Some opposition leaders are knowingly in cahoots with the government, and are consciously playing down the reality — not the threat, or the possibility, but the reality — of the massive systemic fraud that will be used next year (as it has been used in every election since 2004) to steal the presidential elections.
Some opposition leaders also are completely lacking in curiosity and/or moral conviction, are just playing don’t-rock-the-boat, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, and buy the line parroted by the fraud-deniers that says that if you talk about fraud then the voters will be discouraged and won’t go to the polls.
Fact: The YES beat the NO votes by an estimated 56% to 44% in the 2004 Recall Referendum. This affirmation is substantiated in the Febres Cordero-Marquez study published in the peer-review journal, the International Statistical Review of December 2006 (see http://bit.ly/gFZela).
Hugo Chávez has been exercising the presidency of Venezuela illegitimately since 2004, and he knows this. And this, more than his ties to the FARC, ETA, and associated middle eastern terror groups, violation of UN prohibitions on doing business with Iran, laundering billions of dollars, running a criminal state-sponsored narcotics enterprise, and systematically violating human rights….this is Chavez’s fundamental Achilles heel, and it is what he is most zealous about covering up. Chavez has bought very large swathes of the political opposition in order to keep this truth under wraps.
Fact: Chavez either beat Manuel Rosales by a few points, or Rosales beat Chavez by a few points — we will never know who really won — in the 2006 presidential elections.
We know this because the Rosales campaign used an extremely sophisticated polling methodology to shed light on authentic as opposed to expressed voter perceptions and preferences. Douglas Schoen, of the well-known US survey research firm Penn Schoen & Berland, understood when he arrived in Venezuela in August 2006 that it would be impossible to get poll respondents to speak freely to an interviewer, because of the paranoia and distrust that characterize citizen behavior in authoritarian states.
He therefore devised a simultaneous dual-poll strategy: one poll was a traditional 1,200 sample house-to-house survey – the standard still in use by all pollsters here – and the other was a 2,000 sample self-administered survey conducted in 200 public places throughout the country, which went to great pains to assure respondent anonymity; both surveys were conducted on the same day using the same questionnaire.
When the results were tallied and compared the anonymous poll consistently showed a 14-pt difference for responses that attempted to measure respondents’ voting intentions and appreciations of Chavez’s government. Whereas the house-to-house survey showed, for example, that Chavez enjoyed a 27-pt lead over Rosales in late August, the on-the-street intercept survey showed Chávez with a 13-pt lead. Schoen called this 14-pt spread the Fear Factor.
(The implications of this finding for Venezuelan pollsters is astounding. Are any of them using this methodology? Not that I know of. Why not? What do you say, Luis Vicente León, Oscar Schemel, Alfredo Keller? Why won’t you take the big jump, innovate, and try to get authentic data instead of the same crap that Chacón and Seijas churn out month after month?)
In late August, 14 weeks before the December 3 election, Chavez was leading Rosales by 27% in Penn Schoen Berland’s house-to-house survey. This finding is consistent with other pollsters’ findings at the time. But his lead was only 13 points in the anonymous survey.
Two months later, in late October, six weeks before the elections, Chavez’s lead in the house-to-house survey was down to 20 points – and 6 points in the anonymous survey.
Schoen presented these findings in early November to Rosales’ senior command, which included Teodoro Petkoff (who was head of the campaign strategy committee), Diego Arria, Omar Barboza, and the top Zulia people in the campaign.
Schoen forecast that Chavez’s lead could easily be whittled down by at least one point per week if Rosales ran a fabulous last-month campaign, in which case Rosales theoretically could win by a few points; on the other hand, if Chavez were able to reverse his downward trend and build momentum in the last month, then he could beat Rosales by a few points.
In Schoen’s words, the race was a dead heat, and too close to call.
We all remember the official results; Chávez beat Rosales by 27 points.
But that was then, and this is now.
What would be the Fear Factor five years later? I’d venture to guess 20 points.
So when I read (http://politica.eluniversal.com/2011/06/22/5-de-cada-10-ciudadanos-avala-cambio-de-gobierno.shtml) that Chavez’s support is down to 50% I subtract 20 points and interpret this to mean that 6 out of 10 people want him out.
