In Petare, Chavismo goes stealth

William Ojeda sized up his chances of getting elected on a red ticket in Petare and made the logical - if morally bankrupt - choice.


For the last 16 years, an election campaign in La California, my little corner of Caracas, has meant a sea of red in our streets along with even more photos of President Chavez than usual.  But around La California and Macaracuay, there is no red PSUV propaganda to be seen; blue Min-Unidad propaganda is the 2015 new star.

The slogans repeated over and over again: “Somos la oposición” / “#SucreMereceAlgoMejor”. Bizarrely, this campaign is for the government-backed Candidate, William Ojeda. It looks like Ojeda did the math: in Petare, his best bet is to pass himself off for what he’s not.

Alongside the fake oppo campaign, there’s the real one: Mesa de la Unidad Democrática posters for its candidate Miguel Pizarro. If you find this confusing, if you find yourself wondering “wait, isn’t there a chavista candidate in Petare?..” well, that is very much the point.

La California Metro station is a peculiar place of nowadays. Just in front of a 70s modernist shopping mall, a big crowd struggles everyday to catch a ride home.  At around 6pm, the sidewalks are not for walking: a jumble of lines takes over every space and only veterans can tell where to catch the bus you need (there are no signs at all!!)

Just in front the station exit is the metrobus stop for Macaracuay, beside it stands a taxi cooperative where you can share a taxi and pay only for a seat. Half a block away is the metrobus stop to El Llanito and between both, you can buy cachitos, popcorn or DVDs. When traffic is hard and metrobuses run late, all those lines mingle and asking carefully who is the last one going to your destination is the only way to know where each line ends.

I guess that a place with so many people together is a great spot for an election campaign, and these days the contest for the deputy that will be elected in the 3rd circuit of Miranda State is in full swing.

When you hear Petare, you probably picture the crowded, dismal barrios in the eastern end of our city, but the 3rd circuit of Miranda is neither homogeneous nor especially poor. Petare parish includes some of the more consolidated urban areas of the municipality and a number of middle class neighborhoods.

So, what is this Min-Unidad that has covered our circuit with blue? Founded way back in the 1970s by Renny Ottolina, and was once in the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática. It’s a small party and has no recent electoral victories to show, but does have a trajectory that entitles it to a spot on the ballot. Or so it was, until its national leadership was overthrown by a court ruling: one of those Grand Theft Party that Gustavo always writes about. In a country where the justice system is as independent as Fiscal Nieves tells us after fleeing to the US, you don’t need a tinfoil hat to think Min-Unidad is now a government-controlled political party. Watch Ojeda’s campaign, and that’s more than obvious. 

Min-Unidad propaganda focuses on hyper-local problems, things far out of the purview of the National Assembly. But the message that shocks me more is “Con William hablan las urbanizaciones” – “with William, the proper neighbourhoods get a voice.” It’s everywhere. Including a wall at the entrance to a barrio called Campo Rico, just a block away from La California metro station.

William Ojeda is a sitting member of the National Assembly. He was elected in 2010 on an opposition ticket. He has changed political party at least four times including two huge shifts: after being a founder of Movimiento V República (party that supported Hugo Chavez in 1998), he walked away and created his own personal-vehicle party in 2002. Then joined Un Nuevo Tiempo and finally left the  Mesa de la Unidad Democrática during 2012 presidential campaign. Now he’s a leader of the governing party and PSUV candidate, but his campaign is staying well clear of those symbols.

Ganar como sea. President Maduro said and Mr. Ojeda knows exactly what that means. By any means necessary. 

First, it means that it is legitimate to conceal your true identity and political affiliation in order to prevent losing votes because of the social unrest your own economic policy has created. If need be, let’s not show any red propaganda. Anything goes in the service of the revolution. 

But that’s only the beginning, let’s talk about the message. In a highly polarized election, it’s very hard for a chavista candidate to earn a single vote in middle class neighborhoods… unless he can use a greater fear: fear to the unknown, fear of those sprawling slums that sprawl up the mountainsides surrounding what should be a tiny paradise. And that’s what William Ojeda is playing on: “Con William hablan las urbanizaciones” is talking to those citizens criticizing Primero Justicia for focusing on the poor, for allegedly abandoning the rest of us.

Maybe they think ideology and consistency are overrated and nothing is wrong if a socialist government launches a campaign that criticizes a local government committed to the most vulnerable of its citizens. But for me it is an important symptom: all that matters at this point is keeping power. The revolution doesn’t matter, the poor don’t matter.

