“Better the devil you know,” the lady told me at the voting station. “I support Ocariz, I live in La California and I’ve seen work getting done. I’ll vote for Carlos Ocariz; I don’t know who the other guy is.”
“The other guy” would be José Luis Rodríguez Fernández, the UNT mayor of the small Caracas exurb of Carrizal. Sandwiched between Los Teques and San Antonio de los Altos on the Miranda High Plain, just south-west of the capital, Carrizal is an unlikely power base from which to challenge the Primero Justicia juggernaut in Miranda State. The dirty secret is, Rodríguez’s plan has little to do with the primary election he lost yesterday.
A lawyer by trade, Rodríguez is a political unknown outside his municipality. But he’s definitely not a new face in Carrizal. In 1989 he won the mayorship for Acción Democrática. Four years later, he won again. He ran in the hard-fought 2000 elections, when he challenged the chavista victory, finally coming on top. He was re-elected again in 2006, and again in 2010.
And if you go to Carrizal, his support is palpable. “He knows the place very well, and he knows all of us who live here,” I’m told.
The one telling me this is Kathy Rodríguez, the mayor’s daughter, who is busy organizing the voters on primary day. A blonde in tight jeans and a blue shirt, she patiently guides those waiting while talking with a small crowd that is begging for medicines. “Go to the office tomorrow,” she said, “we’ll help you.”
Rodríguez, you soon realize, is an old school politician: the local big man people know to turn to to get a problem solved.
“His actions here speak louder than words,” a local salesman tells me. “There’s not a single family that hasn’t been helped by him. It’s not like he was named by a party and that’s it, he has really worked for the community”.
Talking with him on the phone, he’s very endearing.
Photos show a man who looks younger than his 64 years, his hair is jet black, his plump complexion is fatherly, with the eternal promise of a smile on his lips.
“Everything is going well,” he tells me, “at least according to our expectations”.
“He knows the place very well, and he knows all of us who live here,” I’m told.
His background is in human resources, and he has the easy kind of charisma of a seasoned pol. You want to like the guy, even when you address the elephant in the room: his route to the governorship goes straight through a government decision to disqualify Carlos Ocariz from running for office.
“We are in the same position, he and I. We both have support that is ultimately vulnerable to the whims of power”.
He sighs with the air of someone well aware of his predicament.
“We’ll see how voting turns out” he smiled and, as I walk away, I wonder if I just talked to the future Miranda governor, regardless of how primaries actually turn out.
Because even for MUD primaries, the government has the last word.