El Tigre and the opposition mononeuron


Over on the Spanish site, Raul Aular bucks Caracas Chronicles’s anti-dinosaur orthodoxy with a post making the case for Eduardo Fernández’s candidacy. It’s a neat piece of conventional wisdom-shredding, and makes a cogent case for bumping Fernández up from No Hoper to Second Tier status. Certainly, his campaign videos are rather more serious than some of his notional fellow-candidates’ (and do click on that link, it’s hysterical.)

Talking privately with Juan a few days back, he also made the point that, whatever else you want to say about him, Fernández is just about the only oppo candidate drawing clear contrasts between himself and his contenders. His pitch, centred on the need for an experienced hand and a fatherly figure to guide what will be a difficult transition, is probably the best somebody with his skill set could muster: but it’s also notable for going beyond the broken-record Progreso-Sin-Exclusiones mantra emanating in unison out of the younger cohort. He may not exactly be setting the intertubes on fire, but at least he does seem to have a rationale for his candidacy that’s not entirely ego-based.

With the oppo’s history of damaging divisions, it’s arguably a very good thing that most oppo candidates are fanatical about touting their commitment to unity and shy away from even oblique attacks on one another. In the Venezuelan context, there’s a lot to praise in that attitude.

The danger, though, is that with zero policy differences on display, the oppo primary dissolves into a straight up beauty contest. That may be what the moment demands, but you couldn’t say it’s particularly good for democracy, could you?

Which is all a way of saying something I never thought I’d say: all in all, I’m glad Eduardo Fernández is running.

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  1. “but at least he does seem to have a rationale for his candidacy that’s not entirely ego-based.”

    This guy just hides his true hunger for the presidency better than the others, which allows him to have a greater hunger without anyone noticing it. Did we forget so soon Fernandez’s past tantrums? He just wants it baaaad.

    …and, in this video, he’s just using an old advertising formula: Say one true thing, then another, and people will believe the third thing you say. The problem here is says a couple of truths, then makes a promise (which people will believe because of the formula), but he doesn’t even hint at *how*. Give me a break; that’s politics rolled back to Caldera’s format.

  2. Would this be the same Mr. Fernandez who let Rafa shoulder him aside in a prior election run-up? Would this be the same Mr. Fernandez who was an integral part of the Copei/AD duo that, so idiosyncratically, brought this whole mess about? Does a leopard change its spots?

  3. At least his message of “the FANB are not going to respect any of these young guys and gals” is clear and direct. It’s more than you can say of any of his fellow dinosaurs and it makes him interesting. He’s proposing an idea worth debating.

    • He does’t say how to create well-paid jobs. “Investment from abroad” is the most concrete thing I could distill from there.
      How? What’s the difference between South Korea and China on one side and Angola and Congo and Venezuela on the other? That the first group have slanted eyes only?
      He repeats too much the same thing but doesn’t go beyond.
      And mind: he is better than Leopoldo López, with his Venezuela bonita y linda.

    • “the FANB are not going to respect any of these young guys and gals”

      Isn’t that an insult to the FANB? I mean, he’s implying that they are not institutional enough to respect a president elected by the soberano pueblo. That statement does not exemplify the “maturity” he claims is his advantage!

      Besides, that the FANB doesnt respect the younger guys and gals is just as dangerous as the FANB will follow “meeeee”.

    • “the FANB are not going to respect any of these young guys and gals”

      Though, most certainly, Rangel Silva, Cliver Alcala, Rodriguez Chacin et al se van a parar firmes and will respect a batequebrao that hasn’t won an election in his life…

  4. His basic problem, imho, is that he keeps barking about a “crisis” when, in fact, I don’t think a majority of Venezuelans think there is a crisis. Sure, there are problems, but the economy is growing again, oil is high and there is money in the streets. At least when I was there a few months ago, I felt like this was not a country that was falling apart at the seams. It is, but it hides it.

  5. Actually, he makes some interesting points. He offers a clear difference between him and the others. Still, I don’t see his candidacy flying with the opposition base, because of being part of the old guard and his position as Chavez’s favorite.

    However, this worry me more:

    “The danger, though, is that with zero policy differences on display, the oppo primary dissolves into a straight up beauty contest.”

