Candidate Watch: Where they stand

The opposition campaign for the 2012 Presidential election is going to heat up faster than an overworked Planta Centro generator. To help guide the discussion, we thought it would be fun to break the field down for you, as it currently stands.


First Tier

Henrique Capriles

Primero Justicia, Governor of Miranda

Pro: Smart, disciplined politician. Effective governor. Non-polarizing figure NiNis respond well to. Young. Excellent poll numbers in his home state. Virtually endorsed by Caracas Chronicles, although we’re not quite there yet.

Con: Not the most exciting speaker. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Can come across as cantankerous rather than optimistic.

The deal: Frontrunner by some distance. Guy most likely to unify the opposition, rally NiNis and beat Chávez. Nomination is his to lose.

Leopoldo López

Voluntad Popular, Former Mayor of Chacao

Pro: Born talker, fearsome campaigner, could sell ice to an eskimo. Beautiful smile. Smart. Young. The ladies love him.

Con: Can’t run, barring an unlikely CIDH-ex-machina solution. Not a team player, worrying caudillistic tendencies. Thin resumé. Stinks of Cisneros money.

The deal: Could gain the lead if there were a change in his legal standing.

Antonio Ledezma

Alianza Bravo Pueblo, Mayor of Greater Caracas

Pro: Tireless politician, a darling of the radical opposition who can also attract centrist votes. Good at the old-style populist harangue. Adaptable, quick thinking Pol.

Con: Adeco roots. Comando National de la Resistencia branches. Strong whiff of the jurassic about him. Chavismo would assail him for being CAP’s dauphin.

The deal: Only member of the old guard with a real chance.


Second Tier

María Corina Machado

Independent, founder of Súmate and National Assembly Member

Pro: Excellent public speaker. Independent from party machinations. Seems to be laying the groundwork for a proper campaign organization. Very smart. Extravagantly competent. Easy on the eyes = lots of free media.

Con: Thin resumé. No party machinery. Visited Pedro Carmona at Miraflores. Visited George W. Bush at the White House. Upper-crust accent and body-language may not play well in Venezuela’s barrios and rural areas. Faces deep-seated prejudice against beautiful women in positions of power.

The deal: She’s really on tier 1.5. She should be doing better than she is, and with the right amount of pixie dust, she could run away with the thing.

Pablo Pérez

Un Nuevo Tiempo, governor of Zulia.

Pro: Young, telegenic, governor of a huge state. Does not carry 2002 baggage. Non-controversial, easygoing.

Con: Zuliano – the nation has never elected one, and hasn’t come even close to doing so. Unknown outside his base. Can’t even unify his own party. A younger, hunkier, less experienced version of his mentor, Manuel Rosales.

The deal: Would get clobbered against Chávez, serious only because UNT has a proper national machine.

Manuel Rosales

Un Nuevo Tiempo, former governor of Zulia, former mayor of Maracaibo

Pro: Name recognition. His wife is the mayor of the nation’s second-largest city. Continues to exert control over UNT party machinery.

Con: Barred from running. Doesn’t live in Venezuela. Despised in large chunks of the opposition. His own protegé is also running. Dull. Stupid. Possibly corrupt. No idea how to appeal to people outside his base. Humiliated once before already. Oh and, Zuliano (see Perez, Pablo).

The deal: Terrifyingly, could imaginably rally the post-adeco, neo-adeco universe behind him and walk away with the nomination. Would be first-tier if he could persuade Perez to bow out.


Wildcards & Kingmakers

Lorenzo Mendoza

CEO, Empresas Polar

Pro: Outsider. Young. Telegenic. Smart. Managerial profile. Made of money.

Con: Blood far too blue for what’s coming. Zero political experience. Zero political machine. Fat cat.

The deal: A cypher. Could totally scramble the race if he decides to spend big. Has been selling us beer and mayonnaise for years, so why not presidents?

Henri Falcón

PPT, Governor of Lara

Pro: Brilliant. Born pol. Wildly popular in Lara. Man of the people. Untainted by terrible Oppo brand.

Con: Badly distrusted by right-wing opposition. Too far left to win a primary. Former chavista ties make him ariascardenas-y.

The deal: Still one of the most intriguing figures in Venezuelan politics. Probably won’t run.

Cecilia García Arocha

President of the Universidad Central de Venezuela

Pro: Hardened veteran of trench-warfare against Chavista encroachment. Loves a mike.

Con: Trained as a dentist. Largely unknown outside middle class Caracas/academic circles.

The Deal: The hard-charging leader of the fight to save university autonomy is a favorite of middle-class anti-Chávez activists, especially in Caracas. Can she broaden her appeal?


No Hopers

Henry Ramos Allup

Secretary General of Acción Democrática.

Pro: Brilliant.

Con: Evil.

The deal: Equal parts Kissinger and Rasputin; even the U.S. embassy finds him appalling. Thrives behind the scenes. Outlandish in front of the cameras. Awkward, surly in front of actual voters. His tight grip on what remains of the legendary AD machine makes him a factor.

Would take votes from: Ledezma, Rosales, Perez.

Cesar Pérez Vivas

Copei, governor of Táchira 

Pro: Tachirense. Has a real base of support.

Con: Dictionary definition of a fourth republic dinosaur. No name recognition or support outside his state.

The deal: Campaign = Ego Trip.

Would take votes from: Capriles, MCM.

