June 5, 2004

Insomnia post

3:45 a.m...can't sleep, might as well blog

The more I think about it, the more I think the standard opposition line on CNE makes no sense. People in the opposition tend to see the election council as more or less the equivalent of Miraflores Palace, because both are chavista institutions. But we know from our side that not all institutions in a coalition are alike. When chavistas treat the media barons, the bloque democratico, and the coordinadora democratica, all as one single undifferentiated mass of coup-plotting hysterics, we can see they failed to understand the internal dynamics of the opposition. But why is it so hard for us to accept that saying CNE=Comando Ayacucho could be just as wrong-headed, and for all the same reasons?

CNE was under heavy pressure to do something to derail the recall process by now. They stalled, yes, but in the end, they were not willing to derail the process entirely. Last March they were under serious pressure to simply declare the "planas" outright invalid and end the process, but they didn't do so. They then came under heavy pressure to produce an unworkable, unrealistic reparos process that left the opposition "as good as dead" - instead they chose a viable reparos process, praised by OAS as "expeditious and effective", that has led to activating the referendum. Even at the last minute they came under pressure to "slice" the signatures, and they refused to do that either. So, at some point along the line, we have to ask ourselves: is this really the pattern of behavior of an institution that just follows orders slavishly from Miraflores? It doesn't make sense to me...

What do you think?

Are you joking? Of course CNE is a Chávez puppet...
If CNE really is a Chavez puppet, they have a funny way of showing it!
CNE wanted to cheat, but found they coudn't
CNE is sympathetic to Chavez, with limits

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Multiple choice?

Framework Law on Suffrage and Political Participation:

Article 182: To convoke a referendum the following requirements must be met:

1. The question must be phrased clearly and precisely, in the exact terms implied by the matter being cunsulted, and in such a way that it can be answered with a "Yes" or a "No"...

2. A brief statement setting out the justification and purpose of the consultation.

Notes for an effective Recall campaign

Over the last few months, the opposition has shown a remarkable unity of purpose in seeking the Recall Referendum. But the real fight remains ahead. A cash-flush government has already pledged, in the voice of the vicepresident, "to use all the resources of the state" to outspend its opponents. In a proper country, doing so would land you in jail for misappropriation of public property for party-political purposes. In Venezuela it just raises the bar for the opposition.

Believe it or not, the vote is just over two months away, so the opposition needs to get cracking right away. What is to be done?

First, a metaphore I've shamelessly ripped off from the GQR researchers: Chavez as your jolly, drunk uncle. Polling last year, the US firm was shocked by a strange inconsistency. Asked "do you personally like Chavez?" they would get over 40% of the voters saying yes. Asked "has the government done anything to improve your life, only a few percent would answer yes. Less than 10% give Chavez positive marks for improving health, education, street security, the economy, the whole gamut of issues.

The GQR conclusion was simple enough: to many of his supporters, Chavez is family. His supporters relate to him in familial terms. He is the nation's lovable-rogue uncle, the Tio Gonzalo who is a barrel of fun but has a bit of trouble holding down a job, or restraining his drinking, or whatever. Every family seems to have one of those. Like your lovable rogue uncle, you wouldn't stand for people attacking him in front of you. You would be personally offended. You would feel affronted. You demand respect for him.

The opposition's strategy so far has been to get outraged at Tio Gonzalo's behavior. We cried ourselves hoarse denouncing Tio's all night drinking binges, we've laughed ourselves to sleep mocking his inability to hold down a job, etc. We have, in other words, offended him. And to many of the president's supporters, a slight on Chavez is a slight on family, and for that reason, an attack on them. Personally.

The opposition needs to stop this rhetorical line. For one thing, the constituency that was liable to react favorably to this rhetoric is already on our side, already mobilized and not in need of convincing. All we achieve with the frontal attack strategy at this point is to further entrench chavistas, even chavistas who may be harboring doubts about Chavez's abilities to lead the country. Each time we call Chavez a castrocomunista extremista narciso cdm populista, we push voters away instead of attracting them.

The question is NOT whether you love your Tio Gonzalo. Of course you love him, he's your uncle! Nothing is going to make you stop loving him. This is a given. The real question, then, is whether you think Tio Gonzalo should run the family business.

