The early 2012 Jockeying Report


They may not be doing it publicly yet, but make no mistake about it: the opposition’s early hopefuls for the 2012 presidential nomination are already quietly but actively jockeying for position.

Early polling – and standard, it’s-too-early-for-this-to-mean-anything caveats apply – apparently shows Miranda governor Henrique Capriles Radonsky well out in front of the pack, with the stragglers making an early move to coalesce around Zulia state governor Pablo Pérez and pushing for a later-rather-than-earlier primary to give themselves time to catch up. Meanwhile, people like Maria Corina Machado or Antonio Ledezma will be struggling to keep the nomination fight from becoming a straight-up two horse race.

The early scheming is – to their credit – not being done in public view, but the urge to get going early is understandable. With the most trascendental presidential election in a generation taking place in 2012, this year is just a prelude to the next.

I’ve been talking to sources in the opposition to gage answers to the most pressing questions: how vulnerable is Chávez? When will the opposition select a unity candidate? Who will it be? Do they have a shot? Will there even be an election?

One big question has to do with the timing for a primary. Thankfully, nobody is really challenging the need for a primary at this stage.

Capriles backers want it early – December 2011 at the latest. They’re also pushing for early primaries or other agreements to select opposition candidates for regional elections – also scheduled to take place in 2012 – to be dealt with after the Presidential candidacy has been decided.

An alternate coalition, headed up by AD and UNT, appear to favor a later date, pressing for a 2012 primary. These two, who have come together in a semi-calition called the “Bloque Socialdemócrata“, are lining up to launch the candidacy of Zulia governor Pablo Pérez. Yesterday, Alfonso Marquina pretty much pulled the curtain on Pérez’s campaign, and adeco support for it.

However, Pérez and the adecos appear to be facing a steep climb. Pérez, while likeable, is not well known outside his state, and after the underwhelming campaigns of Manuel Rosales in 2006, Oswaldo Álvarez Paz in 1993, and -gulp- chavista two-timer Francisco Arias Cárdenas in 2000, opposition experts seem convinced that the governorship of the nation’s most populous state is simply not a springboard to the Presidency.

But Pérez’s main problem is not his accent, but his numbers. The internal polling we referred to – which we have heard about from our sources, but have not seen first-hand -apparently has Henrique Capriles Radonski in the mid-30s. His lead over the rest of the pack is apparently in the double digits.

More importantly, Capriles is beating Chávez comfortably in their head-to-head – not surprising, given Chávez’s increasingly dismal numbers.

The Capriles camp is obviously encouraged by this, and they are hoping this pattern holds up through the year. They also realize chavismo has Capriles in their crosshairs – and here, the metaphor is literal and perfectly justified. This might explain Diosdado Cabello’s bizarre tirade yesterday on the floor of the National Assembly against Capriles’ party, Primero Justicia.

There are several wild cards in all of this. One of them is Antonio Ledezma. The Caracas Mayor has a small, yet not insignificant base of support. He has gained a lot of sympathy from having most of his powers taken away. He also shares a base with Pablo Pérez, which provides the potential of serving as a stalking horse benefitting the Capriles camp.

Another wild card is Leopoldo López. López is telegenic, smart, and young. Sadly, he is barred from running. His support is also solid, though not spectacular. He has recently anounced his new party was recognized by the CNE, and they will hold party elections – strangely, open to the public – on April 3rd.

It appears as though Leopoldo is counting on a ruling by the Interamerican Court for Human Rights to overturn his sentence. Even if that were to happen, the odds of chavismo obeying an OAS command seems unlikely. So, rather than a candidate, López looks to us more like a contender – along with Lara governor Henri Falcón – for the season’s most sought-after endorsement.

And we keep hearing stories about Maria Corina Machado running an exploratory committee. Her victory last September was impressive, and she has tons of media savvy. But nobody’s explained to us how a Merici girl without a party machine to leaflet for her can be competitive in Parapara. Perhaps her surprisingly low national polling numbers are a reflection of that.

But the biggest wild card of all is the possibility that there might not be an election, or that Chávez will change the rules of the game so dramatically so as to making it impossible for a fair contest to take place. It’s not clear to me yet that the opposition candidates, nor their parties, have a strategy in place if this were to happen.

As you can imagine, we’ll be blogging more and more about this stuff in the coming months. It’s early going, and just about anything could still happen. But for now, the only thing we can say for sure is that the race is on.

70 thoughts on “The early 2012 Jockeying Report

  1. Although I agree 100% that Capriles is the man to beat, I have to tackle some of the stuff in this post JC…

    [Quote=JC] There are several wild cards in all of this. One of them is Antonio Ledezma. The Caracas Mayor has a small, yet not insignificant base of support. He has gained a lot of sympathy from having most of his powers taken away.[/Quote=]

    Ledezma´s popularity is beyond sympathy for his situation, Ledezma is one of the few, nay, the only oppo politician that can hold a candle to Chavez in public speaking, when he talks people listen, he is a good politician with plenty of experience. I do believe however that his time has passed, mostly due to his link to “la cuarta” (whatever that means)…

    But everyone clearly remembers his speech after he was elected Alcalde Mayor, something which was unthinkable in the first place, the guy is an underdog, as with every Adeco/ex-Adeco, he should never be underestimated.

