Thanks to Leopoldo Lopez campaign group, who thought blog coverage of the debate would be useful and thanks to Daniel including me in the plan, I was able to be at the Globovision debate tonight live. Unfortunately, Digitel failed to cooperate and the organizers failed to provide the required technology, despite the fact that at the Universidad Metropolitana, where the debate took place, there were plenty of wi-fi networks available.
The debate was structured around questions and then candidates could come back and say how they disagreed with answers or how they would do things differently. It would be meaningless for me to do a blow by blow of the debate, even if I do have the notes. Instead, I will give a summary of how I saw it and will comment at the end on Leopoldo Lopez’ hinting that he and Capriles will be joining forces.
First, the biggest loser in my mind was Pablo Perez. The Zulia Governor was certainly not very impressive, with meandering arguments and very general, vapor filled arguments that meant very little. He may have the party machinery, he may have the funding, but he was absolutely unimpressive, so much so, that Pablo Medina looked his equal and I don’t even plan to talk about what Medina said or did not say.
The most impressive, edging Leopoldo Lopez, was Maria Corina Machado. She had many arguments and specifics that I appreciated. While I don’t buy the “Capitalismo Popular” simplicity, she did show that she understands the economics and the vision of what is necessary to make a country click. I particularly liked how she affirmed that as President she would have the tools needed to rescue the judicial system from the Chavistas. She did not answer the last question properly, the moderator asked each candidate to say what they would say at the end of their term, while she said all the things she would do. But then she mentioned in that list, returning expropriated properties to their rightful owners, kicking Cuban military out of the country, freeing political prisoners and eliminating cadenas. Wrong answer to the question, but good answers. The lack of a nationwide structure will stop her from doing well, but she has certainly been impressive the last few weeks.
Diego Arria was consistent in his program and what he has said all along, that he only wants three years, that a Constituent Assembly is needed and this is not a “normal” situation. He has done a good job in making his points and he will not go much beyond here, but he ran to make these points. Kudos to him for being the only one to differentiate the problem of the rural worker from those of the city worker.
I just did not like Henrique Capriles. He was vague. I did not get a felling he has vision or understanding of what makes a country grow and work. He is the front runner, but maybe I don’t get him for the same reasons I don’t get Chavismo, I just don’t know what he is about. He can tell me many times what he did in Miranda. But being President is more than about servicing people and solving current problems, you have to look way down the line, He did not mention one concrete or semi-concrete proposal to that effect.
To me Leopoldo Lopez was second to Maria Corina. I would have liked his summary question to have more punch, even if his answer was the most realistic, saying that he had partially solved problems in six years in office. But overall, he showed that he understands economic terms as well as Maria Corina, the two candidates that showed some economic and visionary concepts (Diego Arria did not even try to go there). I also like Lopez’ emphasis on making things in Venezuela, so as to eventually become an exporting country.
Leopoldo did throw a curveball at the end by suggesting that he and Henrique Capriles would somehow join forces in ways yet to be announced. We will have to wait and see what the announcement is. Clearly, if Lopez is not going to do well, it makes sense to withdraw. And if he gives his support for Capriles, he will not only be showing his inclination for supporting unity, but also that he is willing to sacrifice in a classy way to make something happen. He has to be given credit for that. Even if he just withdraws, giving up for the common good is uncommon in Venezuelan politics. This is not a moment for selfish politics, too much is at stake.
A very interesting experience, Daniel was able to tweet live, even if I could not blog, but cool to feel the politics up close. I will tell you who I will vote for before the primary, but no matter who wins now, I will vote in October for the opposition candidate.