December 1, 2008

Marta, my muse

"I don't believe that democratic chavismo in any way agrees with these tactics, but the important thing is that they try to prevent such attacks."
-Marta Colomina, sounding almost blasé minutes
after her home was attacked by chavista extremists.

Juan Cristobal says: - With the Regional Elections over and the adrenaline rush subsiding, I've been finding it hard to post these last few days. December is here, after all, and who wouldn't rather think about Christmas than Chávez?

But the big man is having none of it. Sounding halfway between desperate and deranged, he's hinting that the Referendum on his indefinite re-election could come as soon as January.

Another election? So soon? Do I really need to drag myself away from the Christmas decorations and blog about all the ins and outs of yet another vote to cement his quest for perpetual power again?!

I tried to find the words, but just couldn't find the will to blog. As the great Muhammad Ali said, I got nothing.

Until today, that is, when a bomb landed in Marta Colomina's front yard.

Yes, Marta Colomina is still around, ever the journalist-cum-rabble-rouser, just like she was in the super-polarized days of 2002, when she carried the flag for partisan journalism and was planted front and center in the opposition movement's hero roster.

You wouldn't know it, though, because she long ago stopped being the cultural phenomenon she once was. A lot of water has passed under the river, as my dad cheekily likes to say, but she's still there. She got fired from Televen due to government pressure, but that didn't keep her from fighting the good fight, as I guess the rest of us do in our own little ways.

Well, today Marta got a little visit from the extremist chavista gang Colectivo La Piedrita, and it wasn't sticks and stones they were throwing, but rather tear gas canisters and pamphlets declaring her a "military target."

Suddenly, somehow, it all made sense to me: What Chávez wants is to run the old 2002 playbook on us again!

What else are the Colomina attack, the ridiculous claims that Governors-elect are doing away with the Misiones, the threats against Globovisión and against people like Manuel Rosales but a transparent ploy to bring back the climate of superheated political conflict we had back in 2002?

The game-plan is pretty clear, when you think of it. Chávez figures his best chance of winning a referendum is to stir the pot heavily. Why else would he bring back the "Uh, Ah, Chávez no se va"? As far as I know, nobody is seriously asking him to leave.

That doesn't matter, though, because he knows that to win the last war all over again, he needs to provoke a "fascist" reaction from our side.

But here's the beautiful thing: it's not working!

When even an erstwhile CNR leader and know-nothing antichavista extremist like Antonio Ledezma, now mayor of Caracas, respectfully asks to meet with the President and to work with him, you know we've turned a page. When even Colomina, doyenne of the hot-head opposition, sounds cooler than the other side of the pillow as she talks about an attack on her own home, you know the opposition has finally, finally wised up to the games Chávez plays.

So he will huff and puff and channel H.G. Wells, but it takes two to do the 2002 tango, and right now Chávez just doesn't have a partner. At the rate we're going, he's going to have to pay military officers to go camp out on Plaza Altamira and declare that they're rebelling against him (don't be surprised when it happens).

Without confrontation, without that electric "us versus them" feeling in the air, without going all out and saying that his is a revolution "of rich against poor", Chávez got nothin', too. In fact, reliable sources told me today that the last time Datanálisis asked about indefinite reelection they found only 25% of respondents in favor.

That's not to say he can't pull it off, just that his chances are looking slimmer than ever. Venezuelans are exhausted with all his imaginary battles, and the opposition has learned some important lessons. We're through with the casquillo diet. 2002 is soooo six years ago.