"We are taking part in a race that is even, but I do know how to win"
"The National Electoral Council is biased. To claim that the nationally televised broadcasts cannot be regulated mocks voters" "I know him well. The day Chávez loses, (Defense Minister Henry) Rangel Silva will be among the first to switch sides"
The 100 most important days in the life of Henrique Capriles Radonski have just begun.
His journey began on July 1 down south in Santa Elena de Uairén, Bolívar state, and ends in Miraflores, the presidential office. For the opposition candidate, there is a single path, riddled with obstacles that he is sure to overcome, to victory on October 7.
He spent last June 28-29 in Mexico, prior to that nation's elections. He chatted with incumbent President Felipe Calderón about transition (spanning five months in that country) and, after analyzing the institutional agreement signed by the parties taking part in that electoral race, he returned bent on laying down a challenge to his opponent, Hugo Chávez.
"I propose signing a document with several clauses, including acceptance of the outcome in a transparent process, banning use of nationwide radio and television broadcasts and public funds in the campaign, respecting electoral authorities and campaign regulations and forbidding any type of sabotage aimed at political rallies. This agreement would be based on principles and translate into a fair campaign. I am willing to sign it, but very much doubt that candidate Chávez would be keen."
- What must you do to win the elections?
- If we do things well and spread our message with effort and dedication, we will succeed. We can predict a difference of 10 points. In the 14 years that this government has been in power, this is the race in which an opponent starts in best conditions.
Our campaign is to take to the streets. I want my commitment to resonate in every corner of Venezuela. I am starting at the southernmost point of the country, Santa Elena de Uairén, because our message is not solely aimed at large cities, omitting other communities. My government will extend to the forgotten too.
In each town I visit, I will make a commitment. I promise security, employment, social programs in which no one will be excluded based on political position and which will be legally established and lead to employment, an opportunity to make progress. I commit to education; I am bound to bring Venezuelans together.
We are taking part in a race that is currently even. Each side may have its polls, but I think the government makes up its own surveys and deceives no one but itself. I do know how to win elections. In the race for governor of Miranda state, I started out as an underdog and won by seven points.
- Are you willing to take a more head-on approach at this stage?
- I am head-on against problems and abuse. Oil prices are falling, yet the government, which should be on top of financial issues, seeks out a USD 4 billion loan to purchase war tanks. Now, what do you think is an actual priority for Venezuelans: having war tanks or electricity, water, paved roads, less crime? USD 1.2 billion was approved for campaign activities, yet there are workers who have not received their severance payments.
I do have a head-on stance, but I am definitely not the kind who spews out insults. The government blasts insults; its proposal is based on fear, threats and insults. The core of my proposal is security, employment, social programs for all, education, unity, health, housing and electricity.
They are two different styles. I am knocking on door after door because I have to see the issues for myself. That is how I work. As both a mayor and a governor, I was never one to sit behind a desk. Maybe this government did hit the streets quite often at the beginning, but things are so different today. You have got a person who does not leave the confines of his office and just pops up on TV, bluffing.
- Can the National Electoral Council be trusted when it says it is incapable of controlling nationwide public broadcasts?
- It is not a matter of whether we trust electoral authorities or not. The process relies on people voting and parties having witnesses overseeing the process.
What we do have is lopsided institutionalism. It is no secret that the authorities are biased. To claim that nationally televised broadcasts cannot be controlled mocks voters. Chávez has already forced his way into national air and radio waves since he formalized his candidacy for nearly 20 hours. I am used to dealing with that. We will not be stopped and will not let our guard down. Those broadcasts are not constitutional.
- Teodoro Petkoff warns that Chávez's party is trying to generate a "dangerous opinion matrix" by claiming that Capriles is already defeated and his last resort is to cry fraud. This would serve as an alibi for the government if it attempts an "electoral takeover."
- It has always been that way. It is sad for Venezuelans to have to contend with a government that has been in office for 14 years having to pay for full-page ads in newspapers not to showcase the results of its activities but to present the results of polls lacking credibility.
The vision of the government is always to destabilize. It is not worried about lowering crime rates; it just wants to generate an opinion matrix to make people believe that high criminality is just confabulation.
The same thing happens in the electoral process; all its energy is devoted to conveying invincibility and a feeling that it has already won. We have always had to deal with that. We are watching the same play with the same actors over and over; the big difference is that the actors on our side are not the same. There are many within government lines that know perfectly well what is going on. I am disciplined and have a plan, an objective in terms of electoral organization and control. The key to this process does not lie in what the government says; everything centers on organization, oversight of electoral tables and the will of voters.
I have been asked whether the government will acknowledge our victory. Anyone failing to acknowledge defeat will isolate himself. Will the institutions or the armed forces follow? My concept of the national armed forces is not based on the two or three individuals who shout and adulate. I believe in armed forces devoted to democracy and defense of the constitution and the will of Venezuelans.
- If the government is willing to do anything to stay in power, then there might be a need for something more than votes to reach the presidential office.
- To make it to Miraflores all we need is to earn the trust of Venezuelans. The challenges begin once you are there. I am a guarantee of government with all and for all. I will not take over public administration and fire everyone. This is a project for the future, a new leadership, a different way of doing things, without prejudices or labels.
- Chávez ratified Henry Rangel Silva as Minister of Defense. What do you make of this decision?
- Is anyone surprised? (laughs). I am definitely not. Rangel Silva is a former director of the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service. I have information on him; I know him well. But that is the way things are. Let me tell you something. The day Chávez loses, Rangel Silva will be among the first to switch sides (laughs). Some have other commitments, but Rangel Silva... you will see for yourself.
- How do you break with the learned hopelessness he brings to opposition sectors leading them to pessimism?
- There is no room for pessimism. It is so obvious that he has not set out to walk the streets of our country like we have.
Government rallies are summoned through lists. If the other candidate can muster public support so zealously, why are people forced to be there? We see it on our streets; you can compare it with any winning race. If anyone is a bit pessimistic, he or she is welcome to go on the road with us. It is overwhelming and fills me with energy and convinces me that we have to look after our votes.
We will win on October 7, and it will not just be Capriles. It is not about me; it is about the future of each Venezuelan. I am the team captain, but I do not own the team. The team owner is every single Venezuelan.
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
José Vicente Rangel clearly said: "We are not conducting negotiations threatened with a gun in the head." He warned behind closed doors in the midst of the social upheaval occurred during the oil strike in 2002 and 2003. Dissenting Timoteo Zambrano answered back that no other option was available: "The thing is that otherwise, you do not negotiate."