Henrique Salas Römer

Proyecto Venezuela, former governor of Carabobo

Pro: Image as a pragmatist. Smart guy with a proven – if regional – party machine.

Con: Massively over-grown ego. Way past his prime. Largely absent from the national debate. Messianic streak. Has already lost to Chávez.

The deal: Another of these old pols who just can’t give up the dream no matter how desperately slim their chances are.

Would take votes from: His son, maybe.

Oswaldo Alvarez Paz

Not in Education, Employment or Training

Pro: Ummmm…I’m thinking . . . ummm … ermmm … there has to be something … does “pro-business” count?

Con: Right wing extremist. Lazy campaigner. Positively Paleozoic. Was past his prime even in 1993. So out of touch with normal Venezuelans it makes your eyes water. Thinks having his picture taken with Luis Alfonso Dávila is a good idea. And he’s from Zulia, to boot…

The deal: Former enfant terrible of the ancien regime, yet still a part of it. Briefly jailed last year for talking crazy, which is the only reason he’s (marginally) relevant now.

Would take (few, very few) votes from: Capriles, Ledezma, Machado.

128 thoughts on “Candidate Watch: Where they stand

  1. María Corina Machado: … Faces deep-seated prejudice against beautiful women in positions of power.

    Perhaps at this point it would be important to mention that Latin America leads all other regions of the world in percentage of women elected for president by a HUGE margin.

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    • Yeah, it’s always dicey to write about this. My sense – and I KNOW I’m on thin ice here – is that people find it easier to vote for women they don’t see as sexy. Bachelet, Cristina, Dilma…then Golda Meir, Cory Aquinos, Indira Gandhi, Thatcher, Merkel…they win. Segolene Royal, Irene Saez, Sarah Palin? Not so much.

      To my mind, MCM’s sex appeal looms larger than her gender. It seems to make voters loopy, a beautiful woman on a ballot paper.

      We have her looks as both a Pro and a Con, though I’m convinced it’s a net negative. There’s an undoubted fascination with it, that’s for sure, which will translate into lots of free media. But there’s also a hard-to-pin-down unease about it.

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      • There’s too much at play with MCM to make that call. She’s young, pretty, a woman, smart, sifrina, not affiliated to parties. There are more double-edged swords here than at a Cirque de Soleil reunion. It would be wrong to reduce her chances to this or that factor.

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          • To clarify: I am not telling she is a sifrina, or that it’s a bad thing to be one, or that a sifirna is not qualified for president because she was raised as one. No. I am only stating that that is not popular and a lot of people have their gut against it.

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        • MCC’S sifrino gestures might impede her from winning the primaries, however I think she would be good as a second in command to the Venezuelan president.

          She is an excellent debater and seems to have a great deal of clarity and determination( much needed)and therefore is someone who has a great deal to contribute at the highest levels of government.

          She has openly addressed a point that many people try to sweep under the carpet or let fall by the wayside,which is that the government makes people believe that the vote is not secret, and as someone who knows many from the barrios I can verify this as true.This has to be more and more openly confronted as she does in this interesting interview below:

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          • Personally I find it extremely disturbing that “blue blood” or “sifrinismo” or anything that smacks of middle-upper or higher class just won’t cut it in Venezuela. Of course one thing is to be a dumb sifrina bimbo, but quite another to be an extremely capable and intelligent person that maybe isn’t used to the country side, and somehow that’s big sin.

            This whole “connect with the pueblo” thing seems to confirm to me that Venezuela not only has low standards for their Presidents but DEMAND low standards.

            When you go to a doctor you expect him to be smart and qualified yes? When you go to a lawyer you expect that person to be professional and educated? Why the heck do we expect our Presidents to be stupid, talk “pueblo talk” and generally behave like asses?

            It seems to me that that smart is actually a big con, not a pro. Anything that smacks as smart won’t get far. It seems whatever candidate gets chosen will require 85% charisma… at least, and preferably not too smart. Smart seems alienate the voters.

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          • Probably you’re right and there’s something deeply rooted inside us that makes us dislike intelligent and serious people. Or perhaps it is that sometimes smart people look at regular folk with contempt.

            Anyhow, it seems that there’s only one kind of political speech in Venezuela: la arenga populista. Everybody has to talk about el pueblo and social justice and all that, otherwise you are seen as an oligarch not even worthy of scorn.

            That could be a problem for MCM. If she sticks to a populist speech, the voters will only see a sifrina talking about el pueblo and they will not buy that. There’s nothing more phoney than a mid-upper class person trying to talk “pueblo”. It won’t matter if she’s smart, prepared or pretty. A corny chavista-like speech won’t fly. Hopefully she’s smart enough to find her own voice.

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      • Easier to look uglier than prettier. Pile up few pounds, throw away the make-up powder and get a hair cut where Lina Ron used to get hers. That should do it!

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      • Wow… I can almost read the book on this by Pippa Norris: ::::”Ugly Ducklings v. Swans: crossing the aesthetic divide in modern female politics” Harvard university press, Cambirdge, 2014.::::

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        • Dude, I’m sorry, but Palin has exhibited certain disturbing qualities to my mind. That business with the bulls-eye targets? Now here’s the thing, she proceeded to SCRUB the internet of her references to that and she remained completely non-apologetic about deliberately firing up the base into attack frenzy mode.

