November 4, 2005

Ibéyise Transformed

As longtime readers know, Ibéyise Pacheco is no saint of my devotion. That said, her article in today's El Nacional really struck me as remarkable. A former hyperradical come-candela Oppositionist, Ibéyise decided to run for a National Assembly seat, and it looks like the experience of campaigning has rocked her.

Never in a million years did I imagine I would find myself translating an Ibéyise column, but today she injects a badly needed note of realism to the increasingly vicious Opposition debate about whether to pull out of the Dec. 4th parliamentary elections to protest the chavista-dominated CNE.

I'll translate the gist of it...

Canibalism at home
I know it isn't pleasent, but lets imagine for just a second how satisfied Chavez must be at the spectacle of Opposition canibalism that has been unfolding in the media over the last few weeks.

The latest fashion seems to be to insult my dear and respected colleague and friend Isa Dobles (another hyperoppositionist journalist turned candidate to the AN.) What is it that they have against women?

That's how things stand: we're serving up a ridiculous, puerile show that overshadows the possible, needed and healthy debate between those who propose going to elections and those who favor abstention. It's so petty - and at the same time so destructive - all of this! As though it wasn't legitimate to disagree. As though we hadn't been protesting all along against an attempt to control our thinking, our ideas.

It really pains me. It's disappointing that we can't sit down to debate without insults, without aggressions, without personal attacks. That we aren't able to act differently than Chavez, or Jose Vicente Rangel.

I write this because my experience over the last few weeks, campaigning in the Miranda Highlands where I am running for a seat in the National Assembly, has surrounded me with information and sensations which besides being interesting, have touched me, and which transcend this idiocy, this dire idiocy, which we have been exposing to public opinion.

People are really hurting out there.

I've seen humiliated displaced people, desperate unemployed people, hunger, I say it again, hunger. People eating out of garbage cans, boys and girls turning to prostitution just to survive, drugs, and a crime wave you can feel because the government will let anyone who dons a red shirt do anything at all.

But the poor - many of whom do not support the government but keep quiet because they're scared - just laugh at the middle class debate about whether to vote or not. They just consider it puerile, frivolous. "They got depressed, and now they say they're pissed off and they won't vote," they say with scorn.

These poverty-stricken people, whether chavistas or not, see things from a very different point of view. They see it from an angle that has been forgotten by many of us who have engaged in this valid and courageous struggle, but have ended up talking in front of the mirror, treating the poor once again like alien beings that Chavez takes advantage of through his populism and his lies. Well, he will continue to do so, until we grow up.

The other lament
The middle class has gone through a lot of pain. The question is whether we'll remain stuck in that pain. In a lament that becomes resignation. That's what I always say to people confused by the different points of view in the public arena today. The only way out of this mess is through the ballot box, and that does not deny a place for struggle in the streets.

I can say it with a clear concience because nobody can say (odious though it may be to point it out) that I haven't worked flat out and consistently to battle against the excesses of this regime, against all the attempts to nullify us as citizens, to disappear our dreams, to rip the country away from us, to destroy our freedom. It's just that, alongside all that, the regime also works to demobilize us completely, to paralize us vis-a-vis any electoral option. Might it not be that they are scared of our participation?

The piece is long, and hard to translate, but this gives you a flavor.

What I find remarkable is the effect that going out and actually campaigning has had on Ibéyise. The mother of all comecandelas suddenly realizes that the second you pop your head outside the Eastern Caracas-centered, middle-class dominated debate that stands in for political life in the anti-Chavez press, you find a whole different country out there, one where the debate on whether to participate in elections or not looks worse than meaningless, it looks ridiculous.

If more opposition politicians took the trouble to do what Ibéyise has been doing, if they would take a break from grandstanding and go out to meet the people they aspire to lead, they would realize what Ibéyise has been realizing, and what Roberto Smith has been saying all along. They would grasp how grotesquely out of context the debate on Article 350 really is. And they would realize that the poor are itching for an option, a real option, a credible option, to Chavez's lunacy.