Aung San Suu López?

If I was the Chigüire, I'd photoshop a Voluntad Popular logo onto her blouse.

More and more, it looks like the government’s gambit in disqualifying-but-not-quite-disqualifying Leopoldo López isn’t going to pan out.

As you’ll recall, in a genuinely weird decision the other day, the Supreme Tribunal ruled that López is fully entitled to run both in the opposition primary and in the General Election of 2012…but whether or not he is eligible to execute the office of the presidency is open to question and would have to be settled at a future date – presumably after Leopoldo has actually been elected president.

Listen, the legal tectonics here are beyond baffling, but the political reality is clear enough. Leopoldo can run. And, if he wins the election, there’s no realistic way the regime can stop him taking office.

I mean, try to imagine the political dynamics involved. It’s mid-November 2012, the country is still half-partying, half-morning the astounding CNE announcement from the early morning hours of October 8th when a visibly shaken Tibisay Lucena, struggling to hold back tears, announced that Candidate López had come in with 53% of the vote to Candidate Chávez’s 47%. The transition is well underway, the words “Leopoldo López” are universally preceded by the words “President-elect”…and in that atmosphere, Luisa Estela Morales is going to call out a press conference to announce she’s decided he can’t take office!?

It would be seen as – and would, in fact, be – a coup d’état, a hardcore violation of the all-important Hard Constitution. That’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi territory right there.

I just don’t think a political equilibrium can be imagined where chavismo – led by an ailing or possibly dead Chávez – can keep its hold over the country after refusing to seat the guy who it admits won the election. They might try, but they’d never be able to manage the wave of dissent – military, civilian, domestic, international – they’d face. If LL wins, LL will govern.

Obviously, with this government, you can never tell. Maybe they’re hoping he wins the primary first so that, days later, the Supreme Tribunal can issue a clarification stating explicitly that he can’t take office, forcing the opposition to rally behind the “loser”. Or maybe they’ll issue that clarification a week before the election, after the ballots are printed. Who can tell? Personally, I don’t believe in flying cockroaches, pero de que vuelan vuelan.

On the face of it, though, the government’s gambit hasn’t worked. At this point, what we know is that the guy can run. And the guy will run. The guy’s opponents welcome him running. And if he wins, he will govern.

And that’s is as it should be.

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  1. Boy Quico, you have really fed LL’s ego and victim-seeking status by creating a mythical tie-in with Aung San Suu. Nada que ver. Pero nada.

    • I’m totally with Syd on this Quico. I mean, I see the analogy and everything, but boy, does it make me feel icky. Aung Saan Suu Kyi is on par with Gandhi or King. Leopoldo? Well, just a rung below.

      • The headline is obviously a provocation – it’s not the two persons who are similar, but rather the circumstances they seem to face.

        Aung San Suu Kyi became Aan San Suu Kyi precisely by the expedient of getting robbed of the presidency in circumstances that were as bizarrely outrageous as the ones LL would face in one possible scenario – one I think just wouldn’t be stable for chavismo.

        Anyway, I think I’ve made it clear I have pretty strong reservations about the guy – storming out of not one but two opposition parties and then setting up a personal vehicle where his own word is Holy Writ is a very dark stain on his record, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand how people can look at that and not worry about the guy.

        That said, I also have a clear appreciation of the fact that he’s the only one talking up CCTs explicitly, which is my #1 policy priority.

        But one thing should be clear: if he gets the nomination, I intend to be downright tribal in defense of him.

        Personally, though, I’d prefer the nomination went to someone with a strong explicit commitment to CCTs who also had more of a track record as a public sector manager and team player.

        In other words, all HCR has to do to get me to eat right out of his hands is start talking up Estudia y Progresa.

        What’s the hold-up?!

    • Quico’s analysis is to the point and if Chavez impedes LL to take office if he wins the similarity with Aung San Suu is exact.
      Why do you say that Quico is feeding LL’s ego?
      As I said in a previous post the dislike of many in this blog for LL is as evident as the absurdity in LSM’s ruling.
      It is sad that you allow your dislike to blind you so that you lost your objectivity.
      Is not LL a victim? Of course he is! As well as that 70 % of Caracas that wanted him as Alcalde Mayor.
      Sad, very sad!