    [Quote=JC]But nobody’s explained to us how a Merici girl without a party machine to leaflet for her can be competitive in Parapara. Perhaps her surprisingly low national polling numbers are a reflection of that.[/Quote=]

    Again 100% true, however, you´re kinda playing into “el chavismo”, fact is, her low numbers have nothing to do with her status as a “Merici girl”, a sifrina, a rich girl or whatever resentful way you want to put it (although I know that was not your intention, it did come across that way). Fact is, she has only campaigned once, this is her first time in public office, she is representing a part of Caracas, the only place were she has really campaigned, so little is known of her outside urban areas.

    People just launch her as “presidenciable” because of wishful thinking. I really believe she needs more experience, exposure and most important of all, a platform. She has a bright future ahead, but that future is not quite here yet IMHO.

    I do agree that Capriles is probably the presidential candidate.

    • ElFeto,
      Thanks for the comments. I tend to agree with all of them, actually.

      I am guilty of continually underestimating Ledezma, but I respect his skills as a politician. He has worked really hard to separate himself from the pack of cuarto-republicanos. Plus, as should have been clear from last month’s discussion about CAP and his burial, he’s a guy with values.

      I think his main problem has more to do with internal adeco dynamics than anything else. For some reason, Henry Ramos Allup – whom we all know wants to play kingmaker, in part because he’s basically telegraphing it – prefers Pablo Perez over Ledezma, the natural choice. Part of it may have to do with past bad blood between the two, part of it may be AD deference to the power of the UNT get-out-the-vote operation in Zulia. I honestly don’t know enough about internal adeco family feuds to figure that one out.

      As for his speaking skills, well… I’ll take your word for it. One of the drawbacks of blogging from overseas is that you don’t see these people on the TV daily, but rather you read about them. But he never struck me as a particularly charismatic speaker.

      The Maria Corina bit, I must confess, was Quico’s doing. He edited my post last night and he added the little jab to her Merici roots, which I find kind of unfair, but not entirely merit-less, which is why I left it there (also, because I’m a sucker for being snarky in my posts once in a while). I do agree with you that her surprisingly low numbers have to do with her being new to the public, and also because, let’s face it, Venezuelans are not going to vote for a woman for President all that easily. But I think she deserves more credit for shedding her sifrina persona than what I convey in the article.

      The really surprising is that Capriles is the front-runner this early on. I don’t know if there are other polls out there that say something different – but if there are, we’ll surely know about them and blog about them.

  2. I agree on ElFeto’s comment that Maria Corina needs more experience and the fact of her low numbers outside ccs being because of the only place where she really campaigned.

    I think that both Lopez and Perez tan pelando bola, because:

    a) There’s no way in hell that chavismo will let Lopez run for the presidency
    b) Perez is only known widely in Zulia and quite frankly, I think he wouldnt be the president that we need, cuz he’s not the smartest person around, his speech is not the best and, honestly, he hasnt done that of a good job here in Zulia…

    Ledezma is doomed because of “the cuarta” issue… he’s simply not gonna get the votes from los chavistas arrepentidos because they will still think that electing Ledezma is going back to the beggining, where they voted Chavez to run from “la cuarta”. This is sad, but so, it’s true.

    If you asked me, I like Maria Corina and Capriles, either one of them, I would vote for them, not because “it’s anything but Chavez”, but because I believe that they would do a fairly good job as president of venezuela (in fact, I like Maria Corina more for the fact that she doesnt have, at least for now, so many strings attached to political parties, and that always leaves the door open for “favores para el partido” just as it was in the previous 40 years of democracy and surely, as it is in the chavez era)

  3. It goes a long way that Maria Corina’s viability as a national political figure are questioned because of her Merician roots but Henrique Capriles’ equally escualid background (Los Arcos, UCAB, Scion of a well to do Caracas family) is not. I can’t remember but did HCR get this same treatment (from our side) when he was elected VP of the old Congress?

    • Although, it must be said that HCR has actually been imprisoned by the regime. So in a way he’s paid his dues.

    • He also attended CEAMM, the only Maria Montessori school in Caracas, and in fact his family co-founded it. They have been on the board of directors for at least the past twenty years.

  4. Very good post. This race is going to be fascinating.
    I just wouldn’t rule out Venezuelan’s readiness to elect a woman. If Irene had been as smart as Maria Corina is we might have had a woman as a president, she had numbers way above anything Capriles has now. And her fall wasn’t as much because she was a woman, but because she wasn’t smart and she let herself be eaten alive by the old dogs of the IV.
    I believe Venezuelans could elect a woman, but I don’t think that woman is Maria Corina. I like her, she is strong, expresses herself very well, and she is organized like hell, competent and hard working. But I don’t think she can connect with Venezuelan’s majority. I see her and that hair always impeccable; that make up always perfect, never flustered and I remember Hilary Clinton.
    We just need an Obama that can win by landslide…

  5. Hugo will wait, if he is behind in June/July he will ask for a new Constituent Assembly needed to “move forward in a socialist society”. That will take a couple of years to sort out, he will win the referendum to have it, the opposition will get 40-45% of the setas in the Assembly and it will be 2014 before there is an election.

    Maybe Maria Corina can count the votes, make sure they are counted right.

  6. Juan, sometimes I really don’t understand what kind of game you’re playing. Will pick up where ElFeto and others left.

    Example 1: …opposition experts seem convinced that the governorship of the nation’s most populous state is simply not a springboard to the Presidency.

    Please do share with us who these “opposition experts” are? So Pablo Perez can’t make it, because he is the governor of the nation’s most populous state, but Capriles can, because he is the governor of the nation’s second most populous state? Pls explain. Pablo Perez is a formidable contender, not only has he got presence, stamina, political skills, etc. He’s got adecos, old and new, behind.

