Deconstructing Capriles

(Apologies for the source of the above video, it was the only version available on YouTube)

The bloggers of Caracas Chronicles held a cyber-conversation on today’s announcement by Henrique Capriles, where he abandoned infighting within the opposition and called for unity together with increased street pressure on the government.

Juan C: So … main takeaways? To me, there is a clear recognition that unity has to mean joining forces with Maria Corina, Leopoldo, and Ledezma. They are no longer rivals but rather necessary allies. I felt a certain humility in his tone. What did you guys think?

Rodrigo: I think that his announcement that actions would be announced later was disappointing…

Raul: I was OK with that, I prefer he stick to being prudent and not announce things for which there is no consensus yet.

In general, I liked it. I particularly appreciated his positioning himself as part of a team. When he began talking about “proposals” he was kind of chucuto, and I don’t think he needs to insist on differentiating himself from #LaSalida. I’m bored with that whole discussion of he said, she blocked, they guarimbed. Had he said it once it would have been enough. And his insistence that people in the shanties will not come down on their own, that we will have to go get them, was spot on.

At any rate, something is coming, and it’s important the opposition is not caught with its pants down.

Roberto: I agree with L-Rod (Rodrigo). We criticize Maduro’s @announcement of an announcement,” and Capriles copied it today! He could have built more on the enormous attention his press conference received. He needs to bring down to Earth the whole idea of “time for change” or “time to act.” It was the right moment to tell followers and undecideds how he will employ his still significant political capital.

Having said that, I agree with Juan. His position today was progress, a healthy first step to the opposition’s full display. Capriles knows that calling for people to the streets, calling for Article 350 to be applied is a story than ends with him in jail and blood on the streets. It would be #LaSalida 2, and we know how that ends.

With several international voices foreseeing an end game, Capriles reminds public opinion that he hasn’t gone anywhere, that he still has proposals, and that – like it or not – he still holds the title of “leader of the opposition,” in spite of all the lost support.

Beyond today, the coming actions and positions will determine where we go. Society has to remain watchful.

Anabella: Henrique reaffirms the importance of working as a team. It was important for him to say that the unity of the country is more important than the MUD, that most Venezuelans simply don’t participate in political parties. We ALL have to work for change, not just the parties, and not just party apparatchicks. We are all suffering daily, we must all find a solution.

Carlos: I would love to find out why Capriles got in touch with Maria Corina. My hunch is that the Citizens’ Congress that Maria Corina is organizing is gaining some relevance. Having Andres Pastrana, Felipe Calderon, and Sebastian Piñera come for a forum on Venezuela is a major boost for its sponsors.

It’s positive that Capriles called for unity. Capriles’ time has past, but he can still remain a leading force, helping to gel the opposition and assist in a transition to democracy. We will have to see what minimum consensus they can reach (for starters, decide whether this is a “dictatorship” or simple a “flawed democracy”).

Juan C: So, IS he still the leader of the opposition? I personally don’t think so. He seems to be “leading from behind.” People are fed up, and there is a general sense of “about time Henrique” regarding his announcement today.

Also, what did you think of his analysis of the situation? That was his weakest point to me. He didn’t really trace the problem back to the horrendous policies enacted. He didn’t say the exchange controls had to be lifted, nor that expropriations had to be reverted. He basically made it sound like it’s not the system’s fault, but of the people who are running it. Weak weak weak.

Anabella: He didn’t talk about dismantling the exchange controls, but about how Cadivi has engendered corruption. He spoke about returning unproductive expropriated farms and companies to their owners.

He diagnosed the country’s recession, inflation, and scarcity, and said the government had wasted almost $800 billion it got in 12 years. He did say it’s because the model is a failure. He talked about forgetting to push for national production, and privileging imports. He placed the blame on the government, who refuses to acknowledge its role and instead talks nonsense about an “economic war.”

Carlos: Yes he remains feeble, but what Moises Naim´s “The End of Power” teaches us is that power isn’t what it used to be. He may no longer be the leader of the opposition but he can still place enough hurdles in front of anyone who’s considered the most important leader.

Also, I think there are bigger fishes to fry right now, and the opposition is not even carrying a frying pan (possible hanky-panky orchestrated by the military linked to Diosdado and Rodriguez Torres).

Raul: He lacked depth in his proposals, and he was all over the place re. exchange controls. I think he did say expropriated companies had to be returned, but when it came to land he just said they had to become productive again. And then he veered away from the proposals – obviously he improvised that part. I think if his goal was to talk about unity in the opposition, he should just have skipped all that.

