miércoles, 13 de julio de 2011

Voluntad Popular' Elections: Democracy or not?

There is a political party, a new political party, that everyone is talking about. Most of my politically – interested friends from my university have dropped their parties to join Voluntad Popular. They say this is the first truly democratic party of the country. Why? Because they recently celebrated internal elections to all charges of the party’ structure. Nothing new here, except for this party invited everybody – I mean every single Venezuelan able to vote even living outside the country – to participate on those elections. There are articles and tweets praising this nouveau move. And when I see my friends’ Facebook status, congratulating themselves for being part of Voluntad Popular, naming the word democracy too many times; I wonder if this is democracy at all. Or if this is just another populist move.
We have to start speaking about Voluntad Popular’ creator and main leader: Leopoldo López. He’s young and handsome and has both a great and a rather shameful record. Great: he was Chacao’ major (the smallest and richest municipality of Caracas) and proved to be a great manager. Not so great: Chacao is relatively easy to rule, he needed more harsh political experience but the people mistakenly believed that what it was good for Chacao, was just as good as everybody. Shameful: he left the political party on which his leadership was born: Primero Justicia after a well knowing fight. Then joined a second: Un Nuevo Tiempo and shortly after, he also abandoned that party.

Then he created Voluntad Popular but he was not honest at first: he claimed his organization was not a political party but a “social movement”; hence keeping an anti-political speech. Then Voluntad Popular officially turned into a political party. The fact that he changes his political affiliations just as he changes clothes, make me think that team work and Leopoldo are not matching words. Plus, make me suspects that he goes more for opportunities than values.

In the meantime of all this process he was inhabilitated to run for public office. The government presented corruption charges against him but no one believed them (at least I don’t) because the government disabled many other opposition candidates to run for any public charge as soon as they got popular enough to represent a threat to them. So it wasn’t about corruption, it was about the fact that Leopoldo could beat a Revolution’ candidate. Either way this political inhabilitation is still current. The country is waiting for a decision of the Inter- American Human Rights court in Costa Rica in September on his inhabilitation. But so far, he cannot run for presidency next year. Hence, he can’t be a candidate for opposition primaries.

Unable to run for primaries, what it was left for Leopoldo and his new movement? As a strategy he did something that soon proved very effective: Voluntad Popular would have internal elections and in those elections anyone could vote. Political participation in all its purity. But there are forms of participation that are just fake and this is just one of them.

As a Venezuelan citizen, to vote in Voluntad Popular’ election is just as logical as to vote for the authorities of the Country Club (a social club on which I’m not a member and that I have visited perhaps twice in my whole life). Voluntad Popular’ leaders will have no actions on their voters what’s so ever unless they actually belong to the party. Outside the party, any other voter was just a propaganda tool to engross numbers that really do not represent much. I don’t understand how putting our noses in the internal affairs of a group is equal to democracy.

What amazes me is that the people who’s strongly supporting Voluntad Popular’ moves, are the same who fiercely denounced the Law for the universities’ project. The project after many protests, did not pass. One of it’s main proposals was to allow almost anyone able to vote – despite of its affiliations to a certain university – to decide on the university authorities. The idea was crazy and wrong in so many levels. And I wonder, isn’t Voluntad Popular elections the same idea? The same argument that goes “voting more and having a wider electoral universe is equal to participate more, equal to have more democracy”? Isn’t that exactly the constant Revolutionary move to maintain its democratic facade that we have rejected over and over again?

It scares me to see how theories, arguments, justifications that I thought were Revolution’ only property; now are used by the opposition. Which makes me think that democracy has been lost forever, even in hands of those who I thought, were supposed to rescue it.

jueves, 7 de julio de 2011

The comedy actor and what it could have been

In a parallel universe, a different life develops. I’m 26 just like I am. And I’m exactly who I am: a little neurotic disaster. I’m not taller nor beautiful. I went to the same school. Perhaps I didn’t. If I’m thinking about a parallel universe, I should consider a different school. But for the point of this story, it doesn’t matter. I went to school. My mom took me to a protest demanding an improvement on the education system. I didn’t attend a protest for anything else.