          She would be an absolute disaster as President. She’s anti-science and can’t work in a partisan fashion. It would be simplistic to say she’s a variant of Chavez, but she certainly shares some of his characteristics.

          Remember this is the same woman who claimed she had foreign policy experience because Russia was right in front of Alaska.

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          • Foxtrot, but at least Palin is informed. She reads all the newspapers. All of them. You cannot say that. :-)

            On the Machado issue: I agree with you, it’s a tragedy Venezuelans are so sensible to that thing about “talking like the people”. I have a hypothesis, though, and it is not nice at all.
            This is it: Venezuela’s upper and upper middle classes have been particularly conservative (in the religious, societal way) and very very elitist. This may have to do with a way of differentiation: in the States you had the race. In Venezuela race was much less of an issue but Venezuelans from the top behaved simply like XV century Spanish lords and the upcoming stars (like Páez and all the others) like warlords. Things have changed a bit, but not much. My impression is there has been more commitment from the rich in the States and elsewhere in the North for the poor, whereas in Venezuela the most we got was demagoguery through petrodollars. This generated a lot of resentment. If you have 1) a complete delusion about the level of ignorance in Venezuela (not only from the poor, mind) and 2) a lot of rich having actually got where they are not through the hard way but through politics thn you can expect that resentment to grow and grow and grow.

            This all is very paradoxical. Currently I am sure there are boliburgueses galore who have more money than the Machado family and they got rich by stealing…but of course, they can talk “pueblo”.

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  2. This is so cool…
    Just one question, has Lorenzo given any indication that he might want to run? First time I see his name in anything related to politics, I thought that after the debacle with Carmona, business me recognized that they should leave politics to the politicians and would stay in the background supporting whoever they see fit but without trying to be politicians themselves.
    On another topic , I have agreed before on the fact that MCM upper class appearence is a handicap for her, but I think we will see her getting into the 1st tier if only because she is good at organizing things. Sumate was an outstanding organization built mostly on volunteers and if she is able to levarage that structure and uses some of the innovative forms of funds raising we could see her getting closer to HCR.

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    • I’m betting on MCM for the unit candidate. She had a huge campaign for the primaries last year. If she can afford to extrapolate it to the 335 municipalities, for sure she will get the seat…

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  3. Great post!

    Unfortunately this is a non Rancho en la cabeza point of view. What would Yasuri Yamileth think about it? Perhaps Luis Vicente León (Datanalisis) or Jesse Chacón (GIS XXI) would have the right answer.

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  4. Well, I am sorry to piss on your parade mate, but didn’t like the post, nor the “descriptions” the reason being that they’ve been written by someone in whose circle Cecilia García Arocha may be a contender, even with appeal. Mind you WTF is that? Talk about gente rascandose el hombliguito…

    What I would really like to see, and think it would be a huge contribution to the debate, is the descriptions/views of the candidates from some one in El Paramo, another views from Elorza, Maracaibo, Valencia, San Fernando, etc.

    We all know what the Centro San Ignacio ‘intelligentsia’ think.

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    • Right, so your critique of my description of the lady I said is “unknown outside middle class Caracas/academic circles” is to point out that she’s unknown outside middle class Caracas/academic circles…

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      • No, the critique is that the whole description seems, to me at least, to be Merici-centric. This is your point of view, nothing wrong with that, but then again, how representative is your point of view, in the wider political context? How would Kepler’s connections in Miguel Peña define the same candidates? Would it be an issue for them, as it seems to be to you, that MCM is sifrina? That Lopez dizque hiede a dinero de Cisneros?

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  5. Wow, 13 guys, not counting Diego Arria (the AD version of OAP), Andrés Velásquez and many, many more. I wonder if Claudio will run again…

    Do you have reliable information about Falcón? It would be a shame if the guy doesn’t run at all. It’s true that the guy probably looks way too much like the next Arias Cárdenas, but him running would add some credibility to the whole thing.

    As for García-Arocha, well, don’t get me started…

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  6. Good article!

    Quico, I gotta say though, you might want to think of a disguise if you ever visit Zulia.

    JC is probably having posters made right now describing you as public enemy #1 for the Republica Independiente de Zulia.

    I don’t think Arria is missing from the list, even if you have OAP and the other No Hopers listed. I wouldn’t be surprised though to see him either run for Governor or end up as foreign minister (or repeat as UN Ambassador) in an opposition government.

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    • Yeah, I think you have Ledezma way wrong. He’s not going to bow out for Rosales! No way! His ego’s too big for that.

      And nor should he. Neither Rosales nor Pérez have a realistic chance against Chávez. Ledezma does.

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    • I liked your post Daniel, although I disagree with it a little in that I think you overestimate the ability of the neo-adecos to get together. There’s just a lot of bad blood there.

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      • JC and Q

        It is not a matter of disagreeing, it is fun to exchange views on that. A little bit like at the race track where we all think we will bet on the right horse but where we all know very well we will end up “trasquilados”.

        As for the neo adeco movement (nice one JC! You are on fire lately). It is not that I am too optimistic on their chances. The thing is that a lot, a boatload of chavistas, used to be adeco once upon a time and there might be enough of them willing to go through an open primary to vote for a neoadeco. I know, it is kind of sick, but all is possible in such a long primary campaign. Besides, if you ad up AD, UNT and ABP, you beat PJ, at least outside of the greater Caracas.

