December 19, 2012
Venezuela's opposition was thrashed in Sunday's regional vote, and it's still unclear what the consequences will be for the MUD coallition. I would think a major shakeup is coming and I wonder how that might affect Capriles' role as the movement's poster boy.
At any rate, here's a look at some of the issues:
BOGOTA Two months after losing the presidency to Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s newly united opposition was hoping that regional elections would prove that it could still put up a fight.
Instead, the red tide of Chavismo swept away all but three opposition governors Sunday and showed that it could pack a punch even when its ailing leader was not actively campaigning.
Sunday’s vote was a stunning defeat for the opposition and is likely to lead to a shakeup in the coalition. But it also cleared the political battlefield, leaving Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles as one of the few likely options to take on an eventual Chávez successor.
Capriles won Miranda — which includes part of greater Caracas — with 52 percent of the vote in a race that pitted him against former Vice President Elías Jaua, who had been handpicked by Chávez to defeat the opposition poster boy.
“Capriles’ victory in Miranda clearly positions him as the only viable opposition candidate in the very likely event that Chávez’s health issues force him to step down and call new elections,” wrote the U.S.-based Eurasia Group consulting firm. “This is very positive for the opposition in that it will facilitate the process of selecting a unified candidate in what will likely be a very short turnaround before new elections are held.”
Chávez traveled to Cuba last week to undergo his fourth surgery in 18 months to treat an undisclosed form of cancer. On Tuesday, the government said Chávez was in stable condition after devloping a resperatory infection as result of the “complicated” surgery. They also said he required “absolute rest in coming days.” If he is unable to begin his new six-year term on Jan. 10, or if he steps down within the first four years of his administration, new elections would have to be held within 30 days
The illness comes as Venezuela urgently needs to make economic adjustments, including a devaluation, said Risa Grais-Targow, a Latin America analyst with Eurasia. And the ruling party would be well served to hold elections before those unpopular reforms are rolled out, “In terms of the economic incentives and the necessary devaluation, I think they need to hold the election as soon as possible,” she said. “And now with the momentum of the regional elections, they have even more motivation to do so.”
Before traveling to Cuba, Chávez asked the nation to support Vice President Nicolás Maduro if new elections are called.
John Magdaleno, the director of the Caracas-based Polity consulting firm, agrees that Capriles is the most visible opposition candidate at the moment, but he said that might change as the opposition coalition takes heat for Sunday’s defeat.
In the 2008 regional race, the opposition won six state houses and picked up a seventh when Lara Gov. Henry Falcón split with the PSUV.
Many were expecting the coalition to hold onto at least five or six states in this election, he said.
The loss “will spark a debate in the short term about the efficiency of the opposition,” he said. “And there are going to be questions about how decisions are being made at the helm of the coalition.”
Those questions might lead to a new primary, or other changes, that could threaten Capriles’ position.
December 17, 2012
Venezuela’s ruling party had vowed to sweep the nation’s key governors’ race as a tribute to their stricken leader President Hugo Chávez who is convalescing in a Cuban hospital.
On Sunday, it made good on that promise, winning 20 of 23 states and punching into opposition strongholds, according to preliminary results.
“Chavismo, the force of the nation, won a crushing majority,” said Jorge Rodriguez, the head of the national campaign for the ruling Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela. “This is a victory for all of Venezuela but particularly a victory for Chávez.”
But there were some bright spots for the battered opposition. Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, won reelection in a critical race that may give him a second-shot at leading the country.
December 10, 2012
News has a way of breaking into your holiday. I've been on furlough for the last week, but had to rush home as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he was returning to Cuba for more surgery to treat his cancer.
This is his second relapse and fourth surgery, and it raises an interesting question: how was his health - really - when he was on the campaign trail just a few weeks ago and telling crowds that he was completely cured?
On Sunday, his rival in the Oct. 7 presidential race, which Chavez won with a commanding 55 percent of the vote, said many people had voted for the presdient because they had been reassured that he was healthy enough to take office Jan. 10 and fulfill the six-year term.
