Friday, October 27, 2006

What would a Rosales presidency look like?

After having scrutinized some of Rosales' program presented last Wednesday, and after seeing that the polls keep inching up even though Rosales is still not ahead, one can start speculating some as to how would a Rosales presidency be. It would be simplistic to imagine through time what would be the steps taken: after all Rosales will inherit the daunting prospect of the whole state machinery geared to serve the new leader of the opposition, Chavez. However it is possible to consider the “feel” that his presidency would have. We have seen already enough to suspect that Rosales will be a very different president from those we have had in the past.

The first “maracucho” president

One thing that external observers might not be realizing is that Rosales would be the first Zuliano (maracucho) president. If memory serves me well, since independence times no maracucho has reached high office in Venezuela, this a preserve of the Andes region mostly, with a few significant figures from the Central part and an occasional Easterner or Llanero. That might seem silly to observe but it is not, because maracuchos are a breed of their own and they are mad that Venezuela development has been based on what is found under their feet and which has failed to produce wellbeing for their state while Caracas politicos have split the pie as they wished.

Now Zulia has the largest chunk at the National Assembly, and probably the most vibrant state economy in spite of Colombian guerilla setting shop as your corner mafia organization. A people who has managed to strive against all handicaps imposed from Caracas will definitely imprint a new administration with quite a different way to do business.

A true province president

The second hallmark of a Rosales administration is that it owes nothing to Caracas establishment. That is, Rosales career has been a Zulia only career and if Rosales is indebted to anyone is to Zulia folks and Zulia campaign money givers. The Caracas funding machinery has geared only once Rosales got the presidency and they are motivated much more by getting Chavez out of the picture than by electing Rosales. Once in office, well, he will be able to stick his tongue out at the Caracas establishment. I think that this would be a tremendous change in the way of doing politics. Even Chavez failed to set free form Caracas, for two reasons. His main political advisors at first where products of Caracas politics (Miquilena, Rangel to name two). Then, when he turned more and more to the army, it was often to soldiers who made career holding command or office posts in Caracas defense ministry of Fuerte Tiuna or Maracay which is after all now only a distant suburb of Caracas. And if Chavez is free of electoral debt it is only because he dips into the public treasury as needed and he forces folks getting huge contracts with the state to chip in. That could backfire once these people reach the polling station.

A hands on approach

Rosales has started his career in possibly the most difficult area of Venezuela. Sur del Lago is a hot, humid, sticky, gang land area. You cannot become a successful political leader there is you do not know how to squeeze the flesh, how to respect deals made, how to communicate constantly with the people, your constituency. Failure to do so can mean that you are promptly ejected of power, or that a “machetazo” late at night in an obscure alley would end your career. This has made Rosales a hands-on mayor and governor, one that is always worried that his policies are implemented and monitored. Granted, in Venezuelan political culture implementation and follow up are relative terms compared to what we see elsewhere, but at least it is fair to say that of all past presidents, the only one that comes close to worry about follow up were Leoni and Perez Jimenez.

The interesting contrast here is that Chavez has perhaps bragged to be the most hands on president of our history but the record of mismanagement of his administration indicates that in fact he has been the most distant and disinterested president in our recent history, with the possible exception of CAP, the president to which Chavez resembles the most, even though he hates him best.

Thus with Rosales we would have a new kind of management style never before experienced in Venezuela. For the first time ever we will have a president that will have extensive management experience (Zulia and Maracaibo are our most populous state and second biggest city respectively). For the first time we will have a president that is out fo reach from Caracas control, that will come with his own gang to avoid falling into the net of Caracas diverse mafias.

Because make no mistake: a Rosales presidency is not a return to the past. Rosales has no need of politicos of the past, owes nothing to them, does not think like them. All of those who support Rosales and hope that they will just have to ring at Miraflores door to get a job once Rosales moves in are in for a rude awakening. Rosales is his own man and he will not take crap from anyone, be it chavista or old style opposition.

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