Having covered the travails of Lopez with the IACHR extensively gave me an invitation to cover the event. Not to mention that I was already at the start, when Voluntad Popular was launched as a movement. I suppose that being the last English writing blogger in Venezuela made it my duty to go and cover the event today instead of a well needed rest. But it turned out to be quite interesting and worth the time, my first ever candidacy launch!
|Going to mainstage|
|El Pueblo of Voluntad Popular|
My first observations as slowly but surely I made my way to the stage were on the very mixed crowds, clearly cutting across social lines,and, shall we dare to write it, racial lines. I think chavistas must be starting to feel scared that so many of what passes for its captive electorate is now showing up at opposition rallies. In fact, it almost felt like a chavista rally of years ago... I am including a few shots of thew crowd for you look by yourselves at the great mix of folks. And as usual, by the way, click to enlarge and get the details.
But the atmosphere was also festive in a different way when I finally climbed on the "VIP" stand: plenty of opposition figures were at hand, from all colors (except Primero Justicia who should start getting over the desertion of Leopoldo by now). There was the mayor of Baruta, Gerardo Blyde, UNT. There were several Assembly folks (Cocchiola of Valencia, Stalin of Caracas, etc..) and even another candidate, Diego Arria. Apparently they all came not only for courtesy but to show the strongest support to Lopez in his fight against the regime in forcing it to abide by the IACHR ruling.
The view from the grades was good enough and it helped me accept the fact that once up there, I could not escape until the speeches were over. But in the end I did not mind, the allergy that I developed to political speeches under Chavez turning out to be a Chavez allergy. Leopoldo does not do small talk.
|The view from my stand (Globovision's Roland Carreño on top)|
Leopoldo made his entry after the video, alone with wife and daughter. Big ovation, and then he was alone on his pulpit (seen above, as I went backstage at the end).
|The usual chavista chopper|
The first one is the announcement that Leopoldo Lopez, if elected, will be a one term president, will seek to go back to the traditional one term presidency of Venezuelan democratic history. This is big for me because Leopoldo has indirectly admitted that an eventual governemt of him will be plagued by hard decisions and as such he is already aware that reelection will not be possible. I like very much that realism as to the Venezuelan situation. I have to praise him for an almost self offering as a sacrificial victim. This is a statesman speech such as they are woefully lacking among other candidates, as I already noted.
Once the speech was over, in good US style, a confetti rain fell over Leopoldo who was joined again by wife and daughter. After that Leopoldo got down to press the flesh, something he has got excellent at, what he does best in fact. I even made a short video of the moment.
PS: On an unrelated note. When I was leaving I found Diego Arria giving an interview to state media guys., I think it noteworthy because they came without badges or anything that could identify them, even though the guy with the mic is a well known prankster of sorts that came from Avila TV, I think, and who does infamous shots for La Hojilla. As far as I was told, they never went in to cover the event. Then again they might have heard how the surveillance chopper of Chavez was booed and preferred to stay put, hunting in the back. For a hint at how the launch of Lopez will be covered by state media you may read this RNV snippet....
Yet Arria had no qualm talking to that guy and keeping his cool. Still, a couple of minutes later some woman started bitching at them. I am sure she will be on VTV but not Arria who did not say something outrageous (for their taste). While the women bitched, Arria was calmly buying an ice cream cone to a street vendor and I went to talk to him. Maybe another political event for VN&V to cover soon?
|Diego Arria "cornered" by VTV|