Yesterday, Miranda Governor and former opposition candidate Henrique Capriles gave a press conference in which he articulated very well some important positions about what is happening in Venezuela, among them:
-Nobody voted for Nicolas Maduro to be President. Nobody named Nicolas Maduro Vice-President for this term
-He asked Nicolas: “Do you need abuse of power and the power of the State to go to elections?…What are you afraid of?
-The Supreme Court is not the “people” and they took advantage of Chavez’ funeral yesterday to release their decision that Maduro can be interim President and run for President at the same time, contradicting their 2006 sentence in which they basically said the opposite.
-He noted that the opposition asked to go to Chavez’ funeral and was told in no uncertain terms “You better not”
-He called Maduro a liar, referring to the lies about Chavez’ health, something which should be noted in the campaign, as many Chavistas do feel that they were lied to.
-And in a very significant remark, he stated: “The Cuban Government will not rule in Venezuela”
Unfortunately, in the so called “democratic” Venezuela, this press conference was covered by only one TV station in Venezuela (And dozens abroad), as private stations were told not to cover it.
Now, if Capriles’ intent was to re-energize his candidacy and campaign, this was a great press conference, emotional, clear, in your face and making the important points. I think he only forgot to mention directly the intervention of Venezuela’s military in the campaign.
But if this was just a preamble to his withdrawal from the upcoming campaign, it was a terrible appearance.
I say this for a very simple reason: It was clear that this was going to happen. Chavismo has spent the last two months trying to find a way for Maduro to become the President as a way of having him be candidate and President at the same time. Even bringing Chávez back from Cuba was done only to try to find a way to have him be sworn in, so that Maduro could be ratified as Vice-President. And if this failed, it was clear that the Supreme Court would use its silly putty justice to make it so.
Nothing is a surprise. And there is no question that Maduro is the likely winner, but this is no excuse for the opposition to hand over the country to Chavismo. And Capriles would be doing that, because the person that could mount the best campaign against Nicolas Maduro at this time is Henrique Capriles. In some sense, he has been running for President all these months ever since Chávez went to Cuba. If he thought there were scenarios under which he would think of quitting, he should have done so and let someone else get the spotlight.
And yes, Maduro as Candidate and President is a formidable contender only because of Chávez’ legacy. It is unlikely that Capriles can beat him and I hope he does not, because Chavismo should deal with the economic mess they created.
However, let me start by noting that Nicolas Maduro, sympathy and endorsement included, ain’t Hugo Chávez. Far form it. Maduro has proven to be more light weight than I thought. He does not articulate well, he mispronounces, he loses track of ideas, he rambles on, he has no sense of humor, no charisma and he does not have the fervor of the people that Chávez had.
And yes, I think Maduro will win at this time. But you have to remember that Chávez’ passing means that politics is back in Venezuela. For the first time in fourteen years, one man will not dominate political discussion like Chávez did. This is a new political game and Maduro has to prove that he is good at it.
The first thing he needs, is to achieve a strong victory that will give him a mandate over other Chavistas, by saying I am almost as popular as Hugo
And that I don’t think he will get.
Chavismo wants to use all the stops, all the abuses, all of the Government’s power for the simple reason that they know Maduro is not adored (for that matter he is not even known) as much as Chávez was. Chavismo also understands that it is next to impossible to achieve the levels of low abstention seen on October 7th. Even with the effect of Chávez recent passing, it will be difficult to spend as much as last year and be as effective as last year. Shift abstention by a few percent and Maduro can score a narrow victory that would make his Presidency weak to start with.
Of course, Capriles has to re-energize his supporters. And that is why I say if that was the objective, that as a very good start.
Chavismo has a tough road ahead. They lost a charismatic leader who avoided at all costs allowing anyone to compete with him. They have an economy that is so distorted that it requires tough policies to improve things. And they have politicians not used to playing the game of politics among themselves.
Let’s not help them overcome this, but not being there to occupy the space that almost half of Venezuela rightfully occupies today.