October 13, 2006

Thinking through a Rosales presidency

Lost in all the campaign horse-race excitement is a simple question: if he did manage to beat Chavez, what would a Manuel Rosales presidency actually be like? How does the guy go about governing in an institutional environment dominated entirely by chavista appointees? Is he really up to it?

The scenarios are pretty dire.
  • How does Rosales negotiate a budget with a 100% chavista National Assembly?
  • What happens when the chavista-controlled Supreme Tribunal declares Mi Negra unconstitutional?
  • How does he deal with the barrage of investigations from a Chavez controlled Comptrollership and Prosecutor General?
  • How does he deal with the 22 chavista state governors?
  • How does he take the 30,000 Kalashnikovs out of the hands of the Cuban trained Frente Francisco de Miranda?
  • What does he do with the tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, and the hundreds (or thousands) of Cuban security agents in the country?
  • Last but not least, how does he handle Leader of the Opposition Hugo Chavez?
The short answer is that he will be forced to call a new Constituent Assembly...but then, what happens if he loses the elections to appoint its members?

Folks, even if Rosales wins, it's not the end. It's merely the beginning.

October 12, 2006

Here a coup, there a coup, everywhere a coup coup...

Introductions are in order. Over the next few weeks, international wo/man of mystery JayDee will be posting occassionally on Caracas Chronicles. JayDee breaks the by-now-established CC mold in that s/he is actually IN Caracas. Imagine that! Further details withheld to avoid the wrath of our masters in Langley.

JayDee says: One of the most interesting facets of Chavez's political strategy is to see how he uses the threat of "The Gringos are Coming!" as a weapon. In the last month, he has stated that Zulia police failed to take him out while he was campaigning. He followed that one up a few days latter with a bizarre claim that his spy in the white house has informed him that George W. has sworn to assassinate Hugo before leaving office in 2008.

From a political standpoint - It's a brilliant maneuver as slick and dark as anything Karl Rove or Dick Cheney have ever dreamt up. Chavez is constantly putting Rosales on the defensive while simultaneously linking him with arguably the most unpopular gringo in Latin America since at least Ronald Reagan. Most recently, the Chavez administration has been talking up the imminent U.S. backed coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, and one has to wonder what the ulterior motive is here. We have all debated the possibility of the U.S. invading Venezuela, a prospect I happen to find very, very unlikely. But with Iraq going down the drain, Iran holding itself proudly in defiance of the U.N., and North Korea going nuclear, it seems almost ludicrous that the C.I.A would be working overtime to bring about Evo's downfall.

On the other hand, Morales has been facing a number of protests in country from what should be the his most rock solid constituency.

Is Hugo simply trying to show his fellow revolutionary how to discredit the opposition?

Personally, I have much more faith in Evo than I do Hugo. But it will be interesting to watch and see if he starts to fall in line with Chavez's scare tactics.

October 11, 2006

The Sacred Right to Vote

Katy says: The following post was written by a few loyal readers. It talks about how to vote, and what to do to defend our votes. In the spirit of real participatory democracy, I am reproducing it verbatim.

PS.- The picture - my idea, not theirs - is, of course, of Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world's greatest living heroes. May her struggle inspire us.

"In order to make Rosales win the presidential election in December, we need to do two things:

  1. Vote.
  2. Defend our votes.

It sounds rather simple but past elections have taught us that it is not. Since we don’t plan to lay down and watch our country turned into another Cuba, we have put our heads together to think about the following question:

How can we defend our votes on December 3rd?

These are the answers we came up with:

Negotiating with the CNE is like going into a blind dark alley and there is nothing new in this regard. The only way to get the CNE to behave is to force it to do so, and to do that, we need the people to back that up. And for the people to back it up, we need informed and prepared people, ready to defend their vote not on December 4, but on December 3 and before.

Perception is the first part of the equation, so an avalanche of clearly identifiable voters, in each and every precinct, has to be part of the strategy. Clear preparation of each individual that will be part of this avalanche is the main clue of the strategy.

