At some point during my conversation with Ramón Muchacho last December, he reminded me that, after he got his MBA at Emory University, he had received an enviable job offer to work in the US for a leading multinational corporation. He turned down the corporate job to return to Venezuela and begin his political career.

Thank God I did it” he said. “I would have been miserable there.”  

When he saw the look of amazement on my face, he added ‘this is what I love to do’. Curious words for someone who would be, in less than a year, a wanted man.

I visited Ramón in his office at la Alcaldía on a trip from the U.S., where I have resided for the past six years. We talked about our kids and our lives, and reminisced about our fun times as law students. I was especially curious to know how things were at one of the strongholds of the opposition “from the inside,” so I asked about the situation in Chacao.  

He gave me a brief, but telling explanation of the challenges he faced. In line with its undemocratic and criminal practices, the central government was boycotting the work of all mayors and governors from the opposition, including Ramon’s. Among other practices, constitutionally awarded resources were withheld, to asphyxiate both leaders and voters. Ramón told me how Chacao’s budget could barely cover the payroll for its municipal employees, leaving no funding for anything else. He had worked around some of these difficulties, but the lack of resources severely hindered the scope of his administration and, consequently, the wellbeing of all chacaoenses.  

‘This is what I love to do’. Curious words for someone who would be, in less than a year, a wanted man.

Ramón spent hours dealing with the personal difficulties and tragedies of his employees, looking for individual solutions to each of them within his limited power. They would bring their matters to el Alcalde, to see if he could help out the police officer who couldn’t afford chemotherapy, the secretary who couldn’t pay for her father’s burial, the firefighter who considered taking his son off from school, because he couldn’t pay for tuition.

The worry on his face and voice was legit. I could clearly see the toll that the job was having on him.

To illustrate his point, he specifically mentioned the “problem with the trash cans.” Though resources were scarce, Chacao had to spend increasing amounts of money in reorganizing the trash pick-up, because hundreds of people would rummage through the trash in Chacao to find something to eat, everyday.

People are starving and you see it everyday, everywhere” he said. From Ramón’s account, it seems like Chacao, once the richest and most thriving county in the nation, was now a microcosm of Venezuela under Chavismo.  

I remember thinking that, hard as it may be, it’s what he was born to do. Politics and public service is his calling, something he’s passionate about, as I witnessed from his early days in college. I left our meeting feeling so proud of him, not imagining how he’d be removed from office and hastily sentenced to prison.

I went to law school at UCAB in the early 90s, a time when the country was going through the crisis of partidocracia. Everyone was fed up with politics, and the disdain for politicians was widespread. This was especially true for the younger generations, who looked down on adecos and copeyanos without exception. “Who in their right mind would be a politician?” we’d ask,  “they are selfish, mediocre and, above all, corrupt. Clearly, not us.”  

We were better than that. Some wanted to be entrepreneurs and businessmen, others aimed for legal careers in prestigious law firms, and a few wanted to go into academia. We wanted to “contribute to the well-being of our country,” but remain “unpolluted by politics.” Unlike today’s students, bravely at the forefront of the resistance, my peers and I never joined protests or activism, and very rarely discussed politics at all.

And then there was Ramón.

I met him on the very first day of college, and he immediately submitted his candidacy to class delegate. Though he had just arrived from Maracaibo and didn’t know anyone, he gave a brief but eloquent speech and won the election. He’d go on to be our delegado during our entire law school career (winning the election every year). Though still engulfed in the popular (and, in hindsight, nefarious) anti-politica, I identified the first signs of Ramon’s passion for leadership and, through his friendship, I started embracing politics and its fundamental role. We became very good friends, and have remained close. I was proud when he was elected Mayor of Chacao and, knowing of his talents, discipline and vocation for public service, I was certain he’d be up to the challenge.  

I always remind myself that our political prisoners and exiled are paying the price for the rest of us. In the case of Ramón, the Regime constantly threatened him, trying to force him to impede the protests. And yet, under huge pressure, and taking on great personal risk, he persisted, allowing for massive anti-government demonstrations that have shown the world how the Venezuelan people are calling for the end of the dictatorship. So I do feel indebted to him, as to many others imprisoned or persecuted, so that we can make use of the very limited liberties we have left.

