(Este post se encuentra en Español aqui)
Typically a politician begins his career within a party or a political organization or office and climbs up. But seldom does a politician rise, least of all in Venezuela, then drop and then manage to rise even higher than he had ever managed to get before. This is the curious case of Antonio Ledezma. As times has gone by, not only did he manage to strike a tremendous and disciplined victory and campaign versus Chavez’ machinery and simpatico pro-Chavez candidate Aristobulo Isturiz, but his public image continues to rise, not only above where he has ever been, but even more surprisingly above any leader of the current Venezuelan opposition.
Ever since his election last November as Mayor of the Metropolitan area of Caracas, Ledezma has become the most consistent and persistent political leader of the heterogenous opposition. He has obviously been helped by the way Hugo Chavez stripped him of most of his duties, responsabilities and funding. This whole affair has been so outrageous and undemocratic, that everyone can see that the votes of the people of Caracas were stolen by Chávez after the fact.
But even more important, Ledezma has compensated his lack of charisma with his energetic approach. Last Christmas it seemed as if only Chavez and Ledezma did not go away for the holidays and Ledezma has fought since then the immoral war against him with dignity and remarkable poise.
What Ledezma has done is to go back to the style that helped him rise as a student leader of Accion Democratica, tiredlessly working day after day. An attitude he brought to his campaign that led him to be Mayor of the Libertador District, a position for which he was reelected to in 1998, but his term was shortened by the Constitutional reform of 2000. And maybe, just maybe, it is only a personal perception that Ledezma lacks charisma, he has beaten Aristobulo Isturiz twice and last November, he managed to beat an Isturiz backed by the overwhelming Chavista machinery and funding. That’s more than most opposition politicians past and present can claim to have achieved.
And taking a move out of Chavez’ playbook, it is now Ledezma that walks around carrying the little blue book containing the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution as in the picture above, a symbol and gesture that Chavez seems to have forgotten or realizes would be a little bit of a farse since he tramples his once ” best Constitution of the world” almost daily.
And in the middle of the Honduran crisis, which is actually boring to most Venezuelans, Ledezma decides to go on a hunger strike at the OAS Headquarters in Caracas, demanding the attention of the OAS and asking its Secretary General Insulza, that he ask all countries to respect the OAS Democratic Charter and not apply selectively as has been done in the last few years.
And as the Government of Venezuela was trying to get the OAS to agree to have Ledezma removed, Insulza, who seems to have lost what little credibility he had left as Secretary General of the OAS, had no other recourse to accept those of Ledezma’s demands he could act on, while the Venezuelan Government quickly paid the money due to Ledezma’s office the day before the strike.
And while Chavez barked and threatened on Honduras, but got little done so far, Ledezma grabbed the spotlight (in all but the Government’s media) with his hunger strike, supported by the workers from the Caracas City Hall and the constant stream (and crowd!) of visitors to the OAS. (Even if most opposition politicians failed to even show their face)
And he quit the hunger strike and left today stronger than any opposition politician. He was the center of attention and now he will be received at the OAS (Joined by all opposition Governors, a Ledezma proposal) to formally present the numerous violations of the Venezuelan Constitution and the Democratic charter by the Government of Hugo Chavez.
It is indeed a curious case, how Antonio Ledezma has reinvented himself by going back to his youth, managing to come out of nowhere to suddenly become the most relevant opposition politician. Whether this speaks badly of the opposition is not the point. The point is that Ledezma seems to have more political intuition and desire than those that claim to lead opposition parties, without ever having received the same approval of the voters that Ledezma actually has.