The dialogue for Miraflores
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski started the give and take whereas Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez kept closed and guarded for the first time in quite a long time. This election campaign was all about the "majunche" (the dull one) versus the "candidate of the past"
Used to set the plans from radio and TV program Aló Presidente (Hello, President!) and other spots for years, Chávez was again seen closed and guarded this time. "The bourgeois candidate claims that four million Venezuelans are starving, but that was true back in 1998," he replied in July when both parties were just embarking on their adventure. "Here the sucker is you, majunche! (dull)" he added in August, and last week, he made use of another offensive expression: "ˇWho on earth would want to have a debate with you, kid? Go and enroll for Mission Robinson (a literacy program), you are an ignoramus when it comes to politics!"
After studying several speeches delivered by both candidates, D'Avolio concludes that in this election campaign where no names were directly mentioned, both Chávez and Capriles focused mainly on bringing into discredit each other's projects and highlighting their own ones. However, each one with their own unique style.
President Chávez offered himself at the outset as "the candidate of the homeland." From the very beginning, he showed a heroic representation of himself and his followers by calling themselves "Sons of the Liberator Bolivar;" but later on when he was forced to give answers on his works during his term in office- he portrayed himself as a provider of peace and social benefits. For his part, Capriles, remained on the other side of the boxing cage, offering progress, unity and conciliatory statements like the ones he provided last June 10 at the beginning of his election campaign: "I am not enemy with anybody."
The President and his last-minute change
As Chávez had already done it with formers presidential candidates like Henrique Salas Romer and Manuel Rosales, he did the same this time by giving Capriles a nickname. Back in 1998, he named his opponent as "Frijolito," and in 2006, President Chávez said he was facing the "Philosopher of Zulia state." This year, he did not miss out on the opportunity to give his challenger a nickname, this time it was not only on the "dull," but also on what he reiterated last June 11, during his first speech of the electoral campaign as "dullness."
On such occasion, Chávez referred 52 times to "them" (followers of the opposition party), mainly as a group called "the dull ones." But he also referred to them as "the imperialist group," "the ones who cheat or conceal," "the bourgeoisie," "the representatives of transnational companies" and "the spoiled kids."
Right after three months, a much more cautious President Chávez has opted to attack orally his opponent solely. That is what professor D'Avolio perceived subsequent to contrasting the speeches delivered on September 20-24 by both candidates with the first ones, early on the electoral campaign.
"Chávez continued discrediting but this time his criticism was not directed towards them' as a social group, but directly aimed at Capriles," she explains. And Venezuela's President cleared all doubts last week from Acarigua, in the state of Portuguesa: "Who is the candidate of the fugitive bankers? The dull! Who is the candidate of the nation? Chávez!"
He or me. As in other election campaigns, President Chávez polarized the matter. Additionally, he never ceased to throw verbal darts against his opponent. D'Avolio learned something new: President Chávez recently incorporated into his repertory the word "all of us," which has been more associated with Capriles as a tool to sell the idea of "a Venezuela equal for all of us."
D'Avolio does not find it a coincidence that Chávez insisted on the expression "all of us" 36 times in Andean Mérida state. "My greetings to all of you: youngsters, students, women, men, male and female workers, countrymen, growers, middle-rank professionals, scientists, researchers, university professors and workers; everyone, children from Mérida."
"We are all Chávez," he added, and he even insisted on the same idea two days later from western Portuguesa state: "Chávez became the people, as Gaitán, the great Colombian leader said; I am not a person anymore, I have become a nation, we are all Chávez."
The "thin boy" and his package
Unlike President Chávez, Capriles has avoided polarization and confrontation from the very beginning. "I am going to be the president of every single Venezuelan," he highlighted last June 10 in his first speech running for president. "Venezuela will have a fresh start from October 8 on, with people united and here goes my message for those who think in a different way: I do want to be your President, I too want to become the president of those who wear red clothes and support the current government and I am going to become President of them too."
It does not mean that "the thin guy" nickname he has put himself- evaded President Chávez. Based on the speeches delivered this and last week in Barinas, Cúpira, Ciudad Guayana, La Guaira, Puerto La Cruz and Valencia, D'Avolio highlights that the candidate of the opposition has set differences with the government through two essential aspects: on one hand, he has insisted on a development project that offers solution, and on the other hand, he has disaccredited the management exercised by his opponent, to whom he refers as "the candidate of the past" or "the candidate of the Government."
"The current government claims that it built 500 schools per year, but where are they? Let us go to look for them," Capriles commented last September 22 in Valencia.
Such criticism has been accompanied by that which has drawn most people's attention as the progress bus. "You youngsters, pay attention to me: this is a project for education, this is a project intended for your development and therefore you can have a job in the future," he indicated last week in Barinas.
"This project is for the elderly. I want those who already have a pension to also count on feeding tickets and economic resources for medicines. This project is for those who are the recipients of a mission (welfare program), so that they do not need to wear a t-shirt of a specific color and can therefore get what is rightfully theirs without being blackmailed. This project is for those who work on the countryside, to grant them land titles and resources for planting in our lands."
The huge difference among the two candidates is that Capriles has faced Chávez but in a respectful manner. "He does not make use of offensive speech, but of criticism of governance," the specialist on discourse analysis claims. And Capriles has done similarly since the very first words he expressed at Caracas square, minutes before putting himself forward for president before the National Electoral Council.
"The other candidate offers a vision of a split Venezuela, Capriles offers a vision of a united Venezuela," she then claimed. "The other candidate offers a Venezuela filled with violence, Capriles offers a Venezuela filled with peace, a Venezuela of harmony; the other candidate asks you to wear a t-shirt of a specific color, I ask you all to wear the t-shirt of the Vinotinto (Venezuela's football team), the tricolor Venezuela."
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani
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."