      • JuanNotNagel,
        why do I say that Quico is feeding LL’s ego? Because for one thing, politicians are known to have egos that far outstrip those of most folks. And LL certainly fits the bill (more so than some of the other official and non-official candidates). Ojo! I’m waiting for PP to pronounce himself before making what I hope will be a rational decision, based on my parameters, which I’ve expressed before. In the meantime, I have the right to analyze VERY critically what each candidate brings to the table, and how each candidate will likely behave during their tenure, based on their previous record. My parameters have nothing to do with liking or not liking a candidate. And I certainly have no interest in choosing based on who has the most charisma or beauty.

        You ask: Is LL a victim? Let me reply with this: Is it possible that LL’s office and the media are too hot-headed to analyze statements with care, and instead, prefer to dive in and massage victimhood because it (a) creates sympathies; and (b) generates provocation to keep the media wheels greased?

        Hopefully you and I can co-exist on these boards with a difference of opinion. For I don’t have enough Kleenexes to deal with your sadness.

  2. I was channel surfing last night when I came upon LL being interviewed on Aló Ciudadano.
    He’s a very impressive speaker & his message was very strong
    He’s much more charismatic than Capriles.

    One interesting thing was the text line on the bottom of the screen.
    The question was “Are you in agreement that LL should run?”
    At the beginning of the interview the numbers were approx. 75% yes with 25% no.

    As the interview progressed & he outlined his plan the numbers rose to yes 86% with no 14%.
    He was obviously converting people as he spoke.

    It’s going to be an interesting 4 months.

  3. There are two possible scenarios here in my view:

    1. The MUD parties don’t fear he’ll win because of his lagging in the polls and therefore will allow him to run despite the political risks.

    2. They’ll realize that the risks of LL being disqualified after winning a primary are not worth taking because it would effectively ruin the opposition’s chances of winning a national election; and therefore will bar him from running in the primary itself.

    2.1 Instead of baring him from running, they could handle the situation by negotiating with him the VP post behind whomever wins the primary itself. Legal limitations to his later appointment can be handled once HCR or PP win the Presidency and take office.

    • Quico you are being a bit naive. As PseudoI points out, there is a scenario where LL wins the primary and we are close enough to the election that a TSJ decision that LL cannot be elected causes enough confusion on what to do that the election is lost because of that. That has to be the game they are playing.

      • That would be a PR dream come true for Lopez. If he wins the primary, the whole world would be watching if they banned him at that point. That’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi territory right there. And Chavez would finally be considered illegitimate in world opinion. (even if he COULD have beaten Lopez had they let the man run in the general election) Not great for Venezuelans, but great for Lopez.

        • Frankly, it would suck for Venezuela. Who the hell wants to be a latino Burma?

          In that scenario, I would say “Tough luck, Leopoldo, te jodiste. Run another day”

      • Platy,

        I discuss that Scenario as well in the post. Even then, how it would play out is ambiguous – I think a lot of NiNis would be less likely to vote for Chávez if they saw the government disqualify a primary winner. That makes them look weak, very weak. And remember, Ledezma won on LL’s sloppy seconds…

        • Quico, I think there is a typo. Should it be “before” rather than “after” (the first one) in the following sentence? “Or maybe they’ll issue that clarification 3 days after the election, after the ballots are printed.”

        • You do address it, but only halfheartedly. I think the post-primary/pre-election disqualification scenario is far more likely than post-election, precisely because it does NOT put LL in ASSK territory. They know full well (based on the Burma example) that the latter act would put them squarely and all-but-irrevocably in the international pariah camp. On the other hand, kicking him out and then “graciously” allowing the primary runner-up to run is downright democratic (in relative terms, of course).

          Now imagine that they do it, say, 2-3 weeks before the election itself. (With electronic voting, it’s logistically quite feasible.) That would create a lot of chaos, without allowing much time to rally behind the “new” candidate. I definitely agree there is tremendous uncertainty in how that would play out, but I can’t believe for a minute that they aren’t considering it.

