Why are we talking about Antonio Ledezma in the first place?

Quico says: So over the last few days readers have been complaining, both in the comments section and over email, that we never wrote anything about Metropolitan Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma’s hunger strike at the OAS office in Caracas.

Ledezma’s protest, over stalled financial transfers from the Central Government that were making him late with payments to municipal workers, dominated the opposition’s newscape throughout much of last week. And so this blog’s silence on the subject struck readers as, to say the least, dissonant.

Everybody’s been talking about this,” the typical email said, “what’s with you?!”

I’ve had a hard time formulating my discomfort with these attitudes, but I think they come down to this. After last November’s state and local elections, I assumed that the opposition’s three big wins – Ledezma’s in the Caracas Metropolitan Mayorship, Carpiles’s in Miranda State, and Ocariz’s in Petare (Municipio Sucre) – had positioned those three to fight it out for the mantle of opposition leader.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the big Ledezma-Ocariz-Capriles Battle Royale for oppo leadership: Globovision decided there was no need to bother with it. Ravell had one glance at the threesome and made a decision.

The candidate in 2012 is going to be Ledezma. End of story.

And so, for the last 8 months, Antonio Ledezma’s had a kind of automatic open invite to Aló, ciudadano. Every chavista outrage against him has been covered in the kind of technicolor detail that your average oppo politico can only dream of. While you need to turn to the inside pages of El Nacional to find out about the National Guard’s power grab against the Miranda State’s police barracks in Caucagua, every stapler taken out of Ledezma’s power has been news-cycle leading stuff. While only wonky insiders get to hear about Ocariz’s 60%+ approval ratings in Petare, even Ledezma’s wife – his wife! – has become a regular on Globo.

Which explains why his protest at OAS gets picked up on the WashPost Editorial page but the stuff Ocariz and Capriles do is seen as the stuff of deepest Inside Baseball.

None of which is necessarily to criticize Ledezma – arguably, his ability to put Globovisión in his pocket is a sign of his political skill – but rather to note that there’s a certain naïveté to readers’ outrage that we failed to jump on the Ledezma hunger strike wagon.

People have a sense that, you know, “this must be big time news, after all, it’s on Globovisión round-the-clock” without the insight to see that, in fact, it’s big news because it’s on Globovisión round-the-clock. Ten years into the Chávez era and we still haven’t quite grasped that “news” isn’t some platonic category that exists outside and beyond what the media choose to highlight. Instead, it’s the media’s decision to publish something that turns that something into news.

I freely admit that I’m sore about this, in part, because I think Globo is backing the wrong horse: Carlos Ocariz, in particular, has the street cred, work ethic, political wits and generational appeal to absolutely dwarf Ledezma, and I’m sure that would’ve become clear if he’d had a tenth of the access to Globo’s airwaves Ledezma has had. Even Capriles breaks the old genetic-adeco mould in ways Ledezma will never be able to.

But that’s by the by. The point is that, for the Nth time, Globo has ended up playing a role it has no right to play: final oppo arbiter. Unelected, unaccountable kingmaker.

The upshot is that the kind of open debate the opposition needed to have for itself with itself about who should lead it never took place. It wasn’t allowed to take place. It was pre-empted by an editorial decision in Alta Florida.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Globovision’s role confusion (are we a news station?! are we a political party?!) has been tremendously damaging to the opposition.