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On the significance of Manuel Rosales' rally in Lara

By Daniel Duquenal

Caracas 06.11.06 | Editor's note: Yesterday Manuel Rosales attended another massive rally in Barquisimeto, Lara state. Beyond the messages sent by Rosales to the army and electoral authorities, about whom he referred to as puppets given the lack of reaction towards Chavez's electoral abuses, the rally had a especial significance from a political perspective. Since Lara state could be considered Daniel's turf I have asked him to comment on the political implications of today's event.

Daniel comments: Thanks for asking. Yes, Barquisiemto is the closest large city from all of Yaracuy, a place where many of us go for shopping or medical care not available in our smaller towns. News in Lara are usually news in Yaracuy.

Lara is a state that is reputed pro Chavez for two reasons: it has a certain leftist tradition and the former governor, Orlando Fernandez Medina was one of those that helped Chavez to reach power. Once Chavez made the new constitution Fernandez graciously left his seat for an early retirement. The chosen heir, so to speak, was Luis Reyes Reyes, one of the coupster of November 1992. He won easily and in a large landslide Chavez carried huge majorities in most local Lara councils, and the big prize, Barquisimeto which was taken away from Macario Gonzalez who was a chavista but a dissident one. Chavez did not want him to retain the mayor's office and a divisive election gave Barquisimeto to Henri Falcon. Thus, willingly or not, Lara who was a stronghold of the MAS saw this one surrender all its power in Lara to the MVR in 2000. That is, Lara went from left to leftier.

This was a particular factor during the Recall Election fight and the general strike of 2002-2003. The strike was not too successful in Lara. And the Recall Election drive was met with lots of troubles, Lara been one of the states where the opposition was the most harassed and the least able to gather signatures. Not surprisingly the NO vote in 2004 was almost 65 %, and in spite of being a crappy governor, Reyes Reyes got unacountably largely reelected against an Orlando Fernandez out of retirement but too late to be able to unite all the opposition that he had so mistreated when he was in office.

As a result Lara has pretty much no opposition leadership left except from some few ex MAS and ex AD. Everyone was ready to believe that Rosales should not waste a minute in Lara. To make things worse, one of the few reasonable chavista administrators turned out to be Barquisimeto mayor, one of the few chavistas who think that the best way to get reelected is to make sure that your run your town well, that public services do reach the constituent. But this pragmatism of Henri Falcon has run him into trouble with the more talibanic side of chavismo in Lara, the one behind Reyes Reyes who wants to be succeeded by his son. Not to mention that Reyes Reyes is a failure as a governor. He so lacks personality that in his TV shows he imitates Chavez nervous ticks.

Anyway, all in all Lara should have been a safe state for Chavez, and thus I am very surprised at the very strong turn out in today rally for Rosales. The perspective of having another Reyes incompetent administration for 8 years is probably too much for many Larenses to stand, many of them who would like Falcon as the next governor. But perhaps, as everywhere, the MVR and Chavez have a way to exhaust the patience of people, and in a place like Lara where there is no opposition worth discussing, that tiredness of chavista arrogance grew probably faster than elsewhere. Maybe Lara is slowly starting its return way from chavismo silliness.

I still give Lara to Chavez, but now not by the landslide he will need to compensate for his defeats in Zulia and Miranda, both expected to be significant. Chavez will have to compensate with Aragua and Bolivar only, as Carabobo might be a toss up. Anything less than 60% for Chavez in Lara can be considered as a major set back.

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