I went to the university. That can stay the same, in both parallel and real universe. During those years I was probably as happy as William and Kate in Saint Andrews. Or more. My classes were never interrupted due to political conflicts and I finished my first year on time. No classmate fled the country in the middle of a confusing general strike. Also, I could leave campus as late as I wanted to. If I depended on public transportation I wasn’t forced to leave campus before 4 Pm so I could get home before dark. I partied. I did that in both universes. But in one of them, I wasn’t afraid. I could just party.

I graduated on time (hey, this is a parallel universe, no thesis troubles for me) and got a job. The part of getting a job thankfully happened in both universes. But in one, I was better paid, the money was actually enough for a decent standard living and my job wasn’t at risk because the company was losing projects. After one year, I applied for a credit and bought myself a car. An average car, not expensive. Little, and easy to park. The kind of car you can take anywhere. A few months later, some friends and I decided to rent an apartment. I was the only daughter left at my house and it was time for me to leave home.

My mom help me packing and gave me some kitchen tools. I moved to a more centric area, closer to my job and visited my family during weekends. I didn’t had a luxurious life, but I could live independently. Just like many 20’ something do in some other parts of the world.

Then I met him. That happened in all universes. In the parallel universe I met him the same way I did in the real one; perhaps I didn’t got so drunk or said stupid things. Either way we fell in love and after one year or two we decided to take the next step. With his job, he could afford his own apartment so I left my flat mates and moved in with him. My mom was reserved about my decision but I did it anyway and it proved to be the right decision. We learned how to cook together. We could sit and watch a movie without being careful of where our hands stand because our families might be watching.

- Just to make clear, the whole part of living independent and then with my boyfriend happens in only one universe. In the other, I still live with my parents and my boyfriend and I, even considering that our salaries are way above the national minimum, cannot possibly afford to live on our own -

Venezuela, in both universes has received more incomes due to oil than ever before in its history. But, inexplicably, in only one of them Venezuela presented good economic numbers. There, poverty has been reduced even more greatly than in the real universe. And you see progress everywhere, new constructions, jobs, opportunities, immigration. We have loads of immigrants, skilled ones, who long to come here to work. Canada and Australia, Chile and Panama are only tourist destinations for must of us; not opportunities of a better- decent life.

We have said good bye to many friends. But in one universe, they only leave the country for a while. They study a masters degree abroad and in two or three years, come back. Because they miss home a lot but mainly, because they can live here. We are only worried, at most, of living our lives. We are not threatened by crime or by crazy politicians. When we hear the world “Revolution”, it remind us more of a fashion statement than a political movement. Also, with all the economical bonanza and a favorable investment on academy and research; there are more and more offers of graduate school here. As prestigious and tempting as anywhere else.

People asks us when are we going to get married. In both universes. Only in one they ask us when are we going to leave the country. In the other, people do not expect us to leave the country. Our families want us to stay here, and raise our children here. And we want that too, who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want to raise their kids right next to its grandparents?

A few days ago, in our parallel universe, we received some sad news. We were at our apartment, watching TV in our comfortable couch when a short clip on E! Entertainment show a doctor’s board having a press conference. They informed us of his terrible disease and gave us complete details, including his diagnosis, his symptoms and what exactly we should expect. We quickly opened his web site where he publish a message saying he’s facing the greatest test of his life, but like always with a smile on his face. The message had a banner of “cancer awareness” where he decided to start a campaign. His upcoming show was, of course, canceled and the company would return all the money from the tickets. Except those who wanted to donate that money to a cancer research fund of the UCV that he was promoting.

Me and my boyfriend decided to do that. Our “Stand comedy show with Hugo Chavez” tickets became part of the cancer awareness fund. After all, in both universes, we have lost family members due to that horrible disease. We wished for his soon recovery, in both universes. Although not for the same reason.

In one, we want him to come back, so he can still make us laugh with his shows and his comments. We are not entirely agree with everything he says or thinks, but he makes others think and other than that, he’s completely harmless.

In the other universe, we want him to come back, so he can face elections in equal conditions with an opposition candidate. We want him back so he can lose and we can have a democratic and peaceful transition. We want him to come back, so that after those elections; our children might live in that parallel universe we were never able to enjoy.

PS: I just felt in the need to add two more details of our enchanting parallel universe:
1) Transformers 3 is going to be shown in Theaters in Venezuela in the same time that is being shown in the rest of the world.
2) We have never heard of shortages and the cereal hallway of the supermarket is just amazing. Most cereals are made right here.

PS 2: Image taken from here. I don't own it.