Once you put the question in these terms, matters change. You can love your Tio Gonzalo to bits and still not think he is qualified to be running the family business. Convincing you to hand over the family business to someone better qualified does not require you to hate Tio Gonzalo, which you'll never do, it just requires you to accept the evident: that he isn't very good at the job he has now.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. This is why the opposition campaign needs to be militantly positive, bright, optimistic, future oriented, and 100% angry-rhetoric free. I've heard GQR's advice to Granier was to simply stop using the word "Chavez" on air - because 99% of the time the word is heard on RCTV it's preceded or followed by a mocking, angry attack, and those attacks became counterproductive a long long time ago.

The opposition does not need to be reminded again and again of the things Chavez has done. We'll remember. But just the hard-core opposition on its own cannot win a RR. We need to reach out to hundreds of thousands of anti-Chavez leaning NiNis, we need the votes of people who still like Chavez, who are still emotionally attached to him, but who no longer believe he's up to fixing the country's problems. To the extent we can attract those votes, we can bulk-up our totals from the current, too-tight-for-comfort projections of 3.5-4 million votes, into real trouncing territory.

Just imagine the morning of Aug. 9th, imagine the newspaper reporting 4,632,913 votes to recall Chavez. Picture it, pictre what that will do to the future of the country. Like that thought? Then lets get smart about targeting the swing voters!

June 4, 2004

Own up

My overall political outlook is

Coup enthusiast
Suspicious centrist
Comeflor con cafeina
Chavez sympathizer
Chavista radical

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Narcissist Rage

From Narcissism 101

by Stephen McDonnell

The narcissist who is frustrated, who is publicly humiliated, who can't get what he wants, usually will react with anger and rage. They are like frustrated children throwing a fit. Most adults can handle frustration, but narcissists have a low tolerance for denial. A narcissist is always boiling, always thinks others are conspiring against him. Narcissists are always conspiring against others, they tend to think other people are like them.

Paranoia is a problem with narcissists. They want it their way, they want their dream to come true and any deviation or anyone stepping on their toes sparks immediate anger. If they are in seduction mode, they will forgive for the moment, but years later the anger will come back in spades. They never forget a slight or an insult. They plan revenge. Or at least some of them do.

Other narcissists will act as though above the fray, not deigning to be upset. But they remember.

Think of a 6 year old child, think tantrum, remember how kids can say something terrible to you and then forget they said it, but if you reprimand them, they break into tears or they start breaking things.

For a narcissist, rage is the ultimate response to loss of control, and they use it to gain back control over the situation and others. They can be physically abusive and hurtful. If all their words of seduction and gifts do not work, then they will physically intimidate you. Rage can either be feigned or real. As long as it works.

Is it real? Is it a game? Even the narcissist doesn't know. He is playing out his life out of touch with his real self, so who knows what he's really feeling.

I have watched narcissists use rage to get their way, to vent their frustration on someone, then I have watched them walk away, cool as a cucumber, as if nothing happened. Other times, I have seen them break things. No doubt the prisons of the world are filled with narcissists who let their rage get the upper hand. The murderers and rapists with narcissistic disorders learned to like the rush of adrenaline, the loss of control that gave them more control over their victims in the end. If someone dies when a narcissist is angry, he blames the victim for "provoking him." Remember, the narcissist is never wrong, never remembers his own mistakes, and is always in control.

If you want to see them enraged, disagree with them, make fun of them or their opinions, fight back when they attack you. If they feel they're loosing, they will fly off the handle, in a desperate attempt at control. Or they will break down in tears and try to get attention that way; beware, they are experts at manipulation.

What is wrong with Narcissists?

"When people are driving themselves crazy, they have neuroses or psychosis. When they drive other people crazy, they have personality disorders. but Though there is plenty of narcissim without greatness, there is no greatness without narcissism." Albert Bernstein

From Narcissism 101

Now you may ask yourself what is wrong with being a Narcissist?