Opposition voters could wear white T-shirts with the message: “Maldito el soldado que usa sus armas contra su propio pueblo”. When a National Guard in a voting station sees for 200 times in a row the same message, he will think twice about his actions. The effect of T-shirts with a message could multiply on its own and reduce the fear in the voters.

Fear is another clue element which should be shifted from voters to armed groups. Voters carrying cameras and video recording devices around the voting centers would make the armed groups aware of the fact that their actions are being filmed and recorded. Armed groups need to be left with the uncertainty about how many of their planned abuses will show up clearly demonstrated at some point in the future.

Since in previous events -the regional elections in 2004 come to mind-, the minister of the interior and justice declared that it was forbidden for electors to gather around voting centers to wait for the vote count, it is foreseeable that this time around they’ll do the same. This possibility should be addressed by Rosales before the government presents it as an accomplished fact. Anyway, if people feel safe and protected by one another, they might not care about legalities.

Rosales’ team could wisely benefit from this preparation process to boost the campaign. Certain phrases could be repeated and transformed it into a kind of mantra: “Peaceful revolutions have happened before, why not in Venezuela?” Thousands of citizens peacefully but forcefully defending their votes would be quite a thing to see.

The manual counts have to be extremely well documented with pictures, movies, times, and dates, with the presence of valid officials, judges, notaries, attorneys (there have to be quite a few non-aligned ones). Actas should have the signature of 10, 100, or even more witnesses and multiple copies should be made, especially if the electronic count does not match the paper count. Meetings should be held with international observers before the fact, to ensure they are aware of what is going on.

Remember that the main goal is to force the CNE to play fair and to accomplish it even the obvious needs to be watched.

-Make sure that the principle of 'one person one vote' is followed (ink in the pinkie and vigilant table witnesses).
-Make sure the boxes have not been stuffed before or after the vote.
-Make sure the actas are not manipulated.
-Corroborate the content of the voting boxes against the local machine 'acta'
-Corroborate the local 'actas' against the CNE reports.
-Corroborate the CNE report arithmetic.
- Demand to have the random selection done with a completely manual system, like the Spanish lottery (or something of the sort), to avoid 'spiked' databases.
-Vote early, and make anything possible to reduce the delays that will be imposed in the process.

“The only way to get things moving is to instill hope, to act with the conviction that things can be better, so that that conviction instills hope in others. The multiplication effect of this attitude, taking the challenges for what they are, breeds the creativity to overcome the problems, there is no need to be naïve about them, there is no reason to be blinded by optimism, but there is the need to do something about it. Apathy would not create such conditions. That's why any Opposition candidate's first priority has to be to instill hope, has to be to show Venezuelans that the great majority want change, so participation is the key and apathy is stopped.”


Colaborators: Edgar Brown, Virginia, Damn, Ruben pero Hojillas, Gustavo and Cristina.

Making a believer out of me...

Here's the TV version of Hugo's Love Offensive.

This one, I think, is much worse than the print version. The forced smile. The awkward reading. The gawd-awful music in the beginning. The entire thing is just so incongrous, so gringo-consultant-style, so jarringly out-of-synch with everything that's come before. Really, it's very strange.

I'm still baffled about who exactly the ad is aimed at, but I guess we can reason it out by process of elimination. His hardcore base likes his fire-breathing style - they're not buying this. NiNis were never really invested emotionally with Chávez - he has no love to rekindle with them. And his opponents? It'll only anger them.

So who's left? Transactional chavistas: poor people who were never ideologically aligned with Chávez, but did have a strong emotional bond with him and appreciated his government's handouts. And, in particular, transactional chavista women.

If that's the case, if Chavez is worried enough about losing transactional chavista women's votes to recast his entire campaign to appeal to them, that is very good news for Rosales indeed. Because they have held the key to victory all along: without poaching at least a few transactionals, the numbers just don't add up to 50%+1 for Rosales.