    OT: The whole airplane crisis (3 emergency landings in 24 hours) deserve a post of its own.

  6. Dear Firepigette, The spots referred to aren’t the list you mention: the idiom refers to the unlikelihood of a politcial player – or any player – altering his longstanding basic behaviour and can be iterated either as a statement, “A leopard doesn’t change his spots”, or a question with an inference, this last being the option I chose.

    • I understood Neddie,

      But people do change all the time….ideas are not made in stone,attitudes evolve continually: whereas spots are usually permanent, at least on a Leopard.

  7. I agree with Juan. I think lack of jobs is not the primary worry for the average Venezuelan. It is to the average Spanish, Greek, or even US citizen, but for Venezuelans it’s perhaps a close second to a group of other big issues that include crime, collapsing infrastructure, generalized daily chaos, empty promises such as housing and health care, inflation, and the notion that inmense amounts of money are being burned away in corruption, benefits to other countries, etc. I’m not saying that that the current job situation in Venezuela is good but I have a feeling that the average guy is more worried about getting robbed and killed, not having money to pay for private health care and having to depend on public hospitals, wondering how much is this week’s grocery shopping going to cost and not only whether he’ll be able to afford it, but whether he’ll find milk, or coffee. And finally, I think the average guy is beginning to ask himself how and why is everything around him turning so dismal and chaotic.

    Having said all that, I was surprised by the video. I think it was balanced and well delivered. Too bad he focused on the wrong problem.

    • Ask my students: lack of jobs is a primary concern for them… Youth unemployment in Venezuela is higher than for its European counterparts, and the INE’s numbers fail to reflect this as they have included misioneros, sexual workers and buhoneros as labourers.

      • But your students actually are among the 10% best educated sector of Venezuelan society (I know it can be hard to believe sometimes). Would you say they are average?

        Venezuela’s real unemployment is over 50%, as those who work in the “informal sector” are basically unemployed but don’t have dole money as in Europe. Still, millions of people in Venezuela don’t see this and buy the regime’s argument.
        They are just too used to the cargo cult and know nothing else.
        I remember a squatter stating he had to had a flat he had just occupied because he “finished bachillerato”. Well, boy, try to tell that to people in Europe with a very good education: your university degrees entitle you to a free house.

  8. What’s hysterical about the video, Quico? I don’t see it, outside of a comiquita-like graphic with a few subliminal notes to remind viewers of the national anthem. The content of Fernández’ speech comes across as sound — politically speaking. And it’s nice to see some maturity on a slate of pretty candidates (LL, MCM) or arrecho ones (PP). I think it’s strategically smart for el Tigre to invoke plurality, to not antagonize chavismo, to call for a diversified economy, to not advocate for overturning current social and judicial institutions, and to.present the need for maturity and experience. In fact, the whole set up of the video – background, content and voice, to say nothing of the political actor – converge on peace and tranquility. That’s smart. For most Venezuelans have had it up to here with 12 years of presidentially provoked conflict.

    • Oh, I see, Quico. You meant click on the hyperlink to Sosa’s coming-out party, on the balcony of her apartment. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call hysterical the amateurish efforts at videotaping her “I wannabe president” message. They’re rather sweet, if ineffectual.

  9. Can I just add that two, TWO posts on Eduardo Fernández in the same day, in two different languages, is probably enough to get our blogging license revoked.

  10. I think the Juan has hit a nail on its head very well with his insight:”…His basic problem, imho, is that he keeps barking about a “crisis” when, in fact, I don’t think a majority of Venezuelans think there is a crisis. …”
    For Chavismo’s plan is to correr la arruga hasta el final, once the card house comes crumbling down, all the crooks would have their golden eggs stashed away, their retirement funds well taken care a,d even some chavismo funds in place to continuar jodiendo.
    I would go as far as to especulate there will be samll arms and ammunition safehouses and caches hidden all over the place… Money, arms and worse of all a narrative to continue working on the socialist dream and how it was the hard right who took chavez out of power (killed him?) , so by the time the CRISIS hits!, and it willhit hard! the narrative is all preared to blame the newcomers….