    Example 2: Leopoldo Lopez is no wild card. He is inhabilitado and Chavez is not about to order that ruling undone, whatever international bodies have to say about the case. I don’t think I need to tell you that the dictator has no time for his own constitution, will he obey international rulings? Moving on…

    Example 3: Ledezma. You keep having a go at this guy, who is no lame politico. Adeco. Like or not Juan, Venezuela es adeca, PJ is just not there yet.

    Example 4: Maria Corina. Please, as a regular fan of your posts, do not permit that FT’s personal issues with some people get in the way of your articles. That Merici quote, coming from FT of all people, is just pathetic really.

    I tend to like the adecos option: the latter the oppo candidate emerges the better.

    • Alek is right. Who are these so called experts? Are they the same people that say the opposition couldn’t get more than a third in the National Assembly?

    • “Please do share with us who these “opposition experts” are?”

      Um, the people I’ve talked to. Maybe they’re not experts, I dunno. Certainly not people I’m going to be naming in public.

      “but Capriles can, because he is the governor of the nation’s second most populous state? Pls explain.”

      I never said that, so I won’t explain. In fact, I never said Capriles can or can’t win. Read the article.

      However, I *think* the conventional wisdom is that Venezuelans are simply not pre-disposed to vote for a zuliano for President. We talk funny, we’re too far away from Caracas and from Caracas’ media. Is that too far-fetched? After all, there has never been a zuliano President.

      “Pablo Perez is a formidable contender, not only has he got presence, stamina, political skills, etc. He’s got adecos, old and new, behind.”

      Sure. But what he doesn’t have, according to early polling, is numbers.

      “You keep having a go at this guy, who is no lame politico. Adeco. Like or not Juan, Venezuela es adeca, PJ is just not there yet.”

      I don’t think I “had a go” at him. His numbers are not good, and I’m trying to explain possible reasons. And “Venezuela es adeca”… please. Venezuela es chavista.

      “That Merici quote, coming from FT of all people, is just pathetic really.”

      Agreed. Pleitos de sifrinos… :)

      “I tend to like the adecos option: the latter the oppo candidate emerges the better.”

      Is there a reason for this preference? Aside from your apparent belief that whatever hurts Primero Justicia and benefits AD is good for the opposition…?

    • Gracias Juan, for your civilised reply.

      My turn now. Why can you not name the people you talk to in public, what’s with this cablegate editorial policy?

      It is, after all, your argument hinting that Pablo can not win because he is governor of Zulia. You introduced it. Whatever polls say about Henrique, and you know I don’t give a toss about them, I think trying to explain Pablo’s low numbers on the fact cited by you, when the guy “having a double digit lead in the polls” is a governor, from Miranda, makes no sense.

      Early polling… Who commissioned the polls?

      Venezuela es adeca Juan, for chavismo is, mayoritariamente, adecos reencauchados.

      Re Merici, cachicamo diciendole a morrocoy…

      Why would late primaries hurt PJ Juan? If its candidate has a healthy lead, ad is meant to be the man to beat, why would delaying the process hurt him/PJ? Or are we meant to think that because he’s got the lead today according to some poll, primaries should be held asap so he gets selected?

      I said I tend to go with AD option for the furthest the process is held, the less time Chavez will have to destroy the oppo candidate. If this process is held early, by the time we reach polling day Chavez habra coleteado Venezuela with his opponent. Why give him the advantage, why play by his rules?

      For the record Juan, to me AD, PJ, UNT, PPT, Voluntad Popular, Podemos, Maria Corina, are all part of my team, and I will do whatever I can within the remit of my very limited possibilities to help any and all of them. For I am part of the 52%, yo halo para ese lado brother.

    • Hi Alek,

      “My turn now. Why can you not name the people you talk to in public, what’s with this cablegate editorial policy?”

      Well, because it wouldn’t be cool. They are not public people. For what it’s worth, I doubt you know them, or know who they are. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

      As for the early numbers, I don’t know who commissioned the poll, but I believe it’s from a mainstream company (Datanálisis?). Caveat: as I said, I did not see the poll, but I have no reason to doubt my “sources”. They’ve typically been spot on.

      As for the timing of the primary, there are pros and cons to having it early or later. I think the fact that we also need to select regional candidates, which will be a lengthy, messy process, means we should get the most important thing decided first, before we move on to that. That’s what weighs most heavily toward a December 2011 primary date, in my mind.

      Let’s also recall that the prevailing wisdom in 2006 was to delay the selection of the candidate, so that Chávez couldn’t attack him. Rosales was selected in July of 2006 (or was it August?) following that dictum, and look what happened: he didn’t have time to define himself in the public and get people to know him, and Chávez defined him instead.

  7. JC, very good post indeed.

    I am a little concerned at the thought of HCR being the front runner. On paper he looks very strong: he seems to have done a good job in Miranda, his time in jail will mobilize the base, he is young and energetic, etc.

    But for the life of me, I’ve never heard him saying anything smart or witty. It’s hard to know where he stands on the big issues, what’s his vision for the country. His public speeches–the ones I’ve heard–are filled with boilerplate. I doubt he can get people excited about voting for him. Can he connect to the average venezuelan?

    I’m not saying the other ones are better, except Leopoldo Lopez or perhaps Henri Falcon. But I’m afraid Chavez may just chew him up.