I identified the first signs of Ramon’s passion for leadership and, through his friendship, I started embracing politics and its fundamental role.

Ramón resurfaced a few days ago with interviews on several media outlets. He explained why he fled Venezuela, remarking that “there is no democratic solution to the conflict.”  The statement went viral and it’s now analyzed on social media, generating heated debates. However, the words that stuck with me from his interviews were others:

I was very happy being the mayor [of Chacao], it was my dream job (…) My dream is to return to Venezuela, to go back to politics. That’s what I’m passionate about.”

I can’t help but think how lucky we are to have these young leaders, who have been persecuted, harassed, jailed and tortured, and still their dream is to fight for Venezuela. Of course they make mistakes, of course they have shortcomings, but in the midst of great adversity, they persist, which is nothing short of heroic given the circumstances.

In a week filled with horrible news for Venezuelans, I find Ramón’s strength and convictions contagious. I am incredibly proud to call him my friend, and I’m certain he will never stop in his quest for Venezuela’s freedom.

I pray life will take him back to a free Venezuela, and a free Venezuela back to us.

21 COMMENTS

  1. “There is no democratic solution to the conflict.”

    In the debates, if there is a counter-argument to this statement, by someone with Ramón’s credentials, I would like to hear it.

    Excellent story, imho.

  2. Indeed, what Lorenzo said.

    Do those now running for local and state office representing the MUD really think that, if by chance they’re allowed to win, things will be any different…..that’s to say, the withholding of routine funding in order to do their jobs?

    Chavismo is a cancer and we’re now on the border between Stage 3 and 4.

    • Do you not recognize it. Rigor mortise has crept in. The cancer has killed another patient. You don’t even know, It is likely result of too coca or meth.

  3. Ditto, great story and writing. When heroes are exiled, that’s bad news for the country. Hope and good wishes for a return to Venezuela.

  4. Muchacho with an MBA from Emory University and Maduro with an MBA (Masters of Bus Administration) and look which one is running our economy. Farked.

    • While a degree is good (it PROVES the ability to be patient and to put off short term wants for long term goals) in politics, it doesn’t mean that the uneducated cannot lead, nor does it mean that the educated are leaders.

      Maduro is uneducated, but also willfully ignorant and blinded by ideology. Here in the US, we seem to give a pass to the willfully ignorant and ideologues, providing they have an advanced degree, usually from some elitist East Coast private university. Factor in moronic voters who only care about what the benevolent Uncle Sam can provide them (for FREE!), and its a recipe for disaster.

      The film “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” seems so quaint…

      • Poor Ramoncito, he turned down a job offer in the States so I presume we are expected to be appreciative of his selflessness but he left his job in Chacao leaving a good deal of citizen’s requests unanswered. The most critical one was about a vigilante gang shaping up in Los Palos Grandes to stone and club away beggars, homeless and other types of “nasty people who are tarnishing our neighborhood” as I was told when asked to join. Ramoncito was duly notified of this horrendous and barbarous intent and others but an answer never came back. Lastly, this article is no different from the usual stuff in Venezuela: it’s just another lame excuse for showing off college degrees and well-connected buddies.

      • You are so right. Venezuela’s social rift was opened many years ago by those people holding college degrees who see themselves as a clan of God-appointed aristocrats who are capable of providing a solution (always theoretical, mind you) for every problem. Additionally honesty, determination and clarity of ideas do not seem to be paramount to having a job done well. This group also feels comfortable belittling those who could not or did not wish to get a degree. The current situation of the country goes to show the failure of this approach to life.

        Talking about film? Let’s watch “Being There” again!

        • “This group also feels comfortable belittling those who could not or did not wish to get a degree.”

          lf you’re referring to those who post here, I might suggest you knock that chip off your shouder. I haven’t seen anyone here belittle anyone else who could not, or did not wish to get a degree. Ever. Everyone respects and honest hard day’s worth of work.

