Is Chuo Up to the Job?

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Chuo-Torrealba-Foto-Manuel-Sarda_NACIMA20140922_0043_6Saying “the news here is that the opposition is going to hit the streets,” Jesus (“Chuo”) Torrealba has just accepted Venezuela’s most thankless job: Secretary General of the opposition’s umbrella roundtable, MUD. A journalist, crusading civil society activist, preternaturally gifted communicator, and chief of barrio-to-urbanización cross-cultural diplomacy, Chuo is a curious choice for MUD chief.

Far from a backroom wheeler-dealer, and with no specifically political experience, it’s not altogether clear to me how he’s positioned to mediate between MUD’s notoriously fractured, navel-gazing, hard-to-deal-with party leaders.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy, if only because he knows what he’s about. Chuo Torrealba has always had a particular, sociologically-grounded analysis of what the basic problem in Venezuela is (the mistrust, loathing and misunderstanding between the barrio  and the urbanización) and he’s been steadfast in pursuing it. You don’t have to agree with him to admire his persistence and dedication.

His profile as a champion of barrio issues concerns, and his relative distance from the more cabeza-caliente middle class opposition, would seem to make him a more natural fit with the position of the Primero Justicia/AD/Henry Falcón axis of the opposition, and a less natural fit with the more radical #Salidista wing. Early reports are that Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo López’s party, voted against his nomination.

But that’s a first approach. Chuo isn’t really a politician, as such: he’s a media personality and a civil society activist, and pretty far removed from the day-to-day give and take between MUD parties. Perhaps it’s his aloofness that made him minimally acceptable to all concerned. How he’ll fare in the most political of political roles is an open question.

Veremos.

1 COMMENT

  1. Aveledo may not have been a professional politician per-se but he was definitely a backroom wheeler-dealer from his days at the baseball league. I don’t know, though, that that is the main and most important trait for a MUD SG. I like Chuo. I think his election makes the MUD seem less distant to el ciudadano de a pie than when Lord Aveledo was in charge.

    • Chuo seems like neat choice to me, he have remained fairly distant to opposition sectarism, any appointment from inside of any party would have worsened the already awful internal quarrel inside oposition parties.

      Trying to wear down chavismo with “traditional” politics is probably a doomed endeavor considering the censure of the media, how discredited polititians are and how easy it is for the goverment to jail anyone they want to jail for indefinite periods of time.

      This blog have argued since before I can remember that the opposition lacks a credible comunications strategy to the masses, aspect that I thing Chuo could help to construct, I’m thinking this guy could potentially direct the coalition into a new direction midway between violent vain rebellion and waiting until 2050.

  2. “the news here is that the opposition is going to hit the streets,” This is exciting. Hopefully the parties are open to his fresh ideas. Surely, if the some in the opposition are against protests they are all for filling up that time with door-to-door and on the ground campaigning. I think Chuo is respected and well known by the average politically engaged opposition member and by some Chavistas. i was going to keep writing but I just felt a sudden surge of jadedness

  3. I love the word “curious” for me it means we are not ready to say is wrong, we don’t understand, are mildly uncomfortable with it but willing to wait and see. My reaction is the total opposite, for me the word is WOW, he accepted the job, what a brave guy. I am not sure how he got there or who voted him in or tried to block him, but maybe this just signal the end of the back room dealings and negotiations. Transparency in the decision making, speaking plainly and directly and having one single objective: more democracy so we can rescue the victims of the tornado trapped under 15 years of mismanagement and over 30 of mistrust.

    And by the way, I am with him (have always been) in that the main issue is “one of sociologically-grounded analysis of what the basic problem in Venezuela is (the mistrust, loathing and misunderstanding between the barrio and the urbanización)”. Blame my UCAB journalism education with socialis priests (Jesuits) teaching us and my humble origins in Las Adjuntas, so maybe that’s why is so appealing to me. But watching him interview Belen Marrero about the death of Monica Spear tells me he is also a “wonder kid” of connecting with other perspectives too.

    I think this is such good news I wonder if Maduro is changing his agenda in NY because of this or because he was afraid of the protest being organized for friday at the UN.

    • You make it sound like we elected a candidate instead of a middle manager, of a conserje… which is what the Secretary General of the MUD is, or should be.