    • If what you’re saying is true, that HCR can’t connect with regular voters, then we’ll see that reflected in polls as the year goes by. Each one of these guys (and gal) have their pros and cons, and they will surely be on display in the next few months.

      But for now, I’m simply discussing what seems to be the early trends. And the early trend is that Capriles is the front-runner.

  8. For the record: I don’t know Henrique Capriles personally. Never met the guy. And I haven’t worked with Primero Justicia for years. So I have no vested interest in any of this. I’m simply transmitting what I’m picking up.

    To be honest, I’d be fine with any of these people as candidate. Whoever gets the job done.

    Oh, and one thing everyone seems to agree on: the primary is going to be nasty. Brutal. Dirty.

    Brace yourselves.

    • “Oh, and one thing everyone seems to agree on: the primary is going to be nasty. Brutal. Dirty.”

      Maybe, but not as nasty as the Republican Primary. There will be blood on that race.

  9. Any candidate threatening enough and holding public office will be “inhabilitado” until Chavez finds a suitable one to beat easily.

    • That is certainly a possibility. Which actually is an argument in favor of defining the candidate sooner rather than later. It’s one thing to “inhabilitar” one of many pre-candidates, quite another to “inhabilitar” the winner of a primary. Plus, selecting a candidate earlier means we would have more time to find a substitute in case we need to.

    • So, here’s a question from a non-Venezuelan: what exactly is the criteria to “inhabilitar” someone from running for the presidency?

    • The Comptroller can unilaterally “inhabilitar” anybody for any corruption he finds, or thinks he found. Presumably, there has to be an investigation. But the process is completely arbitrary, and appealing usually leads to nowhere.

      The thing about Leopoldo López is that he has been “inhabilitado”, and yet he has not been tried in a court of law, much less convicted. SO his rights were taken away, but he’s committed no crime.

  10. Fun fact: Three of the four governors of Zulia who preceded Pablo Perez ran for President.

    Their average vote tally in percentages: 32.38%.

    • Zulia is like Bavaria in several senses. Bavarians have tried several times to have one of theirs as German chancellor and it just does work.
      The main issue is the very strong regionalism in both places. I am not judging that regionalism here, just saying it does put off lots of people from outside the region.

      Only now, after so many decades, there is a possible Bavarian contender for the post of chancellor, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, and that is only because he is the “royal” the Germans did not have, because he and his wife look like an Hola couple and because he doesn’t have a Bavarian accent – a first for a long time-. You would need something like that for a Zuliano to have a chance as president.

      I wish parties were trying to do more than preparing their candidates…what about merging some of them and talking to people outside C-M-V about their vision for Venezuela after 2012?

  11. It will probably be Henrique Capriles Radonsky. He has going for him, being telegenic and young, having an impressive amount of experience in administration for his youth, also some experience in weathering the 2002 events and being persecuted unjustly for it, and being the governor of the State that surrounds Gran Caracas on three sides of four (and encompasses four of it’s municipalities). Which Zulia (good fortune, or bad) is not.

    On the other hand:

    How normal. Yes, it’s an encouraging sign of political normalcy, or of a wish for it. The would-be candidates jockeying for position, thinking and seeking primaries and endorsements, and all of that. What’s not normal, but still good, is that they do not belong to a single party, and have a wide variety of ideas and are influenced by a constituency that’s equally varied.

    The red-clad narcissist in Miraflores and his (exactly the same tone of) red-clad minions (none of whom could muster enough courage to voice a desire to succeed Der Fuhrer or even think for themselves) will probably try to have Venezuelans believe otherwise. They will try to make it out that Hugo the Narcissist is perfect, a superman, a genius whose candidacy (or permanence in the Presidency) should never be questioned. And do a faceplant at that.

    The opposition should play this card to a tired electorate. We choose the best candidate and count votes. We have dynamism and are open to the world of ideas.

    They worship their own failing bipolar/ADHD case who is past tiring and going on exasperating to anyone who is not a hardcore chavista.They have a failed dogma and fallen idols (Castro chiefly) and a recipe for national failure.

  12. good post, except for that unfortunate Merici jab. Looks like el niño Quico regales us again with his punk effects. (Sigh ….) His lederhosen must be chafing him. Speaking of which .. I chuckled over Kepler’s connect-the-dots with Bavarian politics. And yet, I wouldn’t discount regionalism as a barrier for larger platforms. It’s happened before, even from Bavaria to Vatican City.

    • Well, now that you mention it: yes, it’s possible.

      A Pope is now speaking to the world in Italian&Latin with a Bavarian touch:

      So even a Zuliano could one day become a president.

    • About the Merici jab: Quico put it in there, but I approved of it. It is my post, after all. So I’m gonna quit hiding behind Quico’s metaphorical skirt and take responsibility for this one.

      I have to come clean and say that, contrary to what the post may hint, I really like Maria Corina as a candidate. She can bring something new to the table and has a lot going for her – smarts, fewer links to the past, few links to parties, etc. In fact, given the current slate of candidates, I would have a hard time *not* voting for her and voting for someone else instead.

      I recognize that by bringing this up, I am being unfair and probably falling in the same trap that I usually detest, that of double standards. Women candidates are usually judged by a different standard. Nobody cares about where Leopoldo López went to school or what he wears – for the record, he has a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio, of all places, and went to Harvard’s Kennedy School, so talk about entitled. But for Maria Corina, everything is going to be in play: her school, her friends, her accent, her hair, her clothes, her body, her sex life. It’s an unfair world, but that’s how it is. Hillary, Palin, Bachelet, Dilma, Segolene… it’s always the same. I hate it, though, and I should know better.