    The best line in Eduardo F/ speech is the one about not only looking at how to win an election (mind you, we still need to do that, and also cobrar!…) , but how to potentially govern after that.

    The worse line, the one when he puts emphasis on “puentes”… for me a reference to borron y cuenta nueva to incumbent chavismo and pro the camp that advocates for golden brideges with chavistas in excahnge for governability…

    Sorry have to work now, would like to share more of my thoughts…

  11. What did EF say that Ledezma couldn’t also say? And what has EF done all the while Ledezma has been a non stop machine working for Venezuela against all obstacles? Instead of stating that he’s better than the younger ones, EF should be offering others his support. Show that he’s a team player and not a spotlight hog.

  12. The next president’s key job won’t be governing, it will be managing transition. It’s not quite the same. EF seems to grasp that better than the rest. For that he gets my respect.

    • “EF seems to grasp that better than the rest.” Why, because he states it? What has EF *done* especially recently that demonstrates “managing transition”? Some of the “younger ones” have shown, not only that they can manage transitionary times, but that they can get things done and increase popularity in adversary conditions.

      EF gets my respect only for “stating” which others have earned with their actions. He lost most of my respect with his *actions* in the past, after which he’s done little to earn it back.

    • Now that I think of it, if grasping the concept of managing transition is so important, what has he done to get others to grasp it, too? Your pointing to his being the only one grasping it, points to lack of preparations in managing the coming transition.

    • “The next president’s key job won’t be governing”

      So why is his youtube campaign centered on growth, when we have all these ticking atomic bombs that the next president needs to grasp, too?

      I don’t get why you guys seem to be giving this guy what seems like a free pass, when he represents the very dinosaurs you thumbscrewed not more than a few months ago.

      • You raise some good points, ET. The way I see it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDRKPP5ItwI&feature=related – just 1/7), AL comes across as a serious and competent member of MUD with some very firm ideas as to how to get the country out of “crisis”. He repeats that word, “crisis”, several times, punturing the air with his index finger. It comes across as anger. And not just in the above noted video link.

        EF, by comparison, is a day on Playa El Agua. He lulls you into thinking that everything is going to be OK — with him at the helm.

        There’s still a way to go before we digest all proposals. But in terms of these two, AL and EF, which one do you think will play best with voters in Parapara, or from the cerros?

        • “But in terms of these two, AL and EF, which one do you think will play best with voters in Parapara, or from the cerros?” AL, but I think even he is deficient in that area. That’s why I’m thinking they should both be offering to help the others, not running themselves. But, AL gets more respect from me than EF, not only for straight-up stating that he will help whomever wins the primaries, but consistently showing that he is a teamplayer of the MUD, all while demonstrating what EF only talks about.

          I am concerned that even with primaries, votes are being split from the best candidates, and that the one that wins will not be the one that best represents maximal happiness of the voters. This is a flaw in the current democratic voting methods. The chances of a candidate coming from the central part of the bell curve they will represent is much higher than that of coming from the edges of the curve. That means that the bulk of the candidates will be dividing that central portion of voters into many bits, leaving the edgy candidates to seem overrepresented.

        • Parapara, Syd, doesn’t really count that much. That is the problem I don’t see most oppos grasping.

          The KEY to Venezuela lies in Acarigua, El Tigre, Guacara, Punto Fijo, Boconó, El Tocuyo, etc. Parapara has less than 7000 people. All those places and 30 others have a lot more than 100 000 people and the politicians specially from PJ treat them as if they were Papaparas. In that I have to say López has seen the light.

          • Kep, Parapara has become metaphorical in recent years, not so much because of size, but because it’s el Interior with a capital ‘I’. That’s what I was referring to. But clearly your point is well taken.

  13. Not no, but Hell no.
    (This comes from someone who’s older brother is
    named Eduardo, father, also, grandfather, greatgrandfather…)
    This is not the reason why I say this, of course.
    Give him a post as Director of Rehabilitation of chavistas..

  14. Honestly, I’m very unimpressed.

    I’m a bit of a Tigre’s fan for championing rationality in the country: While Caldera was panegyrizing the golpistas in 1992 and politicians in general were cayapeando CAP, Eduardo Fernandez remained as one of the few rational voices. He advocated dialogue with the government in times of extreme polarization (early 2003).