      • I think Aveledo was a great guy for the moment, things changed. And you make it sound like a middle manager or a conserje are not THE hardest jobs, all the work and no credit/power? We need more people who wants those jobs and not to sit in “the Silla”. I have nothing but respect for Aveledo’s work and specially the fact that he stepped down. I am celebrating Chuo’s willingness to step into a hot seat and happy because I do think he can speak barrio and I would love to be a fly on the wall in the MUD meetings. But again I am nosy and love to imagine those things.
        And BTW, for some independent anti-chavistas (re: me) Aveledo’s moral rectitude kept us from becoming a ni-ni, so in a way Aveledo was a “candidate” and kept some things together.

        • ” And you make it sound like a middle manager or a conserje are not THE hardest jobs, all the work and no credit/power? ”

          I think Juan’s comment might be a victim loss in translation or perhaps the insidious normal politics trap. On paper, the definition of the MUD SG job may be closer to that of, say, the party committee chairpersons of the US: indeed a thankless, middle-management position given to lesser figureheads (Rience Priebus? Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Los conocen en su casa). Whereas in our current tropical dictatorship, the MUD SG looks more like a shadow Speaker of the House: yes, part of the job is to try and keep the troops in line but also to campaign and appeal to the public for the purpose of the party(ies) agenda.

      • Aveledo garnered a LOT more attention than your average party hack. I would say that Aveledo had the visibility if not legislative power of say John Boehner in the USA (someone who is faced with a similarly difficult job of keeping a coalition of misfits united). It’s been extremely entertaining watching Boehner doing his job btw, especially during the bargaining over raising of the debt ceiling. A real cara de tabla.

        If Chuo has such broad appeal, is there a way he might make his way to a higher position among the pols or is this position a dead end?

      • When LBJ entered College ( a not very famous Texas Teachers College) he sought and got voted to the position of Caretaker in that College , one year later he was the boss of that College and nothing got done without his support . Sometimes the man makes the position rather than the other way round.

    • ” I am not sure how he got there or who voted him in or tried to block him, but maybe this just signal the end of the back room dealings and negotiations. ”

      Putting up Torrealba as a more prominent opposition figure is a no-brainer move and it has been so for *years*. That it hadn’t happened until now tells you something about the degree of uselessness/sinvergüenzura in the oppo nomenklatura. In fact it smells more like the kind of thing suggested by an US State Dept. advisor or some other extra-MUD figure.

  4. “the mistrust, loathing and misunderstanding between the barrio and the urbanización)”

    Which is always emphasized and worsened by any sort of socialist….it’s one of the main ways they win elections.

        • In strict sociological terms the studies (España et all) shows it’s a more nuanced definition, hence the common saying “el barrio se lleva en la cabeza” or the less PC “la mona aunque se vista de seda mona se queda” but it’s definitely not Chavez proposal of the rural pueblo vs the rich burgess, or the whites mantuanos vs. the black/Indians.
          Was it here recently a discussion of is Caricuao poor or middle class? Answer, it’s both, 25 years ago people moved to places there from ranchos in Mamera When el Metro came. same for lot of other places. Is cafetal middle class? It might be now but 30 years ago El Cafetal was were the poor people bought their first apt. And people in El Country looked down on them. My neighbors in Colinas de Bello monte were middle class but a lot of them moved from El Valle and boy did they know how to throw a Molotov and fight the national guard like the best UCV student in the 80’s. In any case the idea is we are deep down all Venezuelans and we have more in common than we think if we just talk to each other and find the common problems that affect us all.

          • Barrio:

            “Cada una de las partes en que se dividen los pueblos grandes o sus distritos.”
            “En algunas poblaciones, barrio en que se concentran los locales destinados a la prostitución y otras actividades de malvivir.”

            Here in Spain we call barrios basically everything, in Venezuela it’s for shantytowns / favela.

  5. I will say this “con los pelos del burro en la mano”: this guy is well seen in many part of chavismo and is respected by the ni-ni’s at many barrios. His name and face might help to bring the MUD down to earth but he will need to have a very capable left hand with the radical group inside. Currently, I think this is one of the most difficult jobs in the country right now and I hope he can play the slimy game of politics, for all of us…

    Good luck

    • agree. Chuo’s nomination and acceptance as head of the MUD is the best possible news. With one fell swoop, new winds now propel the creaky ghost ship that the MUD had become in the past year or so. That the opportunity exists for the MUD to rise from the ashes, now with a more versatile face, is a testament to the sound organizational skills that RGAveledo deployed. Gracias RGA. Palante, Chuo.

