Venezuela Ireland Network - Update September 2012
On the 7th of October next Venezuelans go to the polls to elect their president. The term of office is for six years. At present, the incumbent Hugo Chavez is favourite to win. Opinion polls taken by five different polling companies show him with a lead of between 15-27% over the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. The Irish Times on the 25th August carried a piece that gave the results of a poll carried out by an organisation called Consultores 21. Their poll showed the opposition candidate ahead by a margin of 1.8% and mentioned a 3.2% margin of error. The article also stated that opinion polls are controversial in Venezuela. The presumption being that they are not controversial anywhere else. See article:- (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0825/1224322962769.html).
The Irish Times piece did not offer any information about the organisation that conducted the poll. Consultores 21 made very inaccurate predictions in the 2004 Presidential Recall by predicting a tie when Chavez eventually went on to win by 60%. Consultores 21 also has direct links to the opposition and it's US backers. On the 18th of September Luis Christiansen, president of Consultores 21,will speak at a conference in New York on the presidential election in Venezuela. He will share a platform with the Head of Research and Strategy for Latin America, Barclays Capital Inc. (US securities brokerage based in New York) and the Latin America Markets Team Leader, Bloomberg News (part of Bloomberg LP a private company founded by millionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg) . The organisation (Americas Society/Council of the Americas - AS/COA) hosting the event is also US based and is known for it's anti-Chavez views. AS/COA publishes the magazine "Quarterly America" which lists the Financial Times as a media partner.(http://www.as-coa.org/events/road-venezuela%E209s-elections-look-media-public-opinion-and-economy).
It is clear that Consultores 21 has strong links with conservative elements in the US. Nicolas Toledo, a Consultores 21 director, has links with the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank, both of these are controversial organisations with regard to Venezuela and several other Latin American countries:http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view? Significantly Bloomberg News was among a minority of media groups which carried this story: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-24/chavez-trails-rival-for-first-time-in-consultores-21-poll-1-.html.
A campaign has been emanating from the Venezuelan opposition and it's US backers to portray the elections as a tight race but, so far, this has not been borne out by any of the other opinion polls (including opposition ones). Supporters of Hugo Chavez fear that this may possibly be part of a broader strategy to contest the election results. Some of the blame for opinion polls being controversial in Venezuela may lie with organisations pursuing agendas, while claiming to be independent researchers.
With recent polls showing the government enjoying a 60% satisfaction rate , two new hospitals opened this year, inflation down, a growing economy and more than a million voters added to the electoral register, the opposition has it's work cut out to win the day. Adding to it's problems is an internal document leaked to the Venezuelan press revealing it's economic policy. The document by the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), which is an alliance of opposition parties, states that should it's candidate (Capriles) win the presidential elections, it plans the deregulation of banks, opening up the economy to private investment and the reduction of state funding for public services and communal council projects. We in Ireland have first hand knowledge of this sort of programme and where it leads.
In the long run, as we also know, opinion polls can get it wrong but not usually because of a lack of integrity on the part of the researchers.
7th September 2012