      • I agree with Platy, that’s their game, and also the idea the if LL runs the votes will come probably from HCR and the others, so the winner will have less votes and they will use that to disqualify him as not having real support. And yes, the ego of the guy worries me, he abandoned the party he created when things didn’t go his way, isn’t that another Caldera in the making? I really hope he does not win the primary and that the MUD will have a contingency plan to what happens if he wins and the Chavez pulls one of his tricks.

    • Does MUD have any real basis for not letting LL run if he so chooses? I’d think they have much more to lose by denying him the run than any other risk they may take by allowing it.

      • Having Leopoldo run is the best thing for everyone:

        Scenario 1: LL runs and wins. The government will have no choice but to accept him. Banning him post-primary would only further galvanize oppo voters (and may decide the ni-nis against the regime).

        Scenario 2: LL runs and loses. LL’s political status becomes moot for the purpose of the general election.

        Either way, the government would be unable to use LL as a divider.

        The best scenario for the government would be for LL not to participate in the primary, and then accept the CIDH rulling, potentially pitting LL against the primary winner. So far, it looks like LL is not taking the bait. Good.

  4. Quico: I think Chavismo is missing Chavez. I am not sure this was what Chavez would have gone along with if he had had his mind on this. There is also lack of coordination, the old “united” front was a “confusion” front on this subject. LL and the oppo should take advantage of this. I agree that if he wins, he will be unstoppable. The interesting thing is that this seems to have boosted his image…

  5. You guys are being way too rational. Think of every move the government has made to violate democracy that has ended in only a mild public rejection from international parties. Think if what happened in Iran two years ago. If LL wins and Chavez doesn’t let him take office, guess what? Nothing will happen.

    We’ll get a ton of press coverage during those first few months, and the international community (the one that counts) will cry in outrage after Chavez just turns a deaf ear on all sort of international court decisions. People will march on the streets for a couple of weeks, and that’ll be the end of it. The next celebrity will die or the next white girl will get kidnapped and the media focus will shift away from Venezuela.

    Do you think a military general who lets a cuban flag fly next to the Venezuelan flag on the base will defend LL? Sorry, but no. I think LL made the wrong decision in running, when he could have just endorsed HCR. There’s just too much risk in LL winning the primary.

    • I sort of see where you’re coming from, but I think if you think it through you’ll see your stance is contradictory: a government fascist enough to refuse LL to take office after winning an election is fascist enough to refuse HCR to take office after winning an election!

      So I think your last sentence makes little sense: it’s not really “riskier” to nominate LL than to nominate HCR.

      In either case, they’ll take office only if a resounding electoral victory reshuffles that general’s cost-benefit calculus to the point where it’s safer for him to allow a succession than to stick with the old regime.

      There are plenty of valid reasons to prefer HCR to LL (or vice versa) but “chances that chavismo will accept handing over power” is not one of them.

      • True, but “guerra avisada no mata soldado”.

        We already know that LL just got a yellow card, so it’s riskier for him to win than it is for HCR, who hasn’t gotten carded, yet.

        Anyway, I’m sorry if I don’t exactly sound like a ray of sunshine, but I’ve been visiting Venezuela for the first time in almost three years and it’s hard to be hopeful.

        • Creo que aquí te equivocas, Maracaiburgh. Todos los potenciales candidatos de la unidad tienen una “tarjeta amarilla” sobre la cabeza. HCR tiene la suya también, como la tiene Ledezma ó PP. La cuestión es si la unidad es capaz de sobrevivir estas contingencias. Allí está la clave del triunfo.

