August 23, 2006

The irresistible lure of crap

Katy says: I vowed to stay away from the topic of Barreto's tantrum (for sanitary reasons, mainly), but the more I think about it the more I am convinced: we should not pay too much attention to it.

There is nothing we learned from Barreto or from chavismo yesterday that we did not already know. That they hate private property? We knew that. That they hate the middle class? That too. That their weapons are insults, intimidation and vulgarity? Check, check, check. That they want to expropriate golf courses? Fine, let's see them try it. I think the whole spectacle merits pity and sadness, but we should not be outraged.

This is a clear provocation, intended to get the opposition to start marching, banging pots and pans and being all squalid again. They want to take us back to 2003. They need the guarimbas. By appearing to radicalize their discourse and their policies, they want to get us to radicalize too. What they want to accomplish by a mutual radicalization is for the political center to be free again, free for the leader to take possession of once he gets back from Timbuktu or wherever the hell he is currently, giving away our money.

The risk this strategy entails is that, if radicalizing your position does not create the effect of radicalizing the other's position, you are basically handing the political center to your opponent. That is the opportunity we should be focusing on, and we should grab hold of it. If only one party radicalizes, the political center is left to us.

The message now should be that Venezuelans have a clear choice: they can choose somebody who does not believe in private property or somebody who does. They can choose someone who divides and hates, or somebody who wishes to govern for all. It's simple, really.

There is an old adage saying that when your political opponent is falling off a cliff, don't try and push him or you risk falling off with him. The best thing to do is to step aside and let your opponent self-destruct. Today, outrage would be a bad advisor. We should be careful in how we react and use Barreto's tantrum as a symbol of the Venezuela we do not want. We shouldn't react hastily. We should keep our cool.