Friday, 24 August 2012

Capriles for Russians

Russians also have an autocrat in power. West Europeans and North Americans can understand their situation better than that of Venezuelans for the simple fact that Russian citizens are mostly "white". Of course, this is a big oversimplification, there are hundreds of minorities there, but basically the majority by far are Slavic people. We, Venezuelans, on the other hand, are something a little bit different, something most Northerners still don't fully grasp. They think we have a society similar to Bolivia or even Peru. There are definitely clusters in Venezuela and the darker you are, the poorer you are and the more likely you are to vote for the one who is already in power.

Northerners often see Venezuela in an extremely patronizing fashion and assume we have a white versus black and Indian class-exacerbated conflict.  Anyway: even if they somehow see Putin is still popular with a lot of people (much more than Chávez in Venezuela) and even if they see he wins elections (with a little bit of unkosher things here and there), even most European and North American lefties recognise the man has turned Russia into an increasingly authoritarian state.

Russians have Novaja Gazeta and whoever speaks Russian or cares to read the Russian version of that newspaper knows there is some framework to express dissent. OK: there are more journalists who get killed in Russia, people like Politovskaja...but there are less lesser attacks to the opposition as we see in Venezuela. Whereas Russian state channels show the odd "tapped opposition conversation", in Venezuela illegally tapped conversations or hatred speech towards opposition leaders is like our deadly bread. The normal Venezuelan citizen in Calabozo or Maturín is as likely to read critical newspapers such as El Universal as the average Russian citizen in Ufa or in Rostov.

In Russia you have TV channels is only on the Internet, but the  Internet has a much stronger reach in Russia than in Venezuela the crappy Globovisión channel. 

Putin's paws pushed through a law that make NGOs receiving support from abroad "foreign agents"...not the best credentials for any organisation. There was a lot of criticism about that. The Chávez government approved a much stronger law before that...a law that prohibits any financial support for any NGO that has anything remotely to do with politics and that includes human rights...Chavistas are so obsessed with a repeat of a Caribbean Orange Revolution.

Anyway, this article in Novaja Gazeta touches the Venezuelan issue. I am happy to see the Russians are starting to wonder what they can learn from us. Andrej Kolesnikov  says the answer is to carry out primaries as we did in Venezuela. And right he is. 

Now: there are more things they have to take into account. Firstly, you need a lot of debate to establish clearly and openly the rules of fair play. Then you need a commitment from all the other candidates to support the winner. That is only possible if those involved in the primaries respect the rule of law and are democrats.

Venezuela's opposition has attained a lot in the last months. Still, there are weak points. The opposition did not push through primaries in every region. This has already created tension for the local elections set next December. In the central state of Carabobo, for instance, there is - again - a row between two of our local caudillos because one -Enzo Scarano- says the other - Henrique Salas- got more representatives for the Unified List than he should get based on votes. Scarano wanted regional primaries in Carabobo and Salas didn't. As Salas is the opposition governor of that state, everybody else decided to support Salas, even if most know how uncooperative Salas is and how much he sees Carabobo as his family feud. 

This could have repercussions not only in December but for the October presidential elections as the one who is most unhappy about the seat distribution might not feel as committed to help in the general effort for Capriles...or the other, Salas, may also feel unwilling to coordinate regional matters with his rival because of the bad blood already present.

Thus, Russians: you have to watch out. You have to be sure you have a cleanly elected opposition candidate for the presidency but also leaders that were elected via open and fair methods in every major region of big big Russia.

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