However you interpret the reasons behind Chávez's dramatic change of campaign strategy, though, it's hard to avoid the impression that the guy is seriously worried now. Candidates just do not make message U-Turns on this scale when everything is honky-dory and they're cruising to victory. No way.

Because, lets be clear: the U-Turn couldn't be more complete. There is a wide abyss between "10 millones por el buche" and "Vote for me because I love you." There's just no way to square those two (Por amor por el buche?) Will the chavistas who loved Macho Man Chavez stay on board for the new, fuzzy, touchy feely Chavez? Is the switch even credible at this point? I really doubt it...

Plain old bonkers...

This ad is so, so far off the deep end, when someone described it in the comments section I thought it had to be a hoax. In fact, it is a half-page ad in today's El Nacional.

Aside from the unabashed weirdness of the message, the thing that strikes me is that this is really awful positioning. It's an ad about what Chavez needs, not about what the voters need. Me, me, me, me, me. Vote for MEEEEEE...

Then there is that odd, pleading tone. That sulking request for more time, coupled with the promise of endless love. There are odd overtones here of the cycle of domestic violence. After abusing his partner, "the batterer is frequently sorry, feeling guilty and willing to try anything to make up. There may be flowers or gifts, dates and romance as in the beginning of the relationship." He tries to pull the old heartstrings, to rekindle a romance he fears he has badly harmed. Please take me back, he whispers. Whatever I did, I did out of love. I only need more time.

Thing is, some of us remember him in abuse mode only too well...

October 10, 2006

Venezuelans who get it

Katy says: The following is a translation of an interview with Jean Paul Rivas, the President of CruzSalud. It was originally published in Debates IESA, in its July-September, 2006 issue. It does not appear to be available online.

"We can't see the poor from the highway"

Insurance for the poor? Anyone who has traditionally worked in the medical insurance business knows this is not a question that requires much discussion. The poor are, supposedly, unable to afford an expensive service such as medical attention. However, in the last year and a half, a novel entrepreneurial experience is tending to those caraqueños that insurance companies do not take into account.

Jean Paul Rivas is an entrepreneur with more than fifteen years of experience in the insurance and pension business. A year and half ago, along with three other partners, he founded CruzSalud, a company that offers pre-paid medical care to some ten thousand affiliates in the barrios and other populous zones of Caracas.

CruzSalud sells medical plans ranging from 18 to 40 thousand bolívars per month, which include home medical care, emergency care, dental emergencies, all the supplies needed to get either emergency care or an operation in a public hospital (ranging from the doctor's robe to an electronic scalpel), specialized medical consultations and lab tests. It has ambulances and care units that allow them to reach all of Caracas, 24 hours a day. The easiest way to pay the monthly fee is to buy a pre-paid card in drug stores, kiosks, bakeries and other authorized places, and to activate it just like you would a pre-paid cell phone card.

Sixty employees, including doctors, work in CruzSalud, and they also employ some eighty external physicians. A call centre takes emergency calls day and night, offers up information and renews memberships. Its headquarters is in the Lebrún industrial zone in Caracas, and it has administrative offices in the San Miguel and La Línea barrios of Petare.

Q: Where did the idea to start CruzSalud come from?
JPR: The only thing that is sure to grow in Venezuela is poverty. Before starting CruzSalud we projected the growth in the insurance market for the next ten years: we concluded the market was going to decline because, every day, fewer and fewer people will be able to buy insurance. Regrettably, the number of poor people is bound to go up for several reasons: political, economic, and demographic. The poor are a large market with collective, not individual, purchasing power; in them, we saw a market we could do business with. There are fifty insurance companies in Venezuela, fighting each other for ten percent of the population. Who is looking at the needs of the other ninety percent?

But there's something more: that ten percent of the population used to be twenty percent some twenty years ago. In other words, before, those same fifty insurance, plan administrators and pre-paid assistance companies were fighting for twenty percent of the population, and now they are fighting for ten percent. What percentage will they be fighting over in fifteen years, given the economic rhythm the country is in?

