11 January 2009

Venezuela's disgraceful opposition leadership

This is something I was meaning to tell since I came back from Venezuela's presidential race in January 2007. Chavez has been able to do what he has done, for one simple reason: the absolute uselessness of his opposition. Be it student leaders, charismatic mayors, regional governors, media barons, or regular politicians, it is quite hard to find another country where the combined effectiveness of an opposition front is so pathetic. Chavez lost the amendment referendum in 2007, for he messed up with his constituency, with those who get the vote out, and those who protect him. He didn't lose because some posh kids organized a couple of marches. He didn't lose because Raul Baduel threatened him. No. His first lost came about because he alienated his own military, his own governors and public officials, who dreaded giving him enough power to appoint shadow authorities, to create new federal, regional and municipal public institutions that could imperil access and control of easy cash, at respective levels. If results are to be believed, 3 million chavistas sat out the vote and Chavez was forced to concede.

In 2006, the opposition failed to cover 40% of polling booths. 40% opposition no-shows of 33,000 booths 'equaled' 7 million votes for the incumbent. One year after that the opposition still did not manage to cover all stations, but defeat -for Chavez- came from within, for let's face it: Venezuela's opposition are 4.5, maybe 5, million folks, who will vote for anyone but Chavez.

So now the country is facing another election. Having lost control of the most populated cities and states, Chavez needs to get on with the job of approving his indefinite re-election, in light of falling oil prices and ensuing drop in popularity. Without money there's no lost love between the poor and Chavez. It's a very straightforward and mercantilistic relationship, characteristic of the sheer materialism of all Venezuelans. The opposition is prepping for what they do best: fuck things up. Instead on pointing at the obvious, illegality of amendment/constitutional reform and wholesale chavista failure, they are waltzing along at the tunes played by el golpista.

The latest, is an encounter in Maiquetia airport between Alberto Federico Ravell (owner of Globovision), Julio Borges (owner of Primero Justicia), Luis Felipe Planas (head of a political empty shell called COPEI), Omar Barbosa (co-owner of Un Nuevo Tiempo) and a 20-something year old kid, from one of Chavez's hundreds of community media networks. So the group of 'experienced' politicos and media baron were arriving from Puerto Rico, allegedly from a meeting with US DoS officials. In the agenda, strategy to defeat Chavez's indefinite re-election attempt. The conversation goes something like: "hey Alberto, so you got instructed by the US on how to defeat the amendment? How did it go? How are you guys going to do it?" asks the kid. The owner of Venezuela's only 24-hour information channel says "it went well, we won't import radioactive material from Iran, we won't seek Cuba's advice..." Then Ravell says something about the food he had and, in response, the kid accuses him of being on the US payroll. At this point, Ravell loses his temper and swears back, making even homophobic remarks. But it gets worse. The other three imbeciles, Borges, Planas and Barbosa, had been watching the whole thing and, amazingly, could not nail this kid, who, admittedly, is not even a journalist, but a product of Chavez's warrior-like media factory and kept ridiculing them. See the whole thing here.

I happen to be incensed at this, not because of the assaulting non-journalist (obviously he's doing the only thing chavistas are good at), but at Ravell, for he is, let us not forget, the owner of Venezuela's only 24/7, news only, media network. Mind you this is the guy who travels around the world 'advocating' for freedom of expression, while denouncing attacks against himself, his network and staff. This is the guy who goes to Madrid, with the director of El Nacional, to whinge, to the King of Spain, about the political situation. This is the guy who, together with minions of Gustavo Cisneros, has ears and eyes in all opposition meetings, when not witnessing first hand, while his partner is making a fortune from financial deals with the regime. So why is he traveling abroad to political meetings? What's in it for him? Who gave him the right to bring more shame and unnecessary disrepute to us, as opposition? But how about the other three? How can it be explained that a bunch of politicos can't utter a half coherent reply to a kid firing volleys? I'll tell you why, because the kid was speaking the truth, or at least part of it was. As they say in that land were I was born "los agarraron cagando y sin papel".

It is truly a disgrace that the leadership of the opposition is in the hands of such perfidious and intellectually barren fellas. They deserve Chavez, who's already heard the news and will get a lot of mileage from this.

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