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Alek Boyd: Francisco Toro is Bizarrely Out of Touch

By Aleksander Boyd | Venezuela Opinion Duel

Editor's Note: this initiative to debate Venezuelan politics was proposed and brought to life by fellow blogger Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles. I would like to encourage readers to visit Venezuela Opinion Duel and share their thoughts in the comment section.

On the proposition that Francisco Toro's writing is bizarrely out of touch these days

23.11.05 | Some time ago I saw an interview of Julio Borges, leader and founder of the party Primero Justicia (PJ). Borges gave a detailed account on how the party had formed, what sort of political and ideological reasons underpinned the formation of the party and, filled with pride, stated how his party had achieved national presence. “It all started in 1992” he said, when a group of students from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas joined informally. It is fair to say that in Venezuela and due to the sanguinity bonds that some PJ members have with the old political establishment, it was sort of easy for them to achieve, to a degree, notoriety. PJ members are a bunch of callous, clean faced, young yuppies. Most of them have impressive resumes and were educated, both in the country and abroad, in some of the best schools/universities.

Simultaneous to PJ formation, Hugo Chavez, a rather brutish, uneducated and unpolished military man from the province, led a coup d’etat that, ipso facto, catapulted him to stardom.

I remember commenting to my wife, after having seen the Borges interview on TV “here we have, on one side, the best and brightest of Venezuela’s elitist, sophisticated class, 12 years after, completely unknown outside the country’s borders; on the other a bad mannered, poorly educated, failed coupster who has achieved, pretty much on his own, worldwide recognition in the same timeframe…”

One of the most accurate remarks I have ever read, was said in fact by Chavez, who once claimed “what people fail to understand is that Hugo Chavez is not Hugo Chavez, rather Chavez is the people of Venezuela.” And right he is as far as his apolitical persona is concerned. Should one consider an individual belonging to the most numerous social strata of a country as being the typical representation of the said country’s idiosyncratic frame, then Chavez is indeed true and loyal representative of Venezuelans. Borges and his ilk do not represent accurately the reality that conforms the country’s societal fabric.

Borges, as well as Roberto Smith and others, will never be able to bond with Venezuelans, at the emotional level Chavez does, simply because they do not understand, nor, it seems, they are willing to learn, that Chavez’s connection to the people can not be robbed by appearing and ranting in TV shows; or by arguing that Chavez’s social policies are unsustainable; or by trying to define, in strict academic terms, whether the President is fascist or communist or socialist.

And this is where I take issue with fellow blogger Francisco Toro; by all measures a fine exponent of the Borges class. In a previous debate with Gustavo Coronel, Francisco argued that in order to win an election the opposition must woo that unassailable political class known as ninis. He keeps repeating that, given the high percentage of Venezuelans that form that group (53% according to some polls), the opposition leadership has to change the message and tactics and adapt to a new and unknown reality of generalised disgust towards them.

Francisco sympathies have swung from parasite undefined Elias Santana to leftist and repented guerrilla T. Petkoff to also former lefty cum communications impresario Roberto Smith. The attempt by the latter to break away from traditional way of doing politics has been, in Francisco’s view, a masterstroke. Smith’s “unifying and positive message” has been acclaimed by Francisco very often and the former’s decision to walk a 1000Kms –from Merida to La Guaira (in Vargas state were he ran for governor) is a shrewd way to convince people, according to Francisco, that he does care and is trying his hardest to bond with ordinary Venezuelans.

La Guaira was nearly destroyed during the mudslides of 1999. Chavez, always the promisor, toured the affected areas some time after the disaster assuring displaced people that he would reconstruct the whole thing and would turn it into a tourism mecca. Alas as often happens with promises from charlatans that have no qualms in betraying the hopes of ‘his people’, six years later reconstruction has not even begun. Smith, whose motto is “Venezuela de Primera”, considers more fitting to take his babble to a thousand kilometre walk rather than focusing that energy in clearing creeks in barrios, for instance. Instead of forming small community groups and jointly carry out such simple tasks, in the constituency he was trying to appeal, he goes on tour eyeing the ever priced trophy, i.e. Venezuela’s presidency.

Nothing wrong with that according to Francisco, who keeps writing feverishly about Smith, the wunderkind.

Ergo going back to the original question of whether he is bizarrely out of touch, I would cite a Venezuelan saying to describe his reading of the political situation “meando afuera del perol sin siquiera salpicar p’adentro”.

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