Yesterday's closing "Si" march seems to have breathed some badly needed hope and dynamism into the opposition's campaign. At the last possible moment, the opposition remembered how to march. There is no better tonic for opposition morale than holding a big, big march, and yesterday's rally seems to have done wonders to dispel the gloom that had been visibly falling over the "Si" camp. Supositorio de triquitraqui, que lo llaman...
CD spokesman Chuo Torrealba - far and away the brightest star in the CD's upper realms - has a little riff that goes something like: "Look, the dirty little secret here is that we are not the leaders of the opposition movement, we are merely the conductors. The leadership of the opposition movement is out on the streets, in the energy of the millions of people who simply will not accept the imposition an authoritarian system of government in Venezuela. We, as conductors, can try to channel that energy. But we did not put that energy there, nor do we control it. At most, we try to steer it."
This reality came into focus clearly on the Autopista yesterday.
When chavistas talk about "the opposition", they're referring to the 50 or 60 people who lead the Coordinadora Democratica. And many of them are, no doubt, lamentable figures - batequebraos de toda la vida. It's not surprising that the army full of caciques and shorn of indios called the CD put on an awful, unfocused, discombobulated campaign. There was never much hope of getting pears from that particular elm tree.
But if the "Si" camp is going to win, it was never going to be thanks to the efforts of the Batequebrao Squad. The one hope the "Si" has is that the movement's leaders would once again come to the rescue of its conductors. However misconceived the opposition campaign has been, there are millions of Venezuelans passionately committed to ending the Chavez experiment. They deserve much more competent conducting that they've been getting, but they won't stop playing simply because the conductor is not up to the task.
[Incidentally, the millions of earnest, idealistic Chavez supporters out there certainly also deserve far more competent leadership than they've been getting, but that's a subject for another post...]
Today, I have serious doubts that the Batequebrao Squad is really up to running the country. But looking at the image's of yesterday's march, I can see that the country has changed, decisively, over the last 6 years. If the "Si" wins and the regime changes, the conductors will not be able to break free of the leaders, because the leaders will be only too aware that it is them (i.e. US!) who put them in power. The era of closed-doors elite decisionmaking is over - the leaders have realized that the conductors work for them, not the other way around.
For all of the government's fixation with the opposition's alledged "secret heads" - from George W. Bush to Carlos Andres Perez - it's always been the grassroots who've called the shots. It's the grassroots that signed, marched, and will vote. On Sunday, we'll find out if this grassroots movement actually outnumbers the one on the government's side.
If it doesn't, que nos agarre confesados...