Resorteme Bait


One point that really can’t be made often enough is that the 1999 Constitution doesn’t magically lose its validity somehow just because nobody pays any attention to it.

Whether it’s through the exercise of raw power or because it’s been messed with through some made up mechanism that isn’t in the constitution itself, when the constitution is ignored it’s everyone’s responsibility – whether you’re in a position of authority or not – to do what you can to put it right.

¿O no?

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Quico: one more time (as if you didn’t know): Venezuelans. Do. Not. Care.

    Newly elected oppo members of the AN: please prove me wrong. Use every occasion possible to hammer down the fact that the President is using the Consitution for hygienic purposes. Pretty please?

    • It’s not about whether other people care. It’s about whether you care.

      Article 333 places the onus on every single Venezuelan to collaborate in re-establishing constitutional order.

      This. Means. YOU!

      More and more, I think we need to build a Resistance movement around article 333. It mandates every one of us to *collaborate* towards a goal. To do what’s in our power to reach it.

      It’s not the Assembly Members’ problem alone. It’s a personal duty of every citizen. Maybe we should start taking it seriously.

    • Francisco, I agree it means all of us, but we need to take in new approaches because we are discussing it all with people like ourselves and now Chavismo will come over to a population with no knowledge of history whatsoever and say “we are going to do parlamentarismo de calle, consejos populares”.
      A resistance has to have a nationwide base, it has to be lead not only by alumni from Harvard or Paris or UCAB or Metropolitano or even USB or UC, but by a lot of intelligent, humble men and women in Calabozo and Tucupita, in Southern Valencia or in Morón.

      The current AD-COPEI cogollos in those regions (some turned into UNT or PJ, but mostly the same) are not up to the task. And the parties in the capital cities do not want to send people there to coordinate because they think the only person who needs to travel more than 10 kms in Venezuela is the future candidate for the presidency.

      You don’t build a succesful resistance movement like that. And you don’t do it by using twitter or the Internet.

    • Of course I care. Estaba solo echando casquillo.

      But like others here, I think most venezuelans don’t care about the “constitutionality” (and even legality tout court) of anything much. Resistance? Sure, count me in, Movimiento 333. I can write letters to officials / newspapers, and even go to demonstrations in front of the Venezuelan Consulate in my civilized European city. I fear it will not help much.

      Civil resistance at the national level, on the other hand – this would be great. That’s why I look up to our AN representatives, or any community leader for that matter, to get it going. And if they want my modest help… send me your bank account number!

      (This is slightly off topic, but I guess I’m just bracing myself for frustration at the yet-to-come inability of the oppo ANers at having any impact. A close relative of mine happens to be an ex-Chavista AN member. In private, he confided a few years ago how he quickly found himself useless. He was (maybe let himself be) boxed in, silenced, threatened by his peers. I was shocked to hear that: I thought him courageous and smart. I hope our “resistance” leaders are stronger than him.)

  2. Manue,

    Quico makes a good point.It is the lack of proper action by each individual in the collective opposition who can be partly blamed for this state of affairs.

    Placing responsibility where responsibility lies does not mean lack of compassion, but rather it means that in seeing the truth of a situation we might find the power to do something about it.
    If Venezuelans don’t care enough, that could be one of the REASONS for defaulting on responsibility, but, nobody can deny to the folks :

    “whether you’re in a position of authority or not – to do what you can to put it right.”

  3. Manuel is right. I recently had a conversation with a guy who was one of my best friends while I was a teenager. We hadn’t seen each other for over a decade. He was a very good pupil and he became an engineer. He dislikes Chávez now, but he says “not everything is bad, there are some good things, etc, I do not want to talk about politics”
    I asked him how he saw VENEZUELA’s SITUATION after I had asked how his life was and he had talked for some time about it. He told me this year it was “la vaina está más floja que antes, he had less work but he has his house, which he bought a couple of years ago”. He went on talking about his own situation, about what he could buy or not, even if I thought we had covered that. Nothing about Venezuela as a country (oh, yeah, right at the beginning something about the economy being structurally wrong). When I asked him then about how he saw the way in which Venezuela was quickly moving towards a dictatorship he simply refused to talk about that. He may have his bias as one of his brothers is Chavista to the core, a honcho, in fact…and they are originally from Chile. But still: this guy is one of those declaring he dislikes this government.

    In 2010 the oil price was 26% higher than in 2009. For such a pattern, we saw in previous years a growth of over 8%. In 2011 we won’t have 8%, but the regime has more cash than on the first half of 2009. And what is more: the regime will from now until 2012 be willing to sell Venezuelans’ soul until the end of the century just to get enough cash to win the elections.