Winning is the only goal. Ganar como sea. Eso es lo que hay. 

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  1. I frankly can’t believe this crap. I’ve seen the billboards, and the campaign in general, and just assumed that such an oligarca slogan could only be from a pissed-off-because-of-the-garbage, Ocariz hater, non-MUD (independent?) opposition candidate named William.
    My bad. Just good ol’ William Ojeda in a brand new of his ridiculous transformations.
    Lets just hope that people in Macaracuay, Los Chorros and La California can prove the middle and upper classes of the country are still not that stupid…

  2. Has anyone considered the possibility that with the MUD & minUnidad logos side by side that the machines might “accidentally” convert votes for the MUD into minUnidad.

    People will have to check their voting screens & receipts very carefully.

    I remember one voting exercise where there were a lot of complaints that the touch field of the machines was not very accurate and looking at the voting samples that have been provided it looks like they have these 2 logos separated from the rest.

    • I am no expert, but I believe that the trick is not in the machines. Is all that happens before you vote, like this campaign

      • I completely agree, this is the kind of things that help to lose elections, more so in elections like this one, where some spots are for listed candidates.

  3. Willy “low-level chameleon scoundrel” Ojeda. Much like de Aporrea ship-jumping rats who blame everything on Maduro but still adore Chavez, only because the vast majority of Venezuelan pueblo-people are ignorant enough buy such nonsense and think the same.

    This despicable weasel counts on the fact that enormous popular lack of education, lack of basic information is the most powerful tool corrupt politicians have at their disposal: Massive Deception.

    You will see 6 Million people voting for Madurismo, at least, plus 50% of the remaining population are still “undecided” mostly Chavistas to death. Today.

    Even so, apparently some Petareños are not that stupid:

  4. But it is true. Since I was a child the politicians have abandoned the middle class and have focused on gaining support and financing the poor. They have done very little to teach these people how to fish, but have insisted on taking the fish from those who work to give them to those who are taught they cannot work because they are so poor, so pitiable. So William Ojeda capitalizing on that is only logical. The middle class has been historically abandoned to favor the poor, who in venezuela have been taught to expect everythi g for free.

    • Ojeda is not capitalizing on that because he believes the middle class has been abandoned, he is capitalizing on that because he has a high name recognition from those people due to the fact that he has run as an opposition candidate before, and he’s trying to fool some of them into believing he is still an opposition candidate.

    • I think it is problematic to affirm that “middle class has been abandoned”. If you want light, it’s simple: turn it on and pay your bills. If you are poor and live in a distant slum, there is no service, even if you are willing to pay for it (believe me, they are… stolen electricity costs too much, your appliances break too often). Every service is much more expensive when some has to go up 500 steps to deliver it and public infraestructure is inexistent. Of course our serivices are bad, and have worsened, but the majority of a country never had what we did. And those workers are hired here, but we never made room for them in our cities. That’s a debt we still have

  5. Like you said, the Petare parish isn’t just the Petare cerros. The reason the opposition wins so comfortably whenever you go to see the results in the CNE page (Maduro got only 43% of the vote there), isn’t because Ocariz has the barrios on his side, it’s because the parish also includes some well-off neighborhoods. In fact, the real reason the opposition wins in Petare is because the 80-20 landslides they get in the eastern region of the parish where those neighborhoods are, far compensate for the loss they suffer at the Petare cerros in the western region.

    This strategy would work in other circumstances. But Ojeda is well known among those very neighborhood people he’s trying to woo in those ads: as a slimy “salta-talanquera”. All the opposition has to do is to expose him as the chavista candidate he is and that’s it. Does that mean he won’t deceive some people? No. But it’s probably not enough to get him elected. In 2010, the MUD got very close to obtaining 60% of the vote there. In the sorry state the country is in, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to do so now.

    • I don’t think William Ojeda will be elected, but his estrategy is too much for me to bear! That’s why I decided to write about it.

  6. This is dirty and underhanded. A painfully ignominious way the gov is seeking to get its way.
    But having said that…If at this stage- after every election we’ve had since the Parlamentarias in 2010, after every press conference the MUD has done- the majority of the voting populace STILL cannot conjure up a clear image of Mesa de la Unidad’s party logo and tell it apart from Min-Unidad, then we have another problem which is just as big as a government hell-bent on staying in power.

  7. I disagree on the last paragraph.

    It’s not that they “don’t care about the revolution”, their revolution is EXACTLY about keeping the power at ANY cost.


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