    However, I think his strategy is flawed in that, actually, both the government and the opposition are trying to appeal to NiNi’s. Chavez is trying not to scare the middle class, while the opposition candidates try to convey a conciliatory message to former chavistas. That’s not a niche for EF. I would concede that he is more of a conciliatory person than anyone else in the opposition. But he’s gotta offer a lot more to prove he has what it takes.

    • “the opposition candidates try to convey a conciliatory message to former chavistas. That’s not a niche for EF-” Nor a niche for any opposition candidate…
      Exactly. But, I do not think all opposition candidates are doing this- it comes through
      very clearly from Eduardo Fernandez.
      Personally, I would like to invite chavistas to convert to clearly thinking about what is best for Venezuela and leave the Chavez propaganda behind- make it clear-they are invited-not accepted to continue this chavez nonsense-It will not work.

  15. Sorry, Fernandez believing he has something to run for (or experience) is why Venezuelan politics is so screwed up. The guy takes a 20 year vacation from politics, from speaking out, from learning what are the problens of the country and people are supposed to want to vote for him?

    Come on!

    Politicos de Salon de Mierda es lo que son!

  16. Well, I was convinced by the message. I must say that I admire Eduardo Fernández for having been the ONLY one to inmediately repudiate the coup against CAP. He understood the importance of institutionality in contrast with populism.

    The message is excellent and clear and very true. If the opposition happens to win against the chavismo, we must know what to do with the country.

    An excellent clip.

  17. A 3- minute commercial? Give me a fuc…ng break! Better yet. Just give me a gun so that I can shoot myself in the head. Dear Lord! If this bloke has a chance in the MUD, then we’ll have 20 more years of Chavismo.

        • So you don’t like it AND you were in a school managed by priests? Oh! Perhaps you are the exception to the rule?
          I was never in a colegio de curas and I dislike the video. My impression was that all those who had been exposed to a religious school had this weakness for COPEIoid things unless too flagrantly. OK, Daniel Duquenal probably went to a religious school AND does not have a weak point for copeyanos, but then he’s also Frrrench. 🙂

          • Kepler, the stereotype thing doesn’t work in this case. I studied with nuns, was born -long time- before 1980 and I cannot stand the man!
            Lots of closet copeyanos in this blog :D, which I really don’t criticize per se. But really… El Tigre??? Come on people!!!
            First time I agree with Guido, voy a hacer una raya en el cielo.

          • The exceptions to your rule keep mounting. I didn’t study with nuns, have no weak point for copeyanos, and am not Frrrhench. But at some point in life you have to look at things objectively.

          • I think he could have said something beyond “more investment for better jobs”.
            Although that is fine and dandy, it is more of the same some of our politicians had said before, even if the ones now are not even saying that.
            Even within a 3 minute space you can say a bit more.

            It seems as if Venezuelans never believe their country will be anything but an underdeveloped country. This attitude is a recipe for failure.
            Venezuelans tend to think at the same time that the country is 1) rich, but 2) – this is never said but implied- Venezuela will never develop.

            What I meant with the Frrrhench is that they cannot usually be Copeyanos even if they had gone to a priest’s school in Venezuela (which some may have done in Venezuela) – you know about the laicité etc. So, my hypothesis was that even if Daniel had been to a Catholic school, it would have been unlikely that he were copeyano nonetheless.
            Running for cover after so many prejudices 🙂

  18. Does Fernandez have a chance in the primarias? A few months ago, he was accused on this very site that he was among those hinting against primaries and for a “consensual” candidate. He’s still running though, and surely has some financial backing. He does lend some additional gravitas to the pool of candidates, and indeed put the whole “dinosaurio v. young firebrand” narrative into question.

    BTW, there have been no mentions of the MUD agreement among the candidates last Monday (or, for that matter, of Mr. Capriles’ irreverent attire).

