 3% it will matter. Clearly these are issues, both real and of perception, that Chavez needs to resolve. Hopefully the recent cancellation of Ken Livingstones trip to Venezuela is an indication that Chavez realizes this is an issue and is moving to correct it. Better that he fix it now, than have Venezuelans fix it a few years from now in a Recall Referendum by voting him out of office.


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