Winning, yet losing


I’m not feeling too optimistic about the whole Leopoldo López saga.

Last week, the Interamerican Court for Human Rights decided that López had been unfairly barred from running in Venezuela’s elections. In a binding decision, it ordered Venezuela’s institutions to allow him to run for the office he chooses. López was ecstatic, understandably so.

The best-case scenario for López, the one that the government should take if it followed its own rules, would be for the State to immediately accept the ruling and lift every roadblock it has put in López’s path.

Sadly for him, and for all of us, that’s unlikely to happen.

Instead, the government has hinted that it will take a middle-of-the-road, ni chicha ni limonada approach.

Sure, everyone, from Chávez to the Ombuds-lady, from the Solicitor General to the Prosecutor General, has predictably blasted the decision as an intrusion into Venezuela’s so-called sovereignty. Everyone has basically said the decision is worth squat.

Everyone, that is, except the Electoral Council and the Supreme Tribunal.

The Electoral Council said they would abide by what the Supremes decide. And the Supremes … have said nothing. Until they do so, we won’t know if chavismo will allow López to sign up if he wins the primary. Until they make a decision, chavismo can always say they are not obeying it, but they are not ignoring it either. They are … thinking about it.

The opposition umbrella group has rightly said that López can run in the primary, and he is ready to go. But chavismo has basically adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

If López wins, they may not let him register. If López doesn’t win, he may say that it was because voters were afraid to support him, knowing that deep down, the government was not going to allow him to register, that the government’s approach left too much doubt in the voters’ heads.

And he may be right.

López clearly, desperately needs this issue to go away. He needs to get back on message, talking about jobs, crime, oil, and how we are going to get out of this mess. But he can’t really do that when he is forced to continue discussing his political rights, when chavismo is playing orca to his candidacy’s baby seal.

It’s the worst of both worlds for Leopoldo, I’m afraid. As a voter, I would like to view his candidacy fairly, on par with those of all the others, and evaluate them all on their merits. But it’s hard to do that when I suspect that a vote for López may be a vote down the drain, a vote for chaos.

Last Friday López won. But he’s still losing. And that pretty much sucks.

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    • Sorry, hit the wrong key too fast…

      Indeed, it is the problem, chavismo will use the Lopez candidacy for its political purposes, the best way they think it can torpedo the unity of the opposition.

      This being said we can use the reverse argument: a Lopez winner of 1.5 million votes, with the support of the other guys whose total count is 2 million goes tot he CNE to register his official candidacy backed by 3.5 million primary voters. Imagine the political cost for Chavez not accepting it… Immediately his eventual reelection is not accepted internationally because Venezuela cannot go against the IACHR in such a frontal manner. This is not about abstention, this is about violation of international law and there are limits that even Chavez cannot cross (unless of course a few countries use Chavez to wreck the OAS but that is another story).

      This would not be a Guatemala situation where the bimbo clearly violated a constitutional provision and was warned long, long in advance that she could not run then but fine 4 years from now. And yet she insisted until her party was left without a candidate. People got it and had no trouble in voting massively for other guys….

      • Is that the plan? Let’s all vote for Leopoldo so, when his candidacy is rejected, we are left without a candidate but, hell, we have shown the world that Chávez is a dictator?

        I just don’t see how he gets around this. He needs the issue to go away, and the government is not playing ball.

        • No, it is not the plan but it is a plan. These are high stakes politics and the MUD has a golden opportunity to prove it can play big league. The thing is that demonstrating continually how undemocratic chavismo has become is how long term you get rid of that (something that Argentina has been unable to do with peronismo which somehow managed to retain a feeble aura of non-fascist).

          The regime is not going to let the issue go easily, thus there is a need to find creative ways to use it. this plan or another, but a plan, a real plan please, Señores de la MUD.

          • In fact that sounds a lot to me like the 2005 boycott to parliamentarian elections to show the world that Chavez was a dictator, it was a total and complete failure.

          • How about the 2011 version: threatening to relinquish parliamentary immunity en masse in solidarity with Ismael García, should that materialize. Marío Silva was just rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect.

          • That thumbs down, Daniel, with all respect, was from me.
            I don’t often agree with Alek but here I have to.
            It’s 2005 all over again.
            We need to challenge Chávez in all ways and make jokes about him not having cojones.
            But we would need to do that everywhere, every time, with messages, with symbols so that everyone knows we are calling Chavez a coward. Your plan is 2005, period.

    • Ultimately, I think this will doom LL’s candidacy. There’s just no way people are going to vote for him en masse and pretend this is not an issue.

      • In the end, I think he’ll step down in the end. He got a poll boost after last week (as shown unscientifically in internet forums and the like), but it is a mirage. People will come to the sad realisation that he’s unelectable in the current situation.

        Could the government, THEN or even AFTER the primaries let him run? Perhaps, but I believe LL is a lot more mature than people give him credit for, and will not torpedo the primary-elected candidate.

