Henrique Capriles continues to confound observers. His latest?
“This process of disqualifying [political rivals] is hurting the opposition, because it is opening wounds that will be very difficult to heal. I have never said that we have to wait until 2019; find the place where I said that. Don’t start creating opinions like these because you may think you hurt me, but you strengthen the government.“
We realize that keeping the cycle of he-said-she-saids really isn’t helpful. But how to hold back when we get baited like that?
Capriles keeps saying that what we have to focus on is naming a new electoral board. That sounds fine and dandy, but … how exactly is negotiating a new token electoral judge (remember Sobella Mejías?) going to help us have clean elections when they announce die-hard chavistas such as Iris Varela or Pedro Carreño to head the CNE? Are there any signals, any at all, that the government is willing to compromise on this?
I have been the first to argue that securing a credible CNE would be a giant step towards overcoming Venezuela’s malaise. But the time to negotiate for that was when you had some momentum from street protests, when the government was struggling to cope with the energy of the student movement.
During that time, Capriles was busy sending de-mobilizing messages, agreeing to participate in a dialogue that played right into the divide-and-conquer strategy the government has been banking on all along.
Criticizing the lack of unity in the opposition while suggesting that Maria Corina Machado wants to divide the opposition so that she can remain deputy for Baruta is a bit like hearing Luis Suárez complain about Chiellini’s biting. And let’s not even talk about the statement that criticizing him benefits the government: an argument straight out of the SIBCI war-chest.
The subtext to Capriles’s position this year has always been obvious. He may not literally say “we better wait until 2019,” but arguing for polite engagement with the pseudo-institutions of our pseudo-democracy – first the CNE, then legislative elections, then … – amounts to the same damn thing.
Everybody can see that is what he means. Capriles doesn’t get to dictate the terms through which public opinion interprets his words.
Now, blasting Capriles for all this is kind of easy, but is he still relevant? We don’t pile on Pablo Medina every time he opens his mouth. Is Capriles on the way to Pablo Medina-ness?
It’s a legitimate question, the answer to which may dictate what the opposition does in the near future.
If Capriles wants to lead, then he should lead – have a meeting with Maria Corina Machado, come to an agreement with Leopoldo López, agree to reorganize the MUD, work the rooms, shake some hands … anything.
If he wants to follow, then he should follow – support the Constitutional Assembly, or support some other proposal out there about reorganizing the MUD or the opposition as a whole.
If he wants to do neither, then he should simply step aside. Take care of Miranda, and leave the driving of the opposition to more able hands. We won’t fault him if he decides this whole “national opposition leader” thing just isn’t his cup of tea.
Henrique Capriles is a talented politician, an asset for the opposition, and someone we are ready to support in the right circumstances. But, right now, we have no clue what he’s doing.
Scratch that – we know what he’s doing … being unhelpful.