Hugo's Big Score
It's election day in Venezuela—or as it's probably going to evolve, "Prelude to Months of Turmoil, Pressure and Fraud Claims Day." Much like in 2004, the opposition parties (more united than at any point since that year) are swooning from the success of giant rallies and claiming that they have polls showing them set to win. Even more so than in 2004, Chavez can point to public polls showing him set to whip Manuel Rosales like a rented mule. From a wrap-up in the UK's Independent newspaper:
Mark Weisbrot, director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research which has collated government data, said: "Chavez is going to win reelection because he has delivered quite a lot on his promise to share the country's oil wealth with the poor—which are the majority of the population. His anti-poverty efforts are certainly bigger than anywhere else in the hemisphere."
The neo-con blog PubliusPundit isn't having that. Unfortunately, its lead post on the election is about as useful as a handful of wishing dust. (Fake wishing dust; not that good stuff from 13 Going On 30.)
Likely scenario, according to the Maracuchos: Chavez will cheat on this election but won't be able to hold onto his victory for more than a few months. A secondary factor that will help push Chavez out is the coming collapse of the Venezuelan economy. Oil prices are down and production is down. Chavez is begging for oil production cuts to keep prices high and pressure off him to pump oil. A huge new oilworker strike is brewing in the east, which could take down 25% of Vz's production. Meanwhile, Chavez has pumped $9 billion into the monetary system in the last 30 days, making devaluation inevitable in three or four months. Capital flight going full blast out of Caracas right now. Market sources say it's 30% collapse coming, but other bankers in Caracas don't think the government will let it go down that far, more like 15%.
In a word: Unlikely. The opposition has gotten a lot smarter since 2004, and certainly any good opposition in a burgeoning tyranny should be ready to storm the barricades when the big man stumbles, but the Venezuelan opposition has a nasty habit of doing the storming before they muster any real public support. They kick and scream too wildly about a Chavez win and they're going to end up at least as hard off as the Mexican PRD.
I don't want to make a habit of linking to ZMag, but Chris Carlson has a useful alternative perspective to the "those masses and masses of poor Chavez voters don't actually exist!" spin.