The political leader in the above photo is:
(1) Jaime Roldós Aguilera, President of Ecuador, 1979-1981.
(2) Salvador Allende Gossens, President of Chile, 1970-73.
(3) Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, President of Guatemala, 1951-1954.
(4) Omar Elfain Torrijos Herrera, military and de facto leader of Panama, 1968-1981.
(5) None of the above.
(6) All of the above.
The envelope, please.
Literally, the correct answer is (1) Jaime Roldós. If you are an American, you never heard of him. Read on.
However, figuratively the correct answer is (6) All of the above.
The affinity among all four leaders: they were apparently removed from power by violence by the C.I.A. Árbenz and Allende were ousted by military coups, Roldós and Torrijos died in mysterious airplane crashes within three months of each other.
Our post of December 21, 2012 ("The Significance of ´Insignificant` Ecuador. Part 2: The C.I.A. and Rafael Correa") observed that the C.I.A. and its D.C. consultants are ignorant of even the most rudimentary campaign mechanics. The agency would have given its eye teeth to defeat President Rafael Correa last month or at least force him into a runoff, but didn´t have the foggiest idea how to do it. We wrote:
"According to a former British ambassador, the C.I.A. has amassed $87 million to ´swamp´ Correa.
The Tale of The Tape:
A nationwide Cedatos-Gallup poll released November 30, 2012 shows Correa with 53%, Guillermo Lasso 22%, and each of the other six presidential candidates with 10% or less...
Pushing a well-established incumbent below 50% is not all that mysterious or difficult for anybody who knows how to conduct a campaign ...
Let´s look at what the intuitive knowledge is regarding elections:
President Correa once noted that the more candidates who run against him in February, the better it is for him ... that observation is as often-voiced as it is true. The reason is, any well-established incumbent has a base of voters who will stick with him no matter what. If that base is only 35%, for example, and seven opponents carve up the remaining 65%, the incumbent wins.
For incumbents seeking to avoid a run-off election, I would add this nuance to the prevailing, intuitive, purely quantitative assessment: its truth depends on who the opposition candidates are.
Beware of geographically-based Favorite Son* candidates. Recruiting and funding them is a trick of the trade; they can upset conventional political wisdom. True, an incumbent´s through-thick-or-thin base does not vanish under an assault by Favorite Sons; however, the base flakes off. The more city/regional Favorite Sons enter the race, the harder it is for the incumbent to clear the 50% hurdle.
Why does a Favorite Son do what no other candidate can? The answer in the form of a dictum: blood is thicker than ideology.
Now, the simple truth is not a single Favorite Son tossed his hat into the up-coming Ecuadorian presidential election.
You can be sure C.I.A. agents headquartered in Langley, Virginia, and throughout Latin America are wringing their hands on reading those words. Damn. NOW he tells us! Yep, it´s too late. The deadline for candidates to file in Ecuador is past."
O.K.; did the Ecuadorian election on February 17 verify the Favorite Son dynamic?
Yep, and in spades.
Only one province voted against Rafael Correa. Presidential Candidate Lucio Gutiérrez carried Napo with 48% to 25% for Correa. Well, Gutiérrez grew up in Tena, Napo; he has strong family ties there. Gutiérrez received only 6.6% of the vote nationwide.
Did the C.I.A put Gutiérrez in the race? I doubt it. In fact, I would not qualify Gutiérrez as a Favorite Son candidate per se simply because he had previously been elected president; he won in 2002 with 55% of the vote. Nevertheless, look again, there´s no doubt about it: last month, the Favorite Son dynamic was alive and well in Napo.
Readers who think I am offering the C.I.A. free campaign advice should consider the following four facts:
(1) There is no indication whatsoever the C.I.A. reads this blog -- or if it does, understands/uses it. If the contrary were true, our book The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion would have made an impact by now. In fact, the landscape of America´s anti-terrorism strategy would have been revolutionized to the point of being barely recognizable. (For starters, years ago the C.I.A. would have kissed its waterboards good-bye).
(2) Everybody, pro-Rafael Correa and pro-Hugo Chávez forces included, is free to use the Favorite Son tactic to shake and stir a strong opponent´s base vote. For that matter, yes, the C.I.A. can read this blog, but so can security forces of China and Iran, Britain and other NATO members, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, you name it. What we offer is open to everyone who can run a computer..
(3) The Favorite Son tactic is easy defeated. If you don´t see how, stay out of the campaign business.
(4) Finally, and most seriously, the record shows that when it comes to electoral campaigns, the C.I.A. is a chronic loser. Saddled with B-squadder, D.C. political consultants who run paint-by-the-numbers campaigns, the agency has zero contacts among people who understand elections.
However, C.I.A. opponents had better not rejoice. The record also shows that when it fails to obtain its ends via democratic peaceful means, the C.I.A. resorts to undemocratic violent ones.
Airplane "accidents" (Jaime Roldós and Omar Torrijos), "suicides" (Salvador Allende): the list of deaths by misadventure is long and getting longer. Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, who passed away yesterday from cancer, could be the latest victim. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro suspects the C.I.A. gave Chávez cancer; Maduro called for a scientific panel to investigate the problem. Back In December 2011, Chávez mentioned the possibility of a C.I.A. cancer program to kill its adversaries.
Before signing off: some readers, notably the U.S. State Department, no doubt believe the C.I.A. had nothing to do with the deaths of Roldós and Torrijos, that their deaths were accidents, misfortunes, mishaps, acts of God -- in brief, misadventures. If they truly believe it, they will have no objection to an exhaustive and impartial investigation by a neutral international body. For that matter, if the C.I.A. is innocent, it should welcome the opportunity to prove it and to end the torrent of on-going speculation that is spreading like wildfire to include the death of Hugo Chávez.
*A reader, Salvador J., asks if "personally" I ever used the Favorite Son tactic to Divide et Impera an electoral opponent´s voter base.
In the U.S., there are no runoff elections between the top 2 candidates, therefore the Favorite Son tactic is less pertinent. However, it is not entirely irrelevant. Sometimes, primary elections can be analogous to a first election and the general election to a runoff election.
In the context just outlined, I never used the Favorite Son tactic; however, I know campaign chiefs who did and to great advantage.
I used the opposite tactic: "Fat, Dumb and Happy." To wit:
We always discouraged would-be candidates from entering a primary election against an entrenched incumbent who was going to be our eventual opponent in the general election. We thus handed the latter exactly what he wanted, in fact, what every candidate craves, prays for: a free ride. Talk about happiness... To the contrary, our candidates invariably had to win hard-fought primaries.
The primary over, the incumbent had 4 months to do what we had already done: put together a campaign. He would email his trustworthy Girl Friday to be his receptionist and do scheduling as in prior campaigns -- only to discover Girl Friday got married and left town. As for his good old campaign press aide, he landed a job as an editorialist with The Gainesville Sun. Bob, the friendly, conscientious coordinator of campaign volunteers, would love to help out but Aunt Mary came to town. "Sorry. Later, maybe."
Later never came.