In fact most of them are fascinating, amusing, successful and a few are even famous. (And sometimes they are pure fakes and liars, so be careful.) They are fun to be around at parties, they dominate the conversation and will tell amusing stories, give their opinion on everything in the world as if it is the only one, until you get to know them. Then you are at risk of becoming one of their victims. They need you, they need what you can give them. Attention! They are spoiled children. They need some one to admire their image. If you become involved with one, because you are related to them, or you are a friend, or a business partner, or lover, you will suffer. And you will not know why.

Because they are actors playing a part, they can not tell the difference between the truth and a falsehood. They lie to themselves first of all; they modify their inner reality to fit their idea, their vision of themselves and then they will transform outer reality with their lies. They will take the past and re-arrange it to make themselves look good. They will never admit fault, they will never say they are sorry. If something goes wrong, they will play the victim. They will blame others.

They can not love, for they do not love themselves, they only love their image, an idealized person who does not exist. They cannot face themselves. If you ever see one fail, make a mistake, watch their faces; you will see a look of terror on it. Because you have seen behind the curtain, you have seen the real person who feels inferior and inadequate. They always have to be in control. They can not love normally. For them love is a loss of control, which they can ill afford. They can fake it, they can simulate it and even declare it effusively, but they can never make the sacrifices that true love demands. Love demands, even needs, truth to exist. A commodity in short supply in a narcissist who is looking for ideal, the perfect love or lover.

They do not think normally. They have a disorder that makes them process reality differently. Do not be fooled, they can function and pass for normal. That is what is so frightening, they are incredible mimics of human beings. Of human feelings. It is not even hypocrisy, for to them, they do not see any difference in their actions; as long as it works.

Many mental disorders have a chemical cause; such as a seratonin malfunction. In Narcissist, no chemical cause has been found. Yet. It seems to be a cognitive malady. I would even say a cultural one. For women, narcissistic display is almost natural if not encouraged. For men, certain societies demand that men put up a macho image. From that kind of behavior to a full blown NPD is not that far.

In the end, they want to own you. You must be their storm troopers, their faithful worshipers who never criticize them, never disagree with them. Never look behind their mask, you may see the wizard of Oz behind the curtain. If they do evil, you must approve, if they hate, you must hate as well. You cease to exist as you. You become just a projection of their image. You become a clone, a mindless puppet, with no idea of what they are thinking because you are under their charm.

You give up your self, your soul, to them. It is not violent. It can be so gentile, so subtile, so unseen. They can use the legitimacy of established institutions to achieve their goal; the office of the church, of parental authority, of a political party or of a garden club. They love having authority, it makes the job of co-opting you so much easier. You have to obey authority, you are brought up to follow, to love, your parents without question. The father or mother figure is used in their quest for hegemony. Or they may use sex, love, beauty, intelligence as a tool. Whatever it takes to get you in their grasp. Mesmerized.

In the larger sense, we are programed to follow such people. They use the voice of authority. Or social pressure, and eventually physical force if necessary to get their way - think nasty spoiled child. We are constantly bombarded by images in advertising and politics that sell us people, products, political messages. It is the packaging, the medium is the message; images are powerful, not the content. Historically, narcissists have tried and even succeeded in having millions of people follow them, like lemmings, to death and destruction.

The nadir of the comecandelas...

Today, I woke up peeved at all the radical opposition talking-heads who have been laughing at us comeflores for months for thinking there will be a recall vote. If you're a comeflor, you've doubtlessly met the haughty, "sobrao", style of people who stand around and scoff "por eso es que la oposicion nunca logra nada, está llena de gente comiendo florecitas...así no vamos a ninguna parte - es que acaso no te has fijado que Chavez es un totalitario neonazi barriga-verde asesino? Entonces? Que referendum ni que referendum? Bajate de esa nube!"

If I had Bs.100 for each time I've heard some variant on that little speech over the last few years...I'd have a few thousand Bs, anyway. It has been a leitmotif of comecandela thinking for years now...

It's particularly entertaining, in this regard, to read today's editorial page in El Universal. Obviously, the pieces were written a few days back, and María Sol Pérez Schael, Carlos Zubillaga and Carlos Raúl Hernández all unanimously and confidently predict that CNE will not acknowledge there are enough signatures. They then proceed to heap abuse on the "culprits" of a crime that was never committed. Wonder how they're feeling this morning. Only Gerardo Blyde, happily, gets it right - insisting on the importance of the secret ballot on Aug. 8th.

