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Venezuela : l'autre grande réussite du socialisme

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Source: The Economist

ON SEPTEMBER 12th a queue of stationary vehicles kilometres long blocked the coastal highway that leads out of Puerto Cabello. “Politics,” said a resident, wearily, by way of explanation.

The politics in question were taking place beside the entrance to the port city’s weed-infested airstrip. A small group of supporters was waiting to escort Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition candidate in Venezuela’s presidential election, to a rally in town. A couple of hundred red-shirted supporters of President Hugo Chávez were throwing stones at them from across the highway as a sound system blasted out campaign songs. A pickup truck had been set on fire. “The opposition has no right to come here and deceive working people,” said Luis Rojas, one of the stone-throwers and also an employee of the city’s chavista mayor.

Mr Chávez, a former lieutenant-colonel who preaches radical socialism and rails against American imperialism, is seeking to be elected president for the fourth time on October 7th. But after nearly 14 years in power, he faces an unprecedented electoral challenge to his autocratic regime. A previously weak and divided opposition, prone to political miscalculation, has set aside its differences to form a seemingly solid coalition of parties from the left and right, under the banner of the Democratic Unity coalition (MUD).

To the surprise even of the MUD’s supporters, more than 3m of Venezuela’s 19m registered voters took part in its primary election last February, choosing Mr Capriles by a commanding majority. A former governor of Miranda state, which includes large parts of the capital, Caracas, 40-year-old Mr Capriles is 18 years younger than Mr Chávez. He is energetic, centrist and an impressive enough campaigner never so far to have lost an election.

This seems to have rattled the Chávez regime, as the fire and smoke on the Puerto Cabello highway show. The local branch of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) announced its intention to disrupt the MUD rally at a press conference the day before; municipal vehicles were laid on to take the chavistas out there. A dozen people were injured and several vehicles belonging to the opposition looted; the mayor blamed the violence on Mr Capriles. It was not the only one of his recent rallies to have been disrupted by orchestrated violence.

Mr Capriles eventually arrived at his campaign event by getting a lift in a fishing boat. The speech the chavistas did not want him to give was a brief set of promises to maintain and expand Mr Chávez’s social programmes while eliminating the corruption and favouritism that blights them. He also addressed local problems: the biggest round of applause was for his pledge to end power cuts. With a big electricity generating station nearby, Mr Capriles said, “the lights should never go out here.” A few days before, Puerto Cabello had suffered a 12-hour power-cut. Unscheduled blackouts are frequent there, as they are almost everywhere in the country outside the capital.

Mr Capriles remains the underdog. But deteriorating infrastructure and growing frustration give him a better chance than he might have expected. Despite the entrenched strength of his position, Mr Chávez has disappointed enough of his countrymen to be facing the fight of his life.

Polling discrepancies

At the previous presidential election, in 2006, Mr Chávez was at the height of his popularity. He trounced the opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, by 63% to 37%. With that sweeping mandate he nationalised an important chunk of the economy, closed down the most popular private television channel and weakened the powers of elected state and local governments, many of them in the hands of other parties. He went on to win, at the second attempt, a referendum abolishing term limits, allowing him to campaign for a further six years in office at this election.

Opinion polls—some, admittedly, carried out by companies firmly in the president’s camp—suggest he will win again. Most continue to give the president a lead of 10% or more. But others suggest that the two main candidates are neck and neck. Some even put Mr Capriles slightly ahead.

According to Luis Christiansen of Consultores 21, the polls share some common features despite their differing results. None of the established polling companies puts Mr Chávez above 50% in voting intentions this time. And the percentage of undecided respondents and those who won’t say is generally greater than the gap between the two main candidates. The president’s support has remained static in most polls and declined in a few. Mr Capriles has gradually gained ground. But has he done enough to win?

Mr Chávez remains a formidable opponent. He says he is free of the cancer for which he has been operated on three times—though his rallies have been noticeably fewer, and smaller, than in past campaigns. He has an armlock on the country’s institutions. Government buildings and websites are plastered with election propaganda, a violation of electoral law that has been met with only the most timid of protests from the mostly pro-government board of the electoral authority.


The media, which were a hotbed of anti-government sentiment from the time of Mr Chávez’s first election to his winning of 2004’s recall referendum, have been largely tamed. The president frequently commandeers all television channels for broadcasts that can last for hours; election rules limit Mr Capriles to three minutes of pre-recorded campaign broadcasting a day. This is just one way that the election, in the words of Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, secretary-general of the MUD, “will be free, but not fair”.