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  7. There’s another thing that needs clarifying: Leopoldo Lopez is not barred from competing in the primary, only in the general election. So his position in the polls is affected by his inhabilitacion to the extent that people don’t view him as a viable general election candidate, and are therefore not willing to support him.

    I don’t know how big of a factor that is because, frankly, I don’t know how many people are aware of his legal situation.

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  8. That was fun, Quico, although I’d quibble that there’s some sort of engraved-in-stone law that says zulianos can’t get elected president. I don’t think there are any immutable laws of politics anymore. What makes Pablo Pèrez inmamable in my book is is recent statement to the effect that the CNE is a model of transparency. That, to me, means he’s lining up in hope of getting his campaign funded by Miraflores, as his mentor did five years ago. But don’t get me started on that one…

    García Arocha has pretty much decided not to run for president. She’s more interested in the Chacao mayor’s office.

    To me the most exciting possible candidate to watch is MCM. Here again, your rule of thumb on beautiful-women-can’t-get-elected seems, to me, baseless. Irene was way ahead of the pack into she fell into the Dracula embrace of Copei in summer 98 and dashed any hopes anyone might have had that she was a fresh new face. And Irene was a total airhead compared to MCM, who’s got really, REALLY good political instincts, and actually KNOWS something about public policy, team-building, and like any really good politician (look at Chávez), making you feel like you’re the most important person in the room.

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    • Eric, you simply cannot base the actual chances of winning based on Irene’s polls before she completely lost. Give us an example of one like her who actually won. Polls are polls, after all.

      On Zulianos: it IS a natural law. Zulianos are like Bavarians. Bavarians have never been able to become chancellors of Germany and even Bavarians recognise that.

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      • OK, true enough, polls are polls.

        I dunno…Chinchilla can look kind of sexy, sorta.

        But the bottom line is that inn this extremely unpredictable era, where the unheard of and the impossible of yesteryear today become everyday commonplaces, I would caution anyone from believing that all of yesterday’s truisms amount to hard and fast rules of politics. Much less so for 2012.

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        • MCM’s political talent is not to be undersold. I remember hanging out in Sumate’s borrowed offices in 2003 and seeing the weird, cultish devotion volunteers had for her. Hell, I wish I knew how to get MY volunteers to act like that!

          People who’ve worked with/for her adore her. And that’s not nothing.

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  9. Funny how after 41 posts on this thread, nobody has brought up Henrique Capriles. Not even to dispute he’s the front runner!

    People love to chew the fat on MCM, on Leopoldo, on Henry Ramos, even on García Arocha. But HCR?…at times I worry he’s like our Tim Pawlenty. Fine and all, but doesn’t really get anyone’s juices flowing. Guy’s perfectly decent, a “safe’ pair of hands: but just so gray…

    One thing he needs is time and practice behind the mike and on the stomp. Candidates really do improve with time and practice. He’s not the worst public speaker around. But that thing that LL and MCM do where the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? He doesn’t have that, does he?

    He better get it. Cuz we need him.

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    • That’s true. He is too much of a taxman.

      He has potential and he is fairly decent but he needs to improve his talking, specially improve his capacity for story telling.

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    • Maybe he can win the nomination staying out of the radar of the rest of the pack…interesting. Somthing like “Look!, HCR was there all the time!”

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      • No, he’s going to need to get the juices of the people flowing. One way to start is to remind people that, contrary to many of the others, he was actually imprisoned in the Helicoide by the Revolution. Not many of us can say that.

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        • Don’t worry, chavismo will do the trick…Something like>
          Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba, Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba, Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba, Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba, Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba, Fascista, Fascista, Embajada de Cuba

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          • Gayness as an insult is profoundly reactionary and is the ideological bedrock of the PSUV> El machismo-leninismo

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          • I wonder if all the guys would be allowed to just pass the time on their blackberries if it was Alo Presidente and el comandante was speaking

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          • Sexual pecularities have been used as a politicial slur in Venezuela since -as far as I’ve noticed- the 1830s… So this is almost a coming of age for HCR…

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          • I think that chavismo claims to macho-vernaculismo are as credible as, say, their claims of having eradicated illiteracy in Venezuela. Specially when one considers images like this one:

            Surely a hit with people like Calvin Tucker, or Eric Wingerter, but what does that image say about chavismo’s vision of its leader?

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          • Sorry, Alek, but that poster is not homoerotic, even if a lot of their stuff is (look at the way Freddy Bernal marches…that is sooo RÖHM). That picture you show is just part of their NEP period, the early one.

            I blogged on that some years ago:

            http://venezuela-europa.blogspot.com/2008/02/spot-venezuelan-poster.html

            These guys were learning from those errors (learning by repeating). They have improved a lot since recent years and now they are using normal Orwellian tactics (posters with “food is socialism”, food is good”, “water is socialism, this water pipe is socialism”)
            AND above all: they are using pretty girls. I had several other pictures of new posters in the Llanos with cute girls in red on profile looking at the horizon in true post-Stalin socialist fashion.

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          • Kepler: fascinating stuff… And it goes in line with the decision not to put more of the president everywhere. They are now selling an idea. Could it work?

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          • GTAveledo,

            I think it is working in certain areas, but let’s remember this is like a long Go game…they play, we play, we need to think ahead, foresee their possible moves.

