The wrath of Ibsen

Ibsen, con los pelos de punta

Ibsen Martínez is livid. A-rrecho, with capital A. And when Ibsen is mad at someone, you better pull out a dictionary.

His latest is a scorching take-down of Carlos Ocariz and Juan Carlos Caldera. (Side note: Yes, Ibsen, it’s Juan Carlos, not Juan José; Google is your friend, fact-checking is your ally.)

In a lengthy article, he rips into the mayor and the congressman for being “intransigent,” “harvardian,” “Ralph Lauren” tools.

His complaints of elitism are precious coming from a guy named Ibsen.

What have Ocariz and Caldera done to earn this scorn?

Well, they held a press conference in which they vented their frustrations at the MUD’s decision to hold primaries for Governor the same day as the primaries for President.

You see, both Henrique Capriles and Pablo Pérez are running for President. They are also Governors, up for re-election next year.

The MUD had apparently come to a tacit agreement that primaries for Governor would be held at a later date, so that the losing candidate(s) could run to retain his(their) job and not be in the awkward position of running for President and Governor at the same time.

The MUD decided otherwise, so Capriles and Pérez have to gamble their governorships for a chance at the Presidential Primary – one or the other, or both, will end up without the goat and without the rope.

(Not, of course, that Capriles’s and Pérez’s parties will run the parallel risk: UNT somehow reached “consensus” on the Maracaibo mayor to get the gubernatorial nomination in Zulia, whereas PJ will have to fight a primary to retain its fiefdom in Los Teques – but that will be the subject of a whole other rant.)

Ocariz and Caldera did not like this, so they lashed out at the MUD. They suggested there is a cabal inside the umbrella group determined to prevent Capriles, the front runner by a mile, from winning. They, however, made clear they would abide by the rule.

The press conference was probably a mistake. Capriles has been to quick to repair the damage and get back on message. The whole ruckus seems inconsequential to me, one of the few stumbles from the Capriles camp. People are human, and anger at the shenanigans inside the MUD’s smoke-filled quarters can’t always be contained.

But to Martínez, this meant war. He immediately called on Capriles to denounce and publicly scold Ocariz and Caldera.

Not that this would help Capriles in getting Ibsen’s vote. In the same article, Martínez endorses Pablo Pérez for some as yet unspecified reason – apparently, because his mouthpieces don’t hold cantankerous press conferences.

Perhaps Ibsen’s loyalties are driving his endorsement. Martínez and Henry Ramos played on the same team in the early 90s, both playing significant roles in bringing down Carlos Andrés Pérez. Mirtha Rivero’s book, La rebelión de los Náufragos, chronicles each man’s role pretty thoroughly.

Maybe this team still has some life in it. Or maybe Teodoro’s baffling sotto voce PP-mancrush is what’s prompting Martínez to follow suit.

Regardless, his take-down of Ocariz and Caldera as Harvardian and Ralph-Lauren candidates (yeah, he recycled those epithets twice in the same article, so I will too) shows just how far the Unity Fetish has gone in stifling all public discussion about MUD.

At this point, “Unity” has morphed into a self-imposed gag, a ban on calling bull that’s enforced not just by the usual party hacks, but even by supposedly uncontrollable public intellectuals who answer to nobody.

Ocariz and Caldera have been working the hills of Petare for years now. Calling them uppity and delicate is like taking a swipe at Ibsen for being scared to use obscure words.

Nonetheless, his screed proves the point I was trying to make the other day.

Unless we see the candidates engage in some spirited debate on some serious issues, and draw some sharp contrasts between themselves in the process, we’re going to have a beauty pageant, not an election. All for the sake of unity, you see.

By any reasonable calculation, we have to expect that there will be negative campaigning. Barbs and insults will be traded. But if we keep doing it like this – mouthpieces attacking other mouthpieces in little-read outlets – Capriles is just going to coast.