And the comecandela leaders, where are they now? Where's Salas? How about Weil, who I love but who kept editorializing that a referendum was a pipe-dream? Where did Robert Alonso scurry off to? How about Nitu Perez, and Ibeyise and Boccaranda and their ilk? And Rafael Marín, well, we know where he is (in hospital, after being badly attacked by chavista cabilleros last night) - but once he gets near a microphone, what is he going to say? "Sorry I pushed you towards an insurrectional strategy bound to lead to civil war when democratic means worked just fine"? It's the least we could hope for.

What last night shows, folks, is that comeflorismo is not just an ethical position. It's also, just as importantly, a pragmatic stance - one you adopt because it is more likely to actually work than any of the alternatives. We've learned since April 2002...well, some of us have learned...

There are lots of obstacles ahead - but over the last few days we've seen why the moderates had it right all along.

June 3, 2004

Elections Council Speaks: There are enough signatures for a Chavez Recall

Union Radio:
The President of the National Electoral Board, Jorge Rodriguez, announced at 4:15 p.m. today the preliminary results "which show a clear tendency" on the signature verification process to convene a vote to recall the president. He said there are 2,451,821 valid signatures to demand a recall, and 2,436,083 were required.

If this is so, there has to be a referendum: article 21 of the rules explicitly rule out any further verifications after this point. Chavez will give a speech within the next hour - think of it as a campaign launch.

Pro-Chavez Radicals Lash Out Against the Media

The situation at El Nacional is, for some reason, not being reported anywhere. Sources inside the newspaper's headquarters say journalists are trapped in their offices while aggressive chavista groups roam around freely inside the building. A truck was burned just outside, and the fire department has just arrived on the scene. There is also an unconfirmed report that the newspaper's printing press has been set on fire. (We'll know if it was true tomorrow morning!)

Earlier this afternoon, Pro-Chavez gunmen attacked the opposition-controlled Greater Caracas City Hall, downtown, using an submachine gun at one point.

A similar situation was reported at RCTV, the opposition controlled channel 2.

The anti-independent media incitement in the pro-government stations has been particularly intense over the last few days.

Gaviria remains convinced a recall will happen, but for now, the nation just awaits Chavez's speech on hooks ant tenters.

The government hardliners were never going to go down without a fight. But how far will it spread?


Globovision has just reported on the situation at El Nacional but says it is now "under control."

Mixed signals

It's too confusing trying to read the decision process inside the government, there are too many mixed signals. Perhaps the debate inside Chavismo is swinging back against allowing a referendum. The police raids at CNE last night and the on-going novela with the Signators From The Other Side of The Grave all point that way, as do many of the caveats in government statements. Today, there is violence by chavista gangs reported at several locations in Caracas, including an assault against the opposition-controlled Greater Caracas City Hall where sub-machine guns were reportedly used to shoot up the building.

Radio Nacional de Venezuela is still sounding dovish, preparing its audience for a referendum, but VTV has reverted to Taliban form.

Chavez will speak to the nation in a little under three hours. At a public rally in front of his supporters. It's not the kind of platform one chooses to make retractions or concessions...is it?

One thing's for sure: the boss will set the line, and his underlings will follow it...

More soon.

What Zapata knows

Juan Carlos Zapata, the guy who runs Descifrado, has been leaking priceless information from a high-up chavista source for three days now. If Zapata has it more or less right - which he certainly seems to - his version is a firm anchor for cautious but real optimism.

Zapata, a Tal Cual co-founder, is a kind of Venezuelan Drudge (minus the sleaze) - well-connected, agressive about posting everything he knows, and very often, the first with key stories too hot for others to publish.

His latest essay on the reparos drama inside the government (read it in the original Spanish or translated to English) again feeds my perception that the referendum is a reality. In Zapata's retelling, the reparos results have split the government badly, setting off what he calls "a political earthquake" within chavismo.

For the first time since 1999, Chavez faces a major political decision he cannot control - or not without very high costs. For the first time in recent memory, there appears to be an actual, living, breathing debate inside the government camp. There are factions and disagreements and discussions and scapegoat hunts. This is in complete contrast with the tradition of "democratic centralism" in the Chavez era - where all decisions are made personally by The Leader and communicated down the chain of command.