  6. IMO Chuo has earned his pass to the big boys club for all his great work for over 9 years barrio adentro de verdad.

    His radar de los Barrios project aimed to the largest group of the general population (C, D and E) has have some important traction and long term drive.

    his time has come to play the difficult role he is/has accepted as SG of the MUD. I concur with other opinions his biggest threat may come from within MUD factions rather than across the political divide.

    Mis mas fuerte admiracion por Chuo.

    • When it was mentioned above that Chuo Torrealba could communicate well with the barrios, the first thing I thought of, without knowing he was connected with it, was Radar de los Barrios.

  7. This is wonderful news!

    Aveledo did a great job and was able to keep the coalition together through very difficult times. He established the structure and rules that allowed this to happen. With the internal structure in place the role evolved into becoming the spokesperson and most visible talking head of the opposition, particularly once the elections were over. In this new phase he was probably not the best image for the opposition.

    Chuo has a more down to earth image and will help in communicating with the voters from the lower classes, which the opposition needs to consolidate a clear majority.

    I like him much better than Carlos Raul Hernandez, who was rumored as a possible choice. He would have been a divisive force.

    One step forward.

  8. “–El nuevo liderazgo venezolano tiene que estar casado con los pobres: la pobreza en Venezuela no es incidental sino mayoritaria, no es casual sino estructural. Siete de cada diez venezolanos vive en espacios económicamente deprimidos y socialmente segregados. Si ese nuevo liderazgo quiere ser democrático, debe pensar-con, actuar-con y generar resultados-para esa mayoría. Si ese nuevo liderazgo quiere ser poder y no solamente acceder al gobierno, debe ser progresista: un proyecto político democrático, para ser exitoso, debe estar referido al centro político de la sociedad.”

    Chuo, interviewed by Milagros Socorro

  9. There’s a lot of “although he’s not really a politician” in this post, but wasn’t Chuo Torrealba a high ranking something in Coordinadora Democratica?

    Seems to me, that experience in the predecessor to MUD is pretty valuable.

  10. One of the main reasons the opposition’s message has become a watch-your-navel circus, full of personal agendas and party sectarianism, is that there is no genuine connection with THE MAJORITY of the voting population. The opposition’s mesage “NO SUBE CERRO”. It’s leaders are seen as rep’s of a political model that has been chastised ad infinitum by chavez et al. Give me just one name of a middle-class politician that has national credibility among the lower quarters of the Venezuelan society… (As a matter of fact, who reads this blog? Who contributes to it? Motorizados? Cajeras de automercados? Empleadas domésticas? Peluqueros? Empleados de cafeterías? Kioskeros? Buhoneros?). HCR connected the most because he was campaigning, but once the election was “lost” he was back to what the gov’t politically labeled him as. Add the fact that there is really no brotherhood between the several parties aspiring candidates to power within the opposition… Chuo seems to be THE ONE visible enough to have the NATIONAL GENUINE credibility to carry the opposition’s message to the underdogs. Besides, he has no known attachments to any of the old or new parties within the opposition so they may feel safe in their competition for power. Remember: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with…). Never more appropriate!!

    • One of the main reasons the opposition’s message has become a watch-your-navel circus, full of personal agendas and party sectarianism, is that there is no genuine connection with THE MAJORITY of the voting population.
      Then how do you explain the 2010 Legislative and the 2013 Presidential results, when the oppo got close to 50% of the vote?

  11. “Ese nuevo liderazgo debe ser, finalmente, ético (no santurrón). Se trata de que el líder exprese en su testimonio de vida lo que su discurso propone. Congruencia de pensar, decir y hacer. Así es, a mi juicio, el nuevo liderazgo que puede vencer en la presente circunstancia y construir una Venezuela económicamente productiva, socialmente justa y políticamente democrática.”
    — Chuo Torrealba, marzo del 2014

  12. Here is hoping that he will do a good job.

    Right now he has an image that is an excellent fit for the post:
    a semi-outsider from party politics, someone capable of talking to all sectors and classes of the country, an activist focused on hands-on and direct interaction with the people, an effective communicator and someone sincere and credible with a positive message that does not center on politics but social issues. He is not a polarizing figure and seems to stay away from (or above) political quarreling.

    Does he have the skills to mediate and build the required consensus among the political players and get them to coordinate effectively their actions?
    Lets just hope he does.

