My problem with Capriles’s more-Mercales ad

If you’ve ever studied Negotiation Theory, you already know the little fable:

There was once only one orange left in a kitchen and two prominent chefs were fighting over it.

“I need that orange !”

“Yes, but I need that orange as well !”

Time was running out and they both needed an orange to finish their particular recipes for the state dinner. They decided on a compromise: they grabbed one of the large kitchen knives that was lying around, split the orange in half, and each went to his corner to finish preparing his meal.

One chef squeezed the juice from the orange and poured it into the special sauce he was making. It wasn’t quite enough, but it would have to do. The other grated the peel and stirred the scrapings into the batter for his famous cake. He too didn’t have as much as he would have liked, but given the situation, what else could he have done ?

The story is told to exemplify the way positions can vary even when interests do not. Entrenched in their negotiating positions – “I want that orange!” – the chefs fail to see that their underlying interests are not actually in conflict at all.

Capriles’s latest ad promising to build more and more subsidized food shops (Mercales) brought that fable to mind. He’s failing to see that people’s interests – access to affordable, nutritious food – are not necessarily contingent on supporting an insane position on making Mercales proliferate.

Promising to protect the people by giving them more and more Mercales is like cutting the orange in half: you privilege a prefabricated and wrongheaded position over a clear eyed understanding of the interests that position is supposed to advance.

So I agree with Juan – the ad is a mistake. First off, because it feels craven. But mostly because it wastes an opportunity to stake out a policy position that’s genuinely consonant with people’s interests. “We can ensure that no Venezuelan goes hungry without feeding a  bureaucracy that lets hundreds of thousands of tons of food rot in our ports.” That should be his message.

Or, come to think of it, “when you have a good job, hunger never comes knocking on your family’s door.” That was his stump speech line in the primaries. It was real. It was true. It was zero bullshit…why trade it for this dog’s breakfast of a stance?!

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