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          • Doublethink. At the same time, they claim to defend gay rights and some very prominent closeted people are on their ranks. I guess, if chavista, they guy is gay. If oppo, he is a filthy deviant, maricón pervertido.

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    • After hearing LL live I got the impression that he wasn’t that great… Or in other words he was kind of like Rosales. But, anyways, it’s my impression and I still think he is a very energetic campaigner with a solid experience in Chacao. His resume is thin because they (the Chavezland government) didn’t allow him to be Alcalde Mayor (do you translate that as Major Mayor?)

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  10. I resent the description of Rosales as “stupid”. Dull? Sure. Delusional, since he thinks he has a shot in 2012? Definitely. But he what he and UNT have accomplished in Zulia, not least of all keeping the state’s major offices out of chavista hands, shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

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    • I think that’s Omar Barboza’s doing: the dueño’e’l’circo is smart, the clown?…not so much.

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      • OB has a great nickname -from his AD youth days- “Sleepy Cayman”. You’d think he’s out of the loop, doozing off, and then he’d pounce you from beneath the calm waters and crush your frail little bones.

        So, even though I don’t like the “dinosaur” meme, he might be a saurian, all right.

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      • Perhaps the resident Maracucho could tell us the story about how the “stupid” Manuel Rosales managed to, almost single handedly, not only beat the Bachacos and the entire AD party-machine in Zulia, but marry the daughter of one fierce adeca leader…

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  11. por que cono no le cambian el nombre a esto de una vez, Primero Justicia Chronicles. y listo. se ahorran la pena de escribir tantas incoherencias juntas… Por dios.

    Gracias a dios, esta cosa practicamente no la lee nadie./

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  12. MCM is not only beautiful, mind you. As quico says in this blog, on candidate standings, she is cunningly effective and driven.

    My position has been that given venezuela is a de-facto matriarcal society, where everyone has a mom, echa’ pa lante! that pulled them through on a shoestring, los saco pa’lante como pudo, pues; her appeal to the working mothers and their children can be massive if well managed.
    Her cons: sifinismo and good looks need to be discussed up front. WTF is wrong with that? are we no all proud of Venezuelian beauty queens? well, this one has a brain and a strong love for her country too…
    And yes, it scares Chavez to death to have to to compete with her more than anyone else IMO.
    HAving said this, the sad part is that this electoral circus has caught up again, and the next 18 months are lost in everyone’s minds playing the electoral game, while the real game contiues unchecked.

    Disclaimer: I did work with MCM and yes she is a encantadora de serpientes. Totally gets you involved in the cause sort of speak, and that is not a bad thing (I have never worked in such a high performance team before nor after).

    This is what Alek reffers to having someone able to get the best teams together and to draw a vision for all to chase.

    I have nothing on against LL, HCR, or even PP and Ledezma. …May the best one win the nomination…but lets keep the eye on the ball, Venezuela is a new age dictatorship, a cleptocracy of incidental interests embezeling the nation silly.

    …Poor show they give out peleando como borrachitos por una botella vacia.

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    • It’s still a Macho society, and we adore our beauty queens just because they are that, beauty queens, it makes men feel all warm and fuzzy inside to see them soooo pretty and to laugh at their dumb answers to the pagents questions. They are no threat to the male ego. But a smart and beautiful woman that can get the job done? Not many men like that. This society is so obssessed with beauty, that women sometimes feel that it is the only thing worth fighting for, to see a young, beautiful woman running for president just reminds them that they are still not good enough, they would rather vote for a man, it’s envy. Women backstabbing women. It’s easier to look at a “ugly” female president, you could at least say “Bueno, la pobre es feita, por eso es tan inteligente, no le quedó de otra” than to look at a “reina de belleza” female President.
      Creo que me extendí un poco, pero creo que por ahí van los tiros

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  13. Love this post. You guys are great — you really manage to distill a lot of political knowledge into these sharp and funny and spot-on candidate descriptions.

    Alas, your readers will always have quibbles. Here are mine:

    (1) Missed a con, or more, on Leopoldo: took the wrong position in 2005, forcing PJ to withdraw from the legislative elections. He threatened to break the party up if they didn’t withdraw…and then did it anyway, after they reluctantly agreed to his demands. That showed a lack of courage when it mattered. Oh, what’s that you say? You’ve heard me complain about this before? Damn straight.

    (2) I agree w/comment above — Manuel Rosales isn’t stupid. Maybe blinded by his massive ego — but not stupid.

    (3) Missed a pro re Maria Corina — she works really hard. Really, really, really hard. And, as alluded to by Quico, inspires others to work that hard, too. Not to be under-estimated in presidential campaigns.

    (4) Still. But. Showed her own prejudice and blindness when AS HEAD OF AN ELECTORAL NGO she supported withdrawing from 2005 elections. Not a position Sumate should have taken. Undid Sumate’s credibility, just as the withdrawal itself damaged the opposition.

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  14. Good post Quico. A fun, well written profile of the oppo candidates from the oppo point of view…

    Just a crazy comment. Think that if HCR marries Carla Angola before the presidential elections, she can add color, spice, fun (net: “venezuelaness”) to his image…something he lost when broke up with Erika De La Vega.

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  15. I think that the race is between HCR and MCM.

    HCR is like a turtle that does not stop, he has been working on this for years, congress, mayor, governor and the guy keeps growing and growing. But yes, he needs a jolt of energy to go to the next stage. Meanwhile MCM is the hare passing everybody, she is in another level, does not matter that she is pretty, sifrina or whatever, she has IT. I think she wins the primaries, give her more time and she laps the competition.

