Caracas Chronicles has been around for over 4 years now, and usually caters to a hearty breed of hardcore English-speaking Venezuelan politics junkies. We'll be trying to write for a broader audience for the next few days, just for you. And yes, we'll be blogging up a storm this week, so do keep checking back.
If you need to catch up quickly but thoroughly, have a look at this excellent, scrupulously impartial primer on what's so peculiar about the presidential campaign we've seen (note: largish PDF file.)
It's a speech delivered by Pedro Nikken, on behalf of Ojo Electoral (Electoral Eye - a home-grown elections monitoring NGO) to the Washington Office on Latin America. In a highly polarized atmosphere, Nikken makes a titanic effort to rise above the fray and provide an account of what's at stake in this election that both sides can recognize.
Why do the Venezuelan elections attract so much international attention? The technical problems are manageable and the political problems I have mentioned are present in other elections, but do not raise the same degree of concern. Venezuela is going through a process of change that sparks international curiosity when the results are positive and a certain level of alarm when they are seen as contrary to universal norms.It's longish, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. Of course, you could also look at my Archives...hours and hours of good clean fun to be had there.
In particular, signs that indicate a troubling lack of respect for democratic values in the management of the state are often highlighted. The government and opposition discredit each other’s commitment to democracy. Accusations against the government flow from the opposition, which characterize it is a dictatorship or totalitarian regime, while the government generally tags the opposition as a gang of coup-mongers. The intent of each side seems not to be to defeat the other in a democratic contest, but rather to remove it entirely from the competition. Without offering my own opinion, I will mention a few of the allegations – not without some foundation – that have been made by each side to cast doubt on the opponent’s commitment to democracy...