  6. We are seeing again a barrage of smoke screens which are being effectively deployed by government officials under the instructions of the terminally ill president. As much as we all know this, it is worth repeating: we are governed by outlaws that manipulate the institutions to blatantly violate the rule of law with astonishing impunity. The established opposition still does not know how to respond to a government that violates the laws so openly, but they have come a long way and are doing much better. We always had governments that broke the law, but at least they tried to deceive and cover up their acts. In the last twelve years we have witnessed a government of outlaws that feel immensely powerful, that for the first time after never having done anything productive in their lives found themselves in control of thousands of millions of dollars of the country’s budget to handle at their discretion. These people truly believe they are untouchable and can get away with anything. We have also seen the opposition walking away from elections because they believed that such an outrageous behaviour from the government would cause a massive reaction from the population. They learned in a very hard way that Venezuelans do not react to indignity and shameful behaviour of their leaders that way, but on the contrary they tend to be accommodating and even accomplices with such disgraceful behaviour. We now know that they should have never walked away. We are witnessing a process of ramping up of smoke screens and violations of the law that are aimed to cause both distraction and desperation in the organized opposition. The opposition needs to keep their eye on the ball and ignore the distractions, knowing that are dealing with an opponent willing to break every law if necessary and that has literally unlimited resources available. It is an unfair battle, without a doubt, but at this stage of the fight the mighty revolution does not look so mighty anymore, in a good extent because we all know that they are willing to do whatever is necessary to stay in power. Nothing should surprise the opposition this time around, but it is going to be a hard battle. And it is only starting.

    • Virtox- a very accurate historical description and -“knowing that are dealing with an opponent willing to break every law if necessary and that has literally unlimited resources available”=
      conclusion- no way to win?? Oh,well. Let’s give it our best shot anyway…

  7. In the confusing situation in Venezuela created by Chavismo,acting only when you have clear rules and guarantees, would paralyze many initiatives.Even if LL would opt for not running because of a lack of clear groundrules, the next person in line would become the new focus of Chavista intrigues to disqualify him.

    So it is better to work with the circumstances we have and for LL to run and deal with consequences as they arise.In addition, Chavez’s uncertain health condition may create a different panorama at any moment.

  8. I see nothing wacky about the decision. It demonstrates the brilliance of the supreme court. If Lopez runs, as he said we will, and if he wins, the supreme court will turn against Chavez and rule for Lopez. What will Chavez do, roll out the tanks? Well, um, maybe, but I think the supreme court is gambling he won’t. Either way, the supreme court justices have a high likelyhood of being on the winning side.

    Off topic: Mr. Toro, As a fellow Montrealer, I am interested in your opinion of Stephen Harper.

  9. One has to appreciate the wealth of detail distilled into that classic phrase, “– led by an ailing or possibly dead Chávez –” hinting a) that some officialistas may be deemed so blinkered as to prefer their leader to lead, even if from what we might term, “a remote outpost”, than a closer, more flesh&blood successor from downtown Caracas; b) the actual state of health in question has been so obfuscated as to allow of an intermediate category (One’s reminded of “The Princess Bride”), namely, “possibly dead”. Congratulations!

  10. I’m wondering what the effect of the murky TSJ ruling is on voters taking a look at the primary candidates. If you have a slight preference for Leopoldo, say, but Capriles is OK by you, too, would the uncertainty about LL’s legal status tip the scales in Capriles’ direction? How pragmatic are primary voters? Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  11. Look if these guys are so smart, how come they came up with a strategy that seems to be helping LL today and now. If they hate/are afraid/dislike/hdespise LL so much, then this seems to be going the wrong way. I am fed up with this attitude Chavismo is so clever. First the oppo has been dumb, second, oil has helped, third, Chavez is a formidable and charismatic candidate. But he is in Cuba worrying about whether those cells in his liver are good or bad and this seems to be taking a life of its own (no pun intended). The Last Supper is ready for its Judas and it seems like the oppo will, not have its own strategy ready.

  12. Every citizen can vote in the primaries. This means the PSUV can order a sizable chunk of their members to participate and vote for the candidate that seems more convenient for the government’s strategy. That candidate, of course, is the weakest one, the one who can be disqualified. Moreover, the “Fiscalía” is reminding everyone that a criminal inquiry is developing against LL. So he could be conveniently “inhabilitado”, this time for real, by a judge in a criminal trial, just at the right moment.

  13. 1. I don’t quite understand how Chavismo can declare its legitimacy to govern if the governed cannot trust the accuracy to the vote count.

    2. The Inter-American Court for Human Rights has intervened. That to me is a blow to Chavismo legitimacy that cannot be covered up by “outlaws that manipulate the institutions to blatantly violate the rule of law with astonishing impunity” (to quote from virtok).

    3. We can consider what can happen if LL wins the election, but if we cannot trust the vote count, then what does it mean if he LOSES the election?