This is all good news. But there is still a huge amount of fear and rage among government supporters - aporrea.org's priceless foros make that quite clear. Bringing the extremists around may not be possible, but lessening their impact on society is.

One key fear on the chavista side is that the day after a referendum the "misiones" - the Chavez-led emergency social programs - will be dismantled. This is a source of real dismay to millions of honest Chavez followers.

It's time for the opposition to be magnanimous - to treat their opponents with the respect we have demanded from them for years. Enrique Mendoza should come forward and say that the opposition does not intend to dismantle the misiones if it takes power, and that instead, it will improve them. A statement like that could go a long ways in building bridges with honest people on the other side.

However much we dislike the government, we have to remind ourselves that it's crucial for rank and file chavistas to perceive that there is a future for them in an opposition-led future. If, like Garcia Carneiro, Diosdado, and the hardliners, they feel their entirely livelihood and even their lives are at stake, they'll fight. Who can blame them?

Over the last few months, the opposition has demonstrated uncommon coherence and single-mindedness in pursuing the recall option. But today, the best thing we can do to help bring about a referendum is to explain, very clearly, that we are a movement for National Reconciliation, not just a ploy to take back power.

Poll for expats: New Options!

What do you miss most from home?

Cachapas con queso 'e mano
Chicha andina
Guasacaca como debe ser
Reina pepeada
Jalea de mango
Carne en vara
Batidos/jugos varios
Sandwiches de pernil de la encrucijada
Empanadas de cazón

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June 2, 2004


JVR accepts there will be a Recall Vote

God bless Alek Boyd

Venezuela Edges Closer to a Chavez Recall Election

Venezuela is at an extraordinary juncture. After 30 months of intense political crisis, the nation waits anxiously for an announcement on whether or not there will be a recall referendum against President Chavez. After a contentious 6 month signature-gathering process marked by delays and unexplained rule changes, the National Electoral Council has started verifying hundreds of thousands of contested signatures that were reaffirmed by citizens this weekend. If more than 540,000 signatures are added to the total, the council must call a recall vote.

Though they have not yet been officially announced, the signature verification totals are an open secret. In accordance with regulations agreed in advance by the government and the opposition, the elections' authorities distributed copies of verification tallies at each of the 2700 signing centers in the process at the end of each of the three days of signing to all sides. The government, the opposition and international observers all have access to the raw data that CNE is charged with tallying. And since CNE's role at this stage is limited to adding together those daily tallies, with further verifications explicitly banned, it's difficult to imagine what the government could do at this point to wiggle out of reporting the real results.

Carter's touch

At their joint press conference at CNE yesterday, President Carter and OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria made all of this very clear. Gaviria said the main difference between this process and the original signature collection drive and this weekend's validation is that the checks built into this latest event will make it extremely clear if anyone cheats. President Carter said that while the observation mission has no legal authority, they reserve the right to comment on any discrepancy between the totals they've calculated and the ones CNE eventually announces. President Carter said he had firm commitments from CNE's board and President Chavez himself that no more surprises are in the horizon.

Since CNE has not yet announced official results, the media are barred from talking openly about signature tallies, a rule both sides have sporadically broken. Leaks are inevitable in a situation like this, and while the sides report different tallies, even the government appears to understands that enough signatures were collected. Chavez knows he will pay a heavy price if it tampers with them.

Descifrado, the well-connected opposition-minded gossip site, has been leaking like a Venezuelan schoolroof since Sunday. Juan Carlos Zapata, a TalCual co-founder who now runs Descifrado, reports confidently that the government has accepted it must allow a recall go ahead.

President Chavez himself hinted as much during a spot of afternoon baseball at Fuerte Tiuna, where he acknowledged the possibility that the opposition might just have snuck by with enough signatures. At dinner the previous night, across from President Carter, he had apparently made the pledge directly.

