Nicolás is for the birds

Doubling down
Doubling down

A few weeks ago, Nicolás Maduro said that Hugo Chávez appeared to him in the form of a bird to give him his blessing. The whole “bird” meme quickly went viral, and it’s fair to say it became a defining moment in the campaign.

But was it a blunder, or a stroke of genius?

Capriles advisor J.J. Rendón seems to think it was a blunder (see here, starting at the 14:15 mark, continuing in the second part of the interview). He saw it as a moment of honesty from Maduro, a follower of Sai Baba and a believer in reincarnation and/or the transmigration of souls (my apologies for not being well-versed in Indian neomysticism). His theory is that it puts Maduro in a different plane than mainstream Venezuelans, who simply saw this as nuts.

Datanálisis pollster Luis Vicente León, on the other hand, thinks this reinforced the whole “supernatural” aspect of Maduro’s campaign. He sees the bird moment as the turning point, the instant when the Maduro campaign finally crossed the rubicon and became something celestially predetermined.

I haven’t commented much on this because I honestly don’t know what to make of the bird moment. Obviously, to me it’s bizarre and convoluted. Then again, Venezuelans have no problem with bizarre and convoluted. It could go either way for me.

Regardless, after tonight, when we find out the results, we will view the bird episode as either a stroke of genius, or a major blunder.

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  1. Nuts, and “for the birds.” As Rendon said, without proper pre-framing of the bird moment (i.e., explaining publicly its “Sai Baba” mystical meaning), the bird moment is just another Maduro empty-headed gaffe, as is “estados” La Guaira/Margarita/San Juan De Los Morros, “Tribilin” Chavez, “mongolicos” disadvantaged children, “patas en el suelo” poor, y, se para de contar. Incidentally, early (confidential) results from the CNE for Australia: Capriles arraso, to which Maduro said, “C— de la madre, no visite ese estado.”

  2. Biographical accounts of Chavez indicate that he would communicate openly with the spirit world and sometimes would leave a spare seat for Simon Bolivar at meetings. Which suggests a certain level of tolerance for this sort of thing. Interesting point though. JJ Rendons obvious confidence in the basic common sense of Venezuelans was a pleasure to see.

  3. It would be a stroke of genious if the bird incident widened (not narrowed) Maduro’s gap. He can still win, but it does not mean this was a good strategy.

  4. Dear Juan, as I’ve heard a million times very wise people say, everything seems logical and predictable on hindsight. Personally I would say this episode barely matters in the campaign.

    I think this campaign is about inflation, housing and hopefully crime. I’m not even sure Maduro said the bird was Chavez himself but rather that the bird was a signal sent by him, which isn’t entirely crazy in Christianity. The episode actually made me think maduro wanted to sound like an auspice – people who could predict the future by watching birds.


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