    Then we will have the ultimate scenario MCM vs Chavez, beauty vs beast, good vs evil, modernism vs cuba, order vs chaos, education vs ignorance, talk vs holler, laws vs guns.

    You get the picture

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  16. HCR is one of the luckiest politicians in Venezuela’s history:

    – He ran and was elected in 1998 as a Diputado for Zulia only because his family gave money to Copei, and his older brother would not run. He squeaked into Congress due to the peculiarly split vote of that election.

    – He was chosen as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies because Salas Romer -then the de facto leader of the opposition- did not want anyone from PV stealing his thunder, and couldn’t get the AD votes unless they got a copeyano. He caved, but asked that diputado to be a complete unknown. (((- As a side note, he was a terrible as Speaker: he skirted most political work, refused to defend Congress’ prerrogatives and opposition diputados when they were attacked by pro-government mobs, and spent resources and hours and hours preparing Venezuela against the Y2K bug.)))

    – He became mayor of Baruta, in a relatively easy win (Baruta’s mayors were mostly one-termers, because they never created the party structure to compete properly as incumbents… HCR joined the seemingly booming PJ bandwagon in 2000, under the support of then-governor, Enrique Mendoza).

    – He was made a political martyr for what should have been a small crisis (bigger fish from the 2002 crisis were left alone, unscathed), and even though he tried to go into hiding (does anyone remember the huge billboard of HCR on the lam that was displayed on the Baruta Administrative building?), he was imprisoned in relatively decent conditions, and was ultimately absolved.

    – The huge abstention numbers from oppo-voters in ’04 -due to the aftermath of the RR debacle- did not affect him, as he was on one of the safest seats in the whole country.

    – He became a viable opposition candidate for governor of Miranda only after Mendoza was inhabilitado. His victory was a major upset, though, and after defeating the mighty Diosdado, he instantly became a presidenciable.

    You could argue that his rise has been mostly luck, but so far he has seemed poised to take advantage of it. Even though he was a reasonably competent mayor –and has grown into the governorship-, is he really showing signs of being presidenciable? His demeanor and opinions seem unpolished (which might be a mark of honesty, or just plain idiocy) and he’s certainly no policy wonk (unlike MCM, HRA, Ledezma or LL), and has populist inclinations, and a flair for photo-ops (“I’m the true Socialist”, he said a few months ago). His familial contacts with two economic powerhouses make him liable of corruption and influence trafficking allegations, even if we harbor little doubts about his personal honesty.

    Ultimately, the thing that bothers me the most about Capriles is that he’s becoming too prudent. He should be a little more rash if he wants us to notice he’d like to be President. Fortune does not smile to the meek.

    PS: Henry Ramos is not evil. He might be scheming –as most of the people on this list, who did not get to where they are by quoting ‘My Little pony’- but evil seems a bit too harsh.

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      • I’m the fisrt to admit that I might be glossing over many things. But, compared with others, his prison time was short and comfortable. He’s no Afiuni, or Baduel, or Peña Esclusa, or Brito.

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      • And I can also admit that he has grown on the post. “El cargo habilita”, as they say (and, quite frankly, I thought he was going to be terrible, as he was during his tenure as Speaker of the Cámara de Diputados).

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        • HCR is current frontrunner because he is “one of the luckiest politicians in Venezuela’s history”. Great political analysis. the guy has been representative, presidente of the congress, two times mayor and governor of the most important state in venezuela (all for luck). No problem you don’t like the guy. But politics is about momentum. If he took advantage of opportunities and refrain somehow to avoid big mistakes, I don’t think that is “luck”. It is conventionally call strategy. Clearly, he was favored by the presidency of congress, but what got him to baruta was a very strong anticorruption (anti ixora rojas) actions. He was imprisoned and he managed to be released and get reelected. Baruta police was a shamed and managed to make it much more respected. He beated one of the most powerful guys in chavez government with a very good campaign (I really doubt Enrique Mendoza could have won to diosdado). Now he is the best evaluated political leader in the country by far according to any poll. Luck? really? And, by the way, have any of you been in an event with HCR in miranda or in any other place?

          – He was chosen as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies because Salas Romer -then the de facto leader of the opposition- did not want anyone from PV stealing his thunder, and couldn’t get the AD votes unless they got a copeyano. He caved, but asked that diputado to be a complete unknown. (((- As a side note, he was a terrible as Speaker: he skirted most political work, refused to defend Congress’ prerrogatives and opposition diputados when they were attacked by pro-government mobs, and spent resources and hours and hours preparing Venezuela against the Y2K bug.)))

          – He became mayor of Baruta, in a relatively easy win (Baruta’s mayors were mostly one-termers, because they never created the party structure to compete properly as incumbents… HCR joined the seemingly booming PJ bandwagon in 2000, under the support of then-governor, Enrique Mendoza).

          – He was made a political martyr for what should have been a small crisis (bigger fish from the 2002 crisis were left alone, unscathed), and even though he tried to go into hiding (does anyone remember the huge billboard of HCR on the lam that was displayed on the Baruta Administrative building?), he was imprisoned in relatively decent conditions, and was ultimately absolved.

          – The huge abstention numbers from oppo-voters in ’04 -due to the aftermath of the RR debacle- did not affect him, as he was on one of the safest seats in the whole country.