Q: Did you make actuarial calculations?
JPR: We didn’t do any calculations. It was more of a perception, an intuition about what was going on in the market. After having worked in this industry for fifteen years, you realize that the market is contracting, in spite of the numbers the Insurance Superintendence sometimes publishes. According to those numbers, the market is growing, yes, but in terms of bolívars, not in terms of people insured. If premiums go up by thirty percent, sales go up by thirty percent. But, are there thirty percent more people insured? No.

Q: So you discovered the poor.
JPR: No, I think other people discovered the poor.

Q: You identified them as a market.
JPR: That is what we did, and it remains a gamble. It’s not the same to talk about the poor than to talk about poverty. Poverty from a macro, actuarial or sociological point of view is one thing, but it’s quite another to look at the day-to-day life of the poor. The difference is that poverty, from an economic point of view, perhaps isn’t such. For example, when you go to a place like Petare you see people from different socio-economic levels. For some people, Petare is all in the D or E segment, but the truth is that there are differences: A, B, C, D and E segments.

The owner of the local hardware store, who has his car, who puts it away early so it won’t get stolen, whose kids go to a private college: he belongs to segment A, but one tends to think of him as being in segment D. The kid in the front of the drugstore smoking crack, he belongs to segment E. You have to understand the economics of the poor: because of his dynamics, he can have five thousand bolívars every day, but he never has thirty thousand bolívars; he earns today, gets paid today, plays today and needs to eat today. That is the life of the poor. You have to understand the lady who gets up at five in the morning and only has seven thousand bolívars in her pocket at the end of the day, who never has seventy thousand bolívars, and who buys two tomatoes, a quarter of a cabbage, a cube of chicken broth and a cigarette.

Those of us from the upper-middle class have a hard time understanding poverty. That is what we’ve been learning in CruzSalud, we’ve begun entering their world. When you realize that 85 percent of Venezuela is like that, then you understand that we are the outsiders. If we think the poor have to adapt to us were going in the wrong direction; we are the ones who have to adapt to them. We are not a mass-market company, we don’t advertise on television to reach the barrios. We go into the barrios on foot with our doctors, our nurses and our home units, and we open offices in the barrios.

Q: So then we must realize we are a minority.
JPR: Yes, and we will be an even smaller minority as time goes by. You have to realize how much money the informal sector moves: billions of bolívars, and more than half of the economically active population. People spend 4 billion bolívars a day in gambling and lotteries. Who’s got that kind of money in their pockets? It’s four billion bolívars that are coming from somewhere. How many businesses in Venezuela deal with 4 billion bolívars per day? Very few.

Q: What are the products you offer people with low incomes?
JPR: We offer the health services they need. Although they need a lot, we go as far as they can pay. Something that surprised us when we began to design the products was that their true need wasn’t coverage for one hundred million when they need it, but having somebody to call. People in the middle class always have a doctor handy: a brother-in-law, a cousin, a friend, and a neighbour. The poor have to wait until some nurse they know comes home at night. That is why we developed a call centre, where people can call and have a doctor available twenty-four hours a day.

The first thing they do is not believe you: “and you are going to come all the way up here?” They sign up and then they test us: “I feel bad, come over.” They test you to see if it’s true, because they’re not used to buying intangibles or services but concrete things. You have to build trust with them.

Now, how do you charge nine or eighteen thousand bolívars per month in the barrios? With prepaid cards. For them it’s not strange to buy prepaid cards. We managed to to talk to them in their commercial lingo. They don’t go to the bank. The street vendor who goes to the bank loses his spot, the jeep driver who goes to the bank wastes all day. The only time they have to go to the bank is on Sundays at Sambil. The solution, from their standpoint, is not to make a bank deposit. They don’t have a credit card and they are not on payroll, they work on their own.

