Chavismo’s Ginger Hope


Surrounded by a screaming crowd, Puerto Cabello’s chavista Mayor Rafael Lacava takes off his shirt off and throws it at the enraptured audience. In the midst of this tepid gubernatorial elections campaign, the video has easy managed to make the attention-grabbing rounds on social media. It’s an oddity: a candidate acting as if he actually wanted to win this thing.

Go onto Lacava’s twitter account and it’s not hard to fall deep into the rabbit hole of his endlessly memeable campaign. There are pictures and videos:

Lacava playing basketball:

Lacava driving a tractor:

Lacava enthusiastically pouring concrete over a wall:

Lacava running on a treadmill while promising to fix Carabobo while the Chainsmokers play in the background:

Of course, he is a little crass and over the top (his public persona is similar to Henrique Capriles’), but he has an overeagerness and a desire to be liked that differs from most of the drab chavista apparatchiks who are running for governor and, considering that the opposition’s candidate in Carabobo is yet another indistinguishable member of the self-appointed dynasty that held power in the state from 1990 to 2012, it was hard not to find Lacava’s candidacy an amusing trifle.

Lacava was born in 1968 to parents of Italian descent, his father is a businessman from Puerto Cabello. He has a economics degree from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas and dedicated himself to a business career before joining chavismo allegedly because of his friendship with current Carabobo governor Francisco Ameliach, he was elected as member of the National Assembly and then appointed Venezuelan Ambassador to Italy in 2007.

He was elected Mayor of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela’s largest port in 2008, and reelected in 2012. In 2012 he was passed over for running for governor in favor of colectivo-head Ameliach in spite of his popularity among the chavista base in Carabobo. During the rally where the late Comandante galáctico anointed Ameliach as his horse in 2012, the crowd repeatedly yelled Lacava over Chavez’s mention of Ameliach. He even considered an independent run but decided against it.

He cleverly campaigns without mentioning Maduro’s name much and subtly criticizes Ameliach’s tenure, an unusually big no-no. His administration built a skate park in Puerto Cabello, which is popular among young people there.

Lore in Puerto Cabello has it that he is enormously popular in town and knows how to move comfortably between very dissimilar words, he can hang around chavista motorizados and then   converse in eloquent English or Italian with foreign businessmen to close a deal. These type of skills are a rarity among chavistas. He has a frenetic management style of getting things done and an ego that matches his ambitions.

He has an overeagerness and a desire to be liked that differs from most of the drab chavista apparatchiks.

Lacava is married to Nancy González and has four children. He’s a big soccer fan who ran for president of the Venezuelan Soccer Federation in 2015 and is usually seen wearing a vinotinto shirt with the number 10. His oldest son was signed by Barça in 2013. On a darker note, his family lives a very lavish lifestyle in Spain where his sons attend the most expensive private school in Barcelona and where he spends a great deal of time in plain contradiction with chavismo’s socialist gospel. He had temporarily retired from his post in 2016 to get treatment for cancer, and has been in remission since early this year.

Although it may be an unpopular thing to say, I’m usually entertained by Lacava’s antics and persona, but then I’m reminded that Lacava is the candidate of the amoral dictatorship that has destroyed my country and complicit in it’s human right abuses and corruption schemes.

Nevertheless, Lacava is also a reminder of two things we can’t bring ourselves to acknowledge: first, that chavismo won’t go away, even if we miraculously transition to a new government in the short term. it’s most skillful members such as Lacava or Héctor Rodríguez have a good shot of surviving a transition and even getting back into power.

Secondly, that politics is not a moral game and that the opposition can’t just ask people to vote for a bunch of mostly deadbeat candidates who were only appointed as a result of a machiavellian power move just because they are not chavistas. If Maduro weren’t as wildly unpopular as he is now, Lacava would have a good shot of winning this thing, considering that MUD thinks it’s acceptable to appoint the charisma-free cousin and nephew of the last two opposition governors (who are very unpopular among people in Carababo) as their candidate.  

The sterile and fratricidal debate about whether or not to vote this time aside, the truth is that the lack of enthusiasm for these elections is also a result of the obscurity of many of the candidates or the fact that they are only a continuation of regional caudillismo going back to the cuarta. And people are coming around to this realization. Asking people to vote for a bad candidate just because his opponent represents something terrible doesn’t work. It never has. Even in the middle of this debacle we need to sell an idea of a better country beyond chavismo, there is no substitute in politics for hope.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. chavismo won’t survive because it’s done anything good nor because it “connected with the people” which is what you might have referred to what “we don’t want to acknowledge”, chavismo will survive because MUD’s been becoming rotten to their core with the chavista practices as they never wanted to figure out a way to sidestep the chavista hate propaganda with nothing else than “we are better option than them, so vote for us, period”

    • AGREEEEEE, with Jesse Chacon’s voting machines is there anybody that really thinks this election is going to be fair. JC … as is Jesus Christ… Chavismo as stolen probably every election besides the very first one in 1998.

    • Marco, I bet the farm that we’re going to see Leopoldo in power one day, and not all that far off.

      Yes, the VZ electorate is uninformed and fickle enough for this to happen, so any opinions on his perceived current favorability ratings, or the actual ratings as of today, don’t really count.

      And how come that VZ company Datanalisis (spelling?) doesn’t do and publish polling like this?

      You guys worship Bolivar?

      Leopoldo is Simon, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wrapped into one.

    • The worst thing about all of this is that chavismo will commit yet another huge fraud and MUD will be desperately quelling any desire to protest from the people as they’ll be too busy focused in the municipal elections.

