Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, only answered four questions in a four-hours-long press conference last week, his first formal meeting with journalists in the last 12 months, after he was diagnosed with cancer in Cuba, treated, recovered and taken ill again.
The period of silence about his illness had been so long since news of his cancer shook Venezuela in June 2011, reporters did not overwhelmed him with questions about what every Venezuelan want to know: whether he is fully recovered of his disease or if his condition has forced the government to prepare a succession plan.
As he usually does since he became the president of the South American country, Chavez took his time with each question without answering them at all.
Journalists did their best repeating the same questions about politics and economy over and over again, but Chavez stuck to his own speech: from the battle for the independency and de Bolivar epic to manipulation tries from the opposition to sabotage his candidacy for a new six year term.
But after many hours, he had not answer the first and most crucial question, posed by a Venezuelan correspondent: what is new about his government plan after 14 years leading the nation?
The question made him uncomfortable, but he relied on his own bag of tricks trying to distract the attention of the journalist, who was sited right in front of him stoically without smiling or giving signs of anger. It was a direct and quiet interpellation –not usual in Venezuela- without a direct answer.
He started saying he had delivered a thick government plan to the National Electoral Council and that his contender, Henrique Capriles, wrote a thinner one. Then, he asked the reporter if he was Venezuelan and how much time he had been outside his country. But he still said nothing about the new offerings.
An hour later, he mentioned the “comunas”, the community councils and the cooperatives, socialists ways of organization for entrepreneurs, families and neighbors he is promoting since 2006 –the year he won the election for a new term, promising lead the country through the socialist path-, with poor results in one of the most consumerist countries in the region.
He dared mention the “tree mission”, an old program to reforestation; a delay project to build a railway to the center region of the country; a plan to clean the brown and redolent river that crosses Caracas and was supposed to end in 2010; other delayed project to build a petrochemical complex and two new social programs to give money to the elderly and build houses to thousands of families affected by a flooding in late 2010.
It was a long list, with nothing new, except for the housing and the fresh money to senior citizens. These two projects, the core of his reelection campaign “Heart of the Country” which has thousands of posters everywhere, are trying to fulfill old promises.
So, he offers Venezuelans something old, something borrowed and maybe something blue, but nothing new, 14 years after he sat for the very first time in the presidential seat in Miraflores palace.
And old candidate
Pollsters say Chavez does not have something new to offer for the first time in more than a dozen of elections he won widely, so it will be difficult for him to promote himself as a change option.
Capriles, 40 years old, has a long political career that started when he was appointed the youngest vice-president of the Congress in 1999 and continued being elected as lawmaker, mayor, governor and founder of Primero Justicia, a center party formed by the sons of very well known politicians in Venezuela.
The image of Capriles and Chavez are diametrically opposed. While the Chavez’s campaign group often accuses Capriles of being too weak to confront the powerful and almost invincible president, he defend himself saying the real battle is at the streets, not in front of microphones.
Even though both candidates are using Brazilian marketers to attract voters and stand out in the coming weeks appealing to emotions, Capriles’s personal style is far away from a Venezuelan traditional politician. He does not speak too much, does not like to be the center of attention and always avoids confrontation with Chavez, who has called him “majunche” or mediocre.
Followers of both political groups have measured their forces in the last weeks in huge concentrations, showing they can be equal, but the real fight will be on October 7th, the election day.
“What are offering who have been at power? What can they offer the people? Red numbers of murders, robberies and kidnappings. They want us to get used to the violence problema”, Capriles said on Sunday after a huge march in Caracas.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in her shoe,” says the English proverb, wishing good luck for the bride and a happy marriage. Will the marriage with Chavez last six more years?