Tuesday we learned that Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales has asked Peru for political asylum. I am not going to discuss whether Rosales was corrupt enough to seek asylum: as far as I can tell it does not matter what Rosales has stolen, he is small pickings compared to the Diosdado Cabello clan or the famiglia as Petkoff calls the Chavez clan. If we are going to get serious about corruption, we should start from the top where the pickings (and potential recoveries) are way bigger.
No, what I want is to praise Rosales choice of preserving his functional human and political condition by leaving Venezuela. Why? The judicial system today is not the one we had even as late as last year. Since February 15 the order is to dispose of any opposition political figure that has any weight. After the police officers life sentence without firm evidence (1), the surreptitious arrest of Baduel, the months and months of confinement by Nixon Moreno at the Vatican's embassy, just to name three preeminent recent cases, Rosales would be a fool to trust the judicial system in Venezuela.
Thus it is the more necessary to praise Rosales courage in separating himself from his family, from the people who voted him massively, from his friends and collaborators, from his possessions, including the ones he acquired fair and square, etc, etc... Whatever he is accused of stealing, he is paying for it already. And it is necessary to praise Rosales the more as we hear unbelievable pettiness from both sides.
Let's dispose of the chavista side first. That they are accusing Rosales of admitting his guilt by fleeing the coop carries no weight: as long as the Cabellos, Chavez, Flores, Chacon, and many more big chavista names are not called on the corruption they presided over, any chavista claim of opposition corruption will simply be a ridiculous hollow claim. Effective perhaps among their fanatic supporters, but hollow with the rest of the country. The only worthy thing to mention is the indecent intra chavista fighting to run for the now vacated seat of Maracaibo Mayor. The indecency here is that it is all public, without even waiting for the official announcement of the vacancy. It is all a show anyway because the decision will be of Chavez. And we probably will hear of that next Sunday with an Alo Presidente that promises ot be one of the most vulgar ever.
From the opposition side the criticism is graver.
We have those that think that Rosales should have accepted to go to jail. Some even claim that Capriles Radonski did went to jail for a while, unfairly, and became as such a big star. This shows one or two things. First, they do not realize the change in Venezuela. And second they are probable hypocrites as one would love to see whether they would go to jail today when placed in a Rosales like predicament.
We have those that do not think much of it. It might be those who actually do not think it worthwhile. It might be those who do not care. It might be those who do not seem to realize what is really happening. There is an example close to us of this last category, Francisco Toro who wrote two unbelievable posts lately. One about the Venezuelan opposition not caring about what happened in Port of Spain and another one with the late discovery of the virtues of Ledezma. With that he only shows that he urgently needs to come back to Venezuela and live here for a few months to see first hand como se bate el cobre.
Inasmuch as we can be offended by those who do not give this thing the right weight, there are those who actually are not really upset with Rosales exile. They never liked him much. They never accepted that he recognized his defeat in 2006. They want other leaders for the opposition. And other such infamous attitudes, totally counter productive any way as Chavez thrives on that. Which brings me to the real problem behind that Rosales exile: if the opposition divides over that Chavez will have won one of his major victories, at the cost of some international frowning at most.
I think it is time to force the opposition to unify and to confront those who only like TV appearances and who work for themselves. But that will be for another future post.
It is enough to say here that if the opposition does not create now, in the very next few weeks at the latest, a front to confront Chavez, it will have no future and we will have to wait for the violent denouement that will come from within chavismo itself, but for which we all suffer. The opposition should unify well because the elections of November 2008 and the ill tempered reaction of Chavez has given the opposition the leaders that it did not really expect. I wrote a few days ago of Ledezma, but I could also write about how Perez in Zulia has been gaining exposure and strength, how Cesar Perez Vivas resistance is being noted, how Capriles and Caracas districts mayors are slowly but surely emerging, and more. What Chavez is doing is speeding up their growth, as he tries to stop them. And we saw some preliminary results last week end at one of the first unity acts around Ledezma.
If Rosales exile serves to speed up this urgent unity, then it will be worth it, even if it is at the cost of his very own political career. Though that is not so certain: Betancourt was in a log exile and yet he came back to become president.
Update. The international press is starting to write on this.
Juan Forero at the WaPo writes a fairly good price on the current situation in Venezuela
1) In Venezuela the 30 year prison term might be the maximum sentence but considering the jail system of Venezuela it is akin a death sentence and thus my deliberate choice of life sentence.