Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vote for Leopoldo, pray for Maria Corina, but bet on Henrique

Wilson at 29
Even though this headline does not apply anymore, I was not going to let it go to waste, having been planning a post with that title for a few days.  The line comes from noted US historian Samuel Eliot Morison who recalled that the first time he voted was for the election of 1912 between Taft, T. Roosevelt as a dissident and Wilson for the Democrats.  Young and inexperienced he asked for advice and one of his friends told him that line that for some strange reason always stayed with me for its nearly exquisite understanding of politics: "Vote for Roosevelt, pray for Taft, but bet on Wilson." (1)

Until Monday night this had been pretty much my feeling as to what the outcome of February 2012 should be, or at least how should I think about it.  Alas, Leopoldo and Henrique tied the knot yesterday and I have not been able to pull out an adequate historical quote.

The thing is even as I was tweeting live the debate of Monday night I was also getting ready to write that post that will never be written now (to the relief of many I presume).  In the debate for me it was clear again that Lopez and Machado were the superior candidates to Perez and Capriles.  Not that Perez or Capriles are bad and whichever of them wins I will become a rabid supporter of their cause for next October, but in a primary you do indeed have the privilege to vote for who better represents a combination of what you think is needed , who represents your ideas best, etc...  and you can vote for that person without any consequences even if you know that s/he may come in dead last at 1% of the votes cast.  Voting for the apparent winner just to ease your low self esteem has never been my cup of tea, and even a counter argument if any for me as some pro Capriles folks are advancing (you all know who you are).

Thus I decided long ago that I would pick my choice as late as February 11, if needed.  In other words I was going to proceed by elimination rather than by an active choice.  As such until Leopoldo announced his reversal I had eliminated already Medina, Perez and Capriles.  And now it remains for me to decide between Machado and Arria who I will vote for on February 12, knowing full well that unless Capriles is found in some bed having sex with a 5 years old it is nearly impossible for him to lose the primary election.  Which will not happen as Capriles may be many things but a pervert he is not nor he needs to be (though the official dirty campaign has already started this early so you can imagine what will come next;  and at tax payer expense on the national radio network of Venezuela, as this RNV example will illustrate).

Thus the title of my projected post, since Leopoldo was the best combination of what I wanted for Venezuela, energy to win, smarts, etc, etc...  And yet Maria Corina Machado hints so badly at what we all secretly want, a classy revenge with a real new way to do things in the country, while the inevitability of Capriles looming for whatever reasons those may be closed the rewrite of the Morison line.

I discarded Medina first because even though I grew to like him during the campaign, as a real example on how people can change for better, even much better I would add, he still does not have all what it takes, no team, and too disperse a mind when intense focusing is essential as of October 8.

Perez of Zulia I was OK early, but during the campaign I started to dislike him and came to see him as the puppet of some weird Maracaibo mafia allied with the remnants of the AD/Copei mafia.  I am surely wrong about the mafia part but I am not sure that someone who gets elected such such compromises may have the ability, or even be allowed to make all the tough decisions come October 8.  Amen of a lousy campaign so far, always a sure sign that you may not be able to run the complexities of a country in crisis (there is a reason while the US vets its candidates through grueling campaigns, as the best way to asses the ability of the guy to perform under heavy stress).  Thus, even if Tal Cual (and Teodoro) favored him from the start, it is not enough for me to follow just as it is not enough for Lopez to endorse Capriles for me to abide.

Which brings me to Capriles.  For all of his success and hard work (I am a fan of him for many reasons, already giving him an assured reelection in Miranda in 2010 for his gumption in water works) I do not see him as the guy best able to face the difficult situation that awaits us next year.  I have been complaining recently that Capriles's Primero Justicia is becoming a mere bad copy of old COPEI, but the Capriles campaign makes me afraid that he is a bad copy of the old Carlos Andres Perez campaign of 1988.  Then CAP promised to improve on Lusinchi work and instead started a plan of economic liberalization that led us to El Caracazo.  CAP was right in what had to be done but he did not campaign on it and today we are still paying the consequences for that miscalculation of his campaign.

