Terms of Denouement for Venezuela Opposition
President Hugo Chávez, Polls Say, on the Verge of a Stunning Victory
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
July 4, 2004
With 41 days and 41 nights left before Venezuela’s August 15 referendum on the term of President Hugo Chávez Frias, a hard rain has begun to fall on Venezuela’s opposition.
It’s come from the place they least expected: their own pollsters.
Martin Sanchez at Venezuelanalysis analyzes the details.
He’s also got a chart of the six polls, each by a different company, released so far, four showing a clear Chávez victory, and two, by the largely discredited Venezuela opposition pollsters Datanalisis and Mercanalisis claiming the opposite.
The implausibility of the Datanalisis numbers (from May, before there was even a referendum question drafted) has been vetted here on The Narcosphere.
The most interesting numbers come from two opposition pollsters: Stan Greenberg whose client is RCTV, and Datos whose client is the Coordinadora Democratica, the chief opposition campaign coalition.
- Voting to Keep Chávez: 49%
- Voting to Oust Chávez: 44%
- Voting to Keep Chávez: 51%
- Voting to Oust Chávez: 39%
And those are both polls contracted by the opposition.
And here’s a chart of polls by the Indaga company, which has polled in Venezuela on Chávez’s favorability and unfavorability nine times since June 2002, showing a clear trend in Chávez’s favor: It has him winning the referendum today 55 percent to 42 percent.
Former New York Times correspondent and anti-Chávez blogger Francisco Toro – who went on his European vacation on June 13th just in time to avoid the heavy lifting in the campaign, thinking that his side had the referendum in the bag – returned to blogging today with the bad news for his troops:
“…the opposition’s nightmare scenario – Chavez wins a referendum fair and square – has gone from unimaginable to pretty likely in a matter of weeks… Looks bad, folks, looks very bad.”
According to multiple voices here on Narco News, it’s been the “pretty likely” scenario all along. How many stories and Narcosphere entries have we published saying this is exactly how a referendum would play out? Last October, we published Charlie Hardy’s “Participatory Democracy in Venezuela: The Opposition Doesn’t Really Want a Recall Referendum Because Chávez Remains Popular.” From that point on Chávez really outsmarted his opponents: he made them think that he didn’t want a referendum, and being so knee-jerk and reactionary, they decided that therefore they did! And they believed the bullshit fed them by their own discredited pollsters! The nightmare began in earnest when the Venezuelan National Elections Council gave the opposition what they had tricked themselves into believing they wanted. Chávez took to the airwaves and welcomed the referendum, enthusiastically.
The opposition – a lazy, soft, and upper caste directed lot which has lost seven national elections in six years – had planned on not getting the referendum and then to claim that their democratic will had somehow been blocked by a supposedly oppressive government. That has been, after all, the only play in their playbook since their anti-democracy efforts at military coups, media coups, and economic sabotage by the super rich against all Venezuelans had each failed in succession. First they submitted an inadequate number of legitimate signatures for the referendum, bolstered by more than a million bogus ones. The Venezuelan National Elections Council gave them a second chance – for three full days in late May – to “fix” their bogus signatures, and they squeaked by with enough.
When they “won” the placement of the referendum on the ballot, they immediately lost the war.
If anyone wants any explanation as to why Otto Reich left the Bush Administration last month, it can be found in the fact that he sees the writing on the wall: his crusade to destroy Venezuelan democracy has lost. It’s over. All that’s left, 41 days from now, is the voting to make it official. That’s why Reich left. They already have their own internal polling data up there in Washington about what’s happening in Venezuela. They already know how it’s going down.
The first open realizations of despair came two weeks ago from an opposition commentator who writes under the name of Gustavo*. (Read my June 18 analysis here.) He actually sat down with a pencil and paper and did the math. His colleagues told him, no, not to worry, look at the polls. And all the faith of these rookies-playing-pretend-democracy went into their own side’s bogus polls.
Now yet another poll has come out, from North American Opinion Research, giving Chávez 57 percent to the opposition’s 41 percent.
Former New York Timesman Francisco Toro, on his blog today grudgingly admitted the legitimacy of the opposition poll by former Bill Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg showing a 49 to 44 percent Chávez victory, but based on a single Google search claimed that the North American Opinion Research poll was bogus.
Toro doesn’t understand polling very well.
If he would simply do what former political pollsters like me do, and take the seven percent undecided in the Greenberg poll and put it aside, the Greenberg numbers would be 53 percent to 47 percent… Do the same with the two percent “undecided” registered by the North American Opinion Research poll and you get 58 to 42 percent…
That’s within the generally accepted five point margin of error between any two similar polls. It’s also consistent with the results of Datos. Without undecideds, that opposition poll would be 57 to 43, just a percentage point away on each end from the North American Opinion Research numbers, and within the margin of error for each of the aforementioned polls. In other words, each of the four legitimate polls, two from the opposition, two from other media organizations, back each other up.
It’s pretty damn clear: a combination of opposition polls and non-opposition polls are all lining up, 41 days before the vote, showing (if the small undecided vote is considered to either stay home or break more or less the same way) Chávez with between 53 and 58 percent of the vote, and the opposition with between 42 and 47 percent of the vote. And all the tracking polls show the momentum to be on Chávez’s side.
Happy Independence Day, July 4th, the day the country of my own passport celebrates its own revolutionary movement toward democracy… a revolution that obviously is not yet over because democracy is not a bunch of declarations on a piece of parchment, but a living, breathing, process that must be asserted and reasserted with every breath of that life.
That’s the most universal truth about authentic democracy that the Venezuelan opposition doesn’t seem to understand. That’s what Chávez and his supporters seem very much to understand, and they’re the wedge through which Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and other lands are now kicking through to the same high ground. Democracy doesn’t exist unless we make it, over and over again, every single day. On the day we don’t wake up and do it – just as Francisco Toro on his Italian camping trip, now coming to terms of denouement with what he thought “unimaginable” three weeks ago – is the day we cede it to those who do wake up and do it and fight for democracy with all. And the side with more people that do wake up and do it, in every fair fight, wins against the side with fewer willing to make the sacrifice. That’s democracy. It’s beautiful when it happens, isn’t it?
Correction: In the original text, above, and in a referenced link from The Narcosphere on June 18th, I errantly stated that the “Gustavo” who had been the first opposition commentator to accurately analyze the vote in Venezuela was columnist Gustavo Coronel. It was not. More details from Mr. Coronel appear on The Narcosphere. I regret the error. – AG
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