MUD primaries are happening. Here in Bolívar, my state, the clash is between good-old perma-candidate Andrés Velásquez, and current AN deputy Francisco Sucre.

And nobody gives a damn. I actually feel cheated that these elections even exist.

These are “the big names.” Andrés Velásquez, the one who looks like a Toronto, is “the worker’s candidate”; a former union activist, he has been Bolívar’s governor twice and runs for the post every time he gets the chance. Today, that background doesn’t mean much. Just like in Merida, Táchira, and I’m guessing everywhere else, candidates struggle to get people’s attention. No one I know is excited, it’s actually hard to find someone who cares about this distant noise.

The thing people are talking about is Los Animalitos, not elections.

With this in mind, I wanted to ask both candidates a simple question: why are you running for governor?

Everyone knows the CNE is unreliable and, even if you win, the government will improvise a CorpoBolívar parallel government, appoint some crony to run it, and assign it all the budget that is supposedly yours. That is, if they don’t disqualify or jail you to begin with.

I put this question to Francisco Sucre, after meeting him at one of his rallies. I’d ask Velasquez the same, but he was campaigning at Upata.

It was 7 pm and, between loud music and ladies shouting, we tried to talk:

“What are we going to do?” he shoots back. “Are we giving 23 elections to the dictatorship? We must dare it in an act of democratic rebellion. First of all, it’s our right as written in the Constitution. Now, if the dictatorship sends us to jail tomorrow, or strip our competencies, that will only delegitimize it. It’ll make the world see it for what it is and provoke more economic sanctions.”

Andrés Velásquez, the one who looks like a Toronto… has been Bolívar’s governor twice and runs for the post every time he gets the chance.

He spoke of Pinochet. Opposition in Chile had it way worse than here, with only 10 minutes of airtime. It won by one percent, a tiny advantage that meant everything.

“So is this an election or a protest?,” I ask.

“See, this is part of a fight against dictatorship. The Constitution establishes governor elections, just as it established National Assembly elections and, thanks to that, we have worldwide recognition with deputies that met yesterday with president Macron and today with Merkel. It’s one thing for Julio Borges to tour Europe as a political leader, and quite another to do it as president of Congress. All of the arenas must be conquered, not just the street. We cannot underestimate the power of vote.”

From time to time, we are interrupted by people trying to talk to him or pose for a selfie. The guy is actually popular.

“But, don’t you think” I insist, “that by going to elections, you lose momentum gained by the protest? Isn’t this sabotaging an agenda that was already on track?”

“Absolutely not” he snaps back. “Who guarantees that, after 130 deaths, 4 months on the streets, 15,000 wounded, 600 political prisoners, we’d get out of this dictatorship just with protest? It doesn’t mean we abandoned the street. But every fighting mechanism is concurrent; voting, streets, international lobby and the institutional struggle. The street can reactivate at any moment, and it’s not the same fighting against a dictatorship with three governors, than fighting with twenty.”

If the dictatorship sends us to jail tomorrow… it’ll make the world see it for what it is and provoke more economic sanctions.

He looks at me in the eye, and says “We are a majority today and this majority must express itself electorally. In the possibility that the government steals the election, or cancels it, let them assume that cost. I won’t make it easy for them. They’re in a dilemma, because if they do the elections, we’ll obliterate them, and if they don’t, they’ll steal them or come up with some travesty, revealing themselves as a totalitarian regime. Sooner than later, that will take them out of power.”

Now, for full disclosure, I hate Francisco Sucre.

He’s on Emi’s list of shame and he blocked me on twitter for some criticism, but I gotta’ admit, the fucker makes some sense. In fact, I was never against the idea of going to elections just to screw the government a bit more – for me, it’s a problem when it’s the only strategy they have, shutting down protests for going full on hugging-old-ladies. He says we can’t be sure that more protests will bring the government down, and he’s right. But it feels way closer to the goal than promising stuff to random people over loud jingles.

And do we even need another symbolic act to unmask the dictatorship?

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