Simple comments during a friendly reunion show the rise and fall of one of the former stars of Venezuelan politics, Henrique Capriles Radonski: “Se quemó“, “Tuvo su momento“, “Aún sigue esperando el tiempo de Dios“. It’s hard to imagine that today, “El Flaco” has been reduced to an orphan with few followers and fewer allies.
Back in 2012, Capriles was a young politician who brought hope and euphoria to the opposition. During two presidential campaigns, against Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, he caused a commotion everywhere he went.
“Algo bueno está pasando,” was the catchy electoral song as Capriles toured the country, in one of the most spectacular political campaigns of Venezuelan modern history. Even in small houses, small towns or barrios, you could find at least one Capriles poster. The opposition felt victorious when he raced against Chávez, but even more when Maduro was candidate. This young, skinny guy wearing a tricolor hat, talked about a better country, as he faced the issues that concerned us all: energy crisis, corruption, crime and food and medicine shortage. He seemed like the leader that could finally defeat chavismo.
He seemed like the leader that could finally defeat chavismo.
But after this journey, and according to the CNE, he was good… but not enough: Chávez was reelected with 55.07%. La patria le ganó al progreso.
A year went by and a lot changed: Chávez died, affecting chavismo from the inside. Miraflores seemed closer than ever. Capriles was back, better and stronger.
The international media was crazy about him, and catalogued him as “the best card of the opposition”. Capriles was rocking the political scene as a true rock star: your girlfriend was talking about how handsome he was, your aunt prayed for him at church, your grandma had his face as a screensaver on her cellphone. Capriles meant hope and it was taking over the country.
But it didn’t last long.
After he lost the presidential election against Maduro, according to the CNE results, everything went from bad to worse. Some hold him responsible, while others say that he didn’t defend his obvious victory. Everyone fell slowly out of love with him.
Now, he’s rarely named in the media. After being a force bigger than his political party, Primero Justicia, he now seems like an uncomfortable person inside the party he founded. His online show, Pregunta Capriles announced a long hiatus, but nobody noticed. He stood against Henry Ramos Allup, the leader of Acción Democrática. “As long as Allup is in the MUD, I’m not going to be a part of it,” he said. He was also criticized by Chúo Torrealba, former secretary of the MUD. He decided he was no longer part of the MUD, as he catalogued it as a mere electoral platform. Capriles was signaled as a temperamental brat that divided the Unity.
But it seems there was no Unity left to stand with. He isn’t the only opposition leader that has disappeared from the headlines. Most of the leaders are in exile or detained. Leopoldo López is on house arrest, without the possibility of being elected or even making a public statement; Antonio Ledezma is now in Spain, after he escaped from house arrest; Freddy Guevara has been a “refugee” at the Chilean embassy in Caracas for more than 10 months; Juan Requesens was arbitrarily detained, publicly humiliated and unreasonably charged in a stale legal process. The list goes on. The MUD has no voice anymore, and the opposition stands leaderless amidst social and economic collapse.
He isn’t the only opposition leader that has disappeared from the headlines.
The image of a happy and triumphant politician is a distant memory, as is the idea of a strong and capable opposition. Now Capriles is seen as a sad public figure, and the opposition as a representation of defeat.
Capriles’s name was out of the media for a while. But, a few weeks ago Capriles was again all over the political chit-chat after the “TSJ en el exilio” pointed at him, regarding the Odebrecht case. Euzenando Azevedo, the guy in charge of Odebrecht in Venezuela, said that Capriles received millions for both his presidential campaigns, in a video obtained by Armando.info. Now, the TSJ en el exilio wants answers. Azevedo said that he never talked about money with Capriles, but after a meeting with him, he agreed with his representative to contribute with $2 million to the campaign.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to talk about the relationship between Odebrecht and Capriles in January 2017. The newspaper noted that the company “made donations through third parties to the opposition-controlled government of Miranda State, where some of its biggest Venezuelan projects are located”.
Some speculate that this is part of a fight between Capriles and the TSJ. However, this seems like the last thrust of Capriles’s dying leadership.
Voters are now questioning Capriles’s agenda, strength and ethics.
After more than 20 years of political career, voters are now questioning Capriles’s agenda, strength and ethics. He is no longer a public idol, and instead, he is under public scrutiny, with no one beside him to lend a hand. He stands alone, but we all do. A headless opposition cries for help, and everyone pretends not to listen.