    4. My basic instinct is to not wait until LL loses the election.

  14. I really really really hope Chávez doesn’t die before the next elections or even worst wins them. The only thing more disgusting and painful than a 3 hour long ‘cadena’ with Chávez would be a 12 hour long one with Jaua, Maduro and Diosdado mouring his death.

  15. Much worse to the cadena, is the future reference that will be made of the new martir! Chavez this, chavez that… It will be used as a comodin to massage and accomodate any new crazy plans the new puppet needs to make.

  16. i’m glad the debate and the bloglike atmosphere took hold again after a few moments of pissing competition in the kindergarten patio 😉

  17. Myanmar is a pariah State, but the military still have a grip on power. Alas, they did not have an organised opposition back in ’90. And yet, alas, they’ve never run a petro-State.

    In any case, I’m very glad that the opposition has stayed in message with uncanny discipline: “he can run, let him run”. Chavismo’s secondary objective fizzled.

    • A bit out of topic:
      Myanmar is not a petro-state á la Venezuela, but it is a satellite state of China, and the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party don’t want the neighbors setting a bad example with all that democracy and freedom stuff.
      Besides, Myanmar has a oil and gas that the Chinese government covets. The Chinese support the military government and, in exchange, China gets easy access to those resources.

  18. When you play a game of chess it doesn’t pay to delve too much in variations where the opponent ends up loosing. It doesn’t matter if there are 20 variations where the opponent looses and one where he wins. That one is the only one that’s important to analyze. In that sense I think it’s obvious that LL won’t be allowed to reach the elections. He will be bared after he wins the primary and before the elections. The details depend on the polling situation, there are two possible variations:
    1.- LL is declared non-electable but the CNE graciously allows someone else to fill his spot (or maybe the MUD inscribed a second candidate just in case). In this scenario LL’s card and face is not retired, people still can vote for him but it’s considered null voting. That way the oppo vote gets split between the two oppo candidates.
    2.- If the poll situation is so desperate that option 1.- has no chance to work then they can bar him and eliminating the possibility of even voting for him and/or voting null. It’s a clear steal but then again desperate situations call for desperate measures.

    • Wow – #1 never occurred to me, but that’s devious – and by devious, I mean utterly plausible.

      Quico said this earlier in the comments, and it’s stuck with me: “a government fascist enough to refuse LL to take office after winning an election is fascist enough to refuse HCR to take office after winning an election”.

      I don’t buy that, exactly. The Chavez modus operandi for his entire tenure has never been one of bald-faced fascism/totalitarianism/dictatorship/pick your opporessive term. Look at examples: he closed down RCTV, but left Globo alone (at the time); he permitted the recall signature drive to go forward, on the condition that everyone go sign again; he inhabilitated LL but not the entire field. He throws out trial balloons, then walks backwards on part of it and seems like he is responding to the people. Yet all the while, he is taking steps towarde his goals.

      Every forward step, though, is covered with a fig leaf of democracy, or human rights, or whatever. It’s not much, but as one can see by the parade of PSFs wandering through this blog, it’s more than enough for some. And we know full well it’s enough for lots of folks in Venezuela. We know darn well he wants full control, and he’s most of the way there.

      But while he’s happy to cozy up to folks like Gadhafi, Mugabe, Lukashenko, Ahmadinejad and (of course) Castro, he carefully avoids steering into their full-on dictator territory. If he really had to to maintain power, who knows, but he hasn’t had to, and he’s taken advantage of that to maintain the pretense of democracy. So while he is fascist enough to ban LL on a pretense, I’m not sure he’s fascist enough to ban HCR without one. (Which once again makes me wonder how the Cuban embassy case ever got dropped.)

      Coming back to amieres’ point, if they fully ban LL at any point, it will be with some pseudo-legal, and/or superficially democratic covering. So this scenario #1 is eminently plausible, because how much more democratic is it to allow two opposition candidates rather than just one? And “satisfy” (while completely subverting) the IACHR decision at the same time.

  19. I think the problem if Leopoldo is the candidate of the opposition, is that many ni ni’s and light chavecos would stop voting for him because of his situation with the Supreme Court. People are tired of problems and vote for someone that nobody knows whether it can assume, would be a big problem


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