It is more difficult to evaluate the interview of tonight as we were clearly playing in a different league. Not major or minor league, just a league next country, almost. First, El Ciudadano was interviewing a candidate more to his generational standard: the conversation was almost intimate, between two pals commenting on the state of the country behind a cup of coffee. Second, it was much more about a diagnosis of the country than an actual government plan. And third, Arria has been around the globe several times.
I suppose that the versatility of the Ciudadano, his desire not to appear to endorse anyone made him find a way, for the fourth time in a week, to allow the interview to play on the strength (or alleged weakness) of a given candidate. On this respect, kudos for the man as he is indeed a better journalist (or manipulator as some would say) than I knew him already to be. And yet, for all of this coziness the interview had a few telling highlights as Diego Arria managed clearly to cast a doubt on the other candidates vision. Without naming a single one he successfully exposed their basic weakness: the pretense that all will be fine and that chavismo will let them serve their 6 year term. Well, rather Perez and Capriles I should say though I should say that Machado seems quite sure to serve her own full term.....
And yet this is a weakness of Arria as he received a phone call that was rather negative and that he could not quite answer. There was that woman calling, clearly from a popular back ground (so even there they do follow Arria) who wondered if he was speaking French because he mostly, but also the other candidates, was not speaking clearly on how to solve her problems. Bingo! I am tempted to say because indeed for all their efforts apparently neither Capriles nor Perez are convincing on that respect. At least if you believe her. The conclusion is that when push comes to shove, people like this woman might decide to vote for Chavez again anyway because even though she knows there are only promises at least there are promises she understands, in Spanish.
In other words, that woman wants a solution now, today, and she does not understand or does not want to understand that no one, and certainly even less Chavez, can produce a solution until some of the country parameters are reshaped. And this is where we need to look for the strength of Arria's intervention tonight. Although he cannot say it frontally, he knows that there is no way a new government will be able to bring clear solutions in a year or two, perhaps not in 6 years even if the duration gives better possibilities.
On an intellectual point of view his offer is impeccable: he will rule for three years. In three years there is enough time to change the main operators of the state to place competent and honest ones in their spot. There is enough time to redesign the economical functioning of the country, to revamp its balance of payments so that even if we owe our asses to the Chinese at least we will have a clear payment plan. There is enough time to purge the army of its drug trafficking group, to ship its Cubans back home, to reestablish a semblance of order, or at least build the basis to restore order. And in three year, after he has taken upon himself all unpopular measures he can organize real elections where real choices can be offered and leave Miraflores, his head high even if only 5% of the people still like him. All of these he addressed briefly, to the point, without making a new constitutional assembly the essential part (backpedaling to the possibility of a more limited constitutional change focused on the must-change rules and people).
Unfortunately his plan can be understood by El Ciudadano, by me, but it cannot be understood (yet) by the woman that called. If the woman is not planning to vote in the primaries (I assume that because she clearly sounded confused about their objective), will Arria's speech convince enough people among those who understand him, for him to win in February? And thus tonight Arria won points to sticking to his guns while makign them more palatable, but lost some by offering the real solution to the country but one that few can understand. Yet there is still 1.5 month of campaign left and like Machado, his door to door approach could deliver him enough votes if not enough to win, enough to influence the MUD/Unidad.
Indeed, besides the expected stunts that are now his trademark (he showed blackmail receipts signed by the FARC to Tachira farmers who paid vacuna) there was his not quite veiled criticism of the MUD, of its complacency with the CNE, of its desire to smooth all differences at all costs, yet not offering him the chance to participate in the elaboration of the MUD program. On this he is right: if Machado or Arria were to win in February they would be imposed upon a program that they took no part in elaborating. Think about the implications. It is time that the MUD takes seriously those two (and Medina too), that it stops being a lone mostly PJ/AD/UNT organization if it wants active collaboration from these people, and their voters, after February 13.
Just for bringing back this dose of realism, even though his presentation was hard to classify, I will tie him for the first place with Machado, ahead of Perez and Capriles who remains last so far (note, AGAIN: last in this subjective but fair classification does not mean bad, it means that the other were somewhat better than Capriles in the Ciudadano format).
Diego Arria en Aló Ciudadano por Globovision
Additional note to praise Capriles, Arria and Machado equally. None of them is making a big point, or even a point, of the prosecution or dangers that they have suffered in their political lives or during the campaign. For memory:
- Capriles was jailed for several month without cause until the regime had to let him go, without any restitution for that part of his life stolen from him
- Machado has been often threatened, even barred from leaving the country, for her role in SUMATE, and was almost shot in the 23 de Enero a few weeks ago (plus many other incidents with chavofascist storm troopers)
- Arria was robbed of his property by the state without justification and even less of a compensation, has been threatened and tear-gassed in campus he visits.
And yet, none of them has exhibited these events except in a casual comment at most (e.g. Arria just said he was robbed, without giving any detail whatsoever, moving quickly to more constructive words). Quite refreshing from Chavez who spends the best part of his cadenas bemoaning all the evils that were done to him, real or imaginary, same difference. Kudos guys!