Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recount vs. audit in Venezuela

Here is the list of problems that Henrique Capriles has presented to the CNE. What's interesting is that almost none of them require a ballot by ballot recount, which he has been told is impossible. A recount suggests that the counting was done incorrectly, which he's not exactly saying.

In some cases his concerns would entail an audit, such as checking to see whether dead people voted. In others it is an investigation into whether the constitution was violated, such as the charges of intimidation and harrassment.

Of course, what Capriles hopes is for the final count to change, but I don't think that is the same as a recount as generally understood. Either way, though, it's not clear to me how intimidation could be measured at the vote level. He may not care, as his goal is to cast sufficient suspicion over the process itself to undermine Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy.

Maduro has said he'll accept what the CNE decides, which is at least a shift from saying Capriles is a fascist golpista with unreasonable demands. There is not a tremendous amount of horizontal accountability in Venezuela, so he'll be sending plenty of signals about his preferences. If they reject a full recount again but accept something smaller, that may well take some of the air out of the opposition's sails.


Cort Greene 9:29 AM  

Per the first popular passed Constitution of 1999 which almost 72% of the electorate approved, hand checking of all the ballots was replaced with current method.

54% of the ballot boxes have already been chosen randomly,they were opened & checked against electronic voting and no discrepancies were found.

Former president Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, who I don’t always agree with on a political level and I have criticized before for their role in Venezuela,has called the Venezuelan electoral system the most transparent in the world and on this point I would certainly agree unlike the US where we have 5000 electoral commissions, each run by their local fiefdom and fraud is rampant,just ask people in Florida and Miami big time or places in Wisconsin to name a few.

There were international observers and delegations from Europe, UNASUR, OAS and other countries and none have said there was fraud and the all countries have recognized the results (except the US) that’s including the right wing governments of Spain, Mexico,Colombia and Chile.

For those who don’t know,everyone who votes is finger printed and it is scanned into a computer to make sure they are that voter, votes are tabulated by computer and there is also a paper back up and then then dip their finger in an ink to show they did vote and if they washed it off which is hard, the computer would already know they have voted.

In all polling stations there were witnesses from Capriles, Maduro and the five other candidates for president campaigns.

Justin Delacour 10:11 AM  

With respect to Greg's twitter comment about Maduro's discourse, I agree that Maduro's discourse of late leaves a lot to be desired and is not conducive to dialogue. It's one thing for the Chavista base to call the opposition fascist. It's another thing for the president of the country to use that kind of label on a regular basis. One hopes that he's simply seeking to establish his authority and show a strong hand in the face of the recent violence. However, if the fascist label becomes a regular part of his discourse, it's hard to see how that's going to serve any political purpose other than to constantly exacerbate tensions between the two major political camps.

Cort Greene 11:27 AM  

So lets see, 8*militant Bolivarians* dead, almost a hundred injured, dozens of medical clinics attacked and some burned, PSUV offices attacked and burned, people attacked and homes burned, pots and pans campaign similar to Chile's fascist coup,TV stations attacked, community radio stations attacked, MERCAL food stores vandalized, false accusations of fraud and Capriles unleashing the dogs of war.
I think fascist is the correct word.

Now some would have called the Reichstag fire, a weenie roast and a coup an adjustment,eh?!

Justin Delacour 12:37 PM  

Well, first off, I think it's important to keep in mind that the Maduro government and the Capriles camp are political actors, and political actors are not always wholly reliable sources of information. No doubt there was violence committed by some of Capriles' supporters, but we don't really know all the details of that violence, what was attacked, who killed whom, etc. Most of what we have are the competing accounts of political actors who have vested interests in doing the most they can to cast the opposite side in a horrid light. But even supposing that the government's account is wholly correct and that the term "fascist" was a useful description of those who committed the violence, the problem I see is that Maduro and Cabello have been using these kinds of labels in a more broad-brush fashion. I agree that Capriles' description of Maduro as "illegitimate" was quite dangerous in the context in which he made the charge and is likely to have contributed to the violence. However, it's no more sustainable to say that Capriles is directly responsible for that violence than it is to say that Chavez was directly responsible for the periodic acts of violence committed by his supporters. In other words, to suggest that Capriles himself is a fascist and to apply that kind of label to ALL that support him seems pretty questionable, especially in light of the fact that he has at least rhetorically renounced the violence and called on his supporters to not engage in it. But perhaps more importantly, one wonder whether there's much light at the end of that tunnel. When we fall into the habit of using the most hyperbolic labels to describe our political rivals, we effectively begin to limit channels for dialogue, deliberation and critical thought. In other words, it's doubtful whether that kind of discourse, if normalized, is good for democracy. I suspect Maduro will tone it down when the tensions ease, but I worry a bit that much of that kind of rhetoric could persist.