Through the campaign I have never seen a clear hint from Capriles that he truly measures the task ahead, and that he comprehends fully the situation the country is in.  I mean, surely he has an idea, surely some folks at PJ must know, but I have not seen that hint that would reassure me that he fathoms the abyss.  In fact the whole campaign of Capriles can be summarized as some form of chavismo light, a "I will be efficient" theme and that the "best" of populism will be preserved, that all that matters is that me and my guys are in charge.  Well, it is not, and even if Arria or Medina or Machado may exaggerate on occasion they are at least showing me that they truly understand what is at stake, what awaits them.  Capriles does not, and his calm, composed, intentionally boring presentations at debates, with a repetitive message targeted to the chavismo dissatisfied with little intellectual demands, with allies that give him a chavismo light quality label turn me off completely; besides worrying me sick that he will fail, and that electing him may turn  out to make things worse in the long term (Ortega's return in Nicaragua, anyone?).  October 7 is not about fixing potholes even if that is the only thing that 90% of the country wants to hear.

I am not asking him for a blood and tears speech, I know he needs to be elected, but at least he should make it clearer that some sacrifices will have to be made otherwise the Caracazo that awaits him will make the previous one a child's game.

So I am left to decide between voting for Maria Corina or Diego Arria.  Both today came forcefully out in stating that they remain in the race until the end and, I presume, getting a not insignificant share of Leopoldo's vote, and who knows, maybe of Perez vote now that it seems he will not win.  The good thing about Leopoldo endorsement of Capriles is that now it is much easier for some of us to vote our conscience.  And this blogger will.


1) I should not assume that everyone is a history buff like me.

That line meant at the time that Teddy Roosevelt was immensely popular yet controversial for breaking the GOP ranks, while Taft represented the safe and secure business establishment.  Thus the rather weak democrats had an opportunity to benefit from that GOP division, which they did ushering in 8 years of Wilson administration.

That is why this line is so good because it reflected so concisely the dilemma of the majority republican of the time absolutely unable to make up their mind between a political star (and successful ex-president but always perceived as reckless) and and a dull but safe administrator.  They knew full well that it opened the door to an untested intellectual (never a plus in US politics) who indeed became president (and was for that matter the last intellectual to hold the presidency).


  1. I respectfully disagree with Daniel's decision to vote for whatever candidate he deems more competent for the job, and here's why:

    There was a post about this at the CCS chronicles, with over 100 replies:


    My reply went along these lines:

    Living in Miami, I don’t know the opposition candidates well at all, except for the occasional U-Tube video, noticias 24, or reading the 3 musketeers’ blogs here (Daniel, Miguel and this one, plus the hilarious Chiguire of course!)

    I tend to believe that the next government in Vzla will be primarily about transition from Chavez’s totalitarian 12 years of disgrace, back to something a lot more democratic.

    Also, as in the USA or Europe, there is no huge difference between Capriles or Leopoldo, MCM or the others, adecos, copeyanos, democrats, republicans…. historically.

    And I don’t have high hopes for the first few years after Chavez: perhaps Crime will goo significantly down, or inflation, at some point, foreign investment will quickly pick up. But don’t expect any miracles. What did we have for decades with adecos y copeyanos before Chavez? Tons of corruption, poverty, crime, poor educational system, huecos en las calles, falta de “viviendas’, no new infrastructures practically since Perez Jimenez., etc.

    So now, are we to expect that these new “anti-Chavez kiddos will turn Venezuela into Chile or Switzerland in a couple years? Or even Colombia or Costa Rica? Of course not. Corruption will remain huge, crime will continue, the economy will still be a mess, education won’t get much better.

    Why? Because that’s who we are, and have proven to be for decades, before, and after Chavez.

    So, I agree with the poster/author of the aforementioned article here:

    The main goal for voting now is to dethrone Chabruto and his putrid regime.

    It’s going to be a close election, with lots of cheating and fraud. So we should all put our eggs in one basket, and vote for the guy / gal with the best chance to beat Thugo Chavez.

    If that’s Capriles, he’s got my vote. What the heck..

    1. Ccschs and you are free to endorse whomever you want, campaign for him as much as you want, even ridicule the other candidates and their supporters if you wish. It is democracy and its gutter is mercifully large enough.

    2. And then, if/when Chavez is GONE, and the transitional government stabilizes things a bit, THEN we should certainly vote for whomever we think is the best candidate available for the presidential position. Get rid of Capriles, for example, and get someone better.

      The transition period should only take a few years, as D. Arria suggests. (enough for him to steal another trillion bolivars?)

      Again, we should all simply vote AGAINST Chavez. For the candidate with the best chance to get rid of him. Or do we want another 12 years of Chavismo, just for voting for candidates who did not stand a chance to begin with anyway?

    3. It's not about "ridiculing" anyone, Daniel. I read these blogs because you guys are the one know know what's going on. I simply happen to agree with those who think now is not the time to go with our personal preferences among candidates. If that were the case, I'd probably vote for MCM, just for kicks.