Fact: The reason that Chavez’s Constitutional amendment vote failed in 2007 was that the CNE, under pressure from the military, refused to count as valid some 1,800,000 votes – 12% of the actas were never published — which came in after the polls had closed and which, according to knowledgeable observers, would have been revealed to be 99% in Chavez’s favor.
The official difference between the SI and the No votes was approximately 1 percentage point, and yet the CNE president stated at 2am, barely 5-6 hours after the polls closed, that the margin by which the measure was defeated was “not reversible.”
To this day (http://esdata.info/hemeroteca/20080127-El-Universal.jpg) 12% of the votes cast on 2 December, 2007 have never been tabulated, and the CNE website does not reflect their existence.
A Hinterlaces poll run a week before the election showed the measure being defeated by a margin of 15-20 points.
This drives a stake squarely through the heart of the tired old fraud deniers’ argument that you can’t rig elections here because all the actas are signed off on and tabulated, doesn’t it?
Imagine what the chavista thug machine can do at 8pm after polls have been kept open for an additional four hours and loyal oppo witnesses and miembros de mesas have been intimidated into leaving before the actas are signed off on. Imagine what signatures they can forge on the actas when they routinely can get away with using “indelible” ink that easily washes off with bleach!
FACT: At the very least 20%, and as many as 30%, of the voters registered in the REP do not in fact exist. Here’s a revealing paragraph from a study by the ex-chair of the faculty of statistics at UCV:
“Un dato importante para las elecciones del 26 de septiembre del 2010 es que al hacer este análisis por municipios, estados y a escala nacional, encontramos que en el 46% de los Municipios se inscribió el 100% de sus habitantes, el 31% de los municipios estuvieron inscritos el 90% de la población. Al examinara estas variables encontramos que el 93% de la población mayor o igual a 18 años está inscrita en el registro electoral, y a nivel de Estados encontramos que en todos los estados están inscritos más del 80% de la población votante, algo fuera de los parámetros estadísticos de conocidos países democráticos donde se realizan elecciones.”
Why does the opposition nonetheless manage to win some races against this massive machine? Because the opposition has managed in some races to genuinely outpoll chavismo by 25 to 30 points. In a situation like this not even someone as powerful as Diosdado Cabello (witness the Capriles Radonski vs Cabello race in 2008, where Capriles had an official win of 6 points over Cabello, but where esdata.info forensics showed that his real margin of victory was closer to 25-30 points) can muster enough phantom votes to beat him.
The point is that the opposition is NOT running neck-and-neck race against Chávez.
The anti-chavistas are WAY more than 50% of the population.
Chavez can barely count on 40%, perhaps as little as 30%, for firm support, and even that is eroding. Look at the answers to questions that ask whether private property should be abolished, or whether the state does a better job of providing jobs than the private sector, or any really hard, divisive issue that brings out the radicals. The radicals run between 25% and 30%.
In my experience, those who are the most skeptical about vote fraud are those who consider themselves part of the intelligentsia – the very ones who should best understand it. If you ask the man in the street, domestic employee, a cab driver, the guy at the abasto on the corner, you-name-it, every single one of them will tell you that, sure the government commits vote fraud.
The conspiracy of silence that keeps the status quo going can only continue with the complicity of senior opposition figures, pollsters, journalists and other witting or unwitting collaborators who depend one way or the other for their very existence on the government itself.
Until a significant segment of anti-Chavez Venezuelans understand that they’ve been, and they’re being, sold down the river by the very people in the MUD who are supposedly representing their interests, they’ll continue abstaining from voting, as they are doing now — those are the Ni-Ni. (If you want proof of some in MUD playing hand in glove with the regime, read http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/medicosdevenezuela/ message/8434 , where the ex-secretary general of AD in Monagas state, an honorable man who resigned his position in protest against the collaborationist line being taken at the top of the party, reveals that Felix Arroyo, AD’s electoral strategist and chief MUD liaison with the CNE was the a senior CNE official who in 2004 recommended the purchase of the Smartmatic machines and oversaw the voter registration drive that culminated in a increase of 3.8 million “new voters” on the rolls.)