Cort Greene 2:17 PM  


For those of us keeping up on the course of events very closely and at one time you did not have(AMS)maybe you forgot what happening within the Bolivarian revolution.

The grassroots (thousands of organiztions) and militants of the PSUV and other tendencies are the heart and soul of the revolution, have come to its defense many times and of course are farther to the left of the bureaucracy, the reformists and the
Boli-bourgeois and are calling for the completion of the revolution now.

President Maduro has litte time and events are moving very fast and the whip of the counter revolution has stirred the passion of the masses now more than ever.

I suggest you may have to get in the swing of things again and you and Prof. Weeks are smart enough to know this.

Rojo Rojito

Justin Delacour 3:18 PM  

What you seem to be missing, Cort, is that the Chavistas just barely pulled out victory here, so I'm not at all convinced that your notion of where the "masses" stand is on target. Ideology is not always the best guide to "the swing of things." All rhetoric aside, the Bolivarian project has never been a social revolution in the classic sense of the term, and it strikes me as doubtful that it will become one now. It has always been a project of left-populist reformism, brought about by the electoral rise of Hugo Chavez. It's fairly clear that most Venezuelans are more interested in basic reforms to improve the administration and economic efficiency of the country and to cut down crime. Now, that may not be revolutionary enough for you, but I suggest you get used to it because Venezuela is not just the plaything of the most radical sectors of the PSUV or of Trotskyist "internationalists" such as yourself. If you go about imagining that Maduro and/or Cabello's latest rhetoric has anything to do with your revolutionary hopes, my guess is that you will be sorely disappointed.

Cort Greene 7:42 PM  

Thanks I am glad you noticed what and who I am and I think you have misjudged the masses again for sure like those who say they are not smart enough.

Now as some of us who are close to the revolution for over decade know, the reasons why they lost 600,000 in this election and many more for the last couple of elections,is mainly because demoralization has set with the base over the corruption in segments of the bureaucracy, the road blocks,sabotaged and derailing put up by the reformist and capitalists sectors over workers control, the communes,participatory democracy and completing the real socialist revolution. president Chavez even stated these facts many times.

Add in the currency devaluations, some mishaps in foreign policy.

This is longest running path to revolution since the Spanish civil war and because of the world economic crisis it will only revolutionize not just the region but the world.

And we are more well known in Venezuela,Pakistan, Europe and the world for taking stands for real socialism, workers control and proletarian internationalism than you will ever know.

Anonymous,  9:20 PM  

Never thought I'd say it, "Justin, that was reasonable analysis." There I did it.

Justin Delacour 10:10 PM  

I think my analysis is often a lot more solid than you're likely to recognize. The problem is that some folks confuse "reasonable analysis" with their own a priori ideological commitments. When you say the only time my analysis is "reasonable" is when it just so happens to be critical of actors that you're ideologically predisposed to dislike, your point may say more about you than it does about me.

Cort Greene 10:06 AM  

For a another perspective from the brilliant Sabina Becker on the election.

Maybe our armchair quarterbacks should take a lesson from her.

Rojo Rojito


Understanding the Venezuelan election: Two vital perspectives
April 19, 2013 — Sabina Becker

Anonymous,  1:16 PM  


Given your statement that Chavez represented "left-populist reformism," how do you respond to the accusations occasionally trotted out (most famously here: that there was never anything leftist about Chavez or Bolivarianismo?

I am ambivalent and don't know enough to say for sure, so I've always wanted to ask a leftist Latin Americanist what they think. I find the idea intriguing, since it so closely parallels how I perceive politics here in the US. The rhetoric is deeply polarized, but when you look beneath it at the way power is distributed (which is really what politics is about), you see very little difference between the two (or more) sides. And oftentimes, the ostensible leftists implement policies that, objectively, would be perceived as right-wing. And the right wing opposes those policies, even though objectively they should support them.

