Change Or Food

 With the regional and local elections right around the corner here’s a little taste of politics in Venezuela.In the more heavily populated state of Zulia, home to Venezuela’s second largest city,Maracaibo, we have an interesting race.It’s hard to tell what will happen in the governor’s contest. In Maracaibo the opposition is split between a few lesser candidates and the more well known Rosales. The Chavistas,on the other hand, have food, which is a consideration not to be dismissed in a country where the minimum wage is well under three bucks a month. One resident there described it as “a cringe festival.” It is a microcosm of the elections as a whole. Venezuelans want change but the opposition is divided and confused. The Maracaibo mayor, Casanova, (you gotta’ love that) is a different kind of Chavista. He doesn’t wear or display red which is the color associated with Chavismo and in several ways has split from the party orthodoxy. He is likely to be reelected and while he may have some differences with Chavismo he will be throwing his support behind the Chavista candidate in the governor’s race. The opposition’s Rosales has been entrenched in Zulia politics for a long time having been both mayor and governor twice. He is facing off against Omar Prieto, who beat Rosales in 2017 in a second election after the winner of the first election refused to be sworn in before the ANC, Maduro’s illegitimate constituent assembly. The winners of the governors races are supposed to be sworn in at a ceremony before the National Assembly (the real one elected in 2015) but Maduro went against protocol (and the constitution) and said the wearing in would be done before his parallel assembly. So the real winner in 2017 refused to acknowledge the ANC and his victory was annulled leading to Prieto’s victory after being swamped in the early primary only to have the winner’s candidacy blocked by his party, PSUV. Pretty crazy stuff.

 You might think Rosales would be a shoo in with the well known Rosales enjoying popular support and the people’s dissatisfaction with Chavismo. Prieto,on the other hand,is known for violent rhetoric and is suspected of Human Rights violations. (We’ll have to see if the ICC investigation comes up with anything) Prieto was elected promising to solve water,electric power, and cooking gas problems and has pretty much done nothing. But, Prieto’s rallies have food and in the rural areas you probably have a better chance of having your CLAP (government food program) box delivered if you support Prieto.So the question is simple : will the people vote for change or food?

 Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the race in the state of Carabobo. “Dracula” lives! How’s that for a tease? Now let’s take a look at the news feed.

 Telesur (government media) reports that Maduro says they now have enough vaccines for 95% of the population. He puts the current vaccination rate at 74% and predicts they will reach 80% by November 30th. It’s worth noting that reliable vaccination rates have been about half of the numbers Maduro has put out there thus far.

 In a related item we have News18 reporting Venezuelans in the border areas are crossing into Colombia for US and European vaccines. They don’t trust the widely used Cuban vaccines that haven’t been approved by the WHO (World Health Organization) and have concerns about storage issues with the other vaccines available from the regime.

 The Atlantic had an interesting piece titled “The Bad Guys Are Winning.” They contend that the narrative power of what used to be called The Free World, previously important tools for diplomacy, no longer work. Today’s autocrats no longer care about their reputations. Their goals are money and power. They are not concerned – deeply, sincerely, profoundly,or otherwise about the happiness or well-being of their fellow citizens, let alone the views of anyone else. They list Venezuela, Belarus,Russia,China,Turkey,and Iran among others.

 On that note, we have Havana Times reporting Nicolas Maduro and Kim Jong Un join other dictators in congratulating Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega on his electoral victory with 76% of the vote. Many Nicaragua political analysts and 40 democratic countries are calling it “an electoral farce.” Ortega jailed candidates and cancelled the legal status of three political parties prior to the vote. Electoral observers at Urnas Abiertas put the participation rate at 18.5 %. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?

 Then there’s Metro US putting out a statement by the EU observation mission for the elections. “We are not policemen and can’t interfere. Any irregularities will be reported to the Head Of Mission.We ask for patience.” It sounds like they’re parroting the party line the Chavistas are putting out there.

 And speaking of election issues, Telesur tells us that the Venezuela Interior Minister reported the neutralization of a criminal group plotting a “terrorist attack” on the CNE (electoral council) in Caracas.They seized 95 subversive pamphlets, 10 IEDs (no description), and 5 drums of gasoline. Sounds like an imminent terrorist threat to me. They also arrested  a drone pilot for flying over Amuay refinery and National Guard surroundings.

 And as expected, Daily Mail reports Alex Saab (what would a news day be without something about Alex Saab ?) has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in a Miami court. Authorities are still trying to get to his partner,Alvaro Pulido, who is believed to be in Venezuela.

 More tomorrow ….

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