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Leopoldo Lopez corners chavismo

Leopoldo Lopez, one of the two most promising leaders of the Venezuelan opposition (the other being Maria Corina Machado), posted a home video yesterday, raising a few claims and stating that tomorrow he will go to the office of Ministry of Interior and Justice, to hand a petition and hand himself in:

There's a lot that can be said about the man, but coward is not one of them. With this bold move, Leopoldo has managed a remarkable feat: that of winning hearts and minds of the heretofore largely unrepresented mass of Venezuelans that oppose Nicolas Maduro and the wretched chavista experiment. As of today, I don't think there's any doubt as to who is the leader of the opposition in Venezuela. Wishy washy Henrique Capriles, with his cowardice and Chamberlainesque appeasing has gotten a lot of flak lately, and rightly so. At the peak of his popularity, he didn't have the guts to challenge what was evidently a rigged election, and now he's well past his sell-by date.

Leopoldo, on the other hand, acted as kingmaker in the opposition's primary, granting the leadership to Capriles, and then became his most powerful ally in the presidential race again Hugo Chavez. But that pact too is gone, for Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo's political party, made significant strides in becoming a viable and national political platform. Leopoldo has also joined forces with Maria Corina Machado, who got the highest number of votes in Congressional elections, and is, by a mile, the most articulate of the three.

So what is Maduro to do with that hot potato now? Is Maduro prepared to do away with his last vestige of legitimacy by locking up Leopoldo on trumped charges? Mind you is he THAT stupid? One would think that the Cuban puppet masters aren't, but we shall see. Leopoldo arrested in front of the world is going to create much more problems for chavismo than solving the situation. It could be a trigger, to more protests. It will generate a lot of attention, scrutiny and criticism. It has already galvanised people. It has created a belief along the lines of "with that kind of leaders we'll get somewhere" on people I have spoken to in Venezuela in the last few hours. People that were indifferent otherwise. Leopoldo has basically squared with chavismo with a defiant "we don't fear you, we're coming for you" attitude. Gossip has it that Diosdado Cabello, one chavismo's most powerful men, has flown his family to Argentina. In any case the reaction to Leopoldo's possible arrest, both in Venezuela and abroad, is only one dimension. How about someone with Leopoldo's leadership skills revolutionising a prison population? One, as it has been well documented, that has influence and power in the criminal underworld well beyond the walls of Venezuela's prisons? Readers may remember when the regime arrested Carlos Melo a few years back, and the effect he had on El Rodeo's inmates. Does chavismo want Leopoldo to forge political alliances with the notorious pranes as well?

I happen to think that Leopoldo's move is brilliant. It may look foolish, though it is anything but, for Leopoldo has just cornered chavismo. In doing so, he has gained a tremendous amount of goodwill and popularity that will place him in good stead with millions of people in the days ahead. He's thrown a hell of a curved ball, let's see how chavismo reacts to it.