Just so we’re clear, I’m now working for the International Relations Dept. of Comando Simón Bolívar. I’m a grunt, not a spokesperson, but still, I’m pretty proud of it. Here’s why:
Venezuela’s oppostion, after a 14-year long international relations coma, has more to show for its past three weeks of foreign activism than Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who, in case you forgot, spent 6 years as Foreign Affairs Minister and now has the whole Cancillería at his disposal.
Perhaps Maduro’s comments yesterday, right after claiming the Colombian Government was plotting against him, might shed some light on his frustration: “I know what diplomacy is in this world, because I’ve practiced it and because Comandante Chávez taught me.”
Sigh…. Dios mío dame paciencia.
First of all, Nicolás, your stint at the Venice Film Festival does not count as diplomacy.
Second, Chávez was never exactly much of a diplomat.
Ever since the April 14th elections, Capriles has made no secret of his intentions to take his cause beyond the institutionally-crippled Venezuelan borders. It was to be expected that national bodies such as the CNE and the TSJ would shamelessly stonewall the MUD’s recount petitions and legal challenges. “We must exhaust all domestic resources before we take our cause to the International Community,” Capriles stated.
Up to now, “taking our cause to the international community” has been the Venezuelan political equivalent to filing a police report when your bike gets stolen: everyone knows it’s a lost cause, but you go through the motions almost as a matter of ritual.
But taking your legal woes to international courts, while cool and all, does not a foreign-relations agenda make. Foreign affairs means working it: lobbying governments and negotiating alliances in sophisticated but pragmatic ways, in order to build up support and exert gradual, subtle pressure towards achieving your goals. It means building your own little parallel cancillería – and that’s something the opposition hadn’t really tackled, well … ever.
Anyone who’s been to a Venezuelan consulate abroad knows that the propaganda machine behind “exporting the revolution” is formidable. A simple flexing of the PDVSA muscle was reason enough for any mildly concerned foreign government to think twice before siding with the opposition.
Learned helplessness, along with being too busy just surviving domestically, were reasons enough for the Venezuelan opposition to put its international effort on the backburner. And it took a bunch of opposition legislators getting the &%$ kicked out of them – literally – for a proper international movement to be born.
Following Diosdado Cabello’s ban on opposition legislators’ right to speak on the floor of the assembly, and the ensuing National Assembly brawl, opposition MPs embarked on an international tour aimed at garnering solidarity from fellow parliamentarians.
To date, 17 delegations of MUD representatives have met with legislative colleagues throughout the continent and in Europe, shedding light on the abuses of power that took place following 14-A, openly confronting Maduro’s regime, and owning their place as a proper and empowered opposition.
Given that Executive Branch officials (Foreign Relations Ministries, for example) in other countries will rarely agree to meet with Venezuelan opposition reps, fearing needless reprisals or diplomatics gaffes, this whole Parliamentary Diplomacy initiative is as novel as it is smart. In countries where Separation of Powers is a fact and not a mere formality (basically every nation in South America except for Venezuela), Legislative Branches have no problem welcoming delegations of fellow parliamentarians and holding meetings that don’t represent an affront to their respective countries’ foreign policy.
In addition, the legitimacy that comes with being an elected representative of the people is a de facto passport into any bilateral parliamentary meeting, opens doors to invitations and conferences with other important figures in foreign countries, and, perhaps most importantly, media buzz.
So for the past three weeks, Venezuelan opposition MPs have been busy traveling the hemisphere, drawing unprecedented attention to their cause.
And then…well, then Capriles went to Colombia and met with the President. And he’ll be going to Brazil, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and so on and so forth.
Now, I understand why some might might view foreign relations as a pointless, idealistic endeavor that does little to imperil the regime, because nations respond to economic incentives and diplomacy is just hot air and photo-ops.
But let’s recap the Venezuelan Government’s response to all this futile traveling: Maduro’s reaction to Capriles’ meeting with Santos was ridiculous, improvised, and callow. Way to show them who’s boss, Nico.
And, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a 12-member-strong swat team delegation of PSUV diputados was deployed to shadow the MUD´s every step, calling itself the “International offensive for the defense of Nicolás Maduro´s legitimate Government.”
I think this last sentence bears repeating. The
PSUV Venezuelan Government deems it necessary to spend precious dollars to “defend the legitimacy of President Nicolás Maduro.” And in order to do so, they are sending an official delegation (financed, mind you, by the National Assembly) to every country the MUD travels to.
The opposition has taken to politicking abroad because it’s become nearly impossible to operate domestically, and they’re finally being proactive in whatever sphere they can find. But I never thought I’d see the day when the Government started acting like an opposition…to the Venezuelan opposition.
What was that line again, Maduro, about having learned all you know from Chávez?