        BTW, the person who really would like LL to step down should be Henrique Capriles, as the former Chacao Mayor gnaws on his “natural” electoral base. Just as Maria Corina…

        • You know, I was having this argument with Juan the other day. Juan thinks – and he sort of convinced me – that LL’s message is so populist now that he may end up siphoning votes equally from HCR and PP. “Every substantive proposal he has is about a big government solution to an everyday problem”. How he takes votes from tough-on-crime MCM or beato henrique isn’t that clear to me.

          • According to a very credible source, the last C21 poll puts LL in second place after HCR (and no, I don’t have the actual slides). LL is trying to build bridges to the UNT+Ledezma+AD axis to at the end form a sort of TOCOHE front whoever is in second place before january…

  1. Exactly! this CIDH ruling has been a huge gift for Chavez.

    They now can manipulate the primaries as much as they want and make opposition voters as unhappy as posssible, because the primaries are now unfair.

    I think they will let him run, but only a few days before the actual primaries just to make everybody a little bit more frustrated.

  2. The main problem I see – at least for Venezuela, not for López – is that we are not aware how to really work as a team. We have a presidential system and one with a particularly strong central figure. The president is more than elsewhere the big everything. How much time would the losing candidates devote to supporting the campaign once THE candidate has been selected? If they were to spend a lot of energy still, if they were ready to go to San Fernando de Apure and to Maturín in simultaneous events to support whatever candidate we choose, there is no way Chavismo can win. But that is a big if.

    As for López: perhaps candidates can agree NOW and say so publicly that if he is not allowed, the second in votes will take over. But that is again a new if.

    • Is it feasible – and reasonable – to run a two-ballot primary? One with LL, and one without. That way you end up with a clear result no matter what his final status.

      • Feasible-No, the MUD is paying CNE for the primaries and they don’t have that much money.

        Reasonable- Methinks not, not confusing to you, plenty confusing to the average voter I think.

        • Roberto, I remember that post, and while I can certainly appreciate the advantages, I wonder about Roberto N’s point – “confusing to the average voter” – as I think it applies to either of your proposed methods. I think two ballots (with/without LL) would be easier to grasp for more voters, anyways, if not necessarily most.

          As for expense, Roberto’s ballot ideas would save on printing costs, certainly. Would that be the only additional cost, or does the MUD have to cover overtime? Because there would certainly be some of that with two ballots, or with either method Roberto suggests, as any of the three is more complicated and time-consuming than a simple one-vote ballot.

          • The primaries already have a ballot method: simple majority. It was agreed upon (around a myriad of different choices, some far more complicated than an instat runoff) over a year ago.

  3. The question of whether Lopez will be allowed to run may tend to drag him down, even though he is legally entitled to run and to take office if elected.

    If he wins the primary under these circumstances, he must be the candidate. If he is not allowed to run at that point, Chavez will have announced the death of democracy in Venezuela, and, in the medium term, of his government and party.

    Nothing Lopez does can prevent the use of arbitrary power against him, and the same is true of Capriles or anyone else. But it is of critical importance that the primaries be conducted democratically, with everyone participating. If I were Capriles, I would let it be known that, if I were elected, I would offer Lopez a high position of his choice, should he come in second or third.

  4. Unfortunately, the regime will play with this like the cat with the mouse, always seeking to secure the best outcome and to create as much disarray as possible in the oppo camp. Probably, the best way to get out of this conundrum would be for LL to reach some sort of political agreement with the frontrunner to support him for next year’s election with the provision that LL would be placed next in line as the best electoral offer after the transition president is done.

    • That’s exactly right. LL is super-smart. He also has a super-big ego. Will he be smart enough to realize they’re exploiting his ego to disrupt the oppo primary process? Or will his personal beef with PJ and UNT (both of them parties he’s left in the last six years) mean he allows himself to be used in a government plot to sabotage a primary? One way or another, we’ll get the measure of the man in the coming months…

      • It´s clear to me that he´ll try to go all the way. I think that it is highly unlikely that he´ll play kingmaker at this time. Why go through all that effort only to capitulate in the end? He will not aquiesce, he won´t budge. In the end he is a crusader for freedom (or so he sees himself) ready to rid our fatherland of certain doom. He will take down anyone and anything in his path. This is a virtue in most cases, but in this specific scenario I am not so sure.
        The decision is Capriles´. It is a quagmire for him and the rest of the MUD, and this is exactly what Chavez is aiming for. If Capriles offers him a high post too soon in exchange for him not running it will seem like a weakness on his behalf, but if he doesn´t and at the same time the Government doesn´t take a clear stand, he will be seen as selfish and petty. On the other hand letting him run without a clear prospect of his chances to run after the primaries are over will only add confusion to the process. They are in a pickle.
        best case scenario is to let LL participate in the primaries. At the same time everyone that takes part in them promises that notwithstanding the results whomever ends up winning will take as VP the person that comes up second. If LL were to win and then could not take part in the elections we will always have a VP to run in his stead with all the moral authority that anyone can garner, and if not we won´t have a problem.
        In any case it is going to be complicated.

