Thursday, July 17, 2008

Didalco steps in the campaign: a PODEMOS effect?

The recent actions of PODEMOS have been really interesting. Readers might remember that PODEMOS was a staunch ally of Chavez, excusing many of his excesses under the "understood" argument that the revolution had to break a few eggs until true democracy could be reached. And then came the constitutional reform of 2007 and the alliance unraveled. But the departure of PODEMOS was not exactly like the departure of former allies of Chavez.

First it is important to note that even though the PODEMOS electorate is at best a 10% of the country, it is a real electorate, that includes party cadres formed long ago through their militancy at the MAS. In fact, the PODEMOS break up from the MAS probably carried most of the hard core militancy that thought the MAS had become a mere "bourgeois" party. The MAS keeps shrivelling while PODEMOS might be small but is active.

Second, for all of its raw language, PODEMOS was formed through the democratic struggles of the MAS, a party who never had a "caudillo"-like leader such as AD or Chavez had/are. There has been a tradition of internal debate and an attachment to very basic democratic concepts. The reelection plan of Chavez was probably the single most important element for PODEMOS to start drifting away form Chavez: they could forgive a lot but when a constitutional reform is designed so obviously to perpetuate one man in power, that was just too much for PODEMOS.

As it is usual with Chavez excesses, he could not stand the early small dissenting of PODEMOS and through his verbal abuses sped up the break up. In particular there was a violent outburst against Didalco Bolivar, long term serving Aragua governor, a governor that was reelected with the highest percentage of all governors in 2004. Didalco Bolivar is a rather quiet and reserved poltician but he is a serious one and he knew that the opportunity to strike back at Chavez would come. It has.

It is to be noted that through the referendum campaign of late 2007 I was surprised at the silence of Didalco. The point men of PODEMOS then where Isamel Garcia and Sucre governor, Ramon Martinez who even started appearing in Globovision again now that the doors of VTV were closed to them. But Didalco was aloof in spite of the harsh words of Chavez. It is rumored that he is sick and most folks attributed this to his silence then. But apparently he is doing better...

This week a new ad campaign started. It does not mention any political party, does not give any voting indication, but has an exceedingly clear message. Each ad is a small personal story about folks that have decided that voting in November is essential because the government has decided to force feed us the constitutional changes that we rejected last December. The ad ends with a red background which has a picture of Didalco asking us to vote. To vote, not to vote FOR someone.

Of course the subliminal message is quite clear: vote for whomever does not support the constitutional changes of 2007, allowing even moderate chavistas to benefit from such a campaign, if hey dared to. The ad also manages to work on the popular roots of PODEMOS at the same time as it works on the lower middle class, MAS traditional stronghold. It allows PODEMOS not to deny its leftist bent while claiming to be a true democratic party. That this is true or not is irrelevant, but it certainly has the potential to appeal to the large NiNi crowd that tends to stay home. It is an institutional message that gives the voters a reason to vote, NO MATTER who is running for the opposition. Exactly what is needed to do and what has not happened yet from an opposition too worried about fighting out the candidate for Tacusiapon and haggling over who can fix the most potholes while the country is sinking.

If you add this to the ease in wich PODEMOS allowed for a non PODEMOS candidate to become the next Sucre governor you can start wondering about what is PODEMOS after. Maybe they want to retain the top prize of Aragua? Or maybe they understand better than anyone else what sleeps in the bowels of chavismo and know that national unity against that evil is a must? Maybe they are betting on a chavismo defeat that will allow them to recover most of the more "moderate" section of chavismo? This last one would explain that they worry more about townhalls than governorships since it is there that future political parties are forged. Whatever it is PODEMOS is starting to flex its muscle with potential very interesting effects.

-The end-

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