Debate versus cadena

Tonight we had the leisure to compare an exercise in neo-totalitarianism and an essay on democracy.  Neo-totalitarianism lost hands down.

Chavez dared to call a cadena on the formal appointment of Rangel Silva as new defense minister.  He already is but there is always a ceremony of sorts since military love to polish their shoes, dress up, pin up their shiny chest hardware.  So Chavez decided to make it a grand ceremony and attack all those who attack Rangel Silva, and upgrade (?) Maria Corina Machado from fly to viper.  I made a video of the beginning but the Internet is soooo bad tonight that I am not sure to finish this post before midnight.  So tomorrow from work I will upload it because it is worth it for you to see what a lousy army we now have, morally AND physically.

But the worse of the show was not the scenery, it was to see that in an activity that concerns exclusively the executive and the armed forces all the alleged independent powers of the state were sitting in the front row and applauding at any politicized declaration of Chavez or the out-going in in-going ministers.  The message was clear, and it was to the military of Venezuela, not me: "see, all come here to pay tribute, the change of defense ministry is the highest function of the state, you are on top.  That is, as long as you only recognize me as your commander in chief."  Heck!  Chavez was even dressed as a civilian to stress that point!  Or, in common parlance: "if you want to keep cashing good and keep your privileges, you know what you have to do".

But I will pass on the bevy of neofascist phrases from Chavez to focus in an amusing example of debate-non-debate which actually demonstrated clearly how democratic our Unidad 6 musketeers are compared to how dogmatic and brain washed chavismo has become.

Panorama newspaper did hold its debate tonight.  And it was on a Direct TV channel so after all I was able to watch it at the last minute, missing actually the opening question to Arria.  No time to warn you, sorry.  I was left with the option to tweet it live.

The format was lousy, trying to avoid debate between the candidates.  The journos of Panorama did decide on all the questions and were allowed a follow up question with a shorter 30 sec reply to the original 1 minute reply.  In other words it was Venevision again but without the glamour set or the pretense at objectivity.  After all, what can you expect from journalists that have spent the best years of their career finding creative ways to shine a positive light on the regime?

Indeed the heavy pro Chavez bias appeared from the very first round of questions.  I say heavy in my eyes because in their eyes they must have thought of themselves as paragons of objectivity.  But I can assure you that El Ciudadano at Globovision can ask meaner and more difficult questions to his friends than that bunch did from what could be considered political enemies.  And that is why the debate in the end worked because it quickly became funny.  Funny because the chavista journos were not up to the task, one of them, in Maracaibo, going as far as wearing the favored accessory of fashionable chavista women in power: a couture scarf (silly canary yellow in her case).

I am just going to give you the most glaring examples, two questions to Maria Corina who was certainly the main target tonight.  The idea was to try to ship her into irrelevance.  So they asked her about abortion to which she answered adequately, GOP style moderate.  Pressed on as to make abortion right in Venezuela a referendum (it is forbidden) she brilliantly replied that no human right should ever be put up to referendum.  But that was not enough: she was asked what quality of Dilma Roussef and Cristina Kirchner she would like to have herself.  Two socialist women, you can imagine her surprise.  But she managed well.  She made her surprise last while she found a reply and on Dilma it was easy as the woman has real qualities.  But pressed on Kirchner who has no admirably qualities whatsoever unless dirty wily politician is considered one, she replied that she could use a strong political organization which was a backhanded way to say that the woman truly suck and that the journalist should be embarrassed to consider la Kirchner a motif of admiration (well, she has one quality after all, her distaste of Iran).

The other trick questions for the other candidates were not as bad but still bad enough that quickly it became a funny sports game of volleying back to the journalist their lack of seriousness and ethics.

So you got it, another wasted opportunity.  And yet not all was lost.  First, when compared to Rangel Silva or Chavez speeches, the 6 musketeers proved each to be remarkable democrats, duly vetted and tested and able and independently minded and reasonable, and witty, and educated.  I think a political ad should be made with a few seconds of the earlier cadena and a couple of choice lines from the musketeers.

Alas, it was still a debate and there must be winners and losers.  Without a question Leopoldo Lopez was the clear winner this time around.  Finding his groove he was relaxed and intense at the same time, showing truly why he wants to be president and believing in the good he can do.  But Maria Corina Machado was a close second even though on twitter I tied her up.  The thing is that after last Friday I was trying to avoid reverse discrimination and forced myself to lower my expectations so as not to be unfair to her.  After all you cannot produce everyday a line that will resonate in all the country for days or more.  But as I type it was Leopoldo that came ahead in my mind, clearly.  His proposals made sense, he knew his stuff, he had great presence, etc...

Capriles needs more excitement in his approach and tonight he was barely adequate.  He certainly looked bored and unhappy to have been trapped in the ridiculous set up but at the end he joined the fray and showed that he could actually make fun of the journalists when he offered yellow scarf to come and be treated for free in one of the hospitals he manages in Miranda.

Medina is a mess but a lovable one as his heart is clearly in the right place.  He also had the best moment when questioned about why he was cavorting with the right, his ancient foes.  He did not need to think about the reply for a second: because "we are all united against the dictatorship".  I am sure that whatever journo at Panorama came up with that question will not receive an end of year bonus....

Arria seemed tired and got the most unfair question of all: why with low polls he is still in the race.  To begin with, no one has published a recent poll on such numbers and thus it was unfair for the journalist to share such an information which might be unknown to the candidate.  And second, as Arria rightly replied, if candidates were to decide all according to polls we would not need elections anymore.  Which, come to think of it, is exactly what chavistas would like things to be as no matter how low Chavez is the opposition division always allows him to be on top in polls, until there is a single name in front.

However the big loser, no questions, is Pablo Perez who may have damaged his campaign beyond repair tonight.  First, I wondered whether he knew he was in front of a national debate (even if labelled for the regions, which it was not in practice).  Or whether he thought this indeed was a town meeting in Tucusiapon de Machiques.  He also got the easiest question of the lot and managed to blow it totally!  He just needed to say what all know, and certainly at this level, that the price of oil is determined by how much India and China keep growing.  Instead he went on a tirade that made no sense about oil industry jobs and who knows what.  Nasty!  Thus the journo with the most idiotic question of the evening got a pass after all....  It was not, unfortunately, that question alone: in other questions he was almost as weak which forces me to my great regret to announce that he is the first candidate that I am officially discarding for February.  Heck, even for October I would have trouble to be enthusiastic about supporting him since I even doubt he can take upon Chavez....