So Venezuela, remarkably, appears headed for a recall vote after all. The possibility, which seemed distant just a week ago, now seems likely. Opposition distrust of the authorities now runs so deep that it's almost impossible for many of us to believe it, and many will certainly refuse to believe it until they see CNE head Francisco Carrasquero announcing it on an all-channel TV broadcast. Even then, Venezuela is "territorio de lo posible," it is still posible that the government will work to stop or sabotage the vote later on.

The Day of the Doves

So far, the opposition's electoral strategy has been an amazing success. Never has the opposition enjoyed the international credibility it now has. While the government continues to scream bloody murder and label all opponents "coup-mongers" and "terrorists", hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan citizens have chosen to face down the regime in the civilized, legal way: by standing in line, again and again, under the rain and despite the intimidation, to sign their names on a petition.

The cornerstone of the government's rhetoric - that they are poor beleaguered democrats holding off a conspiratorial cabal of rich businessmen and media barons with US-backing - looks ever more incongruous in light of the weekend's events. Venezuela, the government wants to convince us, is the only place on earth where the fascist terrorist coup-mongers stand in line, in the rain, to sign petitions, while the belleaguered democrats work tirelessly to keep them away from the ballot box. It makes less than no sense. It had some usefulness as a propaganda tool, but more and more the message is only believed by a hard-core of zealots.

The Venezuelan opposition has always been a grab bag of groups of all sorts of different sizes, attitudes and ideologies. The "dove" faction that urged a legal, electoral solution has not always been in control of things. Both on April 11th and during the two month National Strike of Dec-Jan 2002-03, opposition hardliners took control of the movement and made very bad blunders that have cost the opposition dearly in terms of credibility. It took perseverance, hard work, and real effort for the dove wing to impose its slogan - without violence, within the law.

Paradoxically, a government that had always urged the opposition to behave in this way now finds itself terribly outflanked and devoid of a clear target. Whereas it was easy to dismiss coup leader Carmona or strike leader Carlos Ortega as dangerous reactionaries, the line loses all meaning in an opposition led by people like Pompeyo Marquez, Chuo Torrealba and Felipe Mujica. The government, which has always thrived on picking a fight with hothead opponents, had no idea how to handle their approach: Negotiate continuously. Don't rise to provocations. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't let the government distract attention from the RR.

Today, that simple strategy, together with the invaluable work of the Carter Center/OAS observation mission, has put Venezuela closer to finding an peaceful, democratic, electoral and constitutional solution to its governance crisis than many opposition hawks ever dreamed possible.

The strategy could still collapse. The government could still choose confrontation over civilization. It could still all be for naught. But right here, right now, we know the opposition has gone the extra mile, and then some, to make viable a solution to the crisis that doesn't lead to civil war. And I think that's a very great achievement on its own.

June 1, 2004

Having heard Carter's statement

I think CNE will

Report the real results
Tamper with the totalization process

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Cátedra Carter

At his press conference today, Jimmy Carter showed what you eat "international pressure" with. His statement: plain, direct, devastatingly straightforward shows that the Descifrado leaks from yesterday were basically on the money. The government looked at its options, and decided to face the voters. I know it's hard to believe just now, but all the evidence points to that direction.

Carter oozed confidence as he announced that he had held long meetings with all the players over the last few days, that everyone knows what the tallies show, and that the international community awaits a CNE announcement of the real numbers, the ones all sides have. He made it plain, between the lines, that CNE and the government are quite clear on what's at stake, and has made a clear commitment to play ball.

The great thing is that when you are Jimmy Carter, you can tell it like it is, and people look very foolish if they get angry at you. Today, Carter very clearly and straightforwardly recalled the changing verification criteria in the previous round of signature checks, made it clear such nonsense was not acceptable, and emphasize again and again that the basic difference between the reafirmazo and the reparos is that this time around "any discrepancy" between the totals observers already have and any CNE announcement would be plainly evident. He stresses strongly that he has strong pledges from both CNE and President Chavez himself that the announced results match the information already available to all sides.

I should have a poll about which prominent Caracas street we'll eventually have to rename Avenida Presidente Carter...

*Now* I have time to blog!

My research proposal is signed, sealed and delivered.
If you want to print it, download this version (PDF).

May 31, 2004

Email from my country-girl former co-worker...