  13. I do not support or decry Torrealba´s appointment. I will judge him on his results in the 2015 parliamentary polls.

    What I will do is shed a tear for the Venezuelan middle class. Fashion, mannerisms, language and politics in Venezuela are imposed by the lower classes and we (a civilian middle class), are well in the past, living abroad or dying of old age. Fair enough, the lower classes are the majority, however, what a disaster they have made of my country.

    The Era of the Barrio, with its glorification of violence, bad Spanish and general incompetence (as in, anyone from the barrio can be minister of education) will still go on for some time. By choosing Torrealba to lead the MUD the opposition is just acknowledging the obvious, that to actually communicate with the lower classes they need lower class politicians.

      • Oh, I guess you are calling me a thing of the past? I am mate. I admit it. Every time I visit Caracas I wonder if it was always barbaric, or things are just getting worse.

        I live and work in an European country, using the education “1872 Venezuela” gave me. Now it´s useless in my own country, for sure, I would be either unemployed or overqualified over there; but it is perfectly fine here. Maybe in Europe we live in the past as well (I do wonder what could I do here with a Bolivarian diploma).

        I am nostalgic of an era where public TV had Arturo Uslar Pietri and Sofia Imber as leading characters, instead of Aló Presidente or whatever they call it these days. If you think today´s Venezuela is better, in any way, than (say) 1980… well, lets just say Venezuelans usually have short memories.

        If to have decent politics in Venezuela it is necessary to speak the dialect they use in Miraflores and behave like they do in TV nowadays… I prefer to brave the winters here.

        Also, kids get off my lawn.

      • Agarrenme que le doy… Jeez I am glad I read this today and not exhausted after a day of speaking 3 languages in 3 time zones, while trying to figure out how to buy some denture gum in CVS for all the old ladies and gentlemen of my family and find someone to take it home while I know we (my 150+ close family) are lucky no one has cancer and can’t find medicines…

        But again I am also glad this person is not invited to our next sancocho or dominoes playing session. His sensitivity to our lack of culture would be seriously hurt, specially when we start discussing how the French Revolution could have given a clue or two to some “true revolutionaries” from the economic elite that believed in Chavez.

        I know, I know, I should not answer, but trolls are sooo tempting no matter the side of the fight the might be in

        • So, being nostalgic makes me a troll.

          Having a different behaviour makes me a target for violence (“agárrenme que le doy”).

          See what I mean? This is the society I chose to leave. Barbaric, intolerant, impolite and ungrammatical.

          If the price for being myself is to stay away from your family soup then, let me think… I guess I can live with it.

          • Then please stop talking to the barbarians. Yes it is sad/nostalgic that there is a group of people that are economically advantaged (for whatever reason, ethical/unethical) that is now being discriminated against and feels the need to leave the country. There are a lot of other things in Venezuela that are much sadder. Get over it and find more productive ways than stereotyping and hating a majority of the country. If you don’t like 70% of a country and you can leave, be happy and don’t look back! The Americans did this.

  14. One more thing: I do estimate Torrealba´s sense of morals.

    He re-painted the gate of the Caracas Synagogue, after it was defaced by government activists.

    He has never preached resentment or hate, on the contrary.

    I wish him luck. Many in the MUD will want to eat him alive.

  15. If the political agenda could change course from competition for power to let’s start taking care of each others genuine needs, that could be a positive revolution!

  16. I guess is a political correct choice, to say: We have not choose one of us because we want to get along. However, given the personal ideas,personality and main background of the character, i really doubt that he will have the capacity to make tough decisions if needed.

    I always hoped that the heir will be a real political operator, with an understanding on the importance of “Power” and a pragmatic (some would call it machiavellian) approach on how MUD can get close to it, but hey, there’s a reason why MUD get weaker even if the government get weaker too, they just don’t know how to play the political game (maybe if they watch House of Card, They could understand at least that the politcal game in our country has it own tradecraft)

  17. “the misunderstanding between the barrio and the urbanización” is just a phantasy.

    I think I would not like to have as a leader, someone who carries around that sort of speech. Is over the top classist and divisive. Also I don’t like the idea of a person, that portrays himself as leader, dismissing people from the middle and upper class.

    Are we forgetting what happened the last time we elected someone like that?

    I’m sorry to say, but this guy has already started with the wrong foot.