Q: Where do these ideas, this way of seeing the world, the country and the poor come from?
JPR: They came when we realized the insurance market was not growing, that companies were spending millions of bolívars taking customers from each other. Then we wondered: where is the vision? Where is the ambition to do much more? There was a market opportunity, a way of helping the country.

Q: What do you mean by “helping the country”? How do you show us you’re honest about that?
JPR: Helping the country implies doing things like we do in CruzSalud: when, for a few thousand bolívars we can give a child paediatric care and give him medications, and making that a sustainable business. That is my particular way of helping my country. When we help a patient, when we hire a young doctor about to get married or wanting to get married who wants to buy her own apartment, and by hiring her we are helping her achieve her goals, those little things are what help the country.

Q: Are you a variation of Barrio Adentro?
JPR: We go into the barrios, although not as “adentro.” We don’t go to where cars or motorcycles can’t reach, or where people need to walk for 45 minutes to get there. We don’t go there, Barrio Adentro is there. Those are the places where people live in extreme poverty; where people don’t have anything to eat and can hardly afford a product like ours. We operate in the more established barrios. For example, in Petare we are in El Carmen, Maca, El Carpintero, La Línea, and we are also entering Catia, Caricuao and the 23 de Enero.

Q: What is your relationship with Barrio Adentro?
JPR: We’ve become a complement to Barrio Adentro. There are people who believe in the Cuban doctors, there are those who do not, but people certainly feel like someone is there for them. Sometimes they don’t have supplies, they have certain needs, sometimes they work, other times they do not. On the other hand, we always work. People now have options they did not have before; they have the choice of something I like to call “comfort in their zone”: both programs in their barrio. People in the barrio with higher incomes can pay for a private plan, then there’s us and whoever can’t pay anything goes to Barrio Adentro.

Working in popular zones is not like opening an office in Acarigua from the Caracas headquarters. To open a health module in a barrio, the nurse has to be from the area. You need “validators:” people from the area who can certify you are there to do good and will not take advantage of them. When you settle down in a barrio you have to get to know the community boss, the organized community in the street. They are more organized than we think they are. We get to sit down with the Barrio Adentro doctor, with the lady from the salon, with the man from the drugstore, with the neighbour and with the street vendors across the street, because it’s an intense lifestyle.

Aside from our offices in Lebrún we are in a private residence in La Línea, in Petare. We rented out half of the living room, put a front window and that’s where our doctor receives patients. The people who own the house have been there for 25 years. When you are a part of a community everybody knows you, everybody wants to get to know you and find out what you’ve come to do. The difference with the middle class is huge: it’s common that in a building the years go by and people don’t know each other. In Caracas’ residential districts, people who live in one block don’t know anyone beyond the second to next house. But they should know, because helping each other is important.

Q: How did you learn all this? Did you consult a sociologist?
JPR: We spent a year planning this thing. We went to the barrios, we walked, we observed, we spoke to the people. We studied models from other countries. These systems work well in India and Nepal. We realized that in underdeveloped countries, public and private health care systems tend to complement each other. We decided to study what is being done in those countries; we did not go study the Spanish or the Swedish systems. When we entered in Venezuela, we realized that we were more like India and some African countries than developed ones, so we went there to see what was being done there.

Q: You discovered the poor as a people, but also as a community. You talked about having to establish connections with the owner of the salon, the guy who owns the drug store, etc.; so people in the barrios have to know one another because they have to help one another.
JPR: We did not discover them; we can’t see the poor from the highway. Someone had to make that step. People like us don’t do it for fear of their personal safety, because they don’t know how to navigate and because it’s an unknown world. We wanted to be pioneers and we were not afraid. Last year we made more than 2,500 house calls in the barrios, 24 hours a day, and we have not had the first incident with personal safety. Of course there is a lot of crime, like in the rest of the country, and a lot of poverty. We decided to enter in an organized manner. Traditional marketing says that you have to think “these are my costs, this is my price, and whoever can afford it has to pay, and if not they can look for something cheaper.” But when your market is that 85 percent of poor people, you have to know what their willingness to pay is, and whether you can actually help them or not.