    We have to consider these conditions and prepare the people. We need to tell them how much they should be expecting for 26% more money than last year. And we need to openly challenge Chavistas to a respectful open, public debate with clear rules not expecting they will accept but expecting the people to see how Chavismo won’t accept. And then some of those guys like this bloke will start to rethink the general situation and not think about whether they have money for the next month or so.

    • Kepler,

      My experience has shown me that it is useless to dialogue with Chavistas and my family is full of different types of them from the ‘lite’ ones mostly interested in job security, to blind ideologues, and last but not least, the sociopathic types. The sociopaths have no interest in truth, the job security types are too fearful and authoritarian in outlook, and the ideologues are blind and inwardly determined to stick to their beliefs.

      I think solutions lie more in how the opposition reacts to unite themselves in an altruistic way and how they can develop brilliant strategies based on realistic assessments.So far they have failed to a great extent, though some light progress has been made.

      I agree that oppos should go more into the small remote towns to talk with the people.I also think that many in the opposition need a reeducation to stop looking only at the short term picture when it comes to things like monetary losses and gains.I also hear many saying things like” It’s not all bad”,” my business is doing okay etc etc”.

      This makes them not see the forest for the trees.

      Analyzing mostly the dollars and cents aspect keep them from focusing on the progressive losses of freedom, safety and the future quality of life.

      However now there might be some who voted for Chavez who are not really Chavistas but people who are too fearful to cast a vote in opposition to him, who might be amenable to dialogue.

    • Firepigette, I will post on this, but here some advance:

      It depends on how you talk to people. I have had success several times, so it is your experience against mine. You cannot convince everybody, but you can convince a lot if you have it (it’s the way one talks).
      It has to be face to face, though.

      Now: I have gone through the statistics. In regions C, D and E but for areas where we have not a single acta, abstension is 10% higher. Why?
      Three main reasons:
      1) people don’t care
      2) people have difficulty going to vote (I know this very well, I have moved around all over the place and I know several Venezuelans who are doing a great, but hardly recognized job by taking lots of poor people to vote)
      Please, don’t come again with “I know several guys in slums and they all have cars”. Me too, and I know a lot of people who do not and who do have a problem moving around on that day.
      3) people live in places where you hardly get any information about what the alternative parties propose. And those parties do not show up there EVER.

      I gave the example of Los Guayos, but I can tell you about many other places.
      Los Guayos is 10 minutes from the Panamericana and 5 minutes from Valencia’s “International Airport”. If you take your car from Valencia and want to go to Maracay Los Guayos is to the right, very easy to reach. You do not need a jeep to get there. If you drive from the governor’s house to that place outside rush hours, you get in less than 20 minutes.

      There are over 85 000 voters there. Now: the opposition hasn’t show up there since 2008, where they popped up once, as far as I know. How do I know that? I have lots of relatives and friends there. They are oppo, but they tell me about the people next to them.

      In the last elections PVZLA got 43.34% of the votes against 52.43% for PSUV. That was actually a progress but it was not because of what the MUD did but in spite of itself.

  4. I think making “OTPOR en español” available to as many people as possible would be a good start.
    I also think that while the new social media (e.g. internet, twitter, facebook) will and should have an important place in such endeavors, lower-tech media such as pamphlets, posters, graffiti, ‘pirate radio’, etc. will ultimately reach more people more often and will help create the appropriate climate/environment for opposition-led excursions into spaces they may have ignored in the past (for various reasons).
    Ultimately though, someone or some group has to lead the charge and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have an icon or something to ‘represent’ the movement, even if it’s someone or something from the past (any ideas?).
    It also wouldn’t hurt for some of the organizers of said ‘movement’ to read Brian Caplan’s “The Myth of the Rational Voter”, on the off-chance that there is an election in 2012.

    • No OTPOR. We cannot be so unoriginal. This is so predictive and this is so often mentioned by Chavistas. We need something better, we need something with a clear national character. People thought they could do an OTPOR again in Ukraine and it did not last much. It did not work in other places either. You really cannot generalize like that, that’s the problem with the gringos or EU people, they think you use a method like that everywhere. And it stinks to “copied model”. We need to analyze different models and see why Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia succeeded and why Ukraine and Kyrgistan were not sustainable. We need to see why people in the West were so excited about the events in Iran’s capital while failing to observe the mentality of the majority elsewhere

      We have to be a bit original.

  5. It seems that only the conservatives of the world and liberal ancients such as me look upon a constitution as something essential – as a critical set of ground rules as to how a society organized by consent can be governed and adapted to new circumstances.

