Leopoldo Gives a Boring Speech, Thank God

In the wee hours of the morning, Leopoldo López addressed the country for the first time since his relocation from Ramo Verde into house arrest. The 15-minute video didn’t exactly break new ground, going back over well understood opposition talking points systematically.

We hear him repeat the demand that the government allow humanitarian aid and free all political prisoners, for the Fuerzas Armadas to reconsider their part in tainting the institution by becoming accomplices in the annihilation of the Republic, and for people to hold strong on the streets. It could feel, at times, like a bit of a box-ticking exercise but sometimes it’s important for political leaders to make sure those boxes are ticked.

Leopoldo closes by inviting us to a 48 hour national strike “promoted by the workers” and to join the Takeover of Caracas, MUD’s own final show of might before the dreaded elections to the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, which MUD is of course not taking part in.

A Leopoldo that sticks to the script is the stuff of MUD strategists’ dreams. Finally!

I’m clearly minded to give him the benefit of the doubt I am a Voluntad Popular activist, after all. But the reality is that even to me the speech sounded a little stale from repetition. By playing it relatively safe, the speech underwhelmed many political activists.  

Not every political speech or press release has to make our bellies tingle. This isn’t the next Game Of Thrones episode.

But, has anything really changed since MUD’s last address? Not really. Yes we’ve had a back-room negotiation brokered by Rodríguez Zapatero, along the rampant conspiracy theory those inevitably give rise to. But the basic balance of forces is the same.

I think Leopoldo did well to stick to an agenda that keeps MUD together. It’s a sign of maturity for a leader too often seen as striking off on his own and risking rifts.

Not every political speech or press release has to make our bellies tingle. This isn’t the next Game Of Thrones episode. It’s real life in the midst of medieval chaos. Amid the stress, we need cool heads reminding us what the goals are.

Following the successful 7.6 million votes tallied at the National Assembly’s popular consultation on July 16th to reject the constituyente and seek a transition, the time had come to begin negotiations behind closed doors. It makes us nervous, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction: nothing is going to get done in a televised circus. Playing to the gallery is easy, negotiating to defend our interests is hard.

By playing it relatively safe, the speech underwhelmed many political activists.  

Leopoldo understands that passive protests like staying home during a paro or refusing to vote on Sunday can never have the impact of an active protest, like the Toma de Caracas.

The watchword in VP has been calle y más calle take to the streets and stay there. And that’s not going to change.

It was good to reacquaint ourselves with Leopoldo now that he’s at home. This wasn’t the last we’ll hear from him. He’s now a party to the negotiations, with a voice and a seat at the table. He’s not an abstraction anymore.

If you were disappointed by his speech, don’t be. We have to start getting used to a more deliberate and subtle movement of pieces. It’s either that, or we’ll have to accept the batshit insane whatsapposphere a cadena-de-la-tia-fueled panic maelstrom as our new normal. And no good can come of that.

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