From: "Julia"

To: "Francisco"

Date: Fri, 30 May 2004 11:11 PM

Subject: para tu disfrute

Just wanted to share a little story you might like. Hey, I didn't hear it on Marta Colomina's show, it's a personal story.

One of my sisters, who still lives in the little sea-side town where I grew up, was persuaded by the people of another near-by town to help them out by working as a teacher for Misión Ribas, the government scheme to get poor people high school diplomas. She agreed because she visits this town often, and she knows nobody else in the town is really prepared to be a teacher, and they would really appreciate her help. Plus, she isn't a university graduate; she did only some semesters in the history faculty at the Universidad Central, and well, she doesn't have a job right now.

She sent in her resume, went to several Mision Ribas meetings in La Guaira, but she warned the people in town and later to the Mision Ribas Coordinator in La Guaira, that she had signed for a referendum on Chavez. The coordinator told her that it didn't matter because they couldn't find any other volunteer who wanted to go to such a remote place for the Mision. So they agreed she would start teaching high school out there.

A few years ago, she had a son who has spina bifida (he's in a wheel chair), she had asked for help from the Fondo Unico Social - another Chavez-controlled agency - to help fund an operation for her kid, which she never got.

This week, we find out the chavistas have been investigating her, finding out personal details about her, that she has three kids and no husband and one of the kids is in a wheelchair. On Saturday the 29th she got a call from the Regional Coordinator for Mision Ribas to ask her whether she would withdraw her signature, arguing that someone who is against the president cannot be accepted for a job with the Mision.

My sister replied that she had warned them and they had not posed objections. Five minutes later she got a call from the Army Captain in charge of coordinating Mision Ribas in the region. He told her that they could get her a good job with her CV, help for her sick kid and scholarships for her other two kids, but that she must withdraw her signature.

My sister said no, that if she did it she wouldn't know what face to show to her children, he kept insisting and asked her to call again. This Sunday, he called her again to insist and offer her a face-to-face meeting with him this Tuesday to give her a "direct donation" from PDVSA for her kids as well as a job, of course all provided she withdrew her signature. She told them no again. He called a third time and she decided not to pick up the phone, and asked her kids to say she was not home.

It sounds like a Marta Colomina story, but no, it's my sister!

un beso,


Square this circle...

It's a replay of last November! In so many ways! First the opposition exceeds its needed tally, and goes euphoric. The government, as soon as it notices the opposition has the signatures (but not earlier, never earlier) starts to allege a sophisticated fraud. Last time, it was the infamous planillas planas, this time, they're alleging "ID card cloning centers" running out of Sumate's voter ID centers. The opposition charges DISIP with seeking to plant this evidence in Sumate facilities all over the place.

I asked my Sumate volunteer sister about this last night and we had a good laugh about it. "So, Mari, did you hide the cloned cedulas well?" "Yes, of course Quico, we at Sumate are very proud of our organizational know-how - of course, it was hard to hide the masses and masses of fake cedulas, but we managed it..." [sarcasm alert: she was of course laughing her head off at the notion - once again, only someone who's never been to Sumate could believe an accusation so plainly contrary to the spirit of the organization.]

So yesterday, among these dark mutterings of cloned cedulas, someone actually asked Alberto Quiroz about the possibility of a further round of "reparos" to repair the repairs...suggesting the possibility of an endlessly regressing set of further verifications that would only, logically, be stopped by the laws of sequential halving: eventually your sample would be reduced to one single reparante and you could not subdivide him any further, barring mutilation or something extreme like that. Quiroz just smiled and said that such a "nightmare" is simply not in the cards.

Here's what the rules say about this latest bit of tropical kafkaism:


RESOLUCIÓN N° 040420-563

Caracas, 20 de abril de 2004

Capítulo VII: De la Totalización

Artículo 21. Órgano competente. La Junta Nacional Electoral totalizará el conjunto de actas originales recibidas diariamente de la totalidad de las Mesas de Reparo, en un lapso no mayor de tres (3) días continuos siguientes al último día de del evento de reparo correspondiente y procederá a hacer públicos los resultados definitivos.


Asimismo, luego de la totalización definitiva de los reparos queda excluida cualquier actividad de verificación posterior.