  19. I don’t like and I don’t trust EF candidacy for the primaries simply because he was retired – or semiretired – of the political scene for so long, and it wasn’t until Chavez himself mentioned him, that he even though about a comeback. Does he really think he can come back like an ave phoenix or something? Why? Because he is somewhat respected (and that is yet to see) by Chavez?
    At least the other candidates have been working actively, meeting, working out agreements, discussing what can be done, and they have been doing it as a team, which has never been done before and I believe is the most important thing of all.
    I don’t think comparing him with AL is fair either. AL has been very active, and won the election on perhaps the most difficult alcaldia of all. he has been there, working, not reading books at home.
    Now, all that being said, I must admit that EF brought into his speech something that the other candidates have not addressed that directly which is lack of work and opportunities, and this stands out from “give me give me give me” crowd that Venezuela is nowadays. I’ll give hime that much and that’s it.

    • Carolina, just a nuance: it’s not so much comparing AL and EF, but contrasting. The mention of AL is because EF claimed certain differences that made him stand out, yet AL can claim all those same things, and, as you point out, then some.

      • what politician does NOT claim differences that make him/her stand out? I mean that’s a motherhood statement used to discredit EF. Ojo! I do not endorse EF (or anyone else for that matter — por ahora).

        as for the 6th place mayor of the year award, that should please AL. Which begs the question, por qué anda tan bravo? 😉

        but seriously, this award reeks of politics in the fraternity of mayors.

        For one, can AL really make a claim to these markers used to judge him: “ability to provide security and to protect the environment as well as having the skill to cultivate good relations in communities with different cultural, racial and social backgrounds.”

        And what about the factor that most influenced the decision: “The panel was primarily influenced by the arguments and persuasiveness of testimonials bestowed on mayors.”

        No sé. I’m not convinced. And Ii say this not to demean AL or his prospects. Just an observation.

        • The point being made about EF’s statements is that what he’s claiming as differences, A) are not, and B) fall short. No one is trying to discredit him for trying to stand out.

          • ok, let me try that again. what politician claims differences that A) are not, and B) fall short?

            Seen another way … think Marketing 101. Haven’t you ever bought a product that claims to be different than the competition and A) is not, and B) falls short? Politics is no different.

            I don’t see the big to-do, the gasp! factor.

          • My gasp factor is that a post was made about a non gasp message being gaspable for being A) different, and B) important.

    • I like your summary, Carolina. Being rather untrusting- I am even more
      questioning of EF-since you mentioned Chavez in the equation;
      ALso- the one valid point -lack of jobs- should be tied into
      Chavez damaging industries and closing them, and Chavez scaring away
      business and investments. This is why there is less jobs. And, this is
      why Chavez and his policies must go.

    • Carolina: Semi-retired? The country has been destroyed in the last twelve years and when have you heard EF come out and say much?

      Yes, he behaved like a democrat in 1992 and you have to admire him for it, but the same democracy has been forcefully raped for twelve years and where was EF, tomando cafe con leche?

      • I said “semi-retired” because he was (or is?) being a consultant-teacher-president in some sort of school for public employes, wasn’t he? Not too sure how it goes. But that’s it.
        I bet you some people (the youngsters) don’t even know who he is. That’s enough for me.

      • That’s it. Right there:

        “The country has been destroyed in the last twelve years, and when have you heard EF come out and say much?”

        And now, he wants to be president? I think it is called opportunism.

  20. Amusing how people get all worked out with this guy. He has as much chance of being the candidate as me working in the hadron collider near Geneva. Next topic, please.

  21. A few years back, before the U.S. election, I was sipping scotch with my daddy in front of the TV, and, suddenly, there he was, John McCain. I told my daddy that I thought he was too old for the job. Understandably, my daddy (being himself close to 80) told me that age was not an impediment for the job of president. I agreed. After all Ronald Reagan began his second term at 73, although there are indications that at the end of his term, his brain was only capable of counting jellybeans.

    Yesterday, I came here for our new treat with which the bloggers keep us addicted, and the first image that I saw disturbed me so much that I thought I had been mistakenly redirected to some archeology web site. After many attempts, I realized that I was in the right place because through much effort I was able to read the print without looking at the image, and sure enough, the post was authored by one of the guys running this blog. I just didn’t know that he used his spare time digging out long buried … mummies!

  22. Abelardo Raidi used to call Mr. Fernandez, back in the 1970s, “el inevitable”, as in “this guy will be president someday.

    I always thought he would, once he stopped trying so hard.


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