I was watching with interest Diego Arria participation in the Globovison opinion talk show "Alo Ciudadano" (1). He may be infuriating or be considered a Delphic oracle, the point is that he stirs up stuff and gets into necessary controversy within the opposition. Tonight Mr. Arria pointed his guns towards the opposition mistakes in last year campaign, or more exactly on how poor was the reaction of the MUD after the defeat of October and the disaster of December. I am not going to disagree on principle with him since these pages have bemoaned quite often how wimpy Capriles has turned out to be, or worse, lackluster in his creativity. It is not that we are expecting Capriles to take a gun and storm Miraflores, but we could have expected from someone that aspires to become president of Venezuela to possess a better sense of political timing, a more forceful line when confronting the regime. In all honesty he has made progress this year but the damage is done, I am afraid.
Mr. Arria has never stopped stirring to the point that actually Capriles attacked him, pointing out his poor score in the primaries. This of course was yet another mistake of Capriles as we all know that the quality of the message is not linked to the numbers of messengers. As Arria pointed out tonight, if we were to follow Capriles implication, Chavez being the top vote getter we should all remain silent. I will be simpler in my appreciation: Capriles only looked ridiculous when he attacked Arria, and did him a great favor.
Unfortunately for Capriles since that last spat, and more importantly for Primero Justicia, the electoral report that was made public a few days ago puts squarely some of the blame for the loss of October on Capriles and PJ (2). Arria stated tonight that PJ hijacked the campaign, moved away from the common program agreed for the primary and basically did their campaign on their own, ignoring and thus demotivating other political actors. I may add myself that it looks more and more that the real objective of PJ was to become the main political force of the opposition rather than actually defeating Chavez. But of course, I love dramatic statements (3).
What Arria is actually putting on the table, even if he did not articulate it quite that way, is that the next election is going to be about ideas, about a transition and no more about pothole fixing. In short, the political situation, and the economical one for that matter, is completely different today than it was a little over a year ago when the primary was run.
When I wrote in the post election funk of October 8 that there was a 47% of dependent citizens that had to vote for Chavez I was attacked by some idiot leftist that did not get my point then. Whether those 47% in Venezuela are simple profiteers or are blackmailed into submission by the regime is really not the point (4). The point is that the societal structure of Venezuela after 14 years of chavismo has transformed a large portion of the political body into a dependent submissive corps that will not be swayed easily as long as electoral conditions are not modified, as long as the opposition message remains pothole fixing in its core. As such, if Capriles is again the candidate in putative elections this year and if Capriles repeats his 2012 campaign Maduro will win. Period. Even if the economy crashes because that effect will be sensed in full by the people after the election, in the second half of the year.
For the elections that are almost certain to happen by July at the latest the opposition needs to make some crucial choices. It could for example, chose to lose because of the economic near cataclysm that will come and that will sweep away Maduro if he wins. Probably a game that many in chavismo are already playing as Maduro is far from benefiting of unanimity.
Another option is to retake the 2012 campaign. If it picks Capriles again as its standard bearer and if it does not speed up the revision process that the electoral report makes necessary, the same result may be expected. The more so that it seems that the MUD is not willing to take on the Electoral Board, CNE, which we are sure is already planning even more cheating to help the flawed candidacy of "Vice President" Maduro.
Perhaps a more combative approach but with the same premises than in 2012 could be more successful. But in that case my concern is that a difficult Capriles victory will be without mandate and within a few months he could be swept away.
Or, without accepting some of the Arria offers, we could at least make a campaign stating the truth on Venezuela even if we know we would lose. First, we may not lose after all, people maybe responding to truth serum for once as the devaluation and scarcity will support our point. But even if we lose, it would make us an unavoidable option, with a mandate, when the inevitable happens. Amen of participating in a transition government to avoid collapse of the country.
The point is not to discuss whether Arria or Capriles are right. The point is that the political moment has changed and we do not see clear signs from the opposition group MUD that they are aware of this. I'd like to think that I am wrong, that they are not clueless, so why not show it?
1) Whether we like it or not "Alo Ciudadano" of Leopoldo Castillo is THE talk show of Venezuela, the only one that actually can influence opinion. The competition inside Globovision, "Buenas Noches", is a silly pantomime that I have stopped watching long ago, and no other network dares to have a talk show as long and varied in its guests as Alo Ciudadano. Now, of course if you are into sycophantic presentations turn to any of the state media "talk shows" and listen to the same stuff glorifying Chavez over and over.
2) If you do not want to read the complete report of the MUD "truth on election" report you can read last Sunday column of Carlos Blanco in El Universal that lists what are on his view the main 20 points.
3) As I wrote about last October Primero Justicia did not have much to brag about for a strategy of "me first", progressing by not even 2 points since 2006....
4) Of course, it was a mention of the celebrated gaffe of Romney that probably cost him the election.