      It's about kicking out the infamous dictator, NOW. Then we'll see.

  2. Juan Cristóbal6:14 PM

    "Low self-esteem"...? Why you ... damn it, where's my Prozac?!

    1. Prozac will not do you any good. Try pisco sour at your local watering hole. :)

    2. Boludo Tejano7:29 PM

      I recently opened a bottle of Pisco that dated from the 1970s. Maybe I will drink it up upon hearing election results.

  3. Thank you for this food for thought, Daniel. Based on your selection criteria, I'd say you might vote for MCM. For between her and DA, MCM shows the better managed/verbalized campaign.

    1. Syd

      Well, they both have plenty of opportunities to blow it by February 12..... then I suppose I use short straws.

  4. Actually, I think this could be a very good role for Leopoldo right now. If I were Capriles, I'd tell him:

    "Epale, Leo, mira chamo, la vaina aqui se trata de tumbar a Chavez. Tranquilo, que trabajamos juntos, y te resuelvo tremenda posicion en nuestro govierno de transicion.

    Habla tu de esto, mientras yo hablo de otras vainas: "Segun las mas recientes encuestas, nuestra Unidad con Capriles es la unica opcion remotamente capaz de derrotar a Hugo Chavez. Al fin y de una vez por todas"

    Los electores Venezolanos deben entender, que al votar por otros candidatosm equivaldria a votar por Chavez, y quien sabe cuantos anos mas de repression y miseria. Porque? Muy sencillo, porque todos sabemos, con extremada certeza, -- a estas alturas de las encuestas y las imminentes elecciones-- que los demas candidatos no tienen absolutamente ningun chance de derrotar a Chavez.

    Piensenlo bien: que preferimos? un gobierno de Unidad sin Chavez? O mas de lo mismo que hemos soportado durante 12 anos? Depende de tu voto."

    And stuff like that.

  5. Charly7:03 PM

    Looks like another Chavista mob boss just preceded Hugo to the grave today. To paraphrase Freddy Mercury: " Another one bites...".

  6. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Who needs the RNV when you are comparing Capriles with Ortega?

    1. Anonymous

      You need to brush up on your Nicaragua history before you write that I am comparing Capriles and Ortega. I know that being a PJ supporter may be demanding but I would never do such an awful comparison to any Venezuelan politician, not even Chavez.

    2. Anonymous4:37 AM

      This anonymous just did not get it. Anonymous it's quite simple: the Sandinistas (Ortega) were defeated in the 1980's but the politicians that came after Ortega's defeat were so darn bad that Ortega is now back in power.

      What I think Daniel may be saying is that he is afraid, based on what he has seen, that Capriles may not be the right guy out of the current bunch of opposition candidates. Daniel is afraid that Capriles is showing to much similarity as the Nicaraguan politicians who came to power when the Sandinistas were first ousted. Is this right Daniel? Hopefully Capriles is not; as clearly none of us want a future return of the backwards Chavistas should they be defeated this year. Daniel has clearly stated that he will support the opposition candidate who will go against Chavez. But with the opposition primaries a few weeks away there is nothing wrong measuring, and analyzing the choices. Nothing more democratic than this.

      For me is much simpler; just get someone who can beat Chavez that is my one and only goal. Hopefully we will have a leader who will surround himself or herself with the right team. As there will be a lot of hard work ahead.

      Daniel keep up the great work. I noticed that your frustration in the last two years have come to a boil. Hope that you're OK. I enjoy and appreciate all you hard work.

      Alejo, VZLA Paraiso Perdido.

  7. I very much agree with you here Daniel.


    We hold elections to let everyone have their say and vote representatives into office. Some voters take advantage of it, and some choose apathy and don't vote, and others chose tactical voting. Some even try to anticipate what other voters might do, and cast a vote in an unexpected direction not to vote for a candidate, but to affect another candidate's chances.I personally respect the honest vote.If you recall many people voted for Chavez dishonestly out of revenge against the 4th republic....i was there, I saw it.

    But what many of them might not know is that virtually any electoral process is flawed. Some outcomes are surprising. There are a number of different circumstances in which the candidate most desired does not win.
    And people cannot really participate in a democracy when their leaders are completely concealed under layers of mindless, gutless rhetoric.

    The fact is that truthfulness is the necessary condition of democracy and the cardinal virtue of public persons and those who support them.

    However:"The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel." HL Mencken

    But we have to struggle to uphold it even under difficult conditions.

    I lose my vote if I vote for the vote is honorable if I vote for the man or woman of my choice.Once the winner is chosen we can all stand behind him/her.

