Sunday, 13 October 2013

Valencia's Political Mayhem

There is quite  some political shake up right now in Valencia, Venezuela's third largest city. The mayor , Edgardo Parra, has been detained. He is accused of corruption. This is no surprise to us Valencians. Parra had an awful reputation as mayor and people assumed he was particularly corrupt. 

Parra got elected in 2008 when one of the opposition clans, the utterly feudal Feo-Salas family, did not want to accept empresario Michele Cocchiola as unique opposition candidate. Cocchiola was the choice for all the other opposition parties. Cocchiola got 36.43% of the votes, Salas's candidate Padrón got 11.37% of the votes and the Chavista choice, Parra, got 38.15%. The opposition was mad at the Salas-Feo clan and it wouldn't be the last time, but that's for another post. In any case, Parra and officialdom managed to take over the city - officially as anyway the national powers are the ones that count in Venezuela.

First thing Parra did after the elections was to travel to China on an official mission with lots of relatives and friends. Shortly afterwards he went to Spain. We never heard about what those trips brought to the city. The mayor kept fighting with everybody and everyone, including those of his own state party.  The Aquarium, an attraction we were very proud of, has suffered under his control. The cultural centre Ateneo de Valencia was taken over by Chavismo. The mayor started to pour money in that institution but without any control, apparently for the only benefit of the current workers. The cultural activities taking place there are the shadow of what we had before. Venezuela's third largest city is now particularly full of dirt and its roads are a shambles.

Parra appointed his sister-in-law Elsa Guardia as head of the city's human resource department. His half-sister Ohilda Rodríguez became the head of the important department for Civil Engineering Works, Imvial. His brother-in-law, José González, became head of protocol. One of the mayor's sons, also called Edgardo Parra, became the head of finances. The step-sister of his wife became Director of the Office for Child Care. One of his god-daughters, Patricia Marcano, is head of Fundatur. A friend of his is Law Consultant, another one, Isaura Gutiérrez, is head of the City's Registries. Another of Parra's son is not working for the city but is a "businessman" in the import sector, which is a highly privileged sector in the "revolutionary times", with Venezuela having a tight currency control and a highly overvalued national currency.
Parra would still be mentioned in favourable terms in the state media early this year, but things were about to change. At the start of July Parra was suggesting Valencia's largest civil parish, Miguel Peña, should be renamed after Hugo Chávez. Few people were thrilled: the city was falling apart, that area is the most affected and the municipalities' elections started to appear in the horizon.

Chavismo knew Valencians were completely fed up of Parra and concluded they couldn't let him run for re-election. So when Parra publicly said last July that he wanted to run again for the position, they decided to sacrifice him. And the higher powers within Chavismo in the region opted for Miguel Flores, who is very close friend of and business partner with Carabobo's current governor and former military coup monger Francisco Ameliach.

This is my city. My native American ancestors were living close-by, my European and sub-Saharan ancestors arrived very early on. Don't mess with it!
Flores will be running against Cocchiola. This time the opposition managed to get one candidate alone. This has to do in part with the Salas-Feo election failure for the elections in the state of Carabobo in 2012. I have to own up Cocchiola would not be my first or second or third choice for the opposition. I don't see any single candidate with a lofty position in the region. Still, Cocchiola is the opposition parties agreed on for Valencia and he is likely to win easily. He is most likely going to be a better mayor than anything Chavismo has. Still, Chavismo will now try to show a whole speed trial against Parra to convince Valencians that they distance themselves from corrupt individuals.

 By the way: Parra, who considered himself a "revolutionary", was living in one of the better-off areas of Valencia (like any mayor of Valencia) in a street not accessible for anyone but the neighbours. Those streets, with electric fences and guards, are the norm for better-off neighbourhoods throughout Venezuela since the late nineties and specially since Chávez times. That is the way crime has transformed the Venezuelan landscape.

What's in the offing? Chavismo will have a two-throng approach: the national and state authorities will support the new candidate Flores on one hand and prepare for taking away further competences from the city in case the opposition wins in the December elections.

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