Saturday, December 17, 2011

Arria at El Ciudadano

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!


  1. the interview was cozy?
    not if Leopoldo Castillo had his arms crossed. That's body language that says: not cozy.

    as for the woman caller from a popular background, sounds to me that she was a plant. For how *coincidental* that she asks Arria if he's speaking French, when that's the mockery angle of Chigüire, insofar as Arria's taste in wines. Dunno, I smell a certain disingenuousness in the caller, or whomever goaded her to call. Not to say that she doesn't have a point. It's just the French thing is a bit of a tip-off.

  2. Syd

    First, if I were to worry about plants, I would not be reporting this series at all.....

    Not only Arria did seem surprised and was not able to reply properly (so the plant could have well come from Chigüire for all that I know) but Globvision would not dare to plant folks least El Ciudadano gets caught and loses all credibility.

    Also, the "speaking french" thing is something that I have encountered, on occasion leading to apologies when they realize that I am of French origin. Let's not forget that this is the country of the Musiu as the foreigner, Musiu being the deformation in sound of Monsieur.

    And finally, he may have crossed his arms but he does that on occasion and it would be a telling sign if he were to cross his arms often in an interview which has not been the case in any interview this week.

    Or is it that you do not care for Arria? ;-)

  3. Island Canuck11:42 AM

    Interesting comments in ND from the people who don't read English.

  4. 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.

    dreading a ban for violating one of your rules, but related to your very comment: I did not know that one of the regular commenters of CC is the son of Ramon Guillermo Aveledo. So I asked him, how was his father elected to the position, when was he elected, etc. No answer as of writing this comment.

    The MUD, as far as I can tell, is indeed an agreement between, mainly, the parties you have mentioned. Primaries? Yes, we'll have 'em, but on our conditions. Unity? Only unity, those not singing from our sheet will be dealt with, in the pages of Tal Cual and Chiguire, and we'll throw an 'intellectual' to the chorus of criticism every now and then...

    Omar Barboza, Julio Borges, Ramos Allup, and their sycophants, sitting pretty, arranging, a puerta cerrada, the future of the opposition. "Dentro de la unidad todo, fuera de la unidad..." Were you consulted? Were the general public consulted? Was anyone, beyond those participating in the conciliabulo, consulted?

    No surprise then, in Arria's statements at El Ciudadano. He's not going to get an answer. Same actors, sort of, of 2006, calling the shots and doing pretty much the same thing, in the same playing field. Can we expect a different result?

  5. Daniel,
    my observation on Lepoldo Castillo's arm-crossing is precisely because I did not see (from the condensed short videos available to me) him doing so, when speaking with the other candidates.
    As much as you'd like LC's body language not to reveal a certain discomfort, what I saw indicated not so cozy. If you want to hang on to your fantasy of gemütlichkeit between these two, just because they are in the same age range, you're welcome to your own view.

    Btw, the only candidate that really gives me "cosita" is LL, whose physique-displays seem to quell any critical analysis from you.

    In other words, and contrary to your assumption, I do not dislike Arria. And I have no wish to enter into the epithets or love songs of Arria (or anyone else, for that matter) on ND. For now, I keep an open mind.

    As for the French thing, yes I know how xenophobic are most Venezuelans, having grown up in Caracas with a Canadian-born mother and with an extensive Venezuelan family of deep ancestral roots. And yes, I know the origins of musiú. I just had never heard the expression of 'speaking french'. It came across as somewhat false. I could be wrong. Especially when I did not hear it or see the reactions.

    And no, I didn't mean there was a tie-in between Chigüire and what I perceived to be disingenuousness from the woman who commented.

    But I don't wish to split hairs here. Clearly we agree to disagree and that's enough for me.

  6. Alek

    Well, you did not break the rules because you did bring relevant information and that is always welcome.

    I think I know who you are talking of and I have been ignoring his comments there since I had a very brief encounter with him. He did not like something I wrote and was unnecessary nasty about it. I mean, look at Syd in the comment above, she strongly disagree with me but she is not nasty.

    Anyway, fits CCS well since they are pro PJ and pro MUD though PJ is quite often in the minority there which goes a long way in explaining why all the leftist parties went Capriles.

    On the other hand I am not as critical of the MUD as you are even though I do understand the point of Arria. Compared to previous umbrella organizations it is quite a success and we should not forget that. In a pragmatic sense it was good that a group of a few set a viable system before slowly allowing in people that accepted to play by the rules. Now, where such a thing may fail is when they refuse new people in or allow in people so that it is easier to notify then of their decisions. If this indeed becomes the case then the MUD is toast. But personally I do not think that we have reached that stage even though I am pretty sure that at least AD, UNT and COPEI would love to be in such a position. PJ alone cannot take on them and we are to hope that they will be smart enough to force the door open to let moire people in.

    That or I am an incurable optimist.

  7. Perhaps when the platform was made, Machado and Arria were not candidates yet, and involved with the making of the MUD itself- but that is not an excuse for not giving them an opportunity to add their input later on.

