Our Knight in Guaro Armour

My sense is that the opposition’s neargasm at the news that Lara State’s wildly popular governor, Henry Falcón, is leaving Chávez’s party, is somewhat misplaced.

Don’t get me wrong, Henry Falcón is the most interesting politician in Venezuela today. An odd mixture of undoubted competence and hard-left roots, a chavista populist with a base of support all his own and an unparalleled willingness to stand up against Chávez’s authoritarian impositions, Henry Falcón is a cliché busting oddity in a political scene not known for producing them.

My sense is that Chávez has excellent reason to fear Falcón: a seasoned politician who’s hard to caricature and can draw passionate support from the chavista base, Falcón threatens Chávez’s hold on the country in a way that, say, Antonio Ledezma will never be able to.

Is news of his break from PSUV good for the opposition? Depends on who you mean by "the opposition". My sense is that a guy like Falcón is never in a million years going to join an opposition that holds its press conferences in La Castellana. Hell will be retrofitted as an LNG cryogenics plant before he shares a tarima with Cesar Pérez Vivas, Alfonso Marquina or Henry Ramos.

There are deep, tribal fissures at play here, so it’s not really a surprise Falcón bolted for PPT, a party that, much like Falcón himself, mixes a dreamy-eyed romantic’s infatuation with revolutionary-empowerment rhetoric with a basic unwillingness to take shit from Chávez. He’ll be like a fish in water with those guys. 

Falcón owns his state’s electorate in a way few other governors do, so this definitely puts a few extra AN seats into play ahead of September’s legislative election. 

But there are bigger implications as well, some of which nickname-bandit Kico Bautista gets to in the second-half of his TalCual column this week: could Falcón position himself to head a kind of dissident leftie third pole in Venezuelan politics over the coming years? One decidedly hostile to the old parties, bringing together the detritus left behind by Chavez’s repeated schisms and all those despairing at ever beating Chávez with an opposition brand that’s damaged beyond all repair? There’s no time for this to happen before September, but looking forward to 2012 the most probable thing is that who knows.

What’s clear is that, for years, polling has shown that disillusionment with Chávez translates not into support for the opposition, but into support for a-fresh-face-unsullied-by-connections-with-the-past-and-who’s-kind-of-like-the-old-Chávez-we-liked-but-not-at-all-like-the-new-scary-ranting-nutty-Chávez-we-have-now-and-who-is-not-a-sifrino-but-who-gets-things-done, please.

I’d always suspected that you’d have to go headhunting in Narnia to find this mythical beast. Turns out we just had to go to Barquisimeto.


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