    1. I'm confused, FP. Are you voting in the MUD primaries?

    2. Syd,

      .. if you have nothing to offer us anything but confusion, i would say you are having quite a good day :)

    3. Don't twist a question to avoid answering it, FP. Are you voting in the MUD primaries?

  8. The Ortega point really nails my biggest fear in this election - really, even bigger than having Chavez win again - that the next president will perform so poorly that it makes Venezuelans wish for the days of Chavez again. Daniel writes about his worry that Capriles will not be (I paraphrase) "good enough," though I think one must also worry about a President who will be "too good," who will aim for undoing what Chavez did with no regard for the consequences.

    Think about Menem in Argentina, for example. He tried to go a different way from his predecessors, and the voters didn't like it. Perhaps if he had been more moderate, there would have been less backlash against him. Many of the things he did weren't bad at all, but they became anathema for being part of "the Menem years."

    It will really be a tightrope for this person to walk, with a long fall on EITHER side. Too much is dangerous, and so is too little. Really, the consequence of either is the same, the question is which is less likely and with whom.

    (By the way, Daniel, I expect to learn European history occasionally from your blog, but I admit I am humbled when I learn U.S. history here. Though in this case it was just the quote, which I did not remember; I knew what it meant when I read it. But kudos for that reference, nonetheless. It does fit very nicely.)

    1. Well, we do have a "nothing with Menem" already here. All the needed reforms that CAP made are now anathema and people 20 years after, even inside PJ and other oppo joints, repeat as a mantra of sorts that they will never do that, even if they know that they will have little choice but to retake some of CAP initiatives. in my book, if you are already screwed anyway, might as well make the best of it :)

      And thanks for appreciating the quote. But do not forget that I lived a few years in the US and I made a point to learn as much about US history as possible, recently finishing on my kindle a book about James K. Polk :)

      I think US history is truly fascinating, one of the grandest experiments in human endeavors, and still in progress which is even better.

  9. I doubt that gettting rid of Chavez can accurately be called "Chavez light". The worst features of Chavezism disappear with the man. Secondarily, removing the PSUV, a top-down communist party with a single, enforced "line", and replacing it with a government based on multi-party support will change things substantially.

    I see Capriles as appealing to lapsed Chavistas. Because Daniel was never tempted by Chavezmania, he may underestimate the size of this group.

    1. Well, you got one thing right: I have never been one to go along with the herd, be it Chavez, Leo or now Henrique. In the end I always decide to support one cause or the other and devote myself to it, but I am usually late in the field and never stay longer than needed. The exception to my life I must confess may have been Leopoldo because I was fascinated by his struggle to get to the IACHR and win his case. Such tenacity I always find admirable and the portent of greater things to come.

  10. Daniel

    I almost agree with your analysis being a libertarian myself. That is why I enjoy MCM and Arria for running on a center right platform.
    I enjoy MCM's emotional delivery and I believe that she truly wants to create a better Venezuela, but intentions are simply not enough. I think that maybe in the future, after founding a political party based on her values, she would be an awesome candidate.
    I also think that Arria is right in most of what he proposes but I believe he is in it just to make a point and bring attention those things that other candidates are just not saying.
    I fully agree with your analysis an Perez and Medina, thus it only leaves Capriles now, since Leopoldo decided to endorse him.
    I am voting for Capriles, even if I do not like PJ and what it has become, because I believe that with Leopoldo's backing and charisma campaigning for him is now the best choice.

    1. Karl

      There is a slight contradiction in your text: how can MCM start building a political party for future influences if for a pseudo pragmatism we decide to vote for Capriles anyway? It does not matter whether Capriles gets 40, or 50, or 60%, chavismo will always say that he does not represent the opposition. I could even push the envelope further saying that Leopoldo will not be an asset because chavismo will prone Capriles reaching agreements with felons, amen of being a felon himself for invading Cuba's embassy. And what not....

      Over-calculating strategy against Chavez now is not only ridiculous, it is a waste of time. Primaries are for the opposition to calibrate forces and forge post electoral alliances according to what inspired the opposition electorate. Only then a successful strategy to confront Chavez can be created. That is one of my gripes against Capriles, that he is using one of the tempting strategies to counter Chavez already in the primaries and thus making it less effective later for the general election.