Did Chavez know his cancer had returned while he was still on the trail? Did he put his health at risk to win the election? We'll likely never know, but they're interesting questions.
When things slow down, I want to tell you about this place and these trees:
November 12, 2012
Los Rastrojos is one of Colombia’s most feared criminal gangs and their top leader was recently arrested as he held a “Mafioso summit” at his farm, authorities said.
The man’s name is José Leonardo Hortúa Blandón, but he’s better known as Mascotas or Pets. Police also arrested the gang’s number-two man Picante or Hot, as in spicy. He had assumed the leadership position after his predecessor Pinky, sometimes spelled Pinkhy, had been arrested.
Colombia’s criminals and guerrillas are fond of absurd monikers. Among some of the most memorable are Gordolindo (Fat beauty), Vasodeleche (Glass of Milk) and Mierda Seca (Dry Excrement). Dry Excrement, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, earned his name due to his chronic halitosis, according to Semana Magazine.
The excellent periodical has a list of some of the more ridiculous monikers here.
November 08, 2012
I spent election day on Colombian naval base on the Pacific. Military men are pretty circumspect when it comes to politics, but everyone said it wouldn't have mattered who won the vote, because US-Colombia relations are so institutionalized and far-reaching that they're immune to politics. I'm not sure that's completely true, but thought it was an interesting sentiment.
My colleagues Mimi Whitefield and Tim Johnson take a deeper look at the Latin American reaction to the US vote in today's Miami Herald.
MEXICO CITY -- There’s agreement across the region that Latin America wasn’t a priority during the first term of President Barack Obama but analysts say there are issues that might raise the profile of Latin America and the Caribbean during the president’s second term. Among them: trade, potential political change in the region, the potent voting bloc U.S. Hispanics have become, immigration, changing U.S. attitudes toward drug policy and security. But, in general, regional expectations for meaningful change in U.S. Latin American and Caribbean policy during Obama’s second term were muted. The campaigns of both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney “proved that Latin America is not a priority for the United States,’’ said Simon Pachano, a political science professor at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences in Ecuador. “Latin America existed when they were looking for Hispanic votes, but it wasn’t present in their foreign policy proposals.”
November 05, 2012
Colombia’s FARC guerrillas have always had a yen for business. Along with extortion, kidnapping and drug running, they’ve made inroads into mining and logging, according to authorities.
Now there appears to be a new line of work.
Last week, the army said it broke up a FARC-run oil refinery in Nariño. The clandestine operation was being used by the Daniel Aldana faction of the guerrillas to refine crude stolen from the Trans-Andean Oil Pipeline, which is also a frequent target of guerrilla attacks.
According to the statement, the army recovered 600 gallons of gasoline.
It’s worth remembering that the FARC and the government will be gathering in Havana Nov. 15 to begin peace talks in earnest. Among the issues that will have to be dealt with: demands that the FARC give up the drug trade.
Leaded or regular?
Here’s the full release:
Localizan refinería ilegal de las Farc
Bogotá, dos de noviembre de 2012. En el marco de las operaciones realizadas por soldados del Ejército en contra de las organizaciones ilícitas de minería ilegal, en las últimas horas se logró neutralizar una refinería clandestina en el departamento de Nariño.
La acción militar fue desarrollada por los hombres de la Brigada Móvil No. 32, quienes lograron ubicar y destruir una refinería ilegal utilizada por terroristas de la cuadrilla ‘Daniel Aldana’ de las Farc, para el hurto y procesamiento de crudo del oleoducto Transandino.
Los hechos se registraron en el municipio de Tumaco, en el Kilómetro 80, lugar donde los efectivos localizaron una refinería artesanal, más de 600 galones de petróleo y una piscina.
El material incautado fue puesto a disposición de las autoridades competentes.
October 09, 2012
A few days ago I wrote about last minute ballot changes that might hurt the chances of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. (See the post below.)
In particular, a party called "Unidad Democratica" switched its vote to dark horse candidate Reina Sequera after the ballots were printed. As a result, anyone who punched the UD ticket was giving their vote to Sequera even though it had Capriles' mugshot on it.