    Characterstically, leftists the world over hold such civil restraints in contempt, as limits on the “progress” they hold to be more sensible than “the people” will consent to.

    You seem to deem Chávez’s 1999 constitution “good as any”, with a modicum of provisions as sensible as any other. It isn’t; it’s awful. It’s full of Catch-22’s. It’s clear from this that you, like other Latin Americans, don’t really believe that rules of fair political engagement will ever be enforceable in your society; that only a leader’s willingness to obey those rules matters. It’s as though “The Boss is the Boss” is etched in your hearts. If he’s not willing to obey the rules – so what’s new?

    When you find an honestly elected and very popular leader willing to follow political rules (Uribe), to you he is only a despicable conservative. When you encounter a tough anti-caudillo constitution, and an honestly elected government willing to enforce it (Honduras), you come to the same conclusion: military coup; dictatorship; conservative. Suddenly you demand more electoral “honesty” than an overwhelming consensus of international observers and more “consensus” than all four branches of government.

    So why should anyone support your anger against Chavez, when he represents the only end result that you are actually willing to accept?

    Once again, I urge you to relax with some friends of good will, and contemplate together what rules of political engagement SHOULD be followed in a consenting society of your liking. Who should be empowered to enforce them? Who should protect them? How they can be changed and how can you avoid pitfalls (like Chavez’s vaguely governed but “community councils”)? How should it assess consent? Should the government be limited only to the powers explicit in an enforceable and enduring constitution? Should government be allowed to delegate its powers to unelected officials? Can one branch be allowed to rule by decree, including the right to abolish the constitutional order without super-majority consent? When should supermajorities be required? Wartime? Can your constitution be summarily changed by simple majority in a popular referendum (see Honduras again)? Who commands the army? What are his limits? And who can stop him? Should all laws have time limits? Should all offices have term limits? Even a King Solomon? How about bureaucrats with powers delegated by elected officials?

    You don’t seem to understand that when the time comes when Venezuelans are asked these questions by that benevolent dictator that you seem to yearn for – that infinitely noble father-figure – YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ANSWER THEM AND A LOT MORE. If you can’t, why should even a King Solomn bother to waste his time with such a permanently passive-aggressive people? Back in the days of Bolivar the Liberator, what did Venezuelans say to him when they had the chance? Is that perhaps why you have Chávez today?

    Conservatives believe in rules that don’t change during the game; that basic rules are to be defended, and changed only by broad consent of the players.

    Politicians sometimes get elected because they are able to articulate a detailed vision of a just future that their people can very broadly consent to. Obama did this, but without details (“to be determined”).

    If you and your very intelligent friends had a grip on constitutional essentials AND DETAILS, you’d be ready for the day Chávez falls under his own weight.

    Let This Be The Happy New Year

    • Deedle,

      Well said.

      Then this branch of the “opposition” makes claims to be against something that in its fundamental message they are in agreement with.

      It’s a lack of clarity.


      I might add and summarize that a Democracy, before anything else, NEEDS to remain a Republic with citizens’ rights and limitations on government, if it is to remain a Democracy at all.

      That simple fact seems to escape many “progressives” who end up behaving in authoritarian ways or rolling out a red carpet for the next opportunistic wannabe dictator.

      Rights and limitations are no obstacle for progress. Real progress is made by individuals and by society.

      This has little to do with the religious or irrational brand of behavior some associate with “conservatism”. It’s about quite the contrary. It’s about checking the government’s ability to engage in uncivil behavior.

      The Honduran case is a kind of test Latin America failed in the most pathetic of manners. Latin Americans, it seems, were much more willing to trust Zelaya than all the rest of Honduran institutions. You would think for all our furor that Hondurans were beheading a King anointed by God than exiling a President that engaged in mob rule and much worse. A President is a king, and instead of God, you have “the will of the people”, malleable, just like that of God when you set up to be it’s interpreter on Earth.

  6. Kepler,

    I agree but still think “OTPOR” is as good a place as any to start, especially if the best chance of success for the movement is if it begins ‘organically’ and hopefully goes ‘viral’. It will help people who are of the mind to actually do something to know some things that have been tried and been successful before, even if OTPOR doesn’t have a 100% track record as you note.
    The movement may start along the lines of, or at least in the spirit of OTPOR but from there I think it’s safe to say that it’ll take on ‘made in Venezuela’ characteristics as the situation unfolds.
    Here’s a couple of (paraphrased) quotes that come to mind when everyone is waiting for someone to make the first move:
    “Nothing will ever be accomplished if all possible objections must be overcome first.”
    “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”

    /talk of OTPOR from me


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here