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Venezuela dares to change its future

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 13.11.06 | Once upon a time I thought chavismo was a creed, a quasi religious cult seasoned with a messianic leader, supported by hundreds of thousands that couldn't be undone. Venezuelans, rich and poor, educated or illiterate are equally prone to such phenomena. Take Teodoristas for instance. Lately I have met quite a few. To them erstwhile guerrillero Teodoro Petkoff is the embodiment of infallibility, a being beyond mundane errors notwithstanding the fact that they believe themselves to be Venezuela's glitterati. The uneducated and dispossessed had similar feelings towards Hugo Chavez, a man beyond human vices, free of sin. My perception was, of course, a very na´ve one. As I travel around this country I see that the name and face of the leader is of little importance, what truly matters is the strenght of character and personality. Although Manuel Rosales lacks the charm of Chavez it is no less true that I have seen ladies fainting in his presence. In August 2003 I saw it happen in a Chavez rally and I remember vividly having thought "how come a political figure can arouse such passionate emotions?" Well folks this is Venezuela where politics aren't as relevant as politicians. People's zeal in Rosales' rallies around the country equals that of Chavez at the height of his popularity and in Zulia the guy has every bit of a messianic-like stature as a leader could ever aspire. There's a physical thing to it: many men want to shake the hand and rub shoulders with the future president and many more women want to kiss and hug him, touch him, walk a few steps by his side, in sum fervor takes over normal behaviour and rationality anytime of the day.

The streets of Venezuela are no longer Hugo Chavez's domain. The militaristic caudillo ceased to be Venezuela's Leviathan for the vast majority do not feel represented by a deranged man obsessed with asymmetric wars, consumed by hatred and utterly inefficient in the exercise of his duties. The poor are no longer part of Hugo Chavez's political capital, they feel betrayed, robbed of their dreams, their hopes misplaced, they can't explain why Chavez has spent billions buying political favours abroad while they live in such appalling conditions. The spell that Chavez cast over Venezuela's poor has been broken by a man of few words and many actions. Last week Florencio Porras, chavista Governor of Merida state, spoke just before Chavez in a rally. During his speech he said 8 times "I dared this, I dared that, Chavez dare this or that..." Bear in mind that "dare" (atrevete) is Rosales campaign motto. Last week Rosales went to a classic baseball game -Leones v Magallanes- in Caracas and the whole stadium stood to cheer him, something that Chavez stopped doing a long time ago after his presence was relentlessly booed.

The images speak volumes about who has the people's support. The best poll there is are thousands of people showing up in rallies everywhere around Venezuela, and that is precisely what has got the caudillo's panties in a wad. Chavez doesn't dare campaigning as Rosales does simply because his Comando Miranda can't bribe and bus enough people to so many different and distant places at short notice. The small groups of chavista thugs sent to intimidate, block and outright attack Rosales' rallies nationwide are, in total, less than 500 hundred people. Hence his nervousness, hence the radicalization of his minions, all knowing full well that the train has already departed for the next stop, as in Maracaibo's recently inaugurated two-stop metro line.



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