The legacy of this campaign

Gledys rocks the house
To us, she will always be Eloína Rangel

(CC Disclaimer: Emiliana is volunteering for the Capriles campaign, so this is her last post for the week)

For some reason, I keep coming back to this theme of how the current campaign just feels different.

Basically, there are three obvious factors at play. First and foremost, Chávez is no longer (physically) present. Second, the oppositions’ tone has taken a marked turn for full-frontal, unabashed attacks on the personal and administrative fronts of the incumbent. Third, and consequently, the government’s candidate is himself a target for attacks, something we haven’t seen in a while.

My take is that said factors are not symptomatic of a genuine sea change, but underlying contributors to it. The fact of the matter is, a new breeze is flowing through Venezuela with regards to outward expressions of support or dissent; expressions that might seem trivial at first glance, but that taken in context reveal great significance.

Gone are the days, for example, when the MUD stifled its criticism of shady CNE goings-on for fear that public outcries of foul play could dissuade voters from turning out on election day. Timid manifestations of dissatisfaction, usually voiced by marginalized, often-berated opposition figures, have been replaced with goading condemnations by the MUD’s firebrand CNE liason, Liliana Hernández, who has been anything but shy in challenging Tibisay Lucena to defend herself in the public arena.

Vanished, also, are the feeble, impersonal reproaches that have in the past characterized Capriles’ discrepancies with the status quo. Capriles has done a complete 180-in-message. One that took us from “The President did some things well, but I will make them better,” to “Nicolás is inept, corrupt, deceiving, and driving our county to ruin.” (I paraphrase)

If that wasn’t enough change, there’s also the unprecedented ease with which the opposition now publicly ridicules the government candidate. This new license to mock renders anything fair game: Maduro’s companion Cilia Flores, the President-in-Charge’s paranormal conversations with fowl-from yonder, not-so-subtle allusions to his weight and his work ethic (I’m not an objective observer, but, damn, the guy kind of makes it hard to inspire respect).

Though taken at face value, these attacks are certainly puerile, frivolous, and thus speak to the low depths to which political discourses sometimes fall to, they represent a welcome, even refreshing, change in free-speech dynamics.

The most symbolic defiance of political-correctness, a liberation of sorts, was Friday’s massive celebrity endorsement of Capriles. The event was only carried by Globovisión, and thus reached a minuscule scope of TV viewers. Even so, for the first time in 14 years, public figures revered in our soap opera-obsessed nation – who previously only expressed their political allegiances privately by either touting the “entertainment and politics don’t mix” argument or fearing reprisals from the self-censored private media that might still hire them – openly declared their support for regime change.

This signals a momentous break in political culture. I can say from personal experience, that in previous opposition campaigns, even as recently as October, we tried in vain to obtain celebrity endorsements, and with some very marginal exceptions, always received a polite refusal, usually followed by an even more polite “pero sabes que voy a votar por ustedes igual, no?”.

Friday’s broadcast (Juan and Quico should probably skip this paragraph since their most recent national pop-culture reference is Ligia Elena) featured wildly popular figures such as comedian Emilio Lovera throwing equal jabs at Venevisión owner Gustavo Cisneros and at 21st century socialism. It featured sex-bomb and beauty queen Norkys Batista complaining that all hotels in the world host orgasms, except for State-owned Venetur – this in reference to her latest monologue, Orgasmos, being cancelled last minute by government authorities. It featured late-night host Luis Chataing condemning exclusion, local heartthrob Guillermo García expounding the virtues of civic duties, and telenovela fixture Gledys Ibarra insisting that Maduro is not Chávez, and that Capriles is not CAP.

These are not the usual disgruntled ex-RCTV mainstays of El Cafetal opposition rallies. These are working celebrities openly proselytizing to the detriment of their street-cred – a very rare occurrence indeed.

I use the word symbolic because I doubt this celebrity endorsement will have much, if any, impact on the electoral outcome. It’s also worth mentioning that Chavismo has been actively lauding newly-welcomed stars to its cause in the past few weeks. My point is that these endorsements represent a bigger, more pivotal phenomenon: a shift in the political  expressions we now allow ourselves to have.