CNE Regulations

National Electoral Concil

Resolution No. 040420-563

Caracas, April 20, 2004

Chapter VII: On Tallying

Article 21: Relevant agency. The National Electoral Junta shall tally the set of original actas received daily from all of the Reparo Tables, in a period no longer than three (3) consecutive days after the last day of the corresponding reparo event and will proceed to publish the results.


After the definitive tally of the reparos, any further verification activity is ruled out.

Call me a romantic, but I don't see how they can cheat here. The Junta Nacional Electoral - the operational arm of CNE - is a mere arithmetic body here, a "counting instance", a glorified abacus. And after the tally, any further verification is explicitly ruled out. Not that I doubt their creativity in bending the rules, just that this rule is particularly straightforward and lacking in ambiguity - so the Creative Jurisprudence Squad will have to work extra hard this time around.

May 30, 2004

Firmas habemus

CNE will...

Call a referendum before Aug. 18
Call a referendum after Aug. 18
Not call a referendum

Current Results

Ineffectual Authoritarianism

This weekend, we've seen that the press has been unfair in its treatment of CNE. I realize opinions are so hardened on this subject by now, I'm most unlikely to convince anyone, but think about it: the entire chavista drive to screw up the reparos this weekend happened outside CNE. Whether it's the military or civilian supporter groups, in the vast majority of cases the trouble was outside the CNE jurisdictional line. If the government was so confident it could order CNE around, why would it have gone through all the trouble, all the bad publicity, all the grief of violently attacking the signing centers, when an inside job would've been so much smoother and less evident?

The reparos have underlined once again just how ineffectual Chavez is as an authoritarian. Watching the news yesterday, it seemed quite clear that someone high up in Miraflores had given the order to go out and screw up the reparo centers. And they tried. They even managed to mobilize a few groups which managed to get to a few centers and make life extremely unpleasant for a few people, including Globo's Marta Palma. But the Chavistas simply did not come down like a great locust swarm to erase the referendum from the face of history, like some feared (and others apparently hoped.)

The government once again flubbed it. They thought they had enough popular support to cause a very serious problem in signing centers throughout the country. But when the order was given, they found out that they actually only control a fairly limited number of chavista extremists.

Worst of all, from their perspective, the attempts at intimidation or obstruction failed. Faced with the obdurate determination of the oppo signators, the chavista intimidation attempts barely scored above flash-in-the-pan status. Probably the most remarkable element of watching Globovision yesterday was seeing the way that the small lines of people waiting to sign simply never give up! Even when dozens of government activists came by on motorcycles firing roman candles into voting centers and shouting Viva Chavez, people simply stayed put, waited for them to leave, and hung on to their places in line! Gente arrecha!

Which, frankly, makes me proud to be Venezuelan. There's something wonderfully irreverent and rebellious about this attitude, a kind of principled stubborness in the face of intimidation that has and will continue to serve the nation well. It's the story of the grandmother in Los Palos Grandes who saved Rosendo all over again.

But if I'm proud of the bravery of grassroots antichavez signators, I'm also proud of the rank-and-file chavistas. Because, folks, Chavez's 30%, the vast bulk of the normal, decent, honest, hard-working Venezuelans who support Chavez did NOT heed the call for violence. (Believe me, if one in three Venezuelans had poured out onto the streets to rip things up, we would've noticed!) Instead, many of them were inside the reparo centers serving as witnesses, collaborating without any problems with the opposition witnesses as well as the CNE personnel and the soldiers. The dirty little secret here is that the bulk of rank-and-file chavistas don't want a war any more than we do.

It's not the first time. In late 2002, after TSJ refused to try the April generals, we saw chavistas calling their supporters out on the street. Only a handful did.

Poor Chavez. Now he knows what it is to be isolated. Alone in Guadalajara. Alone in the streets of Venezuela. Able to raise a raucus in 20 or 30 signing centers, but just not powerful enough to put serious obstacles in the way of the remaining 99% of them. His power is crumbling visibly around him. In the end, my feeling is he'll fall not because of how authoritarian he is, but because of how sadly ineffectual he is at it, how oddly unable to translate his personal magnetism and his hold on his supporters' imaginations into the real acts of day-to-day brutality that keep authoritarians in place.