And about his leadership, we can throw darts here and there, but we will see in a few days.

Audrey: To me he is still the leader of the opposition. Everyone was waiting for him to speak, so he spoke. What were we expecting him to say or do? That he’s going to run for President again?

Gustavo: I think he really tried to justify (though not explicityl) the issue of timing. Many criticize his lack of action in the last year, and he argues that “slow and steady wins the race.” He is trying to relaunch himself as leader of the MUD, and differentiate himself (all of us) from what remains of chavismo. He was deliberately vague about mobilizing people, but that’s probably a response to a lack of consensus (leave the hard work to Chuo). Getting close to Maria Corina and VP a positive step, but it could have come sooner.

My bottom line: a good re-introduction, but not the best. Too soon to tell for sure. We have to wait and see.

Juan C: But Anabella, that’s pretty weak. Saying Cadivi has generated corruption without saying it has to be dismantled is akin to telling people that exchange controls are not bad, it’s the people running it that make it bad. I remember Caldera had an exchange control (OTAC) and he said, more or less, that all it needed to work was having honest people handling it. That is either being insincere – or not understanding the nature of the problem! And if you don’t “get” Venezuela’s foreign currency problem at this stage of the game … perro, that’s not a minot thing!

Anabella: I was present at the Press Conference and I can attest there was a ton of expectation in the air. All the media was there, but apparently only VivoPlay broadcast it live. Even went offline for fifteen minutes.

I think the problem was too much build-up, and people were not satisfied. The question in people’s minds remains: how do we mobilize? And why is now a good time compared to last year?

The country is in critical condition – much worse than last year – and maybe that’s why he decided this was the right time. I think the issue of teamwork comes up not because of the Citizens Congress (overrated) or because he feels excluded or whatever; I think he knows it’s the only way to effect change. We’ve seen that only when we are united (not in the MUD, but actually united) do we get good results. Individual or visceral decisions have led us nowhere.

Gustavo:  IS he still the leader of the opposition? Not now, but he wants to take that post again. He knows Leopoldo stole his thunder (even if Capriles was right about #LaSalida) as THE public image of the opposition. After a long period of keeping a low profile and sticking to governing, he saw that now is the right time to go out again. Of course, he has a more uphill task than ever before. Other than that, I agree with Anabella!

Juan C: How can we compare Capriles’ position with Maria Corina, Leopoldo, and Ledezma’s joint communiqué? They have asked, in no uncertain terms, for Maduro to resign. Capriles didn´t go that far, but he did talk about regime change. Are their positions different_ Ultimately, what is Capriles’ plan? What’s the other group’s plan?

Lots of talk about unity, not enough about tactics. Or maybe they’re just holding their cards close to their chests.

Anabella: Juan, re. the diagnosis, that was just the introduction, it was not the point of the press conference. He simply wanted to underline how BAD the situation is. There were some proposals that are applicable in the sort run. Obviously, he can’t fix the situation with what he said, but they are important first steps. Let’s keep in mind that Venezuela needs a structural adjustment that the government will not implement. So Henrique’s proposal is the bare minimum, something the government could do that would lead us to the solution. He even said that the ideal solution is a change in government, because they will simply not take the necessary measures.

Raul: From what I read, the two documents are similar. I don’t know if it reflects the fact that they have been talking, or if it’s a real convergence. They both talk about the high levels of rejection (80%) the government has. They talk about the need to mobilize people, and sort of used the same words. They talk about changing the government (Capriles hedges his position there a bit). And, well, they both think their position re. #LaSalida is the right one. They will die before admitting differently.

Gustavo: Capriles will not ask Maduro to resign unless he believes it is politically viable. He wants to maintain a reunifying image intact. The communiqué from the Citizens’ Congress is basically #LaSalida 2.0. As you say, there are coincidences, but different tactics.

Roberto: JC, I’ve felt time and again that thinking about hidden political strategies in the opposition is giving them too much credit. I think they simply haven’t had the will to reach minimal agreements in terms of messaging.

Ultimately, Capriles’ plan is to have the only remaining chair next to him when the music stops. He just doesn’t want to be the one to stop the music.

Carlos: This is going to give a lot of people something to talk about.

Rodrigo: So here are my comments:

1) At least he is not wearing a sports jacket.

