Julio Borges is now in charge of the Legislative branch. It’s sure going to be different.
Henry Ramos Allup was a machine gun, rapid fire without too much thought about who got hit. Julio Borges is more of a sniper: cool, poised, calculated.
His first speech as boss was aimed at specific parts of MUD and chavismo. The most memorable part was addressed directly at the Armed Forces and to those who want to forestall elections.
Borges would love for the Assembly to be what it ought to have been all along: the no B.S. space for real dialogue, minus the priests.
Elections loom especially large in Borges’s mind. He wants to win, but to win at the ballot box. Street protests, rallies and the mobilization agenda in general are clearly of secondary importance to the most important opositor in the country.
To get what he wants, he must ensure two things: que no se embochinche la cosa — that relative calm prevail — and that chavismo restore at least some of the National Assembly’s powers. Borges would love for the Assembly to be what it ought to have been all along: the no B.S. space for real dialogue, minus the priests. That’s what the constitution sets out, right?
His vision is just as ambitious as it is unlikely.
His inaugural speech was more calm and measured than anything we saw from Henry Ramos. He was trying to reach specific audiences, not “el pais nacional”, and he was out to put out fires, not kindle them. To many of us, this looks like Mission Impossible, but it’s what he’s after.
The fires he has to put out are fires Ramos Allup started. It’s easy to remember now, but a year ago the big concern was that he would cut a deal with Aristóbulo. He wanted to dispel this notion, so as soon as he was sworn in he started trolling the government, trying to establish his opositor rajao bona fides and make sure people stopped wondering whether he was the guy MUD needed. He needed to position himself as a serious threat. It was about cojones.
Borges thinks differently: if he has presidential ambitions, they’re way off in the 2020s or 2030s. He’s not thinking about his approval rating, his work right now is backstage.
But now that he’s under the spotlight —and a bright one at that— his ability to lurk and maneuver behind closed doors will be put to the test.
And Borges has to worry about his right flank too: reining in the radicals is going to prove tricky for someone like Borges.
But he’s in a confounding situation: at the same time vowing to declare the president has abandoned his post and trying to bailar pegao enough to overcome the Assembly’s “contempt” measure and actually legislate. Can you really do both? If you want to use the National Assembly as a power-brokering center, can you really be calling on the army to disobey the president? Can that crazy balancing act work? In the end, chavismo has the answers to those questions, we don’t.
And Borges has to worry about his right flank too: reining in the radicals is going to prove tricky for someone like Borges. I’m not just talking about fellow crazies in VP: key leaders in his own party like Henrique Capriles have spoken out against concessions. And of course Voluntad Popular, as well as people in Vente, ABP and even bits of AD will blanche at any sign of excess friendliness with power. It promises to make 2017 a bumpy ride for the new AN speaker.
Borges, who’s built a career on his sang froide, knows what any good sniper knows, it takes patience, precision and, of course, the perfect conditions for a clear shot. My doubt is whether the country is in the mood for snipers right now. Seems to me we’re facing more of a typhoon than a calm breeze and with the economy continuing to sink deeper into chaos there’s little hope of a respite. I bid El Cejudo the best of luck, because he’ll sure as hell need it.
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