  18. A few points on “the mistrust, loathing and misunderstanding between barrio and urbanización”

    1. In Venezuela there are 25000 violent deaths per year. most of them executed by people from “el barrio”.

    2. Caracas is the city with most kidnappings in the world. Most of them carried out by people from “el barrio”.

    3. In 1989 savage looting destroyed my city. Most of the looters were from “el barrio”.

    4. People from “el barrio” have kept the regime in power for 15 years and counting.

    5. I, and my family, have been victims of crimes committed by people from “el barrio”.

    6. My mother was run over a motorcyclist from “el barrio”. In the bloody pavement!

    I mean, “mistrust ” doesn’t even START to convey my feelings, man. “Paranoid terror” is more on the spot. I can’t say I loathe them, that wouldn’t be true, but i would be worried if I could understand them.

    • 1. Guns/Drugs are imported/processed/sold by people that live “en la urbanizacion”
      2. Government is mismanaged by people “en la urbanizacion”
      3. “la urbanizacion” receives a disproportionate amount of state resources and that disparity create structural impoverishment of the majority.
      4. Large-scale government corruption has been perpetrated by residents of “la urbanizacion”
      5. When the going gets tough the people of “la urbanizacion” can leave the country

      Does this help you understand the 98% of the residents of “el barrio” that have nothing to do with the crimes of the 2% but rather are acutely victimized?

      • Man, you are very right in points number… No wait, you are totally wrong.

        Venezuela is mismanaged by lower class blockheads, not middle class people. Bus drivers, people without any known trade and the like.They don´t even speak the bloody language! (serious, did you read Giordani´s farewell letter, it´s a grammatical apocalypse)

        Guns and drugs are controlled by the armed forces and the bosses of prison gangs… Are they middle class? (I mean yeah, now they live in La Lagunita, but where were they born and raised? call it the social mobility of organised crime).

        Concerning state resources, I strongly challenge that assertion. I don´t have the data, but the money has been siphoned out to keep “el barrio” voting the right way. The burden of proof lies on you here (I may admit this unbalance still exists in the upper-education system)

        Large-scale corruption was perpetrated by the middle classes???? The food rotting in the docks? the currency black market? the petrol smuggling? the debacle of PDVSA? CADIVI? the destruction of the CVG? These are products of the middle classes? Really?

        Man, WAKE UP. the whole point of the government is to disintegrate the middle classes (remember the PDVSA sacking massacre?) and sink everyone into dependency!

        And yes, I left the country in great part because of “el barrio” grew too large. I challenge you not be scared of your garden-variety tierrúo armed with a gun rampaging on a motorcycle. And now this guy is a government official invested with authority.

        The middle classes have many faults, but how do they condone or explain everyday crime committed by lower class thugs?

        • Like many Venezuelans, my great-grandmother’s generation migrated rural to urban (Estado Bolivar to Caracas). Some people in my family were hardworkers, some were lucky, some were both and some were neither. Some live in La Lagunita, some in Las Mercedes, and others in Santa Monica (none in el “barrio”). My great-grandmother never went to school, raised four children by herself, worked as a seamstress for a few years and she lives in an apartment. None of her children graduated from high school or had formal training and only one of her grandchildren went to college. Had any minute variable in her life been different most of us would be living in Petare or any other slum. I don’t presume that my family is superior because we all live in decent housing. There are many people like us in los barrios (psst… and like you too).

          • I don´t see myself as superior to your, or anyone´s, great-grandmother. I am sure they were all remarkable people.

            Whether there are people like me in a barrio… what do you know? do you know me and someone like me in Petare? No? then stop making assumptions without evidence or data.

            It´s not a matter of perceived superiority, or marxist analysis, nothing as complicated as that.

            What I am saying is: it is logical to mistrust people from el barrio, if your life has been plagued by crimes committed by these very same people.

  19. In business, as in government, when you transact with others with the motive gaining more than your counterpart, you might make a little more or less than your counter part, but together you make less than you would if you didn’t worry about it! If we agree to help each other as much as possible, one of you might make more, but you both make MUCH MORE in the long run. Read up on the RED-BLACK game.

  20. I have yet to understand the importance of subir cerro in the midst of a authoritarian Gov. We are having real trouble to understand that any non-democratic Gov doesn’t (fully) need majority support, and economical crisis might be advantageous to hold more power while excercising economic control in every-day-life (from control prices to food rationing).

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