Original art by Mario Dávila

“I know it’s a lie that the governors were sworn in without an order from Henry,” Nehomar Hernández tells me. “Nothing in AD has been done, for a long time, without his approval.”

It’s hard to believe that the decision to swear the oath of office before the Constituent Assembly was made without the blessing of Acción Democrática’s leader, Henry Ramos Allup. Although he describes the situation as an ambush, there’s no way it was so for a zorro viejo like him.  

“Thinking it was in the governor’s hands is for newbies. And I also doubt they were expelled from the party. There’s even a campaign on social media, to defend them with hashtags y toda vaina.”

Most people join AD as a family tradition: you become adeco because your parents were adecos. Not Nehomar Hernández; he’s the first in his family to join Venezuela’s Social Democratic party.

“I joined back in college, around 2008. I read one of Manuel Caballero’s books, a Rómulo Betancourt biography, and from that point on I was in. I liked Betancourt, the romantic image of the party. But in reality, it all falls apart. It happens in every party, especially in the older ones.”

For every party in Venezuela, it’s important to catch young fellas at college, but in AD the young leadership is a complicated subject. “Young people in the party become extras in the movie. They’re used as backdrops in photo-ops for the leaders or to hang up posters during campaigns. Beyond that, there’s not much we actually do.”

Soon after joining, he learned of the formidable weight that Ramos Allup has in the party, he has been in charge since 2000, first as party president, then as Secretary-General. He runs the show like a caudillo through and through:

“Henry doesn’t go unnoticed. When you meet him, he makes an impression. He has that thing, magnetism. I don’t know if it’s because of his legend, but he’s a nice and funny guy. Evidently well educated, reads a lot. [The first time I met him] they were deciding who would go to Spain to study for a week, as part of an agreement with the PSOE, Spain’s labor party. This guy from Margarita, as soon as he saw Henry, said ‘hello, boss;’ there was a hierarchical attitude. I just said ‘Hello, Henry’.”

Young people at the party become extras in the movie. They’re used as backdrop in photos for the leaders, or to hang up posters during campaigns.

“There’s an unwritten rule within the party that you have to wait a long time to even hope for being allowed to run for elected office. The AD ‘waiting list’ is eternal.”

The theory that these governorships will help a future Ramos Allup presidential run means that “beyond economics, what he wants is political projection. Now you’re the most important party inside the MUD, with four governors. You give that image to the nation and you could impose yourself, make people think that only you can be president, because Voluntad Popular’s Leopoldo López and Primero Justicia’s Henrique Capriles are forbidden to even run. And you have Maduro saying Henry will be the candidate.”

“The idea seems to be to screw the other parties. A conditioned opposition, checked; que no se coman la luz.”

During his time in AD, Nehomar was shocked by Ramos Allup’s complete power, even provoking the defection of party mainstays such as Alfonso Marquina, Claudio Fermín, Liliana Hernández, Luis Emilio Rondón and Ángel Medina from the ranks. There’s no decision made without his approval. The whole concept of AD’s governors “going rogue” and washing Henry’s face in the single most important political decision of the last few months makes no sense.

Can there be AD after Ramos Allup?

“I don’t know,” Nehomar admits. “He’s not preparing successors, but difficult times create leadership. Maybe we would see a regrouping of adecos all over the country after Henry leaves. He turned AD into a one person party, and that creates uncertainty for the future.”

And uncertainty for democracy.

Or whatever is left of it.

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