          – He became a viable opposition candidate for governor of Miranda only after Mendoza was inhabilitado. His victory was a major upset, though, and after defeating the mighty Diosdado, he instantly became a presidenciable.

          You could argue that his rise has been mostly luck, but so far he has seemed poised to take advantage of it. Even though he was a reasonably competent mayor –and has grown into the governorship-, is he really showing signs of being presidenciable? His demeanor and opinions seem unpolished (which might be a mark of honesty, or just plain idiocy) and he’s certainly no policy wonk (unlike MCM, HRA, Ledezma or LL), and has populist inclinations, and a flair for photo-ops (“I’m the true Socialist”, he said a few months ago). His familial contacts with two economic powerhouses make him liable of corruption and influence trafficking allegations, even if we harbor little doubts about his personal honesty.

          Ultimately, the thing that bothers me the most about Capriles is that he’s becoming too prudent. He should be a little more rash if he wants us to notice he’d like to be President. Fortune does not smile to the meek.

          PS: Henry Ramos is not evil. He might be scheming –as most of the people on this list, who did not get to where they are by quoting ‘My Little pony’- but evil seems a bit too harsh.

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          • “I really doubt Enrique Mendoza could have won to diosdado” Really?

            I beg to differ. HCR wouldn’t have won without the support of Mendoza. There was a reason for the disqualification of Enrique Mendoza before the regional elections of 2008: chavismo was afraid of losing to him and saw HCR as a weaker candidate.

            You just have to go back to the 2004 elections. Enrique Mendoza lost to Diosdado by a very small margin. And that happened just because the opposition was calling to abstention.

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          • A. Barreda says:

            I beg to differ. HCR wouldn’t have won without the support of Mendoza. There was a reason for the disqualification of Enrique Mendoza before the regional elections of 2008: chavismo was afraid of losing to him and saw HCR as a weaker candidate.

            => I´m not saying that Mendoza wasn’t useful. It was. I’m saying that I doubted that he could have won the election himself. Mendoza support was less than enthusiastic and nonetheles capriles won (because he did more than having mendoza support).

            You just have to go back to the 2004 elections. Enrique Mendoza lost to Diosdado by a very small margin. And that happened just because the opposition was calling to abstention.

            => No doubt he could have won. Nonetheless, it was not the same election after having diosdado 4 years in charge of miranda.

            In any case, we would need the counterfactual which I don’t have. I concede I’m speculating.

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  17. A little comment on Cesar Perez Vivas: there might be some egotism on his improbable run, and yet, there seems to be some logic behind it. He needs to secure his standing withn the opposition: as his party becomes nationally weaker (and untimately leaderless) a presidential race might secure his regional stronghold -as he gets more votes and organization- and exchange some national influence on the opposition for his eventual support of the national candidate. No one can win without Táchira, so CPV won’t let any non-gocho usurp his political base.

    To his credit, he’s been forthcoming about his candidacy, and he was the first presidential candidate on TV after the MUD announced the date of the primarias.

    Incidentally: how can he be a Dinosaur? He’s not even 50 years old…

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    • Well…everything’s about power, no matter we are de facto in an autocracy turning into dictatorship…bloody feudal lords…the opposition could win if they realise it is not about “mobilizing one’s base” but about intelligently approaching ALL Venezuelans starting with those we haven’t just yet.

      “Incidentally: how can he be a Dinosaur? He’s not even 50 years old…”
      Judge by yourself:
      Cesar Perez Vivas

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      • I’m not endorsing Perez Vivas -my preferences and personal support lie with one of the other candidates you’ve mentioned- but he’s not on an ego-trip… Remember that Tachira is not a small state, it has a storied presidential lineage -which Zulia lacks- and it can boast being the most anti-Chavez’ state (it’s almost like one big Baruta).

        CPV does look stodgy and old, and he has been in politics since he came out of high school, so although he was the dinosaurs, he is more like one of the small mammals that roamed during the Cretaceus… A therapsid, perhaps?

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        • My guess is that you support Leopoldo. Following your line of reasoning, he has had “bad luck”. He had bad luck choosing sides in supporting the withdraw of the opposition in the national assembly in 2005. He was very unlucky when he coudn’t take control of PJ. He was unlucky when he decided to split and join UNT. It was a matter of luck that he has to also leave UNT. And it was fate that he coudn’t make the political case to solve the disabling ruling that preventing him for running to a different post. We venezuelans are very unlucky that the CIDH doesn’t work fast enough. Good luck with that.

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  18. Great post. I may be urinating outside the pot, but is Enrique Mendoza barred from running in ’12? Isn’t he in Congress? Does he have a chance, or has he been “quemao” enough from previous attempts?

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    • I like the guy a lot since I learned about him from my mother-in-law. She was a hardcore copeyana and worked with him as a teacher for the Miranda government. She was a huge fan of the guy and as far as I know, the guy is a hardworking, honest guy, in spite of the illegal 2008 disqualification.

      Unfortunately, I think there are things working against him. First, the guy could be classified as a dinosaur by some because he has a IVth-republican past. Second, the failure of 2004 Referendum. He’s not liable for that, but he was probably the most visible face of the CD at the time. Third, the mess during the selection of the candidate for the AN. That may be a non-issue because probably almost everybody forgot that. Fourth, even if the guy if a pretty good running a campaign, he’s probably too low profile right now to be considered a serious candidate.

