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An excellent summary of today’s results as well as informed conversation.

Caracas Chronicles

As of 6:51 p.m., based on numerous sources, we can safely predict Henrique Capriles has won the opposition’s nomination.

Congratulations to all the candidates for a great primary. On to October, united we stand.


It’s too early to predict a margin. However, here’s a number for you (and take this with a big lump of salt): loyal reader Omar is in charge of the quick count for the Capriles campaign. He says

“Random stratified sample:

HCR 60.2, PP 36.1, MCM 2.3, DA 0,7. Margin of error, +/- 3.5%.”


Second quick count. Error of +/- 3%. Capriles 61.4%, Perez 34.7%, Machado 2.6%, Arria 0.8%, Medina 0.5%.


MUD’s numbers seem to match Omar’s. I guess I’ll be eating that “big lump of salt” I wrote about earlier on a nice slice of humble pie.


El Nacional says, “So far, Capriles has 1,722,422 votes, followed by Pablo…

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English Interpretation of Hugo Chávez State of the Union Address

Dear Readers and Viewers,

Would you like to see the Hugo Chávez annual State of the Union address (Memoria y Cuenta) in video with English language voice-over?

I feel that the non Spanish-speaking international public would have a better sense of the Venezuelan leader, his attitudes and tactics if they could overcome the language barrier in a more immediate way. I would, however, appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments or with a Thumbs-up or Like.

Roberto Silvers

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Memoria y Cuenta 2011 = Crazy Uncle Storytime from Venezuela

Português do Brasil: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva...

Hugo Chávez 2011 annual address:

Yes, el Señor Hugo Chávez did show us fantastically rendered charts of GDP figures and percent debt. But the overwhelming impression of watching the entire address was his penchant for internal reflexion and habits similar to those of an annoying uncle at a family reunion: he talks too loudly, he tells boring stories of ancient and recent history, keeps nagging you to read some crazy old books and even sings to you songs you’ve never heard (or are completely over). He laughs loudly at his own jokes. He’s your crazy uncle. He’s unstoppable and does not tire. And he won’t shut up!

Chávez dedicated nearly an hour to a play-by-play of his rise to power, from his failed coup, his pardon and release from prison by former president Caldera, political rise to power, conquering of the Supreme Court and the new Constitution. The large (he detailed that he had gone from 76 to 98 kg in the past month to demonstrate the importance of remembering history) and loud president neither spared attention paid to opposition candidates nor to the 2012 presidential elections. Chávez mocked, attacked and defined opposition candidates and parties as he wished.

But one enemy was not enough for the Comandante. The United States Empire was also lambasted on multiple occasions. Chávez attacked Obama, Republican candidates, CNN, FOX and their representatives of attacking and destroying Venezuela in the past present and into the future. This is convenient, since the opposition are merely US peons. Stating that, “Some of them have the Empire in their heads,” Chávez implied that some Venezuelans just don’t get it when it comes to his undeniable success and the improved well-being of the nation.

As for the issue plaguing all Venezuelans (the most important for 71 percent), el Señor Presidente had a very interesting explanation. After accusing private media of distorting the facts, he bent over backwards to apologize and express how terrible it is that mother’s lose their children in Venezuela at such a high rate (higher than damn near anywhere). The solution, however, was the identification of an even more important and threatened value: Independence.

Chávez spent half and hour detailing how the Evil Empire and the opposition had taken Venezuela’s independence and that only his revolution had enabled Venezuelans to reclaim it. Thanks to Chávez, Venezuela is independent again. It appears that independence and personal safety are mutually exclusive in Venezuela, according to President Chávez.

However, three hours into yet another epic address, opposition Deputy Marquina did steal the focus for a moment, revealing another of the many successful signs in last year’s National Assembly session, with red letters on a white sheet:


Chávez stopped for a moment to say that he would respond. Paused. And continued his Powerpoint presentation. He did return to consumer prices and explained how previous administrations (13 years ago) were at fault for current inflation woes. Although also making time to do some math equations for the anxious audience, the impression left by repeated mentions of his illness and recovery in the first two hours on stage.

An hour later (now four hours in), opposition Deputy Julio Borges interrupted Chávez for a second time. Standing until called upon, Borges challenged statistics presented by the president and asked how they could be right when some many are still homeless from last year’s floods?