For anyone not following the race, Hugo Chavez won with 55 percent of the vote and a margin of more than 1.5 million votes, so this all pointless speculation.
But those ballot changes might have just cost Capriles victory in his home state of Miranda, where he is governor.
According to the National Election Council, Chavez won Miranda with 766,473 votes versus Capriles' 761,119. The Unidad Democratica ticket (with Capriles' mug on it) won 4,995 votes. Add those up and Capriles is just 359 votes shy of a tie.
But there were three other parties that also pulled their support from Capriles at the last minute. Anyone who marked his mug in one of those slots cast a null vote. The CNE doesn't provide a breakdown of null votes, but there were 28,770 of them in Miranda. Even if just a fraction were due to the unsuspecting trying to vote for Capriles through those three parties then he might have clenched it.
Of course, this is all irrelevant. Capriles isn't contesting the vote and is already looking toward the regional races in December.
October 04, 2012
Ahead of Sunday's vote, both sides held massive closing events in Caracas. The pictures below were both taken at 12:30 from the 7th floor of the ALBA Hotel. The first one, the Chavez rally, was shot today. The one below it is from the opposition's rally Sunday.
It's important to point out that there is activity well beyond the frames of these pictures and 12:30 wasn't the high-water mark for either event. Also, both campaigns were using the space differently. With no further ado:
October 01, 2012
Venezuela election quiz: Which of these men is actually a woman who wants to give everyone $1 million?
When Venezuelan voters hit the ballot box this weekend, they will have 22 ways to vote for opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles — but four of them won’t work.
Late changes to the ballot might turn the day into a guessing game for voters after four political parties that previously supported Capriles changed their minds.
As a result, anyone who checks the Unidad Democrática box, which has a picture of Capriles, might actually be voting for Reina Sequera — a dark-horse candidate who has vowed to give every Venezuelan $1 million and free Internet access. (You can read her platform here.) Votes for three other parties, which also have Capriles’ picture, will result in nullified ballots.
To help those going to the polls, I've created a cheat sheet below. The crowned Capriles is the vote that will go toward Sequera (in a Christmas hat). The bearded Capriles are the null votes.
Speaking of hats, a hat tip is due to Russ Dallen and his excellent BBO Financial Services newsletter, which first alerted me to the issue.
September 25, 2012
Prolific author and The New Yorker writer Jon Lee Anderson unloaded on Spain's La Razon newspaper over the weekend for misquoting him about the upcoming elections in Venezuela. The article in question has since been taken down, but Anderson says that the story, about potential fraud in the upcoming race, quotes him as saying that Chavez is too "delusional" to believe that he will lose the Oct. 7 vote.
On his Facebook page, Anderson says that he did, in fact, say that Chavez cannot imagine losing the race, but that there's nothing "delusional" about it since he's "won every election and Plebiscite" he's faced.
(Chavez did narrowly lose the 2007 push to change the constitution, but that's not the point.)
"This is what drives me nuts about this type of Spanish journalism: that they ask for an interview, you give it, and then they put words in your mouth," Anderson writes. "I will never give an interview to that sh**** paper again."
The interesting thing about this, to me at least, is that it's Venezuela's Ministry of Information and Communication that's been letting reporters know about the whole mess. Their headline: "They fabricated an anti-Chavez quote for a gringo journalist." It seems like a strange use of government resources, but I suppose all is fair in election season.
Here's Anderson's full post from his Facebook page:
Esto: Me saca de quicio este estirpe del periodismo espanol: Que te piden la entrevista; lo facilitas, y luego, te meten palabras en la boca. Lo que aca me "cita" el periodico La Razon simplemente no es cierto. Es decir: yo si dije que Chavez no se imaginaba perder las venideras elecciones jamas. Tal cual. Ni fa ni fu, ni mas ni menos. Pero nunca lo caracterize como un "delirio" de el. Porque seria delirio si siempre ha ganado todas las elecciones y plebescitos que ha propuesto? Pero el hecho que sea delirio o no, no es el lio. Es que no lo dije yo. Lo dijo La Razon. Poner esa caracterizacion en boca mia es burda, tabloidista, tendencioso y falso. En algunos paises, daria pie a una querella. No se si en Espana existen leyes ya, pero por si las moscas, nunca mas dare declaraciones ni entrevistas a ese diario de mierda.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Inside South America is written by Jim Wyss, the South America bureau chief for the Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers.