2) I liked that he said that the “experiment” that was called the revolution is over. That will leave many still unsatisfied, particularly in the radical side of the spectrum. One end will argue that the experiment was poorly executed, the other end wants reasons. The reasons are fundamental to actually close that chapter. From Capriles’ speech, you don’t get to the truth that, had Chavez been here, things would had been the same.

3) The core issue with Capriles is that he is a “negation” of the government. Go to him to “negate” the government. There is nothing affirmative in his proposal. There is no ideal of justice or society. It is just about saying that the government is bad while he is anti-bad (which is not the same as being good). Fighting corruption is a duty of any government, it is not a proposal. There are many, many aspects where he goes bashing the government but doesn’t say anything about it other than saying something is bad (corruption, inflation, crime, etc).

4) Yes, failed model (what a horrible catch phrase. Muchacho uses it all the time). He goes on and on about how the “import economy” is bad, but by presenting all the bad arguments. He argued that the state resources ought to be used to finance local production. He doesn’t acknowledge (doesn’t understand?) that by having a sincere exchange rate, there are incentives for individuals to invest and sell in global markets. I read that as proposing “mas rentismo/paternalismo,” i. e. same model but better managed wraps up HCRs proposal.

5) I appreciate that he understands people are not going to take crap any more. Not only the lines, but that you can only buy when your ID matches the day? Come on. Saab is a gigantic douche bag. I had not seen that big of a moron in a long time. I met him once in the USB. He went to a conference. He was then the “poet” and not the “body builder”.

6) Proposals. OK, once we change of government, then what? This is my beef not only with Capriles but with any other opposition figurehead (perhaps a little more clear with Machado). “Agenda reinvindicativa” (again, and again, and again). Oil policy, stop gifts, not going into the technical stuff “because you are too dumb to understand” (which may be true, but don’t say it fool). Increase production (duh).

7) It was looooong. Really freaking fucking long. 2 hours and 15 minutes. He blabbered A LOT. Is Chavez-style of political communication going to prevail? It seems like that will be his (very unfortunate) legacy. He talked a lot, but said next to nothing other than “teamwork is needed” and “there is a need for a call to action which is unclear who will make it and what those actions are.” This seems to be reaffirmed in that only a few lines were written by each of you, basically, because there wasn’t much else.

I had to stop watching around Minute 59 to attend a meeting.

Oh, and Roberto, this is fucking brilliant:

“Ultimately, Capriles’ plan is to have the only remaining chair next to him when the music stops. He just doesn’t want to be the one to stop the music.”

Anabella: Agree with Rodrigo!

Rodrigo: I should say something else… Capriles is no statesman. But don’t forget that Maduro is much much less of stateman! Capriles may suck. But Maduro sucks to the nth power. When I look around, I feel like the Amigos Invisibles are correct: “Esto es lo que hay”

Barbara: Sorry I’m late! On his diagnosis, too much on the symptoms, not enough on the causes. On his proposals, weak! Agree with Rodrigo, “stop doing what this government is doing” is not a proposal.

I appreciated his humility in calling for unity. He was lacking, though, on an explanation for “why now?” It was not clear at all.

Notable phrases: I liked it when he said we had to hit the streets “until shelves were stocked.” It puts the goal on people’s welfare, and not on achieving power. Sad that people won’t remember. Instead, he repeated several times how he wanted Nicolas to leave, “because nobody misses him.” People will remember THAT.

The whole thing was too long, and nobody showed it live. Still, there was a ton of interest on what he was saying. I know Capriles hasn’t stopped working, but people really believe that 2014 was a wasted year for him. There is a generalized feeling that he hasn’t done enough to stop the rot. Whether today is a game changer on that regard, we will see.

By the way, chavistas are livid. @tmaniglia: “Mr Miranda Bum, it’s about time that when you speak about OUR CHAVEZ you wash your mouth first.” Aporrea says that Capriles’ message to chavistas is that the dream they were offered simply doesn’t exist.

Juan C: Conclusions? Capriles meh, Roberto brilliant!

Roberto: Jajajajajajaja… Pa brillantes ustedes 🙂

Esto es lo que hay indeed. If you’re looking for a child statesman, esto es lo que hay.

Raul: Lo que hay, but you have to remember that the road gets rocky, long, winding, and probably leads to hell. I don’t know if he still leads the opposition, but the press conference has caused quite a stir (just look at this discussion) even though he did not say much. He wasn’t announcing a candidacy or anything, and he didn’t need to list proposals. At any rate, I will see you all wearing your silly little baseball caps soon enough. Viva Caprile, eterno.