[Address still in progress. More commentary coming soon…]

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Paid Clowns as Government Propaganda in Venezuela

Clowns for the Revolution -- Titeres por la revolución

Paid clowns as government propaganda in Venezuela

Send in the clowns, please. As Latin American and Caribbean leaders descend on Caracas for the CELAC summit, the VenezuelaN government is making efforts to shape visitors’ perceptions of his struggling hybrid regime.

One of the efforts poignantly pointed out by university professor and human rights activist Gonzalo Himiob Santome is the hiring of clowns with signs and slogans of Caracas as a “Revolutionary and Happy City”. Many in red and some in full clown costume were spotted outside a major Caracas hotel, shopping mall and busy intersection on December 2, 2011.

What the clowns likely fail to mention are the untenable low wages, persistent 30 percent inflation and the intolerable and crippling public safety situation. Despite the revolution’s proclaimed successes, Caracas has had for years and continues to have one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Original Tweet text: “Títeres pagados frente al Hotel Tamanaco disfrazando a Caracas de “Ciudad Revolucionaria y Feliz”. Muy Triste.” @HimiobSantome

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DemNewsVen Poll: Who will be Venezuela’s next president?

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A Dying President and Electoral Gamesmanship: Violent Thoughts in Venezuela

Chávez stands at his death door. The opposition is poised and united. State media are at the service of the Chávez 2012 campaign.

I see promise for Venezuela. Perhaps not because of the successes of the revolution. Perhaps not due to a promising electoral environment. Maybe just because things can’t get any worse.

The Wilson Ramos kidnapping made evening news in thee US. Some 30 percent of the population saw this poignant example of the nightmare all Venezuelans live every day. If only govrnment largesse could solve the rampant murders, threats and violence facing citizens on the streets of Caracas or Barquisimeto. Plus the unspeakable psychological impact terrorizing the minds of all ages.

Simply put, this situation will not stand. Citizens are frustrated and scared. They are so desperate that the vast majority yearn to leave their beloved homeland at all cost. Either the controlling and paranoid Chávez government will begin to govern for all as opposed to divide the nation (unlikely), or the opposition (Capriles, López or Pérez) will take over the reigns on October 8, 2012.

This does not mean that Chávez will not do everything he can get away with to cheat the 2012 elections.

All domestic and international attention should be on Chávez use of State funds for his campaign. Although prohibited by Venezuelan law, the State regularly uses public resources to buy votes, attack opponents and openly promote its own candidates and policies. While this abuse is documented, it has not yet been discovered nor exploited by media and political actors.

Elements of the voter registration process, redistricting and the electoral calendar have also been manipulated to serve the political interests of Chávez and his allies.

This abuse should be vigorously investigated, exposed and fought in the courts and before Venezuelan and international public opinion. In addition to being illegal locally, abuses committed by Chávez fall far short of regional and international standards and treaty obligations. It must be denounced and stopped.

Demonstrating the necessity to adhere to democratic principles of fair play is essential to safeguarding democracy in the future throughout the region as well as in Venezuela.

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Henrique Capriles: The ‘Least Worst’ Candidate

I do not believe Capriles to be a horrible candidate. I just don’t think he’s the best the opposition has to offer.

After devoting several hours to seeking out radicalism in some ranks of Primero Justicia, I am pleased to report that I did not find much. It was an impression I had that seems to have been incorrect. It is clear that Primero Justicia (like others) has been working hard to position themselves further from the right and closer to the potential chavista-light voter, particularly in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential elections.

For the record, Borges has expressed that Primero Justicia is a Humanist political party. He has stated that to be a humanist means to reject the extremes of both the liberalism or neo-liberalism of the right as well as the socialism of the left. This, I believe, is an honorable position in today’s Venezuelan political reality.


Regardless, I will take the opportunity to highlight three areas in which Primero Justicia has garnered less than ideal perceptions and positions vis-a-vis winning a presidential election against Chávez or his surrogate:

1) Internal Party Democracy;
2) Private Property Rights; and
3) Individual vs. Collective.

Neither Primero Justicia nor Capriles are “radical” in terms of ideology or political proposals. However, I do believe that he and his political party are too far to the right to make an ideal presidential candidate, particularly when there are other qualified candidate(s) who find themselves much better positioned in terms of political ideology and of their understanding of the complicated and polarized dynamics of the Venezuelan electorate.

