The Chavez campaign kickoff

In yet another mockery of democracy, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has kicked off his presidential re—election campaign ... illegally early and using misappropriated government funds, for it is not with bankrupt ideas that he leads his masses — but with buyoffs and handouts. Veneuzela's election is in early December.

Chavez cheats at elections, both on numbers and on ballot secrecy, so it would seem he's got it made no matter what kind of campaign he runs. Yet I know Chavez was traumatized by the entirely understandable public reaction to his cheating — in the absention rate of the December congressional elections in Caracas. Chavez put his all into that campaign, cajoling poor Venezuelans to get out and vote — and these people, his own base, didn't do it. Despite threats to withold government checks, 82% stayed home. I was in Caracas for it, and anecdotally, the abstention rate looked much higher.

But for reasons I don't entirely understand I know this is a big deal for
them. I have a source in Miraflores Palace who's told me that in all
sincerity. A really really big deal for them, their number one priority for
the year. They will be watching the western media closely and have
instructed their acolytes to write complaining letters to editors here, so expect plenty of those as that U.S. Bolivarian network rolls out. Meanwhile, they've wheeled out the soup kitchen down in Caracas.

All of this is illegal.

Use of public funds for a presidential campaign, even as the incumbent, is totally illegal in Venezuela. And Chavez is spending millions in public
funds. No campaign fundraisers for him, he's got the state as his ATM. And he doesn't need to watch his funds, because it's a bottomless purse.

Three Venezuelan bloggers today show three apects of the same story in short essays, doing exactly the checking and balancing that blogging itself is about. All have something original to say, with each a valuable and different part of the picture.

Alek Boyd at VCrisis has a fascinating essay just out about broad
patterns of Chavez's campaign strategy, showing how a lot of small news stories fit neatly together in the context of a whole strategy, that of reelecting Chavez. It's thoughtful and observant, giving the real significance of a lot of small news stories as part of a unified whole.

Miguel Octavio has something a bit different — hard documentary
evidence of Chavez's misappropriation of public funds, in photos including receipts and photographs from insiders and the streets of Caracas.

It's an astonishing array of evidence of graft right there up front.

Daniel in Yaracuy has more still, a fantastic narrative of how the
farcical campaign has all gone, started illegally early, in a view from the
television screen and the streets, telling the story of what Chavez has
done, how the newspapers are satirizing him, and what an uncouth spectacle it's turning into, especially compared to the dignified and restrained reelection campaign of his neighbor, the honorable President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia.

It's going to be a long hot campaign, about a year of it, and these three pieces give essential opening analysis on how to read the behavior of Hugo Chavez as he turns increasingly erratic toward the West and desperately seeks affirmation for himself at home from reelection.

A.M. Mora y Leon 02 07 06

In yet another mockery of democracy, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has kicked off his presidential re—election campaign ... illegally early and using misappropriated government funds, for it is not with bankrupt ideas that he leads his masses — but with buyoffs and handouts. Veneuzela's election is in early December.

Chavez cheats at elections, both on numbers and on ballot secrecy, so it would seem he's got it made no matter what kind of campaign he runs. Yet I know Chavez was traumatized by the entirely understandable public reaction to his cheating — in the absention rate of the December congressional elections in Caracas. Chavez put his all into that campaign, cajoling poor Venezuelans to get out and vote — and these people, his own base, didn't do it. Despite threats to withold government checks, 82% stayed home. I was in Caracas for it, and anecdotally, the abstention rate looked much higher.

But for reasons I don't entirely understand I know this is a big deal for
them. I have a source in Miraflores Palace who's told me that in all
sincerity. A really really big deal for them, their number one priority for
the year. They will be watching the western media closely and have
instructed their acolytes to write complaining letters to editors here, so expect plenty of those as that U.S. Bolivarian network rolls out. Meanwhile, they've wheeled out the soup kitchen down in Caracas.

All of this is illegal.

Use of public funds for a presidential campaign, even as the incumbent, is totally illegal in Venezuela. And Chavez is spending millions in public
funds. No campaign fundraisers for him, he's got the state as his ATM. And he doesn't need to watch his funds, because it's a bottomless purse.

Three Venezuelan bloggers today show three apects of the same story in short essays, doing exactly the checking and balancing that blogging itself is about. All have something original to say, with each a valuable and different part of the picture.

Alek Boyd at VCrisis has a fascinating essay just out about broad
patterns of Chavez's campaign strategy, showing how a lot of small news stories fit neatly together in the context of a whole strategy, that of reelecting Chavez. It's thoughtful and observant, giving the real significance of a lot of small news stories as part of a unified whole.

Miguel Octavio has something a bit different — hard documentary
evidence of Chavez's misappropriation of public funds, in photos including receipts and photographs from insiders and the streets of Caracas.

It's an astonishing array of evidence of graft right there up front.

Daniel in Yaracuy has more still, a fantastic narrative of how the
farcical campaign has all gone, started illegally early, in a view from the
television screen and the streets, telling the story of what Chavez has
done, how the newspapers are satirizing him, and what an uncouth spectacle it's turning into, especially compared to the dignified and restrained reelection campaign of his neighbor, the honorable President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia.

It's going to be a long hot campaign, about a year of it, and these three pieces give essential opening analysis on how to read the behavior of Hugo Chavez as he turns increasingly erratic toward the West and desperately seeks affirmation for himself at home from reelection.

A.M. Mora y Leon 02 07 06