As well as the advantages of abused office, Mr Chávez can boast enduring popularity among a broad swathe of poorer Venezuelans. They like him for his charisma, humble background and demotic speech. They trust him to act in their interests. His years in power have coincided with a sustained surge in the price of oil, Venezuela’s main export (see chart 1), providing a windfall which he has used for wage increases and social programmes.


Thanks largely to the government’s economic mismanagement, Venezuela suffered more than the rest of Latin America from the 2008 financial crisis, and Mr Chávez’s popularity dipped as a result. With the oil price recovered, the economy is now growing at an annual rate of around 5%. Yet as well as making more money from oil, Venezuela is also piling on the debt, both through public borrowing and through the borrowing of Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil monopoly (see chart 2). Under Mr Chávez the oil company has been turned into a bloated, all-purpose development agency with which to dispense largesse. Three-fifths of Venezuela’s oil revenues are siphoned off into off-budget funds under the president’s personal control, according to Francisco Rodríguez, an economist at Bank of America who used to work for Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Your vote—or no new house

Over the past year or so, the president has begun to spend his war chest. Mr Rodríguez calculates that public spending has expanded by 30% in real terms over the 12 months to August. Some of this has gone on new “grand missions”, as Mr Chávez calls his social programmes, the most important of which promised in 2010 to provide over 350,000 new homes by the end of 2012. That compares with under 600,000 new homes (by official estimates) in the previous 11 years. Over 3m people are registered for the new programme, providing the government with valuable electoral data. The government insists that an opposition victory would dash the hopes of the homeless.

“No member of the bourgeoisie wants anything to do with the people,” says María Ascanio, attending a chavista rally in Caracas on September 22nd. “The Venezuelan people have opened their eyes [to that].” She had been bused in from the Tuy valleys, an outlying district of the capital, and says she is one of 16,000 people in her municipality who has registered for a house. Like 2,500 others she has had one allocated to her, but has been told, as have most of the others, that it will not be built until “after the election”. Ramona Caño, also from the Tuy valleys, is not yet among the beneficiaries, but says that “those of us who have not yet received the benefit are still hopeful.” Now 61, Ms Caño says she was illiterate before Mr Chávez came to power, but is now studying law. “Venezuela loves Chávez with guts, heart and mind,” she enthuses.

If love doesn’t do the trick, fear might. Some public employees—whose ranks have more than doubled under Mr Chávez to over 2m—have been obliged to fill out forms saying exactly where they will be voting. Like the election ballots, these forms require a signature and a thumbprint: the implication that the government will monitor how they vote does not need to be spelled out. Venezuelans remember that a chavista legislator published the names of 2.4m people who signed a petition that led to the 2004 recall referendum against Mr Chávez, with unpleasant repercussions for many. The MUD’s experts dismiss fears that the vote will not be secret. But the fingerprinting and sporadic violence will surely deter some potential opposition voters on October 7th.

Weary of mismanagement

According to Mr Christiansen’s polls, the new missions brought the president back into contention. But the bounce has not been on the same scale as the one he bought before the recall referendum, when with Cuban advice he set up the first missions, for health and education.

Puerto Cabello shows why that might be so. As the country’s main port, with a superb natural harbour, an oil refinery, Caribbean beaches and an attractive colonial district, it ought to be thriving. But locals gripe that the good jobs are given to outsiders, including Cubans. They complain of crime, unemployment and poor public services. On a scruffy patch of beach beside a small marina, José Miguel is putting out plastic chairs and assembling awnings from bent and rusty poles and torn canvas. A mechanic and construction worker, he says he hasn’t had a steady job in years. “I’m never voting for Chávez again,” he says. “Fourteen years in power and this is what we get?” With a sweep of his arm he indicates plastic waste and pools of stagnant water. The mayor, he says, never sends crews to clean the beach. “It gets cleaned because we pay someone to do it.”


Years of inadequate maintenance, corruption and incompetence have left Venezuela’s infrastructure in a sorry state. A blast in the Amuay oil refinery last month killed 42 people (six are still missing). Across the country, roads and bridges have collapsed or been washed away by rains, severing main transport arteries. A 180km (110-mile) railway linking Puerto Cabello with Maracay and other towns should have been ready this year. Although the concrete supports of its viaducts make dandy sites for sticking up government-propaganda posters, they do not have any railway tracks on top of them.

