Can Capriles campaign square the circle?

Well, he is trying but he will not succeed at it since like for the famous mathematical problem his own problem has its own transcendental π number that cannot offer a finite solution.  Capriles transcendental number is the chavista nomenklatura, too corrupt, too impregnated of Cuban nincompoopness and violence to be able to surrender power just through the ballot box.  Still, he needs to try and hope to find a good enough approximation to the solution and hope that it will pass.  The good news is that in my 10 days observation since I came back, he has made great progress.  At least as seen from his sweat drenched shirt today in Barlovento.

The game rules

It is not useless to remind folks what the situation is.  First, Chavez counts on 30% of the country who will vote for him no matter what, even if he were caught in an act of pedophilia.  It is a religion and Capriles is no prophet to turn that around in a scarce few months.  True, the opposition has a 30% faithful today that, even frequently suspending disbelief as I do, will vote for him.

The 40% of the country left either cannot be bothered to vote or is today, for all practical purposes, blackmailed by the chavista system into at the very least not to vote for Capriles.  Let's understand clearly the current economical situation.  People are painfully aware that there is no real jobs available out there, that the few ones are already taken and that the economy is not allowing the private sector to grow, the only source of real jobs. Granted, you and I understand that it is Chavez fault, and even Chavez plan all along, to make the country dependent on him, in an indentured state of tolerable poverty.  Within that 40% many, maybe most, sense that too but are not fretting as much about the causes as we do.  For them the reality is that their family stability depends too much on a single job in a government office, assorted with a couple of mision grants.  Not only losing any of the three is a real concern for them but even if they are sensitive to Capriles arguments they may still be more than reluctant to gamble it, no matter how much Capriles promises not to touch a single mision.

There is thus no other choice for Capriles but to promise to keep the misiones, to improve them and to spend even more money if necessary while not touching the sacred cows such as gas prices (and others such as today announcement that not even CANTV, the deficient phone company, will be re-privatized).

The hidden message

You and I know very well that increasing gas prices 10 fold will still leave us with a very cheap gas tank world wise, while freeing considerable resources to buttress the painful changes coming that neither Capriles nor Chavez will be able to avoid.  We know that the best thing that can happen in an age of cell phone is to return CANTV to the stock market, accompanied by a landline subsidy if needed. We understand that public sector ranks have to go down, if anything to remove the corrupt boss and the redundant administration so as to make some room for truly competent managers that will recover the state services.  We know that with a good severance pay, made possible through increasing gas price and utilities it is possible to get a grace period during which the fired creeps will remain quiet.  And more such "neo-liberal" measures that are unavoidable but which can be undertaken without the European trauma as long as oil remains above 100 USD a barrel. You and I know that Venezuela is not Europe and an eventual recession would be short lived if done right.

But we also know that if Capriles dares to mention any of these things, on October 7 he will not even get a meager 40%. So even if folks like me are scared that Capriles reckless promises are preparing us a reenactment of el Caracazo when the piper comes calling, we also realize that Chavez must go because a couple more years of Chavez and we will not even have food on our tables, without entering into the other damage to the country that will come along. Hence anything is fair game on the campaign trail.

On the trail

We must thus take comfort that even if we do not approve of Capriles campaign themes it is possible that he has no other choice and that fortunately he is carrying it rather well.  What serious pollsters indicate, beyond their widely diverging results, is that Capriles is stable with a tendency to grow while Chavez, in spite of the billions he is throwing in the streets, is not growing.  Granted, he is not going down either but at least there is a novelty this time around: money does not translate automatically in votes. This tells us that in spite of the massive attack on Capriles, his message still passes and threatens chavismo, hopefully pushing it to commit fatal mistakes.

The other thing that pleases me a lot is that as I predicted last year, the opposition will have to visit all 300+ districts.  Some made fun of me then, that it was not necessary, but the Capriles camp begs to differ and already they are heralding that they have visited 100 districts through their "casa por casa".  True, they will not reach the 300, perhaps not even symbolic Tocopero, but by October 7 Capriles will have reached the 200+ and the impact will be strong, in front of a Chavez that visits few districts, and from above his float, far from the howling masses (if present).

The other thing is that Capriles gets down and dirty on the trail.  The image today of him dripping in sweat in Barlovento tells us quite a tale.  First, he is alone in front of all that African-american population.  No handlers, no A.C. (Chavez carries portable AC around that blow on him whenever he is perorating at some table set for him, even before he became sick), just him and el pueblo.

And it is not that Capriles sweats in public, is that he manages to convey that he actually enjoys it.  He may not be a great speaker, he may not have boatloads of charisma, but clips like the one above from where this image is taken go down really well in the 40% he needs to convince.  And, why not, chip a few here and there among the 30% zealots.

It is still too early to make any prediction.  I will not start my arithmetical scenarios until late August.  But at least, after one week of watching Capriles, and comapring him with the hsyteria and abuse of Chavez on TV alone, I am looking forward the rest of the campaign.

We do have a chance, Capriles group just need to find a way to deal with their π, the corrupt chavista who know that they will not be able to avoid jail in a post Chavez era. This is what is becoming the real issue in the next months as Capriles odds of victory are becoming more and more realistic.