- Colombia’s fight against coffee blight may show the way for stricken Central America
- Once shunned by the church, Madre Laura becomes Colombia's first saint
- Colombian mobile drug lab will give partiers a chance to test their stash
- Nicolas Maduro says opposition instigated last night's legislative brawl, used "paralyzer" gas
- New study finds the press in six Latin American nations "not free."
- European economic crisis being felt in remittances to South America
- Three Colombian Police Killed Along Venezuelan Border Amid Smuggling Activities
- Spain's El Pais pulls picture of 'Hugo Chavez' on operating table
- Venezuela under the New Yorker microscope in 'Slumlord'
- Venezuela: Is this Chavez signature proof of life?
- Miami Herald: Americas (English)
- Miami Herald: Andres Oppenheimer (English)
- Miami Herald: Cuban Colada (English)
- Setty’s Notebook: Chile (English)
- Caracas Chronicles: Venezuela (English)
- Los Angeles Times' La Plaza (English)
- South America Daily (English)
- Buenos Aires Herald (English)
- Andean Information Network (English)
- Narco News: Reporting on the drug war (English)
- Inter-American Dialogue (English)
- The Argentine Post (English)
- Inca Kola News (English)
- El Nuevo Herald (Spanish)
- Hugo Chavez Blog: Venezuela (Spanish)
- Ultimas Noticias: Venezuela (Spanish)
- Noticias24: Venezuela (Spanish)
- El Tiempo: Colombia (Spanish)
- Semana: Colombia (Spanish)
- El Comercio: Ecuador (Spanish)
- El Universo: Ecuador (Spanish)
- Ramble Tamble: Argentina (Spanish)
- El Mostrador (Spanish)
- El Deber: Bolivia (Spanish)
- La República: Peru (Spanish)
- ABC Digital: Paraguay (Spanish)
- La República: Uruguay (Spanish)
- Centro de Investigación y Información Periodística (Spanish)
- Programa Chile Sustenable (Spanish)
- Agencia Boliviana de Información (Spanish)
- Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (Spanish)
- La Nacion: Argentina (Spanish)
- Clarin: Argentina (Spanish)
- La Tercera: Chile (Spanish)
- El Mercurio: Chile (Spanish)
- Agência Brasil (Portuguese)
- Ricardo Noblat: Brazil (Portuguese)
- Brazil's National Institute of Space Research: Deforestation (Portuguese)
- O Globo: Brazil (Portuguese)
- UOL: Brazil (Portuguese)
- Tangos e Tragedias: Noticias Argentinas - Folha de Sao Paulo (Portuguese)
- Overmundo (Portuguese)
- Anchorage Daily News (AK)
- Beaufort Gazette (SC)
- Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
- Bellingham Herald (WA)
- Biloxi Sun Herald (MS)
- Bradenton Herald (FL)
- Centre Daily Times (PA)
- Charlotte Observer (NC)
- Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
- El Nuevo Herald (FL)
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
- Fresno Bee (CA)
- Idaho Statesman (ID)
- Island Packet (SC)
- Kansas City Star (MO)
- Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
- Macon Telegraph (GA)
- Merced Sun-Star (CA)
- Miami Herald (FL)
- Modesto Bee (CA)
- Myrtle Beach Sun News (SC)
- The Olympian (WA)
- Raleigh News & Observer (NC)
- Rock Hill Herald (SC)
- Sacramento Bee (CA)
- The State (SC)
- San Luis Obispo Tribune (CA)
- Tacoma News Tribune (WA)
- Tri-City Herald (WA)
- Wichita Eagle (KS)