"We're not going to sully ourselves in the cesspool of the government camp" says Capriles as he hands out free goodies to his supporters…

For some reason I think it’s ok if I do it…

Yesterday’s Capriles event in Rio Chico, narrowcast live on Capriles.tv, has more or less completed the full-body existential funk I’ve been inhabiting recently.

Talking to a small audience of supporters, Capriles boasted that his program to give away freebies was much better because his will actually deliver your new mattress right to your doorstep.

Yes, really.

It’s the normal politics trap in full swing: a politico stuck in the favor-trading mindset that got us into this mess in the first place, utterly unable to grasp that whether you’re on 52% or 48% no longer matters, and seemingly all too happy to perpetuate spiritual chavismo in a misguided, doomed attempt to gain short-term advantage on political chavismo.

Now, here’s a naïve question: is there a statute of limitation on this guy’s leadership status? I realize we elected him to stand for election on behalf in last October’s election, and maybe we didn’t check the fine print carefully enough, but…is the plan just to spin out that mandate forever?

What exactly is it going to take for the opposition to take a long hard look at the last 18 months, take serious stock of what’s happened, and move to give itself a new leader?

In the developed country democracies, the standard is clear: you fight an election, fail to secure power, you step aside and let a new leader take up the baton. Mitt Romney knows this. Rodríguez Zapatero knows this. Michael Ignatieff knows this. Nicolas Sarkozy knows this. Yoshihiko Noda knows this. It’s one of the defining characteristics of modern democratic politics: it’s not personal, it’s not a dishonor, it’s not an insult. It just is.

So what’s it going to take? Pretty please? With sugar on top?

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  1. Francisco, have you heard the saying ” the worst enemy of good is perfection”? You are as naive as those that believe that communism would work if we could just change the human condition and created the concept of “el hombre nuevo”. But guess what, it does not work, will never work, because we cannot change the human condition or create “el hombre nuevo” Capriles is an imperfect guy that is risking all so that you and all could strive for perfection in your own way and not in Fidel’s way, Chavez’s way or Toro’s way. Could you come down from your tower and better yourself by just helping Capriles and others to secure for you the liberty to choose of being a snob or a patriot?

    • Patriotism, do you know what Samuel Johnson wrote about false patriots?

      Shouldn’t we be able to question things?

      One of the things I see from history is that there hasn’t been a major, sustainable change from autocracy to democracy in the last century without a movement of leaders.
      We are expecting too much of this guy and this guy obviously does not have the qualities. He might speak better than Maduro but Maduro cannot speak. He does not have a concrete vision of things. He does not seem to have read a single book in his life (beyond what he had to read to finish his degree)…something telling since Roman times in half-democratic countries.

      This is my thought: why on Earth don’t we start to promote different leaders, promote open debate, let different politicians on our side hone their rhetorical skills and why don’t we let people then choose for the new election?

      Capriles does NOT have the money. He needs to be something different than an imitation of Chávez. If he can’t, why not change?

      And how come we, specially in these times, decided to let our leader be someone from the top 4% wealthiest Venezuelans? (it doesn’t matter Cabello or Ramírez might be richer – they are in power and they have the media)

      • No Kepler it i just the opposite. Capriles does have the money and he does have the media. All those opposition newspapers up and down the country; all those FM stations that do not support the government.

        How do you kknow how much money Cabello and Ramírez have? No one has EVER provided any evidence about their bank accounts or properties.
        It’s all chismes.

        So, Keplewr, do us all a favor and stop talking out of where the sun don’t shine. You discredit yourself……….always.

        • When was the last time you went to Punto Fijo’s lower class areas and saw someone reading El Nacional or El Universal or Tal Cual?
          How often do you see that in Tocuyito, Carabobo? Or in Maturín outside the upper 10% better off? How often were they doing it 20 years ago? (answer: same stuff, people really little in Venezuela and mostly about crime or baseball or babes).
          About radio: same stuff. It seems you haven’t been outside the Panamericana in ages.

  2. Real smart Quico: let’s remove the guy who has the most favorable recognition, who kicks ass campaigning and who even the chavistas like, just when the shit is hittting the fan for the government.

    • I guess if I agreed that “the shit is hittting the fan for the government”, I might agree with you. But the shit is not hitting the fan for the government, it’s hitting the fan for the country and for regular people.

      All the pillars of the government’s power – all the things it needs to sustain itself in power – is as sturdy as ever: uncontested discretional control over oil rents, total control of the army and security services, as well as the state, and the passionate allegiance of a hard, fanatized 10-15% of the population.

      The normal politics trap is precisely about thinking that the fact that most people’s lives are getting substantially worse in any way undermines their ability to hang on to power. It doesn’t. That’s what it means when we say democracy has collapsed.

      • Democray has collapsed? Please…..por favor…….in your opinion it has only collapsed since your lot have not managed to win. Period!

        Will you win on December 8th? I doubt it very much. What’s your prrediction of total votes and alcaldías for the opposition? You never express yourself on these matters as it is automatically admitting defeat.

        Of course the government has control of state oil income and how it is spent, the security forces and the military. Tell me in what democracy the government does not have control of these elements and tax revenues as well?

        You make it sound as if the opposition should have control of these things when it simply does not have the votes in the AN, the governors, the alcaldes, the cámaras legislativas or in the state apparatus.

        That is why there is so much sabotaje – hoarding, speculation, Amuay, lies in the media all the time.

        The country is not in a mess. The opposition is.

        I went to Los Palos Grandes to see Ramón Muchacho and MCM the other evening. They did not address the problems of Chacao but were all for undermining the government when no chavista has ever had control in Chacao.

        All this BS by MCM about defending votes in the Street. Incredible and then people wonder why there are holes in the road and delinquents in the muncipality. If you are in pay of NED, USAID or whatever, you are not going to be interested in the 85,000 people who live in Chacao.

        What has Ramón Muchacho ever done for Venezuela or Chacao for that matter? Absolutely NOTHING.

        The only decent maypr I can remember is Irene.

        Thank about it.

          • That is why Chigüire Bipolar wrote Arturo and his people wanted the 99th deputy to support Maduro to be Ben Affleck. That’s how insightful they are.

        • Arturo, you never wrote to me like i asked. i assure you that just want to talk to a fellow chavista without the annoyance of having someone here interrupt. please write to jacobrichter AT lycos DOT com at your convenience.

        • that’s the tricky thing, the goverment have been able to justify all they do in such systematic way that it’s easy for guys like arturo to say that all what is happening occur in normal democracies.

          Closure and intervention of media, strict censorships, fines for the media, arbritary expropiations, billionary corruption scandals, frecuent blackouts, frecuent explosions in refineries, enabling laws, 20++++% inflation, cadivi, etc… all while diffamating the opposition and pretty much anyone who dissagrees, everything seems to be so perfectly justified in the chavist mind I really don’t know how to convince them if they’