It’s a Dead Heat…

… an ‘empate tecnico’ that slightly favors President Hugo Chavez.

A Datanalisis poll of 1,300 voters conducted from 13-18 January found that if the re-election referendum had been held, say, on 15 January President Chavez might have won narrowly by 51.5% to 48.1%.

But the survey’s 2.72% error margin suggests that Chavez could still lose his (illegal and unconstitutional) bid for the authority to seek re-election indefinitely.

The latest Datanalisis survey also confirms that:

*Some of the people can be fooled easily all of the time, in Chavez’s case about half of the Venezuelan populace.

*Venezuela remains a sharply divided country, which favors Chavez.

*The government’s massive, multimedia propaganda campaign has been effective in persuading more Venezuelans that allowing Chavez to become, essentially, president-for-life is not necessarily a bad outcome.

*Some analysts have argued since December 2007 that Chavez is no longer the ‘aircraft carrier’ capable of raising the electoral fortunes of other chavista candidates; but apparently they were mistaken since Chavez’s permanent, personal engagement in the campaign to make indefinite re-election constitutional may be gaining enough votes to win on 15 February.

*The political opposition seems terminally incapable of pulling its act together. Sure, the opposition is being outspent massively and opposition voices can be heard on a playing field where practically all of the news media are now owned, or controlled or intimidated by the Chavez regime. But Chavez has been wrecking the country for ten years and the opposition still cannot make substantial inroads across social/class lines to the poorest Venezuelans who comprise “el Comandante’s” core base.

Just over two weeks before the re-election referendum will be held, the only “organized” opposition voices are coming from the university students who have been protesting daily against indefinite re-election since the year started. But there haven’t been any massive opposition marches involving other segments of society, and the students by themselves can’t carry everyone else’s water.

A big part of the opposition’s problem is that so many opposition “leaders” aren’t nationally exciting figures. Even former Zulia governor (and now Maracaibo mayor) Manuel Rosales doesn’t have the national traction or popular appeal he wants everyone to think he has.

Julio Borges at Primero Justicia? Son of Copei’s Caldera faction.

Antonio Ledezma at Un Nuevo Tiempo? An offspring of Accion Democratica, like MAS was almost 40 years ago.

Teodoro Petkoff? He edits a well-written tabloid daily newspaper, and who knows, he might even have what it takes to be a fairly good president. However, when Petkoff briefly considered running for president against Chavez in 2006 all the polls showed most voters (over three-quarters) wouldn’t vote for him.

Eduardo “Tiger” Fernandez? He’s a restless ghost wandering politically between this world and the next. Eduardo confided to me in 1988, while running against Carlos Andres Perez, that his wife thought his campaign nickname “El Tigre” was silly. CAP trounced El Tigre that year, effectively ending the latter’s political career.

Claudio Fermin? Handsome, wears snappy suits, has a radio announcer’s voice, but not one original idea in his head. Fermin got tossed out of AD in a fight among its leaders over who would run a dying political party. During Chavez’s reign Fermin periodically also has been on the Bolivarian payroll.

Henry Ramos Allup? Every time Henry’s name comes up in a political discussion, Romulo Betancourt, Raul Leoni and all the other long-dead founders of AD roll over in their graves.

Did we miss anyone? Sure, there are many more, including the Salas Romer family (father and son) in Carabobo, but who cares?

None can defeat Chavez in a presidential match-up, though many hope the enormous economic crisis that will engulf Venezuela during 2009 could deflate Chavez’s popularity and give them a shot at the presidential brass ring.

However, Chavez’s current term doesn’t end until 2013, and by then the price of oil probably will be substantially over $100 a barrel again. Demand will be rising again by 2013, but production/refining capacity growth will remain way behind the demand curve, partly because current low oil prices have compelled most of the world’s state-owned and private oil companies to postpone planned capacity expansions.

This means Venezuela could suffer a major economic crisis in 2009-2010, and this probably will cause President Chavez’s popularity to decline. But then Chavez still has two more years from 2011-2012 to raise government spending again, and refloat his Bolivarian revolution.

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About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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