The state of the country’s public hospitals is another blemish on Mr Chávez’s record. The president has repeatedly promised 16 new hospitals, but as far as The Economist can tell only three seem to have been built. (The health ministry failed to answer repeated requests to confirm the number.) Poor wages and conditions have led thousands of doctors to abandon the public-health system for private clinics which the majority of the country’s people—most of whom are uninsured—will never be able to afford. All public hospitals are short of supplies and many are partly closed. The doctors’ federation says that the country has only half the doctors it needs and that some hospitals have only a third of the staff they were designed for.

The government points to heroic spending on primary health care through Barrio Adentro (“Inside the barrio”), a mission set up by Cuban advisers in 2003. This has saved “over 2m lives”, claims Eugenia Sader, the health minister. The claim is ludicrous: only around 130,000 Venezuelans die each year. Doctors working in the primary-health “modules” of Barrio Adentro say at least a third of them are closed; if so, that would be an improvement on 2009, when Mr Chávez himself admitted that about half were closed, and another quarter operated only half-time. His information, he said, came from his ally Fidel Castro: it is the Cuban medical mission, not the Venezuelan government, that keeps the books on Barrio Adentro.

The government’s shortcomings are more palpable than they were six years ago. The opposition’s candidate is more plausible. Mr Rosales was provincial, a poor speaker and old fashioned. Mr Capriles, who was a mayor and a member of parliament before he wrested the governorship of Miranda from Diosdado Cabello, a close associate of Mr Chávez, has a lively campaign style. He portrays himself as a Brazilian-style social democrat who shares the people’s concerns while shunning the government’s corruption. Rather than concentrating on the bastions of the opposition in the bigger cities he has criss-crossed the country, saying he will visit 300 marginal or strongly chavista districts (the Puerto Cabello rally was one such incursion). As well as promising to preserve the popular social programmes, including houses for the homeless, Mr Capriles has pledged a rise in the minimum wage and land titles for peasant farmers along with a lot of investment in infrastructure, especially in electricity and transport.

20120929_FBP003_0.jpgMr Capriles, provider of democratic choice and the occasional hat

Democracy, or communes

Mr Chávez is having none of it: the voters can join him in building “21st-century socialism”—which is the only way to save humankind—or hand the country back to an oligarchy serving the interests of the United States. Seizing on the MUD’s heterogeneity—it includes parties and figures from the widely reviled politics of the 1990s—he derides his opponents as the far right in leftist clothing, bent on a “neoliberal” economic squeeze. When not dismissing Mr Capriles as a spoiled rich kid with no ideas he calls him a “fascist”, at which Mr Capriles, some of whose great-grandparents died in the Treblinka concentration camp, takes understandable offence.

Margarita López Maya, an historian who has in the past been sympathetic to the Chávez project, says she is not persuaded that the MUD is wholly committed to the “participatory democracy” enshrined in the 1999 constitution. But she has become convinced that if the president is given a fresh mandate he will eventually eliminate democracy altogether.

In 2010, after the opposition had won control of many municipalities and states, Mr Chávez set up a system of communes—“socialist local entities”—across the country, presenting them as a way of devolving power to the people. The communes depend entirely on the central government. “Decisions are taken in assemblies by the raising of hands,” says Ms López Maya. “It is the Leninist idea of the soviet.” Now all the laws needed to abolish democratic local government and create a “communal state” have been drafted, Ms López Maya says. They are “just waiting for [victory on] October 7th.”[/size][/font][/color]

And what if Mr Chávez loses? He said earlier this month that a Capriles victory would lead to a “profound destabilisation” of Venezuela, which might even cause “civil war”. The opposition worries that the army might back the president if he decided not to recognise defeat. In 2010 General Henry Rangel Silva, now the defence minister, said the armed forces were “wedded” to Mr Chávez’s socialist project and would find it “difficult” to accept a change of government, though he later qualified these comments. The president himself often says the army is chavista.

Encouragingly, General Wilmer Barrientos, the armed forces’ senior operational commander, said in a television interview earlier this month that his institution would respect the election result. He pointed out that the constitution requires the army to be politically neutral, and said he would be willing to meet opposition representatives.

Even if the army is not chavista, though, most state institutions are. They will pose daunting problems to Mr Capriles if he wins. Should Mr Chávez win, he will try to use their power to make his “revolution” irreversible. But he is likely to find that power harder to wield in a country that is showing itself to be a lot more evenly divided than in the past.

