Saturday, July 31, 2004

 Alejandro Armas


Alejandro Armas died this morning. If not the main leader, certainly one of the most influential leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, and probably one of the most upright and decent politicians in Venezuela.

He started young in the communist party cells of his high school and all his life he was linked to the leftist sectors of Venezuela. Naturally when the left in Venezuela saw in Chavez the chance to effect the reforms that they had been hoping for all these years, he became one of the supporters and tireless workers of the movement that brought Hugo Chavez to power in 1998.

He did work in different positions within the campaign and the first two years of chavismo, becoming an Assemblyman in 2000 and the chairman of the finance committee. A committed leftist he had learned through the years that reform had to be paid for otherwise it risked abject failure. Soon through 2000 and 2001 one could sense that Alejandro Armas was having some difficulty to adapt to the spend free style of the new administration. Having worked as a bank director Armas certainly knew how to add and rest.

When late 2001 the "enabling law" finally published the 48 laws that initiated the political rift that have besotted Venezuela ever since, Alejandro Armas took upon himself to set up an evaluation committee to try to establish some dialogue between the two camps and review some delicate issues of the new laws. Issues that I would say myself unnecessary Chavez provocations to the Venezuelan business and middle class. Chavez, furious, condemned that initiative and Armas ended up in the hospital with an aggravation of his cardio vascular disease.

Came April 2002 and the final break up between the moderate sectors of chavismo and what was now El Supremo. Alejandro Armas with his mentor Miquelena and a few other folks created the Solidaridad movement that joined the opposition ranks.

Never strident, always composed, always to the point, always clear in his democratic and social commitment, Alejandro Armas quickly gained a considerably ascendancy among an opposition that was very weary of him at first. By late 2002 he had become a leader of the opposition, one of the participants of the team that undertook the lengthy negotiation process that eventually forced Chavez to accept that the opposition tried its hand at collecting 20% of the signatures of the electoral rolls.

After the signature of this agreement Armas was without contest one of the top 10 leaders of Venezuela, period. It is incontestable that his deep knowledge of the side that he used to belong to was of great help for the opposition as he knew what made tick the remaining chavistas. It is incontestable that his social conscience and his unwavering commitment to democracy helped the opposition edge out some of the extremisms that had found there a play ground. As a country we have an huge debt to the memory of Alejandro Armas, indefatigable defender of constant dialogue, and moral strength, as negotiation tools. The genuine expression of grief of his collaborators, rarely seen in politicians, and those of his negotiating team partners (from the opposition, chavismo is mute so far) tell us how appreciated he was by all, and how important he had become. I can say that, one year ago, having had the opportunity to shake his hand and express my admiration for his work will be one of my cherished memories.

But I cannot finish this eulogy of sorts without having a reflection on the nature of chavismo, on how this one has expelled one by one all of those that had moral integrity, human decency, unquestionable honesty, and democratic values. Chavismo is now an empty shell, with a single leader only interested in his political survival while his underlings use their very limited intellectual abilities to loot the country while their sycophancy leads them to all sorts of unspeakable acts to ingratiate themselves to the Great Leader. Alejandro Armas was one of the reasons why so many people hoped in 1999 that Chavez would bring positive changes to the country. Alejandro Armas was a real social democrat committed to the betterment of his country,a practical intellectual, a cultivated man, certainly not one of the pseudo leftist intellectuals that see in Chavez a way to boost their own mediocrity.

Alejandro Armas is the victim of the beast that he exposed once he appreciated its true nature. It is not farfetched to say that Alejandro Armas who used his weak health in a relentless effort to preserve democracy for us, is yet another of the victims of chavismo. As surely a Chavez victim as the dead of April 11, February 27 and so many other dates since a certain February 4, 1992.

There is no doubt in my mind.

Only 16 days
until the Recall Election
on Hugo Chavez.

Do I want him out?

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