    As for the arm crossing, what I perceive is the following: In comparing the interviewer's(LP)body language to the interviews with other candidates I could see a great difference in how he treated Arria.

    Arria is far more self confident than the other candidates, and able to maintain detachment throughout the interview.

    Arria is assertive which is really good.He can can assert will, instead of hiding it( like Capriles) or overly dramatizing( like PP).

    I think Machado is slightly too aggressive( though not as bad as PP), indicating a problem with self esteem more than likely due to the fact that women have to work harder to show strength.

    It appears that the greater self esteem of Arria intimidates the interviewer.Some people are more comfortable with open aggression that with the power of assertiveness.

    Quite an inferior interviewer if you ask me as he is unable to contain his emotional reactions.A good interviewer should try to be objective and what better way that showing equal respect to all.

  8. I never actually encountered much Xenophobia in Venezuela,at least among the poorer classes of people nor among the rich.On the contrary: My fist exposure to its nastiness was in the middle class burbs of Caracas,and largely coming from those middle class of European origins.I got on famously with both the upper class and lower class but had some difficulty with a few idiots from the boringly arrogant middle class.Even with those however I got along "well enough" for me.

    Perhaps because one rule of thumb I have:

    I do not pass ultimate judgement on those who treat me in a nasty way, I reserve it for when I see them treating others in said way.That keeps me real.

  9. Charly7:21 PM

    Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the delinquent living in Mariflores is throwing all his old chums out the window. Time for some new blood although some trash such as the former VP gets to be recycled as the party VP. What to make out of it?

  10. Syd

    Far from me to argue uselessly but there is a lot of things that can make El Ciudadano cross his arms besides his guests: from the inane questions of Pedro Pablo Peñaloza to his crew not switching to a given signal he thinks important for people to watch for a second (there is a battery of TVs in front of him including VTV, CNN and others).

    Thus I would not read much into him crossing his arms in the first segment. Globovision should show the whole thing but they don't so do not fixate much on the first segment.

    As for my fixation with LL. Indeed he is the cutter of the lot and I am certainly not the only one sensible to that. This being said I have never hidden my relative preference for him, and MCM and DA which does not mean that I cannot be fair in the coverage of all. I have pointed out in the past mistakes that LL did as those of Capriles. Or call PP the winner of the first debate. If PJ or UNT were not so stuck up and invite me to their events for coverage like VP did I would cover these events with all the due respect. But apparently these guys still play by old rules of selected media coverage and for them a kind word on VP or LL activities is akin as saying that PJ is a satanist cult or something. Heck! If the PSUV were to invite me I would cover them and I can assure them that I would be fairer than Globo is. Then again I would not attend because I cannot see me sitting for three hours of Chavez.....

    I suppose that what I am trying to say is that I am not writing a journalistic report but rather a chronicle from an observer who has limited access to certain source to know what happens behind closed doors. After all this is a blog and not the front page of the NYT, and I never pretended it to be otherwise. As I wrote in the first entry of this series I could not promise objectivity but I would try fairness.

  11. note to all:

    "frances" or "musiu" do not need to be xenophobic. as ususal in venezuela it is a matter of context such as "negro de mierda" is worse than "hijo de puta" but "ven aca mi negro" is as endearing as it gets.

  12. Daniel

    Sorry to disagree .You fail to understand the ultimate meaning of arm crossing which is defensiveness....where or not it comes form disliking certain questions, or whether it is from being intimidated by the superior containment of Arias- it is still a sign of defensiveness and has no place in a professional interview.

    It is unprofessional by any standards.

  13. Well, Daniel, I'm long past the stage of excitement over biceps or a cute face. There are other qualities I prefer to focus on.

    As for xenophobic terms, I agree, there are degrees. Musiú, or in the case of the sometimes label for my mom (musiua), as provided by certain members in the ancestral home in La Pastora, there was always a slight derogatory aspect to that label, as I perceived it. But not as derogatory as "gringa".

    As for Leopoldo Martillo's arm-crossing, being caused by other factors, you may be right.

  14. Roger9:58 PM

    I don't think any of the other canidates are any less aware of the political reality of this election. Even if one can only read Spanish, the political history of LatAm is bulging with similar elections and the aftermath. In English, the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines
    is a classic study in People Power that thanks to a few drops of Spanish blood does not seem to last long there or in LatAm!
    (this and the links are an interesting study)
    If as some here say they are are mired in partisan politics, well they will all sink together unless the rancheros come down from the hills and burn Caracas to the ground!

  15. cochonnette en feu

    let's assume that indeed arria pushed el ciudadano to an unprofessional act. allow me to remind you that el ciudadano hosts his TV show EVERY week night, from 5 to 8PM, under constant threats that no other anchor in a civilized country must put up with.

    shall we agree to give him a pass for once?

  16. good one syd. i had forgotten about those halcyon days of the RCTV shut down....

  17. "shall we agree to give him a pass for once?"

    Fair enough!


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