      But is the Merici jab completely unfair? Well… with all due respect to our Merici readers, I’ve known a few girls from that school. I almost married one, fer cryin’ out loud, but La Chinita saved me from that one … I also have very dear friends who are from the Merici, and even *they* say that Maria Corina’s Merici education is not a plus.

      There is something about that school that irks, a sense of entitled delicacy that they are raised with and which reeks of über-elitism. I’m not saying Maria Corina is like that, but it’s a stereotype that, as usual, has *some* truth to it.

      And yeah, I also went to an expensive private school, an Opus Dei one at that. So insert your snarky “pot-calling-the-kettle-black”, “cachicamo-diciéndole-a-morrocoy-conchúo” jabs right now.

      But regardless – the jab simply points out a potential weak spot for her viability.

      Let’s not kid ourselves – were Maria Corina to be the candidate, she would be *forced* to defend herself against charges of elitism. We might as well get her to start practicing.

    • Juan, with regards to you last bit about Maria Corina, and Merici, I can’t help to give a piece of my mind.

      Let me start by saying that I don’t know anyone from Merici. Throughout my educational life, only two years were spent at what could be construed as a posh school (Colegio Francia 1° y 2° grado). The rest was with priests (not Opus day), Ciclo Combinado Jaji, Liceo Iberoamericano, Birkbeck College (mature students), and King’s College.

      Having said that, I find utterly ridiculous FT’s comments about his sisters’ peer, aggravated by subsequent explanation, and your comments. So Maria Corina went to a posh school: so fucking what? I don’t know if you have noticed, or realised this, but your discourse is nicely framed along chavista lines. Great. Now we have a bunch of educated fellas from Venezuela, feeling embarrassed, sorry, and apologetic about their education, about their roots, and comfortable upbringing. What the fuck is the problem with you people? You are precisely what Venezuela needs. Make no apology for being who you are Juan. Never. There’s nothing wrong with it. Maria Corina embodies what we need, and so does Borges with his Oxford doctorate, and HRC with his MOntesori years, and Leo with his MA from Harvard. No country in the world has progressed with chavista-like ilk in power. Nowhere. Ever. Mind you, historians in the house, please correct me if I’m wrong.

      That she sounds sifrina? Rather, she sounds educated. What would you prefer: an opposition Lina Ron, or Iris Varela?

      Sorry mate, but this conversation is insane. I want to see properly educated people running my country. For I am sick and tired of improvisation, of informality, of focas landing jobs based on their clapping and sucking skills, of fucking little soldiers running Venezuela as a barrack, as abasto de esquina, of Omar Barbozas and Manuel Rosales and Alfaro Uceros. I want to feel represented. And I feel much better when someone like Maria Corina is representing me, instead of Cilia Flores. I would like to have a polyglot Foreign Secretary, educated in the best universities of the world, so that he can immediately talk the talk, and establish personal rapports with counterparts from other countries, most of whom most likely were college peers or educated in similar institutions, instead of having a bus driver, who lacks one admirable achievement, and can hardly express himself coherently in his own language.

      You are wrong Juan. As to FT and his supposedly clever ‘quips’, well, again, ni siquiera salpicando p’adentro.

  13. Let me go back to the Venezuelan’s might be ready to vote for a woman argument. JC you might want to poll the oppo insiders on this. The strategy of launching a woman candidate might just be the right one. Yes, it probably should not be Maria Corina. She has too much history, easy to dismiss by chavismo for her role in Sumate (I know this is what makes her the opposition hero and yet that is not the majority of the population) and now Quico’s Merici statement.

    Instead here is an idea for a possible candidate: older professional woman with strong character and no known party attachments. The advantages are:
    – It might backfire on Chavez to attack her in a demeaning way, which he surely can do easily and rile up his base with HCR.
    – In fact, a woman might just be the wild card you need as 50% of the population might consider it regardless of which side you are on.
    – An independent will be easier for all oppo parties to support. They get to participate in the government as a coalition.
    – An independent cannot be claimed to have ties to the 4th republic, etc, as opposed to say Ledezma, et al.
    – A professional that will promise to address the real issues with experts in consultation with the population.
    – It is something different (even if maybe cosmetic) and at this point venezuelans are probably yearning for that.

    Who comes to mind? Rectoras of the UCV or Universidad de Carabobo, for instance. Few people can claim a victory right now, they can. Other possibilities, anyone?

    For once I agree with Chavez, he will eventually hand over the government to a woman!

    Platy

    • Margarita Lopez Mayo would fit the bill. Respected by both sides she could be convincing to ninis. However, she would never win an opposition Primary

      I do see a lot of advantages to running a contrasting candidate that can clearly project change.

    • Margarita Lopez Maya, the one who didn’t get enough support to be selected to congress recently, the one who used to agitate for Chavez and lied about reparos?

    • Agree with Alek. Margarita López Maya is a political nobody with a lot of red, very red baggage.

    • Margarita is a great academic, but she is not a politician. Maria Corina is a politician already and is a quick learner. I don’t think she’ll become the oppo candidate in 2012, but she’ll become stronger over time and don’t underestimate her role in Venezuelan politics in the next 10 years or so. On the other hand, more women might become prominent politicians in the next 10 years – less than a decade ago, no one thought a woman would be the current president of Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, more specifically Cristina Kirchner, Dilma and Laura Chinchilla.