It remains to be seen if this overcoming of self-censorship is present in government employees and others not exempt from the State fear-mongering apparatus. But it’s a start, right?

Much has been said about how, in order to defeat chavismo electorally, we must first feel capable of defeating it politically, of truly assimilating that we are an active force and not a squalid minority. I don’t know if this new-found pride in affirmations of dissent is exclusively attributed to Capriles’ campaign, or to Chavez’ looming shadow finally being lifted, or just to Maduro being an easily disparaged buffoon by comparison. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three.

I do believe that regardless of what happens next Sunday, this new campaign has left an indelible mark in the opposition’s psyche. For the first time in a long time, rather than circumstantially banding together a group of individual interests, this campaign might just outlive the coming election day.

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  1. As usual, a fantastic piece Emiliana! I agree with you wholeheartedly 🙂 here’s looking forward to your post election piece…and our victory!

  2. Truly excellent observations. There is a sea change beginning in Venezuela for the 3 factors you mentioned, and it augurs well for a return to political/economic sanity in Venezuela in the not too-distant future.

  3. Quico: I get that Emiliana is busy with the campaign and may not have time to blog. Really, I get that. But are you somehow implying she can’t blog because … she would be less objective?

    C’mon! I read CC for the opinions and not because there is any claim of phony objective purity.

    BTW, Good piece Emiliana. You rock.

  4. I’m going to stick my neck out for a greater margin of victory than October.

    Call me optimistic, but I feel that the Chavistas who’ll abstain are fewer than those who abstained in October. There’s just something more believable about Maduro when he says crime will be tackled full-on. People who didn’t want to vote yet again for Chavez will give him a chance.

    • Whereas Chavez was a clown, Maduro is a poor imitation of a clown. By the way, Venezuelans of whatever class do not see a bus driver as a person to emulate, as Maduro seems to think by driving a bus to rallies.

        • If it’s symbolic of his other “abilities”, pobre de Venezuela if he wins. BTW, most Venezuelans of all classes are aspirational up, not down. A bus driver, even a relatively wealthy Portugues owning several buses, but driving one, is considered servile and not looked up to.

          • Again, it has nothing to do with people wanting to be a bus driver.

            People like to believe that anybody with the right manifesto can be president, regardless of their background.

            Also, driving a bus indicates professionalism, leadership, management skills. It’s just a shame you are absolutely blind to anything except your own misconceptions.

          • NO ONE in Venezuela believes a bus driver can become President; EVERYONE in Venezuela knows that Maduro became President by being a JALABOLA. Some in Venezuela know that Maduro’s real credentials to being promoted to Jalabola were not for his bus driving, but for tipping off leftist subversive gangs led by Bernal to when the Metro (where he worked) cash shipments were being transported so that they could be hijacked. As for “driving a bus indicates professionalism, leadership, management skills”, it’s like whatever education you may have had has given you ” impartial rational argument skills.”

    • I am not sure just how believable Maduro is on this, on the Electricity problem and on the rest of the day to day issues that really screw up people’s lives.

      For years we heard the trite excuse that “It’s not Chavez’ fault, it’s the fault of those around him”

      Ok, so now “the people around him” are running for office. Who, pray tell, is going to really believe that now that Chavez is gone “the people around him” are all of a sudden going to become these awesome administrators that are going to save us from ruin?

      I mean, either Chavez was incompetent and didn’t let his people solve problems or his people were (and are) incompetent and the circus continues. It’s cut bait or fish, this magical realism of yours doesn’t wash yoyo. Much as you want you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

      There is a part of me that thinks that Maduro is going to win because of the incredible advantages that abuse of state resources, cadenas disguised as information but are really campaign events, dominance of radio electric spectrum, sympathy for Chavez, fear that the vote is not secret, etc. etc give the bird whistler, but there is another part of me that thinks that this time it just might be that David does beat Goliath.