Q: So Michael Porter is right? You develop a good product or service if the customers are demanding?
JPR: Customers in the barrios are very demanding; because, though it may seem than five or ten thousand bolívars is not a lot, it is to them. Once in Petare I was told the nearest CAT Scan was in Sabana Grande. When I told them there were two in La Urbina, they told me they were talking about the nearest one in terms of their pocket, not in terms of distance. When they find out that for the 400 bolívars that a bus ticket costs they can save 1,500 bolívars on a cheaper scan, they are willing to spend an entire morning in line waiting. The value of money is great to them, so they become demanding customers. When they pay CruzSalud those ten or twenty thousand bolívars per month they expect a lot in return, they expect you not to disappoint them.

Something else: not only are they demanding, but also they protect you as long as you’re good and efficient. We’ve had a lot of things happen to us. They will call at three in the morning with a sick child, with a temperature of 40 degrees. So the person calling tells the paramedic: “When you are nearby, call me and I will go with the child to the police module and you can see him there.” People know their limitations, they know where they live and they don’t want the doctor to have a bad experience, because they know that if the doctor has a bad time he won’t come back. In middle class sectors, when they call for an ambulance and it hasn’t arrived in five minutes they call a hundred times and start complaining. In the barrios people don’t complain as much, but they expect a lot more from you: they expect you to live up to your promises. It’s a pact of words, you could almost not have to write written contracts, but you have to shake hands, you have to look them in the eyes so they can trust you. The mistake a lot of people in the A/B segments make is that, to them, people in the barrios are like the people they employ in their homes. But the barrios are filled with businessmen, entrepreneurs, and college graduates; it’s a complex world.

One of the big challenges of private companies going into low-income segments is that there is no formal economy. When you rent a space in a barrio, nobody is going to draw up a lease and it will not get notarised. How could a multinational possibly rent a space in a barrio without signing a contract?

Q: There is an extended system of micro credits that can loan up to a million bolívars without a single paper being signed.
JPR: All based on the word of the client, because their greatest asset is their word and they are not willing to lose it because they have nothing else. They don’t have luxury goods, they don’t have a home or a car; what they have is their honesty and their credibility and they are not willing to lose it.

Q: Why have so few of the minority in Venezuela dared to reach out to this other part? If the insurance market is not growing, isn’t there a prime business opportunity there? Why were you guys the first to make the leap? Why hasn’t there been any competition?
JPR: Because it’s very hard to adapt to the lifestyle in the barrio. For a bank, for example, the business of micro-financing is difficult because you can’t open a branch in a barrio nor can you hire a manager willing to work there and attract customers. The technological platform is of no use there either, because people earn weekly wages; you can’t draw up a credit document and notarise it because there are no notaries. When traditional companies try and enter, they realize there are no channels, they can’t reach the people so they have to invent their own channels.

Little by little, though, comfort zones in the barrios are beginning to grow. It’s a phenomenon of today’s Venezuela. Companies are making the effort to reach places like the 23 de Enero with movie theatres, with shopping malls that are as close as possible to where people live; they are taking comfort to where people live. It’s one of the great things we are beginning to understand. A generation ago, people living in marginal areas studied so they could move to a better area. That is ending because the country doesn’t allow it anymore. People are getting married and live in the same place where they have always lived. “Why should I move since everybody knows me here and nobody hurts me? Why should I go somewhere else if I’m fine here? Let’s make one more roof, I keep on studying, I get married and I live here.”

Q: What are your short-term goals in terms of growth?
JPR: We want to end 2007 with close to one hundred thousand members.

Q: In a year and a half you plan on multiplying your existing customer base by ten?
JPR: A year ago we didn’t have anybody and now we have ten thousand! And that’s just Caracas. This is a market of millions of people. We plan on opening elsewhere in the country, where obviously growth will be slower but where there is a great market as well. If the traditional insurance and medical industries compete for 3 million people and there are 20 million nobody is paying attention to, I think we’re being conservative. There will be competition for sure, but the market has great growth potential. Companies will have to specialize more and more or face a steep decline; there is no other way to grow in Venezuela in the next five to ten years.