What if Chavez and his governments had implemented largely the same policies (within reason), while all the while spewing reactionary and pro-American rhetoric? How differently would he be perceived?

Justin Delacour 12:13 AM  

I agree with the notion that Chavista rhetoric evokes an image of a more revolutionary form of politics than actually exists. However, I don't think U.S. and Venezuelan politics are comparable. Whatever their faults, the Chavistas have overseen a significant decline of economic inequality, as the UN data shows. There has been nothing comparable in the modern history of the United States. Here, economic inequality has been on a fairly steady rise since the '70s, regardless of which party is in power.

Anonymous,  3:03 PM  

Sure. I was only comparing it to the US in terms of the difference between the rhetoric and the reality. I think the counterargument would be that the reduction in inequality was basically a result of three things: 1. Venezuela having huge reserves of the most valuable resource in the world, 2. high worldwide prices for that resource, and 3. social programs that distributed the wealth from that resource to the poor.

None of that points to any sort of structural or systemic change. The fact that the chavistas were so worried about a prospective Capriles presidency scaling down or elminating those social programs may be a sign of just how ephemeral they are. And there are indications that the long-term, structural reforms that the chavistas HAVE pursued have largely benefited the middle class at the expense of the poor.

Perhaps a better parallel would be the Peronists in Argentina. Peron's administration certainly reduced inequality, but until recently was almost never associated with the political Left. This is largely because his rhetoric was never stereotypically leftist in nature. And there are many examples throughout Latin America of leaders who are supposedly laftist but have done virtually nothing to reduce inequality or distribute power more evenly.

In short, my question is what, besides rhetoric and people's reaction to that rhetoric, made Chavez a leftist? And if the answer is that his government reduced inequality, then that opens up a can of worms in regards to other regimes throughout Latin America and the world.

Justin Delacour 4:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Delacour 4:20 PM  

"And there are indications that the long-term, structural reforms that the chavistas HAVE pursued have largely benefited the middle class at the expense of the poor."

Well, I'm not in Venezuela, and it's difficult to make that sort of assessment without being able to assess the totality of the programs introduced. There's no doubt that some programs (such as selling gas for virtually nothing) fit your description. But there may also be some programs that could have enduring redistributive effects that favor the poor and are effectively structural. As many Swedes could tell you, state programs can be part of a structural shift. If, for example, the social missions to provide health care to the poor are so popular that no government could afford to do away with them, then the institutionalization of such programs can be said to represent a structural shift. I would have to look more closely at what they've done with respect to education, but I wouldn't dismiss a priori the possibility that some structural shifts have taken place at that level as well. At the same time, I'm sure there are also many programs that have limited potential to be bring about structural shifts.

The notion that certain policies benefit "the middle class at the expense of the poor" can sometimes be true, but it is also a line that neoliberal technocrats often use to (1) attack more progressive political projects than their own and (2) obfuscate the essentially regressive nature of many of their own policy prescriptions. Many technocrats love the idea of "means-tested" social programs that are targeted exclusively at the very poor. In actual practice, means-testing often doesn't work very well because means-tested programs (like the U.S. welfare system) often become stigmatized and politically unpopular, to the point that they are cut back and end up achieving relatively little redistribution in favor of the poor.

In Europe, many of the programs that have ended up having the most sustained redistributive effects on behalf of the poor are programs that help both the poor and the middle class. Such programs often remain politically popular because they are not stigmatized as mere handouts and instead come to be viewed as basic social rights.

"And if the answer is that his government reduced inequality, then that opens up a can of worms in regards to other regimes throughout Latin America and the world."

I don't see it as a can of worms at all. My basic view is that a government can't really claim to be leftist if it doesn't effectively work to bring about some progressive redistribution of wealth. To be sure, there are some non-leftist governments (such as Peron's) that have brought about some such redistribution as well, but Peronism is a bit of an anomaly. A better set of examples is the leftist and left-of-center governments of Latin America today. If you look at the data, you find that, in virtually every case, leftist or left-of-center leaders in recent times have overseen some progressive redistribution of wealth. To be sure, not all their redistributive programs necessarily represent structural shifts, but I suspect that at least some progressive programs will endure because of their popularity.

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