Yesterday my very estimable colleague Juan Cristobal asked in the comments whether I was endorsing Leopoldo Lopez. Fair question since I have been writing a lot about the Inter American Court proceedings that Lopez won brilliantly (even if it will do him little good it seems). Unfortunately the answer is not direct.
My nature forbids me to endorse anyone in politics, or at least not heartily. Mostly all my voting decisions have been difficult, in France or Venezuela (or the US if I had been allowed to vote then). Only since 1998 my head was clear, my decision neat and precise: anything but Chavez, at any election that this creep or his minions or his referenda were proposed. My record low, so to speak, was April 1999 when I was in the 10% of those that voted against electing a constituent assembly. To this day, the only true anti chavista and possibly the only true democrats in Venezuela are those who went to vote NO that day in spite of Chavez rising tide or the first "abstention" movement of our recent history. I recall my last minute frantic call to convince at least my brothers to go to vote NO, only one did..... That I have been proven right since is of little comfort.
Since 1998 all my voting decisions have been based on which way is best to get rid of Chavez who has been a cancer on the country (kind of interesting that he is suffering of cancer himself and that he uses it to screw Venezuela even further as if it were our fault he got cancer; but I digress). In other words, I will support, heartily, anyone that has a reasonable chance to oust Chavez through the ballot vote, the only way we should remove Chavez from office if we want to avoid lingering peronista-like syndrome for Venezuela. In 2002 a more or less forced destitution was still an option as Chavez then was at his historical low and there was an argument that the 1999 constitution changes were illegal. But such an option is ruled out today now that the regime as managed a permanent polarization of the country and has created an ideologized group that will take years to educate back to the ways of democracy. Now, mere application of the 1999 constitution would be an improvement over the present situation.
The first real choice we had was in 2006 when we had to chose between Petkoff, Borges and Rosales as the unity candidate against Chavez. My choice then was Petkoff even though I did write a lengthy article on the validity of the three choices offered then. Once Rosales got the opposition nod I endorsed him fully which alienated me, for good, from one of my colleagues that had soul searching misgivings only well suited for those who have the luxury of living abroad. Warts and all we had all to support Rosales.
The situation today is different since there will be primaries in February and in theory we can chose the unity candidate and my blogging could actually play a role, the tinniest, smallest, role for sure but a role in supporting a given horse. And even though I have written extensively about Leopoldo Lopez plight, that should not be interpreted as an outright endorsement.
Let me explain first one thing: the tale on how Leopoldo took on the chavista judicial repression machinery and exposed it to the world, and even to too many Venezuelans that should have known better, is riveting, to say the least. I would be remiss if I had not covered it in detail. After all, other colleagues were writing on fiances and fraud, someone had to cover the story from early on.
This being said I do have three candidates for the primaries. If they were today I would vote for Leopoldo but I have not closed my options on Maria Corina Machado or Diego Arria even though I have all but ruled out Capriles and Pablo Perez.
Let's start on why I have ruled out Perez and Capriles. There is something that I do not like in their campaign, a feel of "chavismo light", a belief that chavistas could come to them just because they promise to keep the best of Chavez and make it better. The premise is wrong on so many levels that I do not want to get started on that. The main sin for me of these campaigns is that they are doing great disservice to the country by sugar coating the reality and waltzing around the tough decisions to be made in 2013. It is almost the best recipe to send people back in droves to Chavez or some chavista, just the way they did go back to Carlos Andres Perez in 1988 for all the wrong reasons. Nearly unforgivable for me there are the many mistakes along the way such as the long drawn out discussion between Perez and Rosales, or the twitter major faux-pas of Capriles. It is not that I do not like them, after all I did write a rather glowing review of the a Primero Justicia congress, and I have more than once apologized for Rosales missteps. But this time I have a choice.
I regard Lopez, Machado and Arria as my favorites right now because each one of them is doing what is right, what needs to be done if we want to do more than just beat Chavez in 2012.
Diego Arria has probably no chance and he has to suffer to get his 100K signatures so that the MUD will let him run as an independent. But he is the perfect president for a transition that will last at least a couple of years, when the new government will need to negotiate tough agreements with all sorts of countries that have screwed up Venezuela and that will demand payment. After all, they signed with Venezuela, not with Chavez, and it is not their fault if we were stupid enough to put Chavez in office. Diego Arria has the experience for that and the contacts. And he also understands that micromanagement does not work and he will hire the people to do the job wherever they are needed. I sense that last part from no one other candidate except a little bit from Leopoldo Lopez even though many accuse him of autocratic tendencies of his own. And if you think that I did not cover Diego Arria, think again: I covered extensively his fight to preserve his farm and his principled position against the regime (which did not do him much good).
Maria Corina Machado has already proven herself to be a good political manager when she was at SUMATE. Since she is at the National Assembly she also has proved that she is a political animal, not a perfected one yet but a very fast learner. And even though I covered her less than Arria or Lopez, I have dedicated a whole blog to the survival fate of SUMATE, a blog that may be mercifully dormant but ready to restart as needed. Also, she speaks her mind and is not afraid of often saying stuff that is un-PC. Never mind that her rather Quixotic campaign is serving at least a major prupose: exposing the machismo inside chavismo where women occupy high positions but rule over nothing.
Leopoldo Lopez is easier to explain since I have done a lot of coverage on his adventures lately. However I need to insist that he is doing something right too, creating a political party from scrap, which included extensive participation from its followers. True, Primero Justicia does it also but not at all to the level that Voluntad Popular has dared to do. As such Voluntad Popular has had the benefit of attracting a lot, a whole lot, of the best and brightest of that student renewal that we saw in 2007. Look at them then and look at 70% of them today organizing Lopez political activities.
Today, as I wrote, I would vote for Lopez but Arria and Machado I keep following and I can still go for them. There are three long months of campaign and any one of the three can start failing... or be barred from running. In fact, since either Machado and Arria are collecting signatures and since Chavez will likely bar Lopez, I might not be able to vote for any of them!
Speaking of this, since I consider that it is important that Machado and Arria go all the way to February to move the debate away from the "I am more efficient than Chavez". I will urge you to bring your signature to Machado or Arria. Either one and you are not obliged to vote for them, but please, make sure they do participate in the February vote.
Since this is internet you can help Arria by going to his special Facebook page where you can download a form to support him and send it for free if you are in Venezuela. I think that since the Tascon List this is a hard way to go, but if you live outside Venezuela or your name is already on the Tascon list, what do you have to lose?
Same thing for Maria Corina Machado who has a slicker web page. She gives you the option to download a form and mail it or a list of points where on occasion volunteers collect signatures. And you can also mail them for free.
Still, to conclude, I need to re-assure readers who follow other candidates that if Capriles (you know who you are) or Perez win the primary this blog will instantly serve their electoral effort as if I had rooted for them from day one.