    2. Daniel
      We have to differentiate between the here and now and what we wish in the future for a better Venezuela. I do believe that given enough time to develop, a center right party will become an option to the democratic left and Chavismo but that time is not now. The same way we voted for Ledezma a few years back, I see our option this year as a compromise to improve on Chavismo.
      I believe that a show of strength for the winner of the primaries will help overcome the critics that will surely argue that a leader that got less than 50% of the vote does not represent the opposition and for better or worse, today that is Capriles.
      The opposition is already shorthanded in resources and message, specially when the government has a likable candidate in Chavez (not my take but all the polls) and is ready to spend its way to reelection in a massive show of populism. As a popular saying affirms "Galan con chequera, mata a cualquiera". Their main handicap is that they are so corrupt and inefficient that they will probably be only partly effective with that strategy.
      In my take, the poorest members of society are always the least likely to vote for change if the freebies that they are getting are not offered. I don't believe that we are going to convince the masses this time around against a formidable foe, if not with a moderate recipe of "pan y circo", even if it upsets my stomach every time I hear it. We should add the guarantees of a free judicial system, clear investment rules and incentives, promises to try to end both white collar and "ordinary" crime, etc. but always guaranteeing "pan y circo". We should point to PDVAL, PDVSA, Balneario El Guaire, etc. as proofs of the incompetent nature of Chavismo but at the same time validate our desire to provide those services efficiently. I make not like the message, but it is a necessary one and Capriles is campaigning with it.

    3. By the way, just found and interesting article that reads similar to my post in CNN:

  11. Daniel, thanks for noting that about CAP. I was citing an example I know and, despite having "served time" in Venezuela, I admit I know little about CAP and his policies, at least in detail. But I'm not at all surprised to hear something like that holds for Venezuela.

    And I certainly recall your personal U.S. history, and predilection for the larger version. (It was a sort of back-handed complient, by taking a swipe at myself - and maybe reminding myself I need to read more about it.) I certainly agree that U.S. history is well worth studying. I won't argue that it can be repeated anywhere, or even successfully mimicked, but I believe there is always something there than can apply in a meaningful way to other countries. I was reading something recently about corrupt cronies of the President and other bigwigs. And how were they undone, you might ask? Mostly one honest man, in a similar position, with significant help from the free press. So the lesson there may be that Venezuela is screwed. :/

  12. Anonymous8:35 AM

    geez, you still exist?!? with all the whining about chavez, you lead people to think you'd be disappeared by now. drifted into irrelevancy perhaps

  13. Anonymous10:20 PM

    A mi, todo esto me recuerda a la ultima elección presidencial de Colombia... Un candidato declarado ganador por todas las encuestadoras y presidente de una vez en todas las redes sociales... hasta que llega el día de las elecciones y todo los que creían que las cartas estaban echadas salen asombrados...
    Para mi, el 12F muchos van a terminar de entender el por que las encuestadoras nunca pegan una en este país, el por que siempre nos dicen que vamos a ganar cuando perdemos y que vamos a perder cuando ganamos.
    Es muy triste todo lo que esta pasando con esta división de facto que esta pasando en la oposición, se que muchos no se han dado cuenta, a lo mejor por la emoción del momento que se vive... pero estamos divididos ahora en dos oposiciones, una que supuestamente representa el pasado y otra que supuestamente representa el futuro... una de ellas, pretende ganar ganar las primarias habiéndole mierda a la que acusa de representar el pasado, sin pensar en que va a hacer cuando, de llegase a ganar, esa que representa al pasado la va a tener montada en el mismo barco... como piensan contrarrestar los ataques del gobierno cuando por sus propias afirmaciones le dicen al país, que lo que ha estado diciendo el chavismo todos estos años es cierto... que (gran parte de) la oposición representa a ese pasado oscuro de la historia venezolana... esto me parece lo peor que le ha podido pasar a la oposición en muchisimo tiempo... ese pasado/futuro que quieren meternos a todos en la mente.

  14. El ultimo anonymous,

    If you could be a little clearer and more specific it would be nice.

    But one thing: Chavez being right about the ills of the 4rth Republic required no genius, nor is he the only one that parrots that....but unfortunatly at this point the 4rth Republic looks like paradise compared to Chavismo.


Comments policy:

1) Comments are moderated after the fourth day of publication. It may take up to a day or two for your note to appear then.

2) Your post will appear if you follow the basic rules. I will be ruthless in erasing, as well as those who replied to any off rule comment.

Do not be repetitive.
Do not bring grudges and fights from other blogs here (this is the strictest rule).
This is an anti Chavez/chavismo blog, Readers have made up their minds long ago. Trying to prove us wrong is considered a troll. Still, you are welcome as a chavista to post if you want to explain us coherently as to why chavismo does this or that. We are still waiting for that to happen.
Insults and put downs are frowned upon and I will be sole judge on whether to publish them.