          “The current situation of the country goes to show the failure of this approach to life.”

          No, the current situation of the country goes to show the failure of electing socialists and communists to run the affairs of others. The fact that the leader is also an idiot, doesn’t help.

          • FIRST: Should you read my post again, you will find out that “this group” clearly refers to the group of people I mentioned. I have nothing to say about anyone posting here and do not know whether they respect a “hard day’s worth of work” or not. Are you trying to show me up like I am attacking them so they will attack me back?

            SECOND: I am not speaking up any opinion so there is no chip to knock off; I am but speaking from a ten-year daily working experience with many graduates who happen to belittle non-graduates -strangely, TSUs included. Are you trying to show me up as if I held a grudge against educated people?

            THIRD:You choose not to comment on an upcoming, possibly bloodshedding gang war taking place in Chacao that might spill out of everyone’s control. Such a gang war would not be caused by electing Socialists or Communists; it would be brought up by some people showing their very nature: beasts attacking weaklings. Why do you not focus on the substance of my post?

            FOURTH: The current situation of the country is the terminal station for a train that missed its tracks a great many years ago, when the people stopped helping develop a modern country and chose, paraphrasing you, to “elect inept or corrupt politicians to run their own affairs”. This Carlos Oteyza, 1981 video has something to say about it: https://goo.gl/7AjrxN

            FIFTH: You fail to mention my film suggestion about a country mesmerized by its own belly button while an incompetent man rises to social and political heights, very much like every president Venezuela has elected since C.A. Pérez, Episode I.

            SIXTH: In view of the above, I apologize for touching a couple of tender spots.

            SEVENTH: I know that many a reader will take the hackneyed, easy approach to dissenters: call me a Communist or a Chavista. Well, I am a citizen, never a clan member of any kind.

            EIGHTH: Do not bother answering for I will not read this article any longer.

            P.S. Aside from the issue I mentioned, I understand Ramón Muchacho had limited resources to accomplish his work so I am quite satisfied with his tenure. But he’s no hero.

            I also apologize for my post being repeated; the net was quite slow to respond.

  5. With distance THE best article I’ve had the pleasure to read on CC!!!

    “there is no democratic solution to the conflict.”
    I could agree more and have been saying so for almost a year now.

  6. One thing that I’ve always found interesting is how many politicians go straight from college to jobs in government. They do a good job, but I think some experience in the private sector would help a lot in their overall performance. More experience outside politics may give them more “street smarts” to deal with crooks like the ones we now have in government.

    • I am reminded of Obama’s book, “Dreams from My Father”. In it, he told of his brief time in private employment, and how he felt it was like working “behind enemy lines”. Somehow, working in a system of commerce, where goods and services are exchanged for something of value is abhorrent to some politicians. As if knowing how to balance a ledger and make payroll is beneath them.

      Some people inherently believe that what makes a nation great is the government, not the people. Maduro is in good company. Sadly, there are not enough people like Ramón Muchacho who want to serve their constituency first, and getting re-elected is an afterthought.

  7. I just want to corroborate Ana Cristina’s brilliant account, and attest to Ramon’s passion for politics, dedication and strong moral compass. I met Ramon well before he went to college, back in my high school days, and we remained in touch over the years (including the same years at La Catolica that Ana Cristina reflects on). Ramon was (and remains) an excellent example of a positive leader. I am dismayed that the recent events led to his exile, but I am personally happy he managed to leave.

    “I pray life will take him back to a free Venezuela, and a free Venezuela back to us.”

    Amen to that.

  8. So Ramoncito turned down a job offer in the States! Should we thank him for his selflessness? He left his mayor job in Chacao leaving a good deal of unanswered citizen requests behind. The most important one expected him to deter a vigilante gang shaping up in Los Palos Grandes to stone and club away beggars, homeless and other types of “nasty people who are tarnishing the neighborhood” as I was told when asked to join. Ramoncito was duly notified of this horrendous, barbarous intent and others both by email and his website but an answer never came back. Lastly, this article does just the usual stuff in Venezuela: show off college degrees and well-connected buddies.

Leave a Reply