Henrique Capriles’ press conference yesterday is perhaps, much more than Jorge Rodriguez’s or Diosdado Cabello’s tweet-feed, the most sour note of an otherwise glorious weekend. If it wasn’t because, by blessing or design, it went largely unnoticed during yesterday’s celebrations, many people would find it difficult to forgive him for it.
And I’m not going to lie: my own party, after watching it, was over.
His general message was fairly straightforward and uncontroversial: the Opposition (which we can now call the New Majority) must show maturity, serenity and humility in the face of unprecedented victory and power. It should seek to prioritize solving the economic and social crisis our country is facing, before deciding to retake control of the country’s political institutions, calling a referendum on Maduro or, God help us, a Constitutional Assembly. It should be conscious of the fact many who voted for us did so only in order to vote against the government.
In a nutshell: we should harvest this great opportunity to bring the political debate up a notch and prove to the former chavistas that we can indeed work for them also.
After Sunday’s alleged vindication of the Caprilista doctrine of patiently coming to power through the polls, he claims this is something he is the best at doing. He is also boosted by the fact that his party, Primero Justicia, won the most seats for the opposition coalition (33), many of these in traditionally strong bastions of Chavismo like el 23 de Enero (where el eterno’s body lies, for crying out loud) and in the poorest circuits of Miranda.
Yet in politics, alas, form often matters more than substance. And the more sensible and pertinent his words yesterday sounded, the more appalling and impertinent was the way, context and timing in which he said them. In a few occasions he simply just let his tongue run away, betraying perhaps his true motives for calling such a speech.
It is odd for Capriles, to begin with, to talk about the Unity of the MUD while being surrounded by people (mostly) from his party only. It makes the audience question why, in fact, he was not in the news conference that declared our victory Sunday.
Yet that is nothing when you consider the timing in which he decided to talk to the country: at 10am, just as the MUD itself had called for a news conference. It was realpolitikal sabotage: to force the hand of the MUD to postpone their conference to listen to his, or to go ahead and make their own parallel to his.
After 40 minutes of postponement, that is what actually happened. And the most appalling thing of all is that when the MUD went ahead and started their own conference, the MUD Youtube stream, in an unprecedented and eerily reminiscent move, abruptly cut Capriles’ words from the channel. Yes, for an hour yesterday, at minute 1:50:30 in this video, la oposición se encadenó a si misma.
A day after victory, this was almost too painful to watch.
And here you can start to imagine what was the tone in which he spoke. It was one of defiance.
When asked (at 25:00) why he did not go to the Comando de Campaña victory on Sunday, he replied by saying: “many people think politics is about marketing… it is not about the photo, or the snapchat”.
What people want are ideas, he insisted. He then went ahead and reminded us all that many people in the “radical” opposition had “called him a traitor and a swindler just two years ago.” He even mentioned he heard people say yesterday he was not at the Comando because he was negotiating a 3/5 majority at Miraflores. Not content with that, he commented that the visiting foreign ex-presidents had done us harm Sunday by speaking too much.
According to Capriles, last Sunday was the final death match between #LaSalida and himself. Even though he claims to have won, one could tell from miles away he was upset, wounded.
I can only speculate what he was upset about, but what is now clear is that there were internal altercations in the MUD political elite Sunday night. Maybe it was all the Leopoldizing of the victory (“the 6D is when he started the hunger strike”) or Lilian’s infamous #NiñitasGanamos selfie-video that did the trick.
But the bottom line is that this is something no one, bar chavismo, wants to know about through a press conference a day after victory. Why make something that is in essence private, and that has to be solved in private, through realpolitik in the corridors of the new National Assembly, be exhibited to the public? How does forcing this fight on us help in the solution?
Maybe it is because the solution is complex. Maybe the intransigence is deep-rooted in both wings of the Opposition. Maybe it is that, after this election, the political landscape has changed forever. Capriles was far from being the only one Monday appealing to the center. Did you hear Freddy Bernal, for example? A country split in one in three versus two in three, can easily just split in three.
Capriles’ defiance may signal the beginning of a less polarised new chapter of Democracy in Venezuela. This is something I could one day be comfortable with.
But that day is not today, and it certainly was not yesterday. Maybe in a few years’ time, after Maduro’s term ends. Until then we cannot afford defying unity. Until then, we need to wash our dirty laundry at home.