Q: What is CruzSalud’s biggest challenge?
JPR: From an entrepreneurial point of view, growth. We have great plans for creating jobs and improving people’s lives. That’s what we have done from day one. That’s our way of growing.

Keller details...

A little bird sent me a PDF summarizing Keller's 3rd quarter 2006 poll, and I thought I'd share a couple of key slides. This is that poll whose headline finding was Chavez 50%, Rosales 37% - taken soon after Manuel Rosales established himself as the opposition establishment's single candidate against Chavez in December's presidential election.

Annoyingly, there is no Methodology slide, so I don't know what size of towns were polled - only the total sample size (n = 1,000.) All I can say is that Alfredo Keller is a generally professional, reliable public opinion researcher.

So, what do we have? First off, that revealing question pollsters love to ask - overall, how are things going in the country?

click to enlarge

The red line captures positive responses, the blue line negative ones. As you can see, the trend this year is for perceptions to sour: positive responses are down 9 points since the start of the year, and negative answers up 10 points.

Still, a solid 60% of respondents gave a positive response, with less than 40% giving a negative answer. That's a tall mountain for an oppo candidate to climb.

Then, we have Keller's political segmentation slide. While this kind of excercise is mostly down to the pollster's judgment - the way Hinterlaces slices the electoral pie, for instance, results in many more NiNis than using Keller's standard - it's true that a segmentation excercise carried out with consistent methodology over time can give a good idea about trends:

click to enlarge

Now, the trend is for "neutrals" to turn against Chavez, while the number of chavistas stays pretty stable.

Still, the absolute numbers are fairly daunting. At the start of the campaign - and the fieldwork for this poll was done very soon after Manuel Rosales was annointed Single Oppo Leader - the task facing him was to sweep essentially all the NiNis while retaining his base and winning over at least some chavistas. Basically, he has to clean Chavez out comprehensibly, in the middle of a public-spending led, oil-boom fueled consumption bonanza.

Impossible? No.

Very, very hard? Yes.

October 9, 2006

Policing the comments section

Katy says: I have begun regulating the comments section. There are no fixed guidelines, and I won't catch all offenders, but here are the points to keep in mind before posting something:
  • If you post a comment that has no value for the discussion, it will be deleted.
  • If you post an incendiary comment that only looks to provoke the anger of other posters, it will be deleted.
  • If you post something offensive that has no wit and has been said a million times before, it will be deleted.
  • I will not explain my choices for deletions.
  • Do not take it personally if I delete a post of yours.
  • If I don't like the tone you use in a comment, it will be deleted.
  • I will exercise my rights to censorship in an absolutely discretionary way, following the guidelines set forth in Venezuela's Media Law.
  • I will not parse through a comment selecting the good portions and the bad ones. If there is something that makes a comment deletable, it will be deleted in its entirety even if the rest is brilliant.
  • I won't be banning all the time, only when I have a few moments on my hands.
  • Quico has offered to help me enforce standards on the comments section.

Open thread on "the avalanche"

Katy says: Manuel Rosales held a big rally in Caracas over the weekend, called "The Avalanche." I could not follow it since weekends are generally bad for me, but I did want to leave a post so people could comment on it.

Our fellow bloggers Daniel, Miguel, Alek and many others have a lot of information on the rally, some of it first-hand.

My favorite part about the event was that Rosales got up there surrounded by his wife, his kids and his baby. No old-time politicians, no military goons, no Fidel, No Evo, No Eva - just a guy, and his family, and hundreds of thousands. Kind of a refreshing photo-op, don't you think?

What do you make of this event? Do you have personal experiences to share?

PS.- Thanks to loyal reader captainccs for the picture below.