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il peut encore mourir de son cancer du troudbal, tout n'est pas perdu

Exactement, et si il a bien eu une rechute, alors son espérance de vie à 5 ans est de toute façon pas très élevée.

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De toute façon, même si Capriles arrive à gagner grâce à un hallucinant miracle, c'est quand même qu'un social-démocrate pourri de chez étatiste. À se demander s'il ne vaut pas mieux que le gorille rouge reste au pouvoir jusqu'à l'effondrement du système. Politique du pire et toussa.

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Les provinces devraient faire sécession, la loi de la majorité est inaltérable. Si on ne veut pas de la politique des cons, on ne vote pas avec eux. Après le gorille rouge, il y en aura un autre..

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De toute façon, même si Capriles arrive à gagner grâce à un hallucinant miracle, c'est quand même qu'un social-démocrate pourri de chez étatiste. À se demander s'il ne vaut pas mieux que le gorille rouge reste au pouvoir jusqu'à l'effondrement du système. Politique du pire et toussa.


De toute façon Chavez a encore gagné. Des nouvelles sur le scrutin, sa validité toussa?? Apparemment Capriles a accepté sa défaite. Je suis surpris de l'ampleur de sa victoire, les vénézuéliens de l'étranger que je connais l'ont en horreur, comment est-ce possible qu'il regagne à nouveau?

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Je suis surpris de l'ampleur de sa victoire, les vénézuéliens de l'étranger que je connais l'ont en horreur, comment est-ce possible qu'il regagne à nouveau?

Les Vénézuéliens de l'étranger n'ont pas la même opinion que ceux de l'intérieur. Ne serait-ce que parce que beaucoup ont fui le régime.

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Les Vénézuéliens de l'étranger n'ont pas la même opinion que ceux de l'intérieur. Ne serait-ce que parce que beaucoup ont fui le régime.

Oui bien sûr je m'en doutais, mais le décalage est assez impressionnant entre vénézuéliens de l'intérieur et de l'extérieur

et puis les francais aussi sont amoureux de leurs oppresseurs, ca n'est pas exclusif au Venezuela.

Oui c'est vrai il y a de nombreux points communs, ça ne dit rien de bon.

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En tout cas les réactions en direct dans les studios de la télé publique ne laissaient aucun doute quant à leurs préférences et au concept de neutralité de la télé publique à la vénézuélienne.

Ils ne se cachent même plus, au moins en France il y a une joie contenue quand la gauche gagne, mais là-bas le mot "contenu" prend un autre sens,

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Une des ironies les plus délicieuses et cruelles de l'ère Chávez est que ses résultats financiers et économiques sont précisément ceux de la caricature faite par lui des pays capitalistes : depuis qu'il s'est emparé du pouvoir, la bourse vénézuélienne a gagné 870% et les salaires réels des travailleurs ont chuté de 40%. Un petit groupe proche de l'autocrate fait de juteuses affaires, que ce soit via des contrats avec l'État, des licences d'importations, des taux de changes bidonnés ou de papiers de la dette de pays alliés. La « bolibourgeoisie » est passée maître en matière de « capitalisme sauvage » !


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En ce moment sur twitter je me bastonne avec un mélenchonniste fan de Chavez.

C'est fou comme ces types sont sûrs de leur fait, un niveau d'embrigadement rare. J'avais jamais pu expérimenter à quel point les cocos pouvaient avoir des oeillères aussi grandes.

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  • 4 months later...

Une rare critique du Québec anti-Chavez http://www.radioego.com/ego/listen/13130  Nos journalistes sont très pro-Chavez.


J'ai trouvé ce post provenant de CNN sur un autre forum par un gars surnommé Pancho49



Rest in peace, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. As a Venezuelan, I didn't agree with most of your policies and politics, but I do not rejoice in your death and I do respect the pain of your family and supporters.

In 1998, when you campaigned for the presidency -and promised to end corruption- despite my disappointment with the traditional parties, I did not support you because you had led a coup against president Carlos Andres Pérez. I didn't like Pérez, but he was elected by our people and attempting to overthrow him was proof that you did not respect the will of Venezuelans.

I didn't oppose 100% of what you did. I was grateful, for example, that you placed the issue of poverty on the table and you put the spotlight on millions of Venezuelans that until then had been excluded. I knew that the Cuban doctors in the slums were unprepared and unequipped, but I understood that they meant the world to the mother that knocks on their door at 3am. I was also happy of the way most Venezuelans started to care about politics again (some because they supported you; others because they opposed you). The anti-politic feeling we saw in the 90's was precisely what got you elected. And I also kept in mind that a majority of Venezuelans did support you, so you certainly had a right to be in office.