      In October we had an incredible 80% participation, probably the highest in modern Venezuelan electoral history. To think that Chavismo is going to go above their numbers is wishful thinking. If Maduro wins with the same or almost the same numbers Chavez did he should consider himslef a lucky man. To think that Capriles may equal his numbers from October is more likely, but not a sure thing. If he manages to get the same 6.6MM, plus maybe a couple hundred thousand more, he may just pull it off.

      The keys are going to be who mobilizes and inspires more, and the 30% of Ni Ni’s and half Chavistas that do not vote for Chavismo blindly.

    • “There’s just something more believable about Maduro when he says crime will be
      tackled full-on”.

    • He is definitely assuming there is a problem and that’s a change from Chavez. It does not seem believable for us since he has the same people in charge that have been there for many years and they have been incapable of doing anything. But people might be willing to believe him. I sincerely don’t know one way or the other. It’s very difficult to know what is going on in the ground, specially for those of us not there. We will see on monday…

    • Somebody who can’t understand that cancer cannot be “inoculated” cannot understand how to tackle the issue of crime. It’s a matter of simple mental incapacity.

        • Radiation is indeed a carcinogen, what’s your point?

          Given that WE STILL DO NOT KNOW what kind of cancer the late comandante-presidente had, I think that speculating as to how he got cancer is pointless.

          • So you admit a radiation cancer-causing gun is not beyond the impossible.

            Great, no need to debate this any further.

          • Is that a serious comment? You know what I think is wayyy more plausible than a radiation cancer-causing gun? This is the most common cause of cancer…

            Cells acquiring de novo mutations, then acquiring cellular immortality, then becoming a tumor.

          • Let the record state that yoyo thinks Chávez was given his cancer. I guess that pretty much cancels any possibility of rational debate with him. Don’t waste your time, folks.

          • No need to debate, because you *don’t* debate; you regurgitate! And, btw, where exactly was it that Chavez received his radiation therapy? Hmmm, seems to me I remember that it was in CUBA! That’s it! The center of anti-imperialism is infiltrated with the CIA, bearing a “radiation cancer-causing gun”!!! You’ve now gone beyond being a laughing stock, yoyo. You’re simply ludicrous now.

          • Why yes, Yoyo. A radiation gun is totally possible. In fact, it was the central plot device in a Batman comic I read not long ago.

            I swear, this guys deserves to be a hashtag. Forget YOLO! When you describe something stupid you did or said, just tag it #yoyo.

        • So a radioactive hooker was responsible for the cancer?

          OR a radioactive toilet?

          He went skinny dipping in La Orchila and a radioactive mosquito bit him on the butt?

          Como es el mani, yoyo?

          • Haha.

            Some viruses can actually cause cancer after a usually long course of disease (cervical cancer and the HPV virus as an example). But since there never was an official disclosure as to what kind of cancer the poor guy had, you can’t really argue about how he got it.

            Obviously, I do not believe that he was somehow inoculated.

          • 513crcMD,


            You want us to believe you are some sort of doctor, and yet you do not know that “inoculated” is synonymous with “vaccinated”?? The converse would be “infected”, which is also absurd, because cancer is not an infection. The correct word for the context would have been “induced”. THAT is why everyone writes “inoculated” with quotation marks, lest someone think that they really don’t know what the word means and that Maduro mis-used it demonstrating that he is an ignoramus.

            Did you just show up here to lend credibility to yoyo by comparison?

          • Roy,

            Easy there, buddy. We’re definitely on the same side here.

            Inoculated is not totally synonymous with vaccinated. Inoculation: “To communicate a disease to a living organism by transferring its causative agent into the organism. To communicate a disease by transferring its virus”

            If one were to “inoculate” someone with hepadna virus or flavivirus, they WOULD NOT be immune to those viruses. Rather, they would now have the viruses that cause Hepatitis B/C and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer.) The same goes for HPV and cervical cancer and a host of other cancer-causing viruses.

            I will grant you that when most ppl hear the word they immediately jump to its synonym, which is vaccination. But you could definitely inoculate someone w/ the above viruses I mentioned and cause cancer down the road, not make them immune to the viruses effects. If you’ve been inoculated with a pathogen, it means that either the whole virus/bacteria, or a portion of the virus/bacteria (as usu happens in vaccinations) has been introduced into your system.

