Since Sunday night, the opposition’s chess game with the government has been played with enormous skill by a national leader who knows that he is the most important figure in the country right now.
For the past 14 years, the National Electoral Council has systematically used and abused State power in order to provide a democratic façade to the Chávez regime.
This by no means implies that the electronic system is numerically fraudulent, or that past electoral results have been false: ever since 2005, Chávez has had enough backing to win the elections by broad margins, and I am not contesting absolute results. To do so would be infantile.
This said, anyone voting in Venezuela over the past eight years has been witness to irregularities that run the gamut from propaganda being displayed outside polling stations all the way to shots being fired to intimidate witnesses and keep them from watching the results’ tally.
Now that I am personally responsible for registering irregularities in the state of Miranda, I can tell you that to that dismal record we can now add death threats – death threats – against opposition witnesses in remote rural areas, as well as incidents of National Guardsmen bribing said testigos Bs.1,000 in exchange for the handing over the official voting acta.
Let’s pretend this is Switzerland. Any single one of these events would have been enough to contest the transparency of an election.
But, this being Venezuela, our capacidad de asombro, our ability to be shocked, has been badly eroded by a repressive, and selectively efficient, State.
It has been eroded to such a degree that, when past elections have produced documented evidence of such State-sponsored abuses, those who denounce them are reduced to marginalized, radical “loonies” represented by the Diego Arria camp.
In a state where the governing party’s takeover of all institutions and legal recourse is now complete, complaints over transparency, however valid these may be, are but a microscopic blemish on a behemoth enjoying both considerable popular support and neverending resources to cement its power.
This all changed last Sunday night.
Given the recurrent and systematic reports of fraud that over the past decade have been a mainstay in national elections, the minuscule margin of Maduro’s victory (1,83%) is, in and of itself, reason enough to doubt electoral results.
What Capriles is doing is simply to give the government enough rope to hang itself with. And it’s been a brilliant success: Maduro went from agreeing to an audit of 100% of ballots to forgetting about it 12 hours later during an unprecedentedly rushed proclamation. CNE freaked out and went into a full frontal media onslaught to try to patch up its own tattered legitimacy, but immediately undid its own work by then refusing to carry out an auditing process that would only add to its legitimacy. And the Supreme Tribunal more or less broadcast its partiality at full volume to the entire world by butting in to the whole thing with an openly partisan unsolicited opinion, before Diosdado Cabello destroyed any semblance of democratic normality in the National Assembly by literally banning the opposition from speaking there, and Nicolás Maduro uselessly destroyed whatever vestigial traces of credibility he had by getting caught lying about the opposition burning CDIs and about the identity of the protesters killed in Monday’s violence.
Henrique Capriles must be doing something right: the amount of damage the government has done to its own standing just in four days is staggering.
It is by no means the same thing for Diego Arria (with all respects to the ex- UN rep) to throw a hissy-fit and demand fair and free electoral conditions on YouTube to his 270,000 followers, than it is for Henrique Capriles Radonski, with his Seven Million Three Hundred and Two Thousand votes (thats 49% of the country if you round the second decimal), to openly call bullshit on years of CNE irregularities. Finally.
The more than 700,000 votes that Capriles gained from chavismo in this election demonstrates a growing trust in his leadership. That right there is 700,000 Chávez voters who were willing to face possible intimidation and threats to voice their rejection of what chavismo is reduced to once Chávez is removed from the equation: power-hunger, corruption, and desperation.
The significance of Sunday’s election goes beyond the immediate question of who obtains the Presidency. Its significance lays in empowering the vast number of people in this country who know that this government abuses its power to win elections and that this is wrong. And thanks to the historical leadership of Capriles, we finally have an opportunity to force the CNE, and the government itself, to pay attention.
Thus is why I urge anyone who supports Capriles, and still questions his strategy, to just chill out and trust the guy. I believe he has earned at least that.
I am not being paid by Comando SB (I volunteer). Nor do I have access to highly privileged info. I am only stating my opinions as an opposition activist who, after 14 years, is finally satisfied with the response our side is giving to irregularities we’ve known about for years and failed to counter effectively.
For the first time, our national leader is not mired in short-termism. He’s focusing on the big, important, long-term picture of things to come. Thank God for that.