      That way, 2 more years will be wasted, and tens of thousands will be murdered by the dictatorship, but at least we’ll have PEACE.

  2. Another self-important “celebrity outsider” running for office. Another “breath of fresh air”.

    This clown will certainly rally the faithful. Give them something to cheer about. The problem is, the “faithful” are getting fewer and fewer, as their stomachs shrink and their bodies ache from lack of food and medicine that Chavismo is responsible for. It makes for a great soundbite, but redistributing wealth from the fewer and fewer that have any remaining wealth isn’t workable. Again, I am reminded of the “buggy whip” speech from the film Other Peoples Money.


    “And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure. You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?”


    And his promises of “change”? What is he going to change? What is his plan? Confiscate MORE property? Make the industrious stop working altogether? Punish success even more? Ruble/Rupee/Yuan-ize the economy?

    One thing is for certain. You can count on the easily led to vote for the guy who promises them something for nothing.

  3. Also, it’s funny how the corpse basically said “this guy will be candidate over my dead body!” and then cancer happened xD

  4. Hi Cesar. Great article. Two comments:
    1. On your article you imply a close standing relationship between Alejandro Feo La Cruz (The opposition candidate) and what you call the last Carabobo “dynasty”, actually that is far from true! Alejandro is deeply not with and actually against the Salas Romer’s and their political project! Their party “Proyecto Venezuela'” is kind of a corporation with only two shareholders: Henrique Salas Romer and Henrique Salas Feo. On this election, Henrique Salas (father) attempted a NEW candidacy for the son!!! Their practice is well known, they only support elections when they are candidates! When they are not governing or are candidate they flee the country! Alejandro is another thing. He has conducted an efficient government in Naguanagua and is in politics for the long run. His running is legitimate and well deserved and because of that he totally broke bonds with proyecto Venezuela!!!

    2. On you article is implied a high popularity of “Rafito” (nickname in high school by the way!) in Puerto Cabello. Actually Lacava LEFT the municipio after the losing bid of his supported candidate for National Assembly – Nancy Perez – of his tenure I can rescue just two things:
    A. The support to sports (built a model football project which is already giving impressive results)
    B. Effectively controlling the “buhoneros” problem in the city.
    The rest of the administration was a disaster. I live in Puerto Cabello and travel frecuently in Venezuela and can objectively affirm that Puerto Cabello under his management and now on if one of the ugliest, dirtiest, dangerous city in the country. I am not exaggerating! Even himself go running with at least 6 motorcycles escorts!

  5. What is he going to change? What is his plan? Confiscate MORE property? Make the industrious stop working altogether? Punish success even more? Ruble/Rupee/Yuan-ize the economy?

    The lunacy is that people expect change to a faulty model of government, and bumbling players, while having no plan to change the model, nor the players. Too bad there isn’t a “mercy rule” in this game, whereby the contest is called once the losing side is clearly and thoroughly whipped. Here you have the losers making the rules and refereeing a clusterfuck, and no matter the score or the injuries incurred, some lout is standing on the dugout roof, punching the air for the glory of the revolution.

    The problem is that there are no actual means to effect change. That takes a rational plan and the money and man power to pull it off. Excruciating to watch, even from California.

    • In this case, I am for the “mercy rule” specific to horse racing.

      Take the whole “broken down” lot of Maduro leadership to the back of the shed
      and shoot them for the sake of all that is good.

  6. Between this and the Hector Rodriguez piece… C’mon, you must be trolling us, right? Lacava’s must be the worst campaign ever. He’s been the laughing stock of the country for a couple of months now. The video in which he throws himself to the ground will be used by future generations as a “say no to drugs” poster.

    • I think it is safe to say that no reasonable populace would elect him with a plurality of votes, let alone a majority, just on the basis of what he represents.

      That being said, a ongoing parade of celebrity ass-clowns have been elected to public office in all parts of the world. Not because they could do it better, but because they weren’t part of the entrenched political class and the masses wanted change.

      This particular ass-clown will have his fawning Chavista sycophants, but not much else. He isn’t a breath of fresh air… he is bowel gas in a “new and improved” package, marketed as eau de toilette by the people who have nothing to offer except more flatus. The ONLY way this moron gets elected is if Delcy/Cabello/Rodriquez/Maduro wills it.

    • There’s a piece on Merida’s Zeppelfeldt just published. A trilogy of terror.

      In the face of a weakened MUD and a crazy unpopular government, characters appear on what was already a circus.

  7. Ask anyone in Puerto Cabello and they’d hardly have unkind words for Lacava, even among the few wealthy opposition voters that live there. His supposed popularity, though, is vastly overrated. His candidate for the National Assembly election in 2015, Miriam Pérez, lost badly, and Puerto Cabello had one of the biggest swings for the MUD in the country. A solidly chavista municipality that had never voted for the opposition, the MUD won it by 14 points.

    Anyway, Feo La Cruz may be related to the two Salas governors, but he certainly isn’t with them, at least for now. They’ve vilified him during the campaign. He may be a bit bland, but since Enzo Scarano is barred from competing, Alejandro is by far the MUD’s best choice to win the state.

    The MUD won Carabobo with 58.6% of the vote in 2015. The PSUV got 39.9%. There’s little reason to believe Lacava will win here, unless there is a mass abstention from the oppo base in the state, or if the CNE doesn’t permit the substitution of Ylidio Abreu’s candidacy.

    Stranger things have happened before, but for now Carabobo is Likely MUD.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here