Internal Party Democracy

While Primero Justicia has made honorable advances in some areas of political party diversification and inclusion (in the leadership of women, for example), they still lack in terms of internal democracy within the political party. The example (albeit a young one) presented by López and Voluntad Popular in the past year is more inclusive and shows greater respect for plural democracy and participation. Developing networks across the country and promoting the use of primaries in deciding candidates (both within Voluntad Popular and the wider MUD unity coalition) are both excellent examples of the “reclaiming” of “citizen participation” in political discourse. While Chávez’ has distorted the term in his tenure, “citizen participation” is still a desirable element of a democratic society and sorely needed in Venezuela to ensure that ALL citizens are invited to the table.

One need only look back to 1998 in Venezuela, or Egypt and Tunisia this past Spring or at income inequality and the recent and growing #OccupyWallSt protests in the United States as examples of what happens when citizens are excluded or disenchanted with government for too long.

Private Property Rights

The focus of Primero Justicia on private property rights has been viewed by many as primarily in support of the interests of the business sector and the middle and upper classes. This perception (regardless of their actual position) negatively impacts Capriles’ electability.


Individual vs. Collective

The history of Primero Justicia as a party–essentially–born of former COPEI membership and based–in large part–on liberal economic principals, creates a fear that if given executive power, they could revert to the opposite extreme of the right-left, private-public economic spectrum. In other words, while the expropriations on one hand and abuses of State institutions on the other have done tremendous damage to Venezuelan democracy, a turn to the opposite extreme could do as just as much. More importantly, swinging to the opposite extreme leaves open the possibility for another popular revolt the likes of which brought Chávez to power in the first place.

Third Way

In my opinion, it is time for a “third way”. The reasons for Chávez’ victory in 1998 must be respected still today, some 14 years later.

I do not believe Capriles to be a horrible candidate. I just don’t think he’s the best the opposition has to offer.

By Roberto Silvers

This post was originally composed as a comment on Caracas Chronicles.

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Ecumenical Prayer Service for Hugo Chávez at Riverside in NYC

Oremos-podium---Hugo-Chavez-prayer-service-Manhattan-New-York-CityYes, it’s true. A An Ecumenical Prayer Service was held for the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez tonight at the austere and outspoken Riverside Church in New York City, the heart of the Evil Empire. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro is rumored to plan on attending as well as Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
8pm at Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
Manhattan (New York, NY)

Link to photos on Google+:
Link to photos on Flickr:

Review of the Prayer Service

The prayer service for the health of President Hugo Chávez was quite disturbing. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said absolutely nothing, as usual. The Cuban Foreign Minister was the most offensive and bold-faced in his grins, grimaces and expressions. Evo Morales was calm and short-winded, despite being more celebrated than the rest (by the press corps anyway). Maduro and Evo both used translation devices for all the English language portions of the service.

Attendance was poor despite the row of half-empty buses (at least four) bringing people from Washington, DC and other further-off destinations. One woman–strangely–waved an Argentine flag throughout much of the evening. Sean Penn left 10 minutes after the service started, without apparent reason.

The church was less-than well informed or connected regarding the event, evidenced by the preacher’s introduction of “community leaders” (pause). “It says here that there are some community leaders present who would like to say a few words (longer pause).” This indicates to me a certain level of ignorance as opposed to outright complicity on the part of Riverside Church. While one should not excuse them for failing to do due diligence, it seems they were suckered (fooled, tricked) into being part of a political event.

Evo-Morales-praying---Hugo-Chavez-prayer-service-Manhattan-New-York-CityThe Venezuelan State was clearly in control of the event. While all private and independent media were relegated to a roped-off corner, VTV (Venezolana de Televisión) aka Telesur had free reign to set up several cameras in advantageous positions. CNN and others were treated particularly poorly, both by Venezuelan embassy personnel managing media and by a well-meaning Riverside Church staff member.

Regarding the appropriateness of such an event, or the mixture of politics and religion, I have mixed feelings. While I see the value and legitimacy of a Martin Luther King, Jr. anti-war speech against the US war in Vietnam, Chávez appropriation of the sacred space for his own well-being certainly seems like foul play (or at least somewhat stinky). King had a legitimate and universally supported message of peace and humanity and had been working for justice in real, tangible ways for many years. Chávez, on the other hand, has made no significant progress in terms of peace in justice in Venezuela or elsewhere in the world. His greatest achievement–in terms of peace and justice–has been the mastery of utilizing peace and justice rhetoric to further an authoritarian, divisive and power-grabbing form of governance.