      Given al this facts, I would still vote for the guy if the guy runs for presidency. I wouldn’t rule out that, given that the guy is an old fox a la HRA, but there are probably way too many candidates with christian-democratic roots including the one leading the polls. My bet is on him running for the government of Miranda again.

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  19. Great, great, great article guys. Allow me to exercise some wishful thinking… The candidate that will win the primary of the opposition will be Lorenzo Mendoza drawing the sword of the values of private property, education, government intervention to vindicate fairness and justice in terms of opportunities for everyone and not conchupancy, clientelism and the current mediocrity in our country that ceased to be the Republic of Venezuela and became chavezland. My second candidate, though, would be Capriles Radonski with some reservations. And, finally the third one would be Antonio Ledezma who has been one of the most consistent politicians since Feb 1992 (according to my parents…)

    Which brings me to another pro for OAP and Ledezma, political consistency in opposing Chavez even in times that the country was en 4 por Chavez

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  20. Why is it that everyone forgives MCM for the ’94 referendum? Wasn’t she in charge of protecting our votes? Didn’t she say we won?

    Juts wondering…

    Never liked Capriles, but Venezuelans do, that he has in common with Chavez.

    Half the list will not even get out of the starting gate.

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  21. What’s the reason for the blackball on Zulianos?

    The nearest thing to that in the U.S. was the de facto bar on Southerners after the Civil War. The first outright Southern President elected after 1860 was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

    (LB Johnson was a Texan, which by that period didn’t count as “Southern” so much as “Western”.)

    I look at the map; I see that Zulia is the Maracaibo region, and is across some mountains from the rest of Venezuela (more or less). Has that made Zulianos culturally distinct in some way? Like Bavarians? Perhaps an accent?

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    • Rich,

      It is a bit like the Bavarians indeed. There is an accent (although Bavarian is generally seen as “nice accent” in Germany, unlike Merkel’s Sächsisch or Hessisch). They also use an archaic verbal form – vos coméis – like Guaros (people from Lara), which may sound cute but constantly add “molleja”
      (gizzard) and “verga” (prick), which makes them sound threatening.
      They use those words to express surprise, concern, ask for someone’s attention or just to give structure to two short phrases.

      Then there is the music – gaita zuliana -. You either hate it (if you are not Zuliano) or you love it (usually if you are Zuliano).

      There has always been a sense of being apart from the rest.

      Mind: Zulia (provincia de Maracaibo) was for a long time part of the Virreinato de Nueva Granada (Santa Fe de Bogotá), which is now mostly Colombia and Panama.
      If my memory does not fail me here I think writer Herrera Luque in one of his historic novels wrote that once, during Colonial times, when Maracaibo was taken away at some time from the Capitanía General Caraqueños gave a party.

      We have nothing against Zulianos, BUT they have this situation.

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    • Rich, We can name unpleasant or misunderstood charactersitics of any region but I think the bottom line here is that the Zulianos themselves create a barrier by isolating themselves from forming a complete identification with the rest of the country.

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      • Zulianos themselves create a barrier by isolating themselves from forming a complete identification with the rest of the country.

        Amazing, isn’t it, how someone you’d taken for a reasonable, intelligent person can all of a sudden convince you they’re a complete idiot?

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        • EU

          I have a lot of family from this region and have noticed an attitude in them that their region is superior.I have heard this from them and from others from the region as well.
          Rivalry with inhabitants of other regions is common.

          When people feel they are the best, automatically there comes a concomitant feeling of distance from the other.

          There is too much pride in this region if you ask me.

          We have something going that is slightly similar here in the US with Texas but to a lesser degree.Also some in the South have a kind of psychological distance from the rest of the country at times.

          It’s not they Zulianos are not Venezuelans, but their identification cannot be complete if they feel their region superior.

          The same happens with Caracas.It is unbelievable to me how superior many people feel just because they are from the capital.

          All of this has an effect on the attitudes of those in the heartlands or in regions where there is less regional pride.

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  22. Great post! I learned a lot about various figures who appear and disappear from the newspapers from week to week, without much reference to their longer-term activities.

    The overwhelming impression I get is that there really are a wealth of excellent candidates for the MUD to choose from. Let’s hope they have sufficient discipline to run only one, and that no one will take his toys and run a separate campaign.

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  23. If I vote with my heart, my vote will go to Maria Corina.
    I’ll find her competent, intelligent and able to put together an excellent governing team. It is about time that in a matriarchal society we get a woman President.

    The fact that she does not have a party is a plus in my view, because we do not want the old parties that cannot even set a common strategy to face Chavez to decide the political agenda.

    I know all the “buts” about Maria Corina (IMHO her past mistakes, if one can call them so were based on two things: 1)she was one of Chávez’s first targets, so she had to “defend” herself as well as she could and 2)her lack of political experience). BUT nevertheless, she is the one that I would vote for if I had the opportunity. In fact, I am quite surprised with myself that I am so clear that she is my candidate.

    Of course, I am far from being the classical venezuelan voter…but maybe I am not alone.

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  24. a Candidate can not be a some from Zulia, because a Zuliano will never win the precindency…

    Zulianos themselves create a barrier by isolating themselves from forming a complete identification with the rest of the country.

    No, theres no xenofobia against Zulianos in venezuela, todo es joda…

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