Venezuela: The State as Election Campaign Headquarters

Lea este post en español aquí.

When is a presidential election free and fair?

During the 2012 presidential campaign in Venezuela, the Alerta Electoral bulletin recorded numerous instances of public resources being used to support the president’s successful election campaign.

For example, in July 2012 Alerta Electoral – which is produced by a coalition of Venezuelan NGOs, academics and journalists – reported that president Hugo Chavez had racked up over 4.000 minutes of TV airtime in that month alone. The opposition parties, in comparison, were limited to the three minutes per channel per day per candidate set out in Venezuela’s electoral regulations.

President Chavez was re-elected for the fourth consecutive time with 55 per cent of the vote. However, in December the government of Venezuela  announced that his long-term health issues had returned, and that he would be seeking treatment in Cuba .

After several months of lack of information and uncertainty regarding his health, on 5 March 2013 Chavez died. As required by the Venezuelan Constitution, following the death of the president a new election has been scheduled for 14 April 2013.

In the run-up to the unusually brief (10 days) official campaign period, the abuse of state resources for political purposes continues. Take the homepage of Venezuela’s National Assembly. Its main news items this week include:

In plain language: the National Assembly website looks like the website for a political campaign, rather than a channel for a legislative institution to report to citizens and be held accountable.  This distortion of the purpose of the National Assembly website is further driven home by an analysis contained in the latest edition of Alerta Electoral (available to download here, in Spanish) which illustrates the scarcity of available information on legislative activities and content.

For instance:

  • Only two accountability reports by individual members of the Assembly are available. The National Assembly has 165 members.
  • During 2012 over 200 “additional credits” (additional budget expenditures) were approved. However, information on only four of these additional credits is on the website.
  • Of the laws passed between 2011 and 2013, information can be found on just four, two of which refer to the ratification of international agreements. Additionally, the links provided do not lead to the complete text of each law but to a brief summary.

Democracy is about much more than the day of the elections. When a government backed candidate can use state resources to give himself an overwhelming advantage all year round, the results of the day itself can become rather predictable.  At the same time, when the information on state activities available to citizens is limited, it becomes harder for them to hold their elected representatives to account.

Citizens in many other Latin American countries can visit the websites of their legislative bodies and find detailed information including the schedule of activities for the day, the draft laws being proposed and discussed, the meeting schedules of legislative committees, as well as information on individual members of congress such as their CVs and contact details.

The misuse of the National Assembly website is just one of the issues covered by the latest edition of the Alerta. We will be selecting further highlights and posting them here in the coming days.

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Max Heywood

About Max Heywood

Max Heywood is Regional Coordinator, Network, Chapters & Programmes Transparency International.

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9 Responses to Venezuela: The State as Election Campaign Headquarters

  1. Gina 28 March 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Excellent article,

    I have been looking for this information in other language than Spanish, it is very important that people from the progressive sector in the industrialized world reads this because is true. It is very frustrating to see that seeing so much information out there, the American public for example, continues to be mislead, either by American mainstream, or the so call progressive/independent media. On one end we have CNN, fox news whose editorial lines focus on demonize Chavez without doing the research, and showing the facts, and on the other hand we have the leftist, “progressive” alternative media, who romanticizes around the figure of the caudillo, doing exactly the same mistakes of their ideological counterparts. What is the problem, something is missed in translation? Or are we stuck with ideological interest that do not allow us to see what it is, but rather what we want. What is happening in Venezuela with states institutions is alarming, the campaign has not even started and you see all the ministers openly campaigning for the election of Chavez’s Candidate, using their infrastructure and resources to make sure Maduro wins, and most likely, under this circumstances, this is going to be the case. This, ladies and gentleman is illegal in any democratic country, for leftists in the U.S seems to be Ok though, for mainstream this is inexistent. There is so much to say about illegality in Venezuela, the use of a huge state media apparatus, the bulling to journalists who opposed the line given by the “majority”. What would American do, if they see the equivalent of the Minister of defense in the U.S campaigning from Obama in his uniform, swearing to do anything is possible so Obama wins, swearing to kick in the but the “motherfucker” republicans? We Venezuelans saw this !the day of Chavez’s funeral; readers look for the video is there in you tube! and do me a favor, send the link to Amy Goodman.

    Mr. Heywood, your hard work is deeply appreciated.

  2. Gina 28 March 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Here the link, please share it

  3. Yohannes Cedeno 29 March 2013 at 11:51 am #

    You have to be kidding me. These northern “NGOs” are soooooooo patronizing! Jeeeesus!!!! Thank god this bug Capriles will be crushed come April 14th. I am thoroughly convinced that these liberals or progressives or moderates of whatever they call themselves in the North are insanely ignorant if not condescending. So let me get this straight: the state is abusing public resources… You are talking about the third world for Christs sake! The 3rd world state is, or in Venezuela’s case was, totally beholden to the powerful reticulations of first world financial and military domination–reticulations that gave way to 3rd world elite classes and PRIVATE CORPORATIONS, or as Transparency Int’l refers to them, independent media and investors that make up Transparency’s survey respondents in order to determine how transparent Venezuela is. Hahaha, you guys are swinish! In any case, I know your expensive liberal education at some German university probably rationalized away the following but these PRIVATE entities in Venezuela underwritten by the North have murdered innocent individuals (April 2002 coup), sabotaged the economy (oil strike 2002), concerted speculation attacks, instigated violent insurrection through slander and libel, funded paramilitary operations (300 known campesinos murdered over past 5 years on western frontier), CIA electricity induced shortages, etc etc etc. In the 3rd world, the state IS the people. That’s all they got. And now that the people mobilize, you complain about the state. Orwellian indeed. Btw, how much airtime Capriles got on the 65% private broadcast national spectrum vs Chavez 5%? Opposition dominates media in Venezuela. Capriles is finished. The mainstay of the opposition has sacrificed him. He didn’t even want to run because he knows its so hopeless. So Transparency tries to eek out some solace by putting out this rubbish. In Venezuela, they can smell your BS from across the ocean.

  4. Yohannes Cedeno 29 March 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    And in regards to Gina: hahahahahaha. Amy Goodman will most definitely NOT take up that stupid youtube link. Amy is an intelligent activist and endearing human being. If she does take up that link, it will be to debunk it with guest analyses and statistics; a bunch of leftist brain ninjas that go POW BANG BOOM POP, game over Transparency!! BTW, I don’t think you’re gonna last so long Transparency. One of your biggest funders and ethics programmers HSBC is totally NOT transparent to say the very very least. The FBI were blown away by what it found in HSBC’s books: it starts with a d, and ends in “rug money” !!!!!!!!

  5. Gina 29 March 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    To the list of wrong doings exposed in detail in this article all you can say is “Thanks god this bug Capriles will be crushed come April 14th”, and this part “Btw, how much airtime Capriles got on the 65% private broadcast national spectrum vs Chavez 5%?” this certainly was the case 10 years ago, during the beginning of the so called revolution, before he switched from progressive to tyrannical, before he took over the oil industry and gained muscle to forge an alliance with Venezuelan media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, and of course, before he closed RCTV. It looks like you need to update your fact sheet Mr. Cedeno, and regarding that “stupid you tube link” I guess you either endorse or ignored what is being said in it. Well, obviously you are not one of those “leftist brain ninjas that go POW BANG BOOM POP, game over”.

  6. GS test 31 March 2013 at 4:25 pm #

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