Poor-attendance---Hugo-Chavez-prayer-service-Manhattan-New-York-CityMerely taking into consideration the massive amounts of weapons Chávez has purchased from Russia and others in the past 12 years firmly places him outside the peacemaker category the prayer service intended to brand him with. Reverend King and Riverside Church would surely blush (if not cry) should they learn of the billions of dollars (USD) in arms continuously flooding into the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities. It is difficult to imagine how they might respond to a request for such an event by the Venezuelan Embassy after living the Venezuelan reality for a few months or years. But just as Oliver Stone refused to accept Leopoldo López’ challenge to live in Venezuela and see for himself (see HuffingtonPost), neither Riverside Church clergy nor Sean Penn nor the few hundred pro-Chávez US Americans in attendance will ever do so.

It should not be overlooked that in terms of public relations, the event’s date is not insignificant. Aside from being the International Day of Peace, US President Barack Obama gave his address to the UN General Assembly on the same day. Being sick and stuck in Havana, it is no surprise Chávez held a PR side show of his own this week in New York City. He has long appreciated the world stage UN General Assembly meetings can provide.

Sean-Penn-clueless---Hugo-Chavez-prayer-service-Manhattan-New-York-CityAs an additional personal anecdote, the Venezuelan I attended with was so disgusted and offended by the event (mostly from a religious perspective) that he left after a mere 20 minutes. He didn’t even know about Chávez’ virtual attendance (via telephone and loudspeaker while broadcasting video from the service on Venezuelan State TV) until I told him an hour later.

Link to photos on Google+:
Link to photos on Flickr:

More photos from the Embassy photographer.
*Thanks @PedroSangronis

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Carta pública de Diego Arria al Presidente Hugo Chávez sobre la violencia y la política en Venezuela

Diego-ArriaI don’t normally repost other people’s content on this blog, but this letter from Diego Arria seemed too poignant and to-the-point not to share. Share it with your policymaker friends. Hopefully Chávez read it too.

Carta pública de Diego Arria al Presidente Hugo Chávez
sobre la violencia y la política en Venezuela

“Violencia y política en Venezuela” es un documento (Informe No 38 del 17 de agosto de 2011 publicado por el Grupo Internacional de Crisis (International Crisis Group), organización independiente y apolítica con sede en Bruselas, integrada por personalidades públicas y privadas del más alto nivel del mundo. Este documento, como lo son todos los informes de esta organización, es publicado internacionalmente, pero el gobierno que usted preside se ha negado a recibir a sus delegados. Por esta consideración he decidido comentárselo teniendo como destino a nuestros compatriotas que sufren a diario esta terrible realidad.

Presidente Chávez: El informe equivale a la lectura de cargos de un Fiscal en un tribunal local o internacional. Se acusa directamente a usted; a sectores de la cúpula militar; de los cuerpos de seguridad; y a jerarcas de su régimen y de su partido de:

* Promover un grado de polarización y de politización de la fuerza armada y de que públicamente amenaza con impedir una salida pacifica.

* Estimular la impunidad que prevalece, alimentando la violencia al armar a civiles y al abstenerse de desarmar a grupos criminales.

* Permitir que en Venezuela operen cárteles de drogas mexicanos, europeos, norteamericanos, inclusive la mafia rusa, bielorrusa, y hasta la tríada china y la yakusa japonesa.

* Encubrir y refugiar a las peores organizaciones criminales del mundo, presentándonos como un narco estado emergente.

* Avalar, respaldar y participar en la corrupción y complicidad delictiva de sectores de las Fuerzas de Seguridad, Fuerza Armada, particularmente de la Guardia Nacional y del Ejército, que cooperan descaradamente con el crimen organizado. Con mafias de drogas internacionales, con grupos guerrilleros y de paramilitares que son en gran medida responsables del trágico balance de la inseguridad ciudadana que después de casi trece años de su gobierno, han hecho de nuestro país el que más registra muertes violentas en el hemisferio.

* Coaccionar y politizar a la fuerza armada, comprometiéndolos, comprándolos con ascensos que no les corresponden, únicamente para garantizar la defensa de “su revolución”.

Presidente Chávez: La presencia de grupos internacionales del crimen organizado en Venezuela es responsable en gran medida por los homicidios, secuestros, extorsiones y por el microtráfico de drogas que azota los barrios con sus consecuencias mortales de adicción. La principal víctima de esta situación es la juventud más desafortunada, porqué el 75% de las muertes violentas son de jóvenes de menos de 25 años.

