06/10/2012 6 comentarios
With just three days to go in what is shaping up to be an extremely close race for the Venezuelan presidency, the campaign seems to have entered Bizarro World. As in that parallel universe in the old Superman comics, everything is reversed here. For much of past 14 years, while Hugo Chávez stayed on top of country’s politics by embodying aspirations of a broad swath of down-and-out Venezuelans, right-wing opposition was busy spewing vitriol at Chávez himself. (NYT – 04/10/2012)
Displaying a sometimes tragic lack of self-awareness, opposition spent years digging itself deeper into that hole: Its relentlessly negative approach created a cartoon villain version of Chávez that people just didn’t recognize as the real thing. The hyperpolarization only turned off swing voters, while cementing soft-core Chavistas’ loyalty to the president and confirming most people’s suspicion that opposition was embittered and out of touch. This year, those roles have switched. The challenger, Capriles Radonski, having learned from opposition’s long walk through electoral wilderness, has come out as voice of hope. “Venezuela’s future is far more than its past”, Henrique Capriles says to rapturous crowds wherever he goes, before launching a stump speech that centers on how he’ll make Venezuelans’ lives better in areas where Chávez has failed: in fighting crime, ensuring quality public transportation, ending chronic blackouts, opening up job opportunities for young people, radically overhauling nation’s creaky school infrastructure. Capriles has turned the opposition’s traditional message on its head, and for much of this year, Chávez has been at a loss as to how to respond. At first, the government turned to a crude vilification: at one point it even painted Capriles, whose Jewish grandmother survived Holocaust, as a Nazi. Over time, the message has become more sophisticated, with Chávez portraying Capriles as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an old-style neoliberal eager to dismantle the Chavista welfare state and institute hard-right economic reforms. For Capriles, whose actual track record, rhetoric and ideology are far closer to Brazilian-style social democracy than to Pinochetista right, these attacks are barely believable. Chavismo is clearly fighting the last war and attacking a cardboard cutout version of a challenger that opposition roundly rejected last February when it selected Capriles as its presidential candidate by a crushing majority in nationwide primaries. Chavismo has completely given up on its aspirational agenda. After 14 years in power, Hugo Chávez no longer has anything specific to say to Venezuelans hoping for a better life. Instead he is campaigning on grandiloquent abstractions about “achieving equilibrium in the universe and guaranteeing planetary peace” and “preserving life on planet and saving human species.” This borders on self-parody. At times, Comandante Presidente has seemed downright contemptuous of the concerns of everyday Venezuelans. A recent speech of his has been likened to a tropical version of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe: “Some might be dissatisfied with our government’s failings, that the potholes didn’t get fixed, that electricity is out and water isn’t running, that they don’t have a job, they haven’t gotten their house. That may be true in many cases…but that’s not what’s at stake. What’s really at stake is the life of the fatherland!” And so the role reversal is almost complete: a president who came to power as a tireless crusader for poor now seems downright bored of dealing with their problems, while an opposition long dismissed as an embittered reactionary clique comes to embody the people’s aspirations. Game on!