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.