      • Remember Ledezma Vs. Aristobulo in 2008? That’s what’s gonna happen Quico if they don’t let him run. I dare saying Ledezma can beat Chavez if he is the candidate after LL is not allowed to run

      • LL surely knows that he and HCR are the frontrunners. Everyone else, except perhaps MCM, is dead in the water, and that includes Perez. I have said repeatedly that MCM’s time can and will come. I don’t buy the argument that Venezuela is a “machista” country, at least in absolute terms. You don’t have to have a pair of balls to be an excellent manager and decision-maker. But her time is not now. In fact, I could envision a pact between the three in which those not running would be placed in positions that would enable them to gain political and executive experience. This pact would make them such a formidable force that I do not see how Chavez can win the elections, provided there is no outright fraud, something that will be increasingly likely as the election day approaches, or a “patada a la mesa.” But this pact should include the provision that the constitution is modified to do away with re-election. The term would be 6 or 7 years, but that is it.

        It would say something like this:

        “Article XXX: There is no presidential re-election, period. No matter what you do or who wants you to run again, you get out of office at the end of your term. You can advise the new president if solicited, but that’s it. Or you can go to pasture. Your choice. And if you ever attempt to subvert this constitutional provision – a la Honduran – we’ll send you to El Rodeo to serve a term there.”

        Of course, at the end of the day, with politicians everything is mostly about ego, something we cannot afford, as countless people have already stated. LL should look himself in the mirror of Rafael Caldera, a very pernicious figure in the history of our country. I guess his work is cut out for him.

        • “And if you ever attempt to subvert this constitutional provision – a la Honduran – we’ll send you to El Rodeo to serve a term there.” I very much agree.
          Viva Honduras!! BTW-is Zelaya still receiving a paycheck from Chavez and using a
          Venezuelan plane? ANd, it really bugged me that “el pueblo” did not seem to care what Chavez was doing /trying to do- in Honduras..
          (Most chavistas would say “Chavez did nothing wrong in Honduras”?)

          • Re. THe ballots printed in Venezuela for the “Constituent Assembly” [illegal]referendum
            and the computer from Venezuela- with the results in it found -and there hadn’t even been a vote..and other example- Chvez speech to “attack like bees” , and sending
            chavistas -esp. Nicholas Maduro- became a chavista star there…

  5. I think, and I hope, LL will just be big and smart about this. He must want this very badly. I feel for him. But he will have to sacrifice. Perhaps in exchange for some position but sacrifice nonetheless. If he and the MUD are clear about this, they should be able to outmaneuver the Chavistas, letting them think they are running the show along the way.

  6. Well, being my customary self I shall go against the prevailing wisdom of comments and post above, and will say that LL is the Nick Clegg of Venezuela.

    In my opinion, he has become the king maker. Regardless of what chavismo throws his way. He has developed a political platform, that showed some rather impressive numbers in party primaries. He has travelled the country, a la Betancourt, in the last 2-3 years, and has established (I’ve been told) networks of local support pretty much nationwide. He sits, comfortably, 2nd, 3rd, in polls (not a fan of polls but well…) despite the fact that he hasn’t held office since 2008.

    What he needs to do is pact with MUD and throw his lot behind the eventual winner. Making the most of the fact that he is political limbo, but with a binding decision of an international court blowing his sails, he should start campaigning, like anteayer. Ferociously. What are the chavistas going to do, forbid him from campaigning, from travelling up and down the country?

    If he wins the primaries, which I doubt, Chavez loses in October.

    If he is not allowed to participate in the primaries, and throws his lot instead behind Henrique, or Pablo, or MCM, Chavez loses in October.

    If he is allowed to participate in the primaries, and comes 2nd, or 3rd, he still has a huge amount of votes, network, political platform and support to lend the winning candidate, Chavez loses in October.

    If, however, caudillo tendency gets the best of him, and he divides the oppo vote, Chavez wins in October.

    So whatever chavismo do, short of assassinating him, he has got, IMO, the power to decide who will be the next president of Venezuela.

    • I go one further. LL should use half his gunpowder to promote the primaries, but staying out of the running, himself. The rest of his gunpowder should be used to promote whomever won the primaries, not him. That is his ticket to the presidency, not this time around, and Venezuela’s ticket out of chavez, this time around.

        • AB said–“What are the chavistas going to do, forbid him from campaigning, from travelling up and down the country?”
          Exactly- get back to work !!!

      • agree, ET. LL needs patina. He’s too young/fresh of a politician for the national stage. (I think the same, if not more so, of MCM.) Next time ’round, I say. This does not mean he can’t or won’t pull some strings to sway the vote, one way or the other, for the winning candidate in the MUD.

  7. i still don’t understand why you guys think his ego is all inflated. I haven’t noticed any caudillistic tendencies on him, really.Maybe i haven’t followed him up enough but so far i disagree

  8. I agree. Leopoldo’s ego only seems inflated because he has been banned from elected office for four years! Yes, he has robot eyes, but he is the only candidate with a clear, inspiring, competent and possible plan for a future and better socially democratic Venezuela.

    • Competent? Inspiring? Cutidón cutidé cutipué cutidó cutilé cutier cutié cutisé cutiplán? Cutiel cutiver cutidá cutidé cutiró? Cutién cutisu cutisí cutitió?


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