            Don’t worry I think your insurance will cover that 🙂

          • And I’m fine with dropping this discussion altogether, honestly. Takes away from the thrust of Emiliana’s well-written article.

  5. I’d also like to add a big THANK YOU to Emiliana for volunteering on the campaign.

    And, as usual, you write great posts!

  6. Emiliana, I don’t know the residence status of the other artistas who have come out of the political closet, so to speak. But Ibarra works (in Colombia, I think). So the fear factor of losing her job is minimized, the risk was zero of her getting up on the podium to speak. Nonetheless, I agree with you that the winds of change are swirling with a previously unforeseen strength.

    Small anecdote.

    Last time I went to Toronto to vote, I found a parking space which didn’t have quite enough space for my car, due to the poor parking job of those who had arrived seconds before me. I stopped at the location and looked at these characters, realizing that one of them, likely the driver, was Maria Páez Victor, a known Sociology PhD who teaches and heads up a Bolivarian Circle in these parts. The arrogance and smugness was palpable; they didn’t give a damn about basic courtesies. I look forward, although perhaps not this time, that some day, the smirking will be wiped off the faces of some of these proselytizers. Ojo, I do not demean all chavistas. Many really believe in the project. And they are welcomed to do so. I’m referring to the resentidos, and Maria Páez Victor is one of these.

    • Syd, it’s up to you/us to wipe that smirk off her/their faces (lol). But, seriously, this is yet another example of why Chavismo “egalitarianism” will never work in Venezuela–there is no “civismo”, it’s “i’ll get mine first, if I can, and to Hell with you.” Final thought, one of the main reasons we had Chavez for so many years, who was the typical Guapeton de Barrio, is that nobody ever tried/dared to “quitarle la pajita”, or wipe that smirk off his face, no matter how much personal/costly damage he caused to so many. Heck, even Tacho Somoza was killed by one of his military confidantes while he was “echando un pie” at a dance….

    • Syd, my blood is boiling. I just read the bios on Maria Paez Victor and can’t believe that she like Manmade 1988 have Canadian passports and freely live in Canada. This trash appears to do nothing but live off government commissions and grants paid for by my taxes while she howls blue murder about capitalism and how wonderful the red revolution is. I want her and Manmade sent back whence they came ASAP to live their beutiful revolution in technicolour everyday.

      • If you saw what I’ve seen from a few Latam radicals in Toronto, since c. 2002, your veins would pop.

        MPV is but one of these. Checked her out when she presented at York U., on two occasions, the marvels of chavismo (memorable quotes: “There are no political prisoners in Venezuela”; and her swooned “Thank God for Jimmy Carter!”). Also checked her out when she tagged onto presentations by visiting radicals (Chilean-Cuban apparatchik Martha Harnecker at York U., and British-Parkistani Tariq Ali at the Fac of Medicine/UofT).

        Entering this world of political poets is a parallel universe. Bizarre. Which brings me to the two characters MPV brought with her to the voting area on 7O. #Malandraje (cubanas resentidas?).

        I see she’s no longer teaching. Wonder if students/universities got wise to the proselytism. I hope so.

  7. Great piece. It is fantastic to see the joy of a Capriles rally. I think you are right that there is something momentous going on. By the same token, Chavismo is exhausted, and they are unable to do the one thing they were able to do successfully, which is run a campaign.

  8. Really?. Aren’t the Lovera and Ibarra as old pop culture references as Ligia Elena?.I guess twitter and facebook killed the TV star, a friend of mine was referencing Jerry Springer (of all people today). Anywho, regardless of what happens on Sunday (I am afraid we will probably pitylose by a nose) the opposition will take the next one for sure and Capriles shall be remembered as the guy who opened the road. Maduro will sink faster than a sack of bricks and we might not have to wait 6 years to see a change.