These are my 10 reasons why I will not miss you:

1. Your authoritarian manner (which reflected a flaw probably most Venezuelans have), and your inability to engage in an honest dialogue with anyone that opposed you. Even from your death bed, you had a Supreme Court justice fired because she didn't agree with your politics.

2. Your disrespect for the rule of law and your contribution to a climate of impunity in Venezuela. In 1999, you re-wrote the Constitution to fit your needs, and yet you violated it almost on a daily basis. With this example, it is no surprise that crime exploded in Venezuela. In 14 years, our homicide rate more than tripled from 22/100K to 74/100K. While judges were busy trying to prove their political allegiance to you, only 11% of homicides led to a conviction.

3. Your empty promises and the way you manipulated many Venezuelans to think you were really working for them. In 14 years you built less public housing than any president before you did in their 5 year periods. Hospitals today have no resources, and if you go there in emergency you must everything from medicines to surgical gloves and masks. The truth is that you were better at blowing your own trumpet than at getting things done.

4. The astounding level of corruption of your government. There was corruption before you got elected, but normally a government's scandals weren't made public until they handed power to the opposing party. Now we've heard about millions and millions of dollars vanishing in front of everybody's eyes, and your only reaction was to attack the media that revealed the corruption. The only politicians accused of corruption have been from parties that oppose you, and mostly on trumped up charges. For example, Leopoldo Lopez was never condemned by the courts but you still prevented him for running for office. His crime? Using money from the wrong budget allocation to pay for the salaries of teachers and firemen -because your government withheld the appropriate funds.

5. The opportunities you missed. When you took office, the price of oil was $9.30, and in 2008 it reached $126.33. There was so much good you could have done with that money! And yet you decided to throw it away on corruption and buying elections and weapons. If you had used these resources well, 10.7% of Venezuelans would not be in extreme poverty.

6. Your attacks on private property and entrepreneurship. You nationalized hundreds of private companies, and pushed hundreds more towards bankruptcy. Not because you were a communist or a socialist, but simply because you wanted no one left with any power to oppose you. If everyone was a public employee, you could force them to attend your political rallies, and the opposition would not get any funding.

7. Your hypocrisy on freedom and human rights. You shut down more than 30 radio and television stations for being critical of your government, you denied access to foreign currency for newspapers to buy printing paper (regular citizens can't access foreign currency unless you authorize it), you imprisoned people without trial for years, you imprisoned people for crimes of opinion, you fired tens of thousands of public employees for signing a petition for a recall referendum and you denied them access to public services and even ID cards and passports.

8. Your hypocrisy on the issue of Venezuela's sovereignty. You kicked out the Americans but then you pulled down your pants for the Cubans, Russians, Chinese and Iranians. We have Cuban officers giving orders in the Venezuelan army. Chinese oil companies work with a higher margin of profit than any Western companies did. And you made it clear that your alliances would be with governments that massacre their own people.

9. Your hypocrisy on the issue of violence. You said this was a peaceful revolution but you allowed illegal armed groups like Tupamaros, La Piedrita and FBLN to operate. You gave them weapons. You had the Russians set up a Kalashnikov plant in Venezuela. You were critical of American wars but yet you gave weapons to the Colombian guerrilla, whose only agenda is murder and drug-dealing.

10. Your hypocrisy on democracy. Your favorite insult for the opposition parties in Venezuela was "coupists", but you forgot you organized a coup in 1992, and the military that was loyal to you suggested they would support a coup in your favor if the opposition ever won the presidential elections. There was no democracy in your political party: you chose each of the candidates for the National Assembly and for city and state governments. When the opposition won the referendum that would have allowed you to change the Constitution in 2007, you disavowed the results and you figured out a way to change the articles and allow yourself to be reelected as many times as you wanted. You manipulated the elections in 2010 to make sure the opposition didn't get more than a third of seats in Parliament even though they got 51% of the popular vote. Your democracy was made of paper, you made sure there were no meaningful checks and balances and all institutions were your puppets.

So no, Hugo I will not miss you. Rest in peace now, while we try to rebuild the mess of a country that you left us.


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  • 1 month later...

Si on pouvait avoir un Francophone sur place (pas endoctriné, merci) qui raconte ce qui se passe, un peu comme pour Chypre, ce serait bien.

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