* Cada media hora es asesinado un venezolano lo cual es intolerable, pero lo es más, que usted continúa minimizando la magnitud y alcance destructivo de la violencia criminal achacándosela fantasiosa e irresponsablemente a poderes extranjeros. Y ni una palabra de condolencia suya por tantas víctimas. La violencia se ha vuelto inherente a su proyecto político.

Presidente Chávez: le desafío a que vaya usted a los barrios y les diga a los padres y hermanos de estas víctimas, que el culpable de las muertes de sus hijos no es suya ni de su gobierno sino del ”imperio norteamericano”.

* La deshumanización de sus opositores lo convierte en el principal responsable por la masificación del odio entre los venezolanos. Su retórica incendiaria recuerda al fanático Slobodan Milosevic, responsable por la tragedia de Bosnia en la cual murieron 200 mil personas. Igualmente el uso perverso en Ruanda de los medios de comunicación que llevaron a la muerte a mas de 400 mil personas. Ambos, al igual que usted y sus colaboradores abusaban de los medios de comunicación. En Ruanda, un canal de radio y televisión llamado “Mil Colinas” equivalente a Venezolana de Televisión, fue considerado el principal responsable de esa masacre, tanto que el Tribunal Penal creado por la ONU condenó a cadena perpetua a tres de estos criminales. Milosevic murió durante el proceso en La Haya (fui testigo en su contra).

¿Por qué se centra en usted el informe? Por el grado extremo de personalización de su régimen militarizado. Por el suministro de armas, dinero, equipos y servicios del gobierno a los grupos insurgentes y por haberle asignado un rol a las FARC entrenando dentro del territorio nacional a grupos paramilitares afines al gobierno.

* Por haber cooptado los otros poderes del Estado y declarado una ”revolución violenta liderada por los militares revolucionarios y el pueblo en armas”, lo que en el caso de ganar la oposición obliga a pensar que el país estaría al borde de sufrir un periodo de grave violencia política.

* Porque el verdadero peligro seria en la etapa post electoral, independientemente de quien gane, en vista de que usted y jefes militares han anunciado que no aceptarían una victoria de la oposición. Incluso que su opción de permanecer en el poder no se limita a lo electoral sino a la movilización popular y al respaldo de “sus generales”.

* Su método poco original de someter al pueblo bajo la oscuridad quitándoles el suministro de luz, condonando penas a presos de mediana y alta peligrosidad, armando a civiles, declarándole usted la guerra a su propio pueblo contratando mercenarios cubanos e iraníes para coaccionarlos. Por su control sobre la Fuerza Armada reforzado por los asesores cubanos que ejercen vigilancia sobre la cúpula militar. Y que usted “parece dispuesto a pagar el precio a cambio de preservar las lealtades de los altos mandos militares y sus subordinados implicados en delitos”.

* Porque oficiales que caen bajo sospecha son ascendidos por usted, y esa actitud permisiva le permite presionar la lealtad de los oficiales. Agrega el informe: ”Hay delitos que no podrían cometerse sin el consentimiento tácito del Presidente”. El caso del Jefe del Comando Unificado General en Jefe Rangel Silva y del Director General de Inteligencia Militar Hugo Carvajal, acusados por el gobierno norteamericano de cooperar con las FARC en el trafico de drogas, de armas y de lavado de dinero son mas que elocuentes. Ahora agregan al General Clíver Alcalá Cordones, a dos diputados de su partido y a otro oficial de inteligencia de SEBIN.

Presidente Chávez: No desactivar la bomba de tiempo en que usted ha convertido la situación de Venezuela implicaría la perdida de vida de miles de vidas y amenazaría seriamente la estabilidad del país. Tengo una experiencia personal en el manejo de escenarios de violencia y de guerra en diversos continentes que ni usted ni “sus generales” jamás han experimentado. Por eso le reitero lo que usted trágicamente no acaba de entender: no pretenda atar el futuro de nuestro país al suyo. Usted es una pesadilla. Reunificar al país para todos los venezolanos es el desafío y el sueño en que estamos comprometidos.

¿Serán estas las razones por las que su gobierno se niega a recibir los delegados de esta prestigiosa y respetada organización internacional?

Diego Arria
Caracas, 10 de septiembre 2011

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