Pompeyo, 85 años / Fernando Rodríguez

Pompeyo, 85 Years

Watching the “Aló Ciudadano” episode that dedicated ample time to Pompeyo Márquez for him to recount episodes from his long and intense life, I was impressed, as always, by how his argumentative capacity works, by his brilliant political intelligence – a very peculiar form of intelligence –, his prodigious memory, but more than anything what comes from body and soul: his sanguine vitality, his Whitmanic wood chopper’s head, which looks like a Scandinavian fisherman’s, a boxer in the midst of give and take, a fighting bull and, at the same time, the archetypal grandfather, which is to say, a warehouse of kindness and generosity.

That he has spent seventy uninterrupted years, day by day, engaged in politics from sunrise to sunset is no mean feat. So much that quite often, a large portion of those long decades has been lived in jails and in the most Spartan clandestinity, or as a member of precarious minorities scaling impossible hills, like an untiring Sisyphus. And there he remains – moving his eyes and frowning, where his identity lies, according to Paolo Gasparini who photographed him once – watching and accusingly uncovering this latest military regime disguised as socialism. And those eyes and that life are a terrible mirror for so many opportunists, ignorant people, cynics and other specimens of the civic-military fauna that govern us today.

Not too long ago he told me he was going through many personal economic difficulties. And without insinuating shame or glory, he added: “It’s just that I was too naïve and I never took care of myself, like almost everyone else does.” Blessed naiveté amidst the multitude of millions in which so many danced yesterday and dance today, among his colleagues who take care of public causes. I think he truly never had much time to sit down and think about the healthy protection of his legitimate assets. There were too many tasks to accomplish. Publishing Tribuna Popular with Gustavo Machado, at one point practically the two of them by themselves, joining their two machines together for the wires that arrived from the USSR, which sang the praises of the achievements of Ukranian workers or Romanian farmers.

Or transforming himself into a ghost for a decade in order to lose the trail of Pedro Estrada’s hound dogs, who would have given everything to offer The Jackal [General Marcos Pérez Jiménez] the head of the damn Secretary General of the PCV [Partido Comunista Venezolano] political party. Or escaping with other leaders from the San Carlos prison, a masterpiece of engineering, sagacity, bravery and a capacity for Hollywood action films. Or being in limbo in 1956, while sitting at the twentieth congress of the CP of the USSR, and realizing that the Stalin he had trusted so much had an insatiable thirst for power and blood which led him to the worst political perversions. Or setting out to seek peace for a guerrilla movement that had lost all its senses and which led him into not a few ideological fist fights, even with Fidel Castro. And beginning the path of the MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo] political party and his profound democratic turn just when it seemed he was too old to jump towards the future so dangerously.

But also the left over time– above all in jails – he employed in a task that is no longer common currency: to study, being an illuminated autodidact which has led him to writing more than twenty books, nearly six thousand (sic) articles, and I don’t know how many party, parliamentary and ministerial interventions.

As he says in his autobiographical reflections, he not only aligned himself with books but also with anyone who had anything to teach. Today he continues writing several weekly articles, devouring all the important facts in all the press and the significant books, from a Chinese novel to our vernacular historians or economists. How is he not going to have a wrinkled brow when he hears all the nonsense circulating today among the heights of power!

But finally, carrying so much comes from a sense of duty related to his early, difficult political experiences, and above all from a noble and hyperbolic heart which makes him one of the Venezuelan politicians who has given and received the most affection during this stormy era that is the construction of our modernity. Congratulations, old man.

{ Fernando Rodríguez. TalCual, 30 April 2007 }

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