Do the math: of the 18 million registered voters out of a population of under 30 million (over 80% of the total eligible voting population is registered to vote; approximately 60% of the entire population is registered to vote!), some 25%, or approximately 4.5 million, are phantom voters. But this 25% can theoretically be called upon to “vote” all the time.
They are not evenly distributed around the country — if they were, Diosdado could have beaten Capriles in Miranda. No, they are concentrated in the countryside (where they’re inaccessible to scrutiny).
Now, if we look at the abstention figures, we see that in 2006 an amazing 75% of the registered voters cast votes. Subtract the 25% of phantom voters and you get the real voter turnout: maybe 50% of registered voters. In 2007, for the constitutional referendum, only 55% of voters turned out to vote, according to the official figures. This means that maybe as little as 30% of real voters turned out to vote. Since Chavez was pushing a constitutional amendment which would have benefitted him, but not party bosses, he was really the only person within the PSUV who was working day and night for the referendum to pass, he was actively sandbagged by many of his own people, which is why he wasn’t able to muster all the 4 million-odd phantom votes around the country, and why he lost.
This system is aided and abetted by the top people in the MUD, some of whom do so cynically, for personal political and financial gain, and others naively, because they’re of the don’t-rock-the-boat, easy-does-it, go-along-and-get-along traditional Venezuelan school of politics. After all, what’s the alternative for these professional politicos? Be crushed by the chavista machine and be out of a job.
My central point is that most people know that the government commits fraud and steals election after election. Eight years ago, when you could get a million people into the streets to march against the government, there WERE no Ni-Ni’s in the country, because the battle lines were firmly drawn, and although the opposition leadership was naive and incompetent, at least it wasn’t playing with marked cards.
The Ni-Ni exist today not because they’re somehow equidistant between Chavez and the opposition. They exist because they will never vote for Chavez, but they don’t trust the opposition leadership. Why don’t they trust the opposition leadership? Because they smell a rat.
They’ve been told all too often, as Rosales told them in 2006 “Vamos a cobrar” (roughly “we’re going to make sure we make our votes count”), and then they’ve been sold down the river. It’s a fact that there were no Ni-Ni’s before 2004. And 2004 was the Rubicon for vote fraud. There was an overwhelming sense that the SI had won. Even chavismo was depressed on Aug 16, despite their “victory”. The forensics proved that the SI won. And the people knew in their gut that Chavez’s mandate had effectively been revoked.
But they watched the grotesque spectacle of opposition leaders like Petkoff badger and harass people like Pablo Medina and Henry Ramos Allup into backing off the fraud charges, accusing them of being irresponsible, and generally acting like political kommissars for the regime instead of bona fide opositores. And right there a substantial percentage, as much as half, of the heretofore opposition stopped trusting “their” leaders, and many of them even decided to abandon electoral politics after watching Rosales walk the plank in 2006.
How do you get what amounts to 50% of the people, the Ni-Ni’s, to go back and vote again, after they’ve decided they “won’t be fooled again”? How do you resolve the acute cognitive dissonance of these voters and re-empower them into voting?
You start by telling the truth.
And you get people to understand why and how they’ve been fucked.
And you show up the fraudsters for who they really are.
And you challenge the politicians who remain standing to either continue playing the game, or get with the program and denounce the “sociedad de cómplices”… and thereby level the playing field and give an authentically anti-Chavez candidate who has the ideas and the vision to lead, and the stomach and balls to try to change things here, an even chance of winning in 2012.
Otherwise, it’s just a replay of 2006. And since it’s a titanic battle, an all-or-nothing contest where every chavista/kommissar-cum-bureaucrat is fighting for his/her very existence, you can be sure that they’ll manage to make ALL of those 4.5 million phantom voters vote next year. If there are 14 million “real” voters left, we need at least 9 million votes to make it over the top.
It’s tough, but doable. But it’ll never be doable unless we recover and re-empower the 6 or 7 million Ni-Ni’s who are drowning in cognitive dissonance and have tuned out of politics..