  9. It is very difficult to predict how chavistas will vote/abstain. That will be the defining factor in these elections. I think Chavez got 8M and the highest they got without him was about 6M. Maduro might make it somewhere between 6.5M-7.5M. More than 6M because it is a presidential election, but obviosuly less than Chavez. On the other hand, Capriles got 6.5M. I think he might get somewhere around 6M-7M.

    With that said, Maduro continues to be the clear favorite, but he has been so mediocre that he has opened for Capriles a chance to win if he can get close to 7M.

  10. Siguiendo la nota de actitud irreverente, propongo lo siguiente. Si nunca podremos tener una maquinaria movilizadora como la del gobierno por razones obvias. ¿Qué tal si le espichamos los cauchos a todos los vehiculos públicos que sospechamos que serán utilizados para movilizar a estos panas? No es una movida sucia sino de prevención de abuso del poder y si se disminuye significativamente la movilización inducida del gobierno, podriamos poner la vaina interesante. #Espichazo2013

      • if you want to really make it fun, do it to all buses parked in Caracas today, and you will se el peo que se arma! with tens of thousands of arreados in CCS with no lodgng and no food, Just sayin… 🙂

      • Emiliana, que agradable sorpresa enterarme que escribiste tan agudo articulo. Nos graduamos en el mismo colegio. Necesito urgentemente comunicarme contigo, pues estoy en contacto con una reportera de Al Jazeera International basada en Washington DC y quiere cubrir los eventos en Venezuela. Te deje mi email en los detalles de este comentario. Espero leas esto hoy 18 de abril.

  11. I can’t agree that the artists’ show wouldn’t influence matters inasfar as it elegantly set the stage for waht was a groundbreaking Sunday rally and, standing alone, though it may well not have altered individuals’ choice, it could well have inspired a goodly number offa their sofas to go out and vote.

    As for who saw it or not , the present total of YouTube hits for the various clips of the Lovera/Marquez piece stands at over 260,000: someone is telling someone else to look!

  12. These English language Venezuelan blogs are fantastic. I want to thank Daniel, Miguel, and the ever growing cast at Caracas Chronicles for this wonderful educational experience. I also want to thank the people that post their comments. These are the most consistently intelligent comments I have read on any blog. Please keep posting. I’ll be reading.

    Good luck to Venezuela on Sunday!

  13. Felix Seijas Jr. (@felixseijasr) is saying via twitter that basically anything can happen next Sunday, that the gap between both keeps closing in by-the-minute, and that the recent tracking polls show a steady drop for Maduro, and an increase on the “indecisos”, very atypical as indecisos usually drop as the election date is nearer…

  14. This commnent is not about this election but about all elections , They are all a bit dissapointing in that they are treated by most as a blood sport , as spectacles where each party seeks to arouse to fever pitch the passions of people , their hatreds, their frustrations , their resentments , their need for adoring epic all powerful or messianic heroes who will magically lead them to victory against a largely dehumanized enemy who embodys all thats evil in the world . Little concrete or practical is said about how problems are to be tackled , the problems are denounced but never discussed in a really intelligent or detailed way , they are often presented in a distorted way or their existence denied , where lavish promises are made which cannot be kept . i understand that even honest and capable candidates must play at this game following the rules of the system , of the political culture which in turn are a function of the mayority of voters inability tot handle public issues with any depth.or dispassion . The us vs them mentality is so deeply rooted in peoples mind that they cannot really think about the issues with any measure of objectivity or detailed accuracy. This is no criticism of Capriles who is waging a brave struggle against an entrenched and scrupulous opponent who also is guilty of so manhy abuses and blunders that it deserves whatever the Capriles campaign throws at them , its about the very low level to which the political culture in Venezuela in particular but also in almost any country has fallen . Everyone admires elections as the way of deciding who rules , but there is so much barbarism and irrationality in the way that elections are conducted , about their adversarial gladiatorial character with so little intelligent objective discussion of problems and public topics that they seem as not so admirable a way to choose the kind of government which any country needs , Its the least bad of all systems made worse by a political culture that is born of how wanting in intelligence and reasonablenness and balance most people are !!

  15. Correction I meant to refer to Capriles opponents lack of scruples and the auto correction system once again turned the word arround !!

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