In case you haven't been paying close attention to your South American politics for the past 14 years, you might be surprised to find that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's cult-of-personality president, is facing a stiff re-election challenge on Oct. 7. Basically Chavez has presided over a widespread meltdown of the country's wealth, social institutions, businesses, middle class, perceived stability, rule of law and public trust. His opponent is the young, charismatic Henrique Capriles Radonski. Capriles is campaigning by walking throughout the country; the Financial Times reported this week on his "liberally toss[ing] baseball caps emblazoned with the colours of the Venezuelan flag into the writhing mass of an adoring crowd." Chavez, ever the charmer, apparently refers to those selfsame crowds of Capriles supporters as "the squalid ones."
Capriles, though, is running on the issues, because when you're facing down an incumbent who has turned a once-thriving petro-fueled economy into his private septic tank, in a country whose murder rate is double Colombia's and quadruple Mexico's, why wouldn't you run on the issues. And his supporters, too, are hounding Chavez with aplomb. Check out the series of cartoons called "Las Fantasías Del Comandante," depicting Chavez as a willfully blind boob who recommends that patriotic Venezuelans use blackouts as occasion to nap and who insists, in front of blank grocery shelves, that there's no such thing as shortages.
The issues, such as they are, constitute the opposing lineup in the video at top that likewise rips Chavez as a self-absorbed nitwit. As it is Venezuela we're talking about, baseball is the metaphor. Chavez is an overmatched pitcher getting shelled by the Monstars-like problems facing Venezuela: Inflation, Blackouts, Insecurity (i.e. violent crime), Scarcities, Holes in the Roads, Unemployment. Boos rain down on him; he smiles and raises his arms as if the crowd is cheering.
For context and partial translation, I have to turn this over to the Venezuelanest person I know, Dana Malaguti, who tweets about this sort of thing as @DMalaguti.
At 1:45, the manager asks the president why he is not pitching well this game (Venezuela), and in a monologue that embodies his arrogance, Chavez replies:
"They are not letting me work. This is such a noisy crowd and you can't pitch well when you have so many voices against you. We have to keep an eye on that situation. We need to silence all my critics, and that catcher is giving me really strange signals. In my opinion, that man is infiltrated (from the opposition)."
Facing eminent defeat, the manager brings the new, younger pitcher to the field, Capriles, with the slogan "It is time for Venezuelans to win." Bateame esta, the group that uploaded the video, is an initiative to motivate voters.
Chavez has used baseball as a powerful propaganda tool in the past 14 years, occasionally playing in exhibition games, as a populist move. As a youth he won an athletics scholarship to a military academy and once dreamed of becoming a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. He jokily confessed to Larry King in 2009 that he would rather had been a Major League Baseball player than President of Venezuela and now thousands of Venezuelans wish he had opted for his first dream.
I don't know of a full translation or a subtitled version of this video or the others that are tweaking Chavez. If anyone does, drop that sucker into the comments, por favor.