The Unidad candidates debate of last Monday seems to have given us a new darling through Diego Arria. We must admit that he is operating quite a remarkable comeback, if you ask me. Not that he may win the primary votes next February though he seems very confident; and indeed three months is a long time in politics. But I suspect that he is now in a position to influence the debate in such a way that he may just become a king maker of sorts.
His first and most beneficial offering to the current political debate is to remind the Venezuelan public that after 13 years of propaganda and denial from the chavista regime that nothing pre-1998 was worth discussing, and even less saving, there is something worth retrieving. For example Diego Arria started his modest campaign by walking as a mere citizen in Caricuao visiting places he had inaugurated when he was Caracas governor in the 70ies. Needless to say that many of them today are semi destroyed because nobody paid attention to them, places which with a little bit of care could still be very helpful to a very battered community.
But more useful for the present situation is to remind the green footed candidates of today, 30 years younger than he is, that there were ways to make politics before Chavez that can still be of use today. For example El Universal today brings quite an interview of Diego Arria! This interview is a master class of political confrontation, on how to take on Chavez directly without antagonizing all of chavistadom. In it Arria explains very well why it is possible to bring charges against Chavez at the Hague international tribunal, and the risks he is taking in doing so (he is introducing them this week). These are not "risk free" politics, these are high stakes ones, far, very far from the floral games that 3 of the other candidates are playing trying to swoon an hypothetically softer fringe of chavismo. In other words Arria harks back to politics of substance over image, as the ones that were practiced occasionally by Betancourt, Leoni, Caldera and Carlos Andres Perez, when unpopular decisions were made in the name of the state, knowing very well that the popularity of their administration would go down. This is something that has been absent in Venezuela since the early 80ies when unpopular decisions stopped being made, and were just forced upon us from outside if needed.
By bringing back principled stands Arria is doing more than just improving his image through "front-paging" if you forgive me that coinage. Certainly he made the cover of Zeta this week, but also he causes great concern as some people are openly voicing their concern as to Arria's own life. If there is one thing that the current electoral campaign must thank Arria as of now is that he is placing us squarely in front of the challenge that awaits us.
Arria is blunt: there will need to be a constitutional assembly elected as soon as the Unidad takes office because the structure of the chavista state after 13 years is such that a new government will surely fail within months. I am not sure I share all of Arria's vision as this is a country of political cowards and indeed there is quite a few chavistas screaming full devotion today that will make Saint Peter look like an amateur at denigration.
Yet we cannot deny that the armed forces are penetrated by drug trafficking, that many chavistas that are in high office and who are very corrupt themselves will not flinch if they need to make a coup to save their skin. A new president cannot simply arrive and fire the TSJ, the general prosecutor of the republic, the comptroller, the hostile and illegal National Assembly, etc... no matter how many of them are willing to collaborate. And even if enough are willing to pretend a collaboration, how do we know that it will be sincere, institutional and of a long enough duration? Is the new eventual Unidad president going to be a frog carrying on his back a scorpion?
These things need to be discussed and the ostrich policy practiced by Capriles Radonski in particular could in the end hurt much more our cause than help it. Though I need also to note that since the debate even Capriles seems to become somewhat more critical of Chavez.
Let's be appreciative of Diego Arria's effort, not only by focusing the political debate on reality but also because he makes it clear that the next government will be one of transition whose necessary measures will give it an early expiration date.
PS: Diego Arria will be starting tomorrow his recourse against Chavez at the Hague with hundreds of testimonies. He is a prolific twitterer and you may follow his adventures in The Hague here @Diego_Arria
Diego Arria has a web site set up for the occasion and you can read here a summary in Spanish of the stuff he submitted today for consideration.
Now, I am no legal eagle so not for me to analyze the merits of that denunciation. But on my own, there have been enough reported in this blog to justify that Chavez is brought to justice someday somewhere. The Tascon List alone is a notable Human Rights crime that still to this day makes me wonder how come foreign governments have not been more vocal about its condemnation.
At any rate, maybe the charges pressed by Arria are too weak for The Hague, maybe they are adequate, but whether The Court accepts them and formulates an accusation is a win/win situation.
If it accepts, then from this blog to the real victims we will all be justified for having kept up the accusations.
And if they are rejected it will also be good because the regime is embarked on an increasing violence and in future history books it will be written that international institutions waited too much to avoid the Venezuelan tragedy. Too late maybe for us but it would be good for other countries where such crap may happen.
Sure enough the regime has dismissed the whole thing. After all what can it reply to Tascon List, to Afiuni, to Los Semerucos, to Franklin Brito, to etc, etc...
The argument advanced is the classic shoot the messenger, that Arria is accused of corruption, that he had people killed. Maybe, but since the regime controls all the judicial apparatus, has access to all the documents it can find, why is Arria still not formally accused somewhere? The words of that poor Navarro, as ineffectual and suck up chavista as there is, sound to me these days as a confession of sorts.
Meanwhile El Pais does take the trouble to report on Arria.