  14. Lively discussion, but just look at history, Venezuela’s XXI century dictators and direct elected presidents are down the roots men, with one exception; Castro, Gómez, Lopez-Contreras (indirect elected), Medina (indirect elected) , Pérez Jiménez, Betancourt, Leoni, Caldera ( exception), CAP, Luis Herrera, Lusinchi, Chavez.
    It looks that Ledezma y PP Perez are the only ones that have a chance from this point of view.

  15. keep in mind that whoever becomes president may be there for only a short time because they will be forced to make very difficult decisions to bring venezuela back. this means making decisions that many will not like, will they have patience or will they riot?

    the next president may just be an interim making the hard choices and paying the price for the next guy.

  16. I just feel sorry for whoever does win against chavez.
    he’s in for a world of crazy.And i am 100% sure that the military honcho red blood hardcore chavez-castro fans will attempt to throw out whoever is in the presidency.
    The GN should be completwly disconnected from the government,but under close surveillance.

    By the way, Pablo Perez presidente nojoda!
    Im kidding,i’ve been looking to HCR for a while now,and he seems good,he can connect to middle class,and maybe lower too, but he lacks what you’ve said,PLANS,and ideas.
    Maria Corina got a lot of votes on sept.26,but mainly i think because she is new,and she was easy on some people’s eyes and ears.But she needs media exposure,LOTS OF IT,if she expects to go to primaries or further.Both in oppo and state-run media.

  17. JC

    Your article is a useful reminder that recent theatrics from the opposition are about jostling for position thinking they can get a piece of pie post 2012. Cue lots of attempts to derail each other and in doing so hurt the opposition as a whole – i.e. delaying the primaries, which would be a(another) terrible mistake.

    I can’t see there will be a change of government resulting from the 2012 elections, even if a unity candidate is agreed early. In general terms the opposition are still too disparate, too old-school and too self-interested to serve the greater good.

    • I don’t think we should be afraid of competition. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to select the best possible candidate.

  18. Thanks JC for this analysis of the opposition stars. Their chances of a stright one to one with Chavez are slim to say the least and you can bet that a third candidate will throw a wrench in the mchine for the opposition.

    However, what I would like to know if that if Chavez’s poll numbers are so bad…..as everyone here seems to agree….why is the opposition (which is supposed to be a majority at the moment) not applying to the CNE for a referendum revocatorio? Ok they need more than 7.3 million votes to oust Chavez but his polls are very bad, according to you and Francisco.

    This would resolve the problem of the habilitante and clear the way for real democracy. Would it not?

    My suspiscion is that there will be not referendum revocatorio since the opposition knows that it cannot win it nor will it be able to dislodge Chavez in the 2012 elections. By that stage Ratonsky will be in jail for his attack on the Cuban Embassy in 2002 and out of the picture.

    • Arturo,

      If you sign a petition against the military dictator and you work for the state, as millions do, or you have anything to do with the state, you are sacked, mobbed, etc.
      Do you want me to show you the videos of the ministra de trabajo saying anyone who signs against Chávez is a traitor and will be sacked? Do you want me to show you other similar threats from different ministers? From Chávez? Or you are going to come up here and show us the video of Isturiz saying nobody will be sacked as a proof?

      Piss off, Arturo.
      You have no ethics.
      Go on with your stupid fairy tale about the bourgeoisie against “revolutionaries”. Geez…shameless

    • We want Hugo to FAIL in an epic way, Arturo. He is not to be interrupted at that. We want him to insist on squandering resources in foreign gifts and junk military weapons and overpriced “services”. We want him to behave his bipolar and ADHD worst and to do the most cadenas. We want him to talk about Revolution to persons that are tired of the rigmarole.

      In fact, even 2012 seems too soon for him to crash and burn properly. In case you have not noticed, we evil oppos are not bailing the man out of his position at tiger’s tail, not until he is well chewed. After he goes, guess who is to “No Volveran”.

      There will be a lot of rich boliburgueses counting their ill-gotten money and living the life after all is over (sigh!), and a destroyed nation. Only the real Socialists will be left with nothing at all except the contempt of a whole nation for screwing them big time.

      No, seriously… I wish I could speak to people like you in softer terms. But that is the future for you.

      “By that stage Ratonsky will be in jail for his attack on the Cuban Embassy in 2002 and out of the picture.” N-tuple jeopardy with imprisonment on nebulous charges. Thanks for clarifying how chavista (and revolutionary) jurisprudence works. Just to be sure we don’t want to give it a chance, ever.

  19. JC,

    Perhaps you omitted the most important factor.

    Who would Chavez pick to run against?We know he reserves the right to eliminate any contender that seems too threatening to him.So the smart thing for a candidate to do would be to aim for the second place :)

    • Yeah, I don’t know how to model that, or think about that. I honestly don’t think Chávez fears anyone in the opposition, to be honest.

  20. What I find funny is that Francisco Toro’s 3 sisters went to El Merici!!!! That is a good school Quico!!!

    I am rooting for Henrique Capriles to go all the way, he is a good guy.

    • Hey, let’s just be clear. I have nothing against Merici. Some of my best friends – and all of my sisters – went there. But then none of those people running for president!

      If you can’t grasp that a sifrino background, a sifrino accent, a sifrino body-language and a sifrino resume is an electoral liability…wellllll…

    • BTW, I’m just using Merici as a cultural signifier here. HCR may have gone to schools that are just as foufy, and certainly he’s no son-of-the-barrio. But it’s a matter of habitus. Maria Corina talks, walks, smiles, moves, reacts and emotes in ways that foreground her background. It’s written into her body, into the way she inhabits the world. With HCR, the impression is not nearly so strong. Maybe he’s learned to fake it better. I dunno. But I can just about imagine him campaigning in Parapara…her? It’s tough…

    • It’s sad that in Venezuela one can be too “niche”), but also too “de la jai”, as in MCM’s case. We may not like it, but Quico speaks the truth: Her background and demeanor would repel certain voters in the same way Chavez’s folksy persona attracted them. Their platforms are irrelevant. It’s the American concept of the “beer test” (“would you want to have a beer with candidate X?”) stretched into absurdity. Mediocrity for the win. I wish cheap populism wasn’t so ingrained in our blood, but there you go. Con estos burros (no pun intended!) hay que arrear.

      I’m still hopeful, though. A year ago, I would have said HCR was too young, not charismatic enough, too much of a local star, not enough of a national personality. Today, as Chavez does his best to hang himself, Capriles cuts a much more impressive figure, and suddenly victory (such as it would be) in 2012 seems within the realm of possiblity.

      I can easily see Chavez handing the candidacy to Diosdado or some other chivo who’s getting too big for his britches: Have them burn themselves out by losing feo in 2012, having an oppo president deal with the mess he’ll leave behind, and saltar pa’lante with an eye towards a recall in 2015.

      Chavez will not hold onto the chair till the end. He WILL leave power peacefully. His nature, both cowardly and cunning, almost demands it. He has no intention of dying for his cause, which is, after all, to rule forever. Can’t do much of that if you’re dead. He’ll acknowledge defeat in 2012, or as I suggest above, he’ll use one of his lieutenants as a crash test dummy. And our respectable leaders will let him off the hook, so thrilled will they be at the prospect of la transicion. Amnistia pa’ todo el mundo!

      But getting Chavez out of Miraflores is only the first step in a long road towards effectively neutralizing him. He must be prosecuted, and decisively so. He must be politically finished. He must not remain a free political actor in post-2012 Venezuela. Because he will end up in Miraflores again. Because we, as a people, haven’t learned the lesson yet.

    • EA:
      The ‘niche’ vs ‘jai’ argument underscores the limited economic variances in Vzla, today, more so after HCF began to polarize the social and economic fabric of the nation. It’s sad, especially when those judging the differences do so on appearance, rather than on the QUALITY of education.

      As for ‘jai’, if MCM were truly from this level, she would have been exposed to deeper travel, or cultural exchanges, from a very early age. And by travel, I don’t mean ‘la gira por Europa’, or Disneyworld. Travel could have entailed periodic stays, say with less wealthy family members, in plalces like Parapara. Had this been so, MCM’s character would be stronger and better rounded, today. In addition, she might have also received – from an early age – more variances in education, before that female-group-imprint took hold as a mighty force. And it is a stupid imprint, not exclusive to Merici. My Dad would refer to it as CUCARACHAS — a bull’s-eye description if there ever was one.

      So wider and deeper travel, and more exposure to different educational platforms, at an early age, would have ironed out a good chunk of what outwardly appears as MCM sifrinismo.

      Having said all that, MCM has delivered, albeit on a small political platform.
      I wouldn’t rule her out just yet. Change is possible. Though that formidable imprint is awfully hard to shake, if you haven’t had other socialization — from an early age.

      Ya veremos.

  21. [ Chavez and his local/international supporters will never give up power democratically.

    If there’s an end to the Chavez regime, it will be violent and bloody.

    But it’s also possible that Chavez will remain in power for many years because the “bravo pueblo” of Bolivar is just a myth.

    Perhaps for most Venezuelans, it’s a case of “… mejor vivir de rodillas que morir de pie.” ] (*)

    (*) Fragment taken from “Hugo Chavez XIII”, CARACAS GRINGO, Posted 03/01/2011

  22. I must insist, the “sifrina factor” is in my mind not a weakness for MCM, just as it isn´t for HCR, I mean, come on, CAPRILES, it does´nt get much more “sifrino” than that, talk about a silver spoon. The real difference is exposure, experience, platform and campaign-readiness. MCM still has ways to go… But “el Merici-factor” has not been proven o be a weakness thus far…

  23. This will be a polarized election once again, which will come down to a choice between three options: 1) Vote for the Status Quo (Chavez). 2) Vote for the Opposition (Change). 3) Abstain.

    Ideally, in order to defeat Chavez, the opposition needs a candidate:

    a) Who is able to swing additional votes from the political center and/or, at least, prevent these moderate voters to vote for Chavez (i.e. he/she should be potentially appealing to this group of voters, identify and target the campaign at them, and, more importantly, should avoid being perceived by them in a negative way). In order to get votes from this group, the candidate should be perceived as a serious, presidenciable alternative (think Violeta Chamorro) , ideally with a ready-to-run program at hand (think Concertacion in Chile).

    b) Who cannot easily be depicted by Chavez/Chavismo as a classical puntofijista, April 11th, oligarch, Pitiyanqui oppo. All opposition candidates will be depicted that way, but some are easier targets than others. This will be Chavismo’s strategy to prevent a hemorrhage of centrist votes to the opposition + mobilize its base in the face of uncertainty.

    There are many other criteria, of course, but these ones come to my mind as the most critical in our choice.

    Re criterion #1, probably Capriles comes out ahead. He is the most experienced politician of the bunch after the old guard (OAP/Ledezma). I don’t think voters perceive him as a Puntofijo politician, and he has been around for so long that probably many people bypass his fat-cat origins. Plus, he has used his time in Baruta and Miranda to create the impression that he is less interested in talking than in doing, yet still caring for the people’s needs. He is still young, and that’s a double-edged sword.

    On the other hand, all our well-known candidates mentioned so far fall in trap 2. Pablo Perez here has an advantage here because he cannot be easily depicted as the prototypical ‘escuaca’ (escualido is demode). Maria Corina ranks probably the worst – she is perceived by Chavistas as a tropical, opposition version of Sarah Palin, unfair as this representation is. Henrique, well, has April 11th all over him. And Antonio Ledezma is also at a great disadvantage.

    These are my two cents for the time being!

  24. How about Carlos Ocariz? Why haven’t you named him, Juan? He had the most difficult and surprising win: he is the mayor of the most populous slum in Venezuela. I don’t understand why the opposition machine has not focused more on Ocariz.

    As for Maria Corina…I indeed think there is a very sexist double standard here. She is “sifrina” but Capriles is not? She went to the Merici but Capriles went to El Peñón? She comes from a rich family and Capriles does not? Both have the same type of very affluent Caracas background, they even studied at the same University, except that HCR is a lawyer whereas MC is an engineer (which speaks better of her! :-).

    In fact, I was very VERY impressed by MC’s speech in the National Assembly. She was bright, prepared and effective. She may not be very well known now outside Caracas, but remember that it took Chávez just a few minutes of exposure in 1992 to become a household name. If MC keeps having such performance in the National Assembly she may become increasingly known.

    My post on MC’s speech, with the video:

    http://cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/2011/01/bravo-maria-corina.html

    • Bruni,

      I was also very impressed with Machado’s speech. Still, I don’t think this is a machista bias. I have been listening to Capriles for a while, specially some speeches he gave in little villages in the poor areas of Miranda
      and I have to say he knows quite well how to talk there.

      I can imagine him talking like that in Maturín or in Parapara upon Parapara.
      I still can’t see Machado talking outside C-M-V. Let’s see. As Juan said: competition is good. We just need to have a fair competition.

      Again, we need to work not just on “the candidate” but on A MOVEMENT.
      For that, also “national leaders” for each of the 2-4 main oppo parties to move around in Venezuela and help build up a momentum, even if they won’t be the candidate. At this stage you cannot apostar solo a un caballito.

    • Bruni, thank you for the link. I had not seen it. MCM comes across as very prepared, good speaker who knows how to command a group, facts at her fingertips. I agree with Alek Boyd who welcomes, rather than pooh-poohs (sp?) the best educated in (or outside of) Venezuela. Can you imagine if the best of proven capabilities gravitated toward government? That would be a great change for the country, a good substitute for the neurotics that currently hide their poor performances with a disdain for high achievers.

      I, too, would give MCM time.

      Until then, I need to know more about Parapara. Would its inhabitants diss those with a full-0n Caracas accent that comes across as a little whiny? Or would they see beyond that and focus on the content of the speech?

    • It was indeed an impressive speech, and I agree with Bruni that this being televised by VTV is why having presence in the AN was so important.
      Bu I don’t think this is a “machista” bias, is, as someone mentioned, a perception of personality (the beer test) or the Habitus concept Quico used. And it has not been used only for women; Salas Romer got a lot of that type of criticism. I had to cover my nose when I was voting for him!
      But is not only the “sifrino” complex that makes her hard to swallow. She was also a very active figure at moments when the opposition was more disconnected with reality and believed that putting a stage in Plaza Altamira was going to make Chavez resign. She wasn’t making the choices then but she was there and she never looked like someone who understood how to defeat chavismo.
      However, I think it is fair to give her a chance, let’s see if she goes out to the little towns and barrios and see how people respond to her. If she wants to run, she has to “patear calle” (kick the streets?) and show what she is made of. She surely knows how to speak and not in boilerplate but with facts and figures and the personal touch thrown in there too.
      Maybe she can convince those of us who think she can’t connect with average Venezuelans.

    • Yep, he is over, Henri Falcon is Lopezed up, he was an electoral pawn. He is long gone, Neither side would vote for him in 2012 IHMO.

      I don´t mean that in a bad way, I just think he is not “Presidenciable”, ever, he is much like “el Cura Calderon”, destined to be a regional figure with some external influence at best…

  25. Quico, a sifrino background is an electoral liability with hardcore Chavistas, but with the rest of the country it could be a breath of fresh air.

    Venezuelans in general should be tired of a classless clown that insults and mocks everybody and everything around him, a guy so rude an uneducated that is a walking shame for the whole country. The guy is constantly out of his depth and the only way to survive his curious situations is to start acting out like a monkey with rabies.

    Are people not tired of that cheap show?

    I think that people want to look up to his (her) president and not see an ugly neanderthal clown but rather see somebody that is more… modern

  26. Have not posted anything for a while here… hope my account is still valid though.

    MCM is sifrina, so what. 100% on Alex’s comment here. I know her personally and she is also real. Real in the way she is commited to a better country for her and her children, real in the way she is a hard working hypr organized and competent single mom, real in the way she connects and cares for the people she works with.

    So speaking of framing, is you would aloow me, she is the most threatening candidate hopeful Chavez has against him. She repreperents the matriarcal head of the family, echada pa’lante, que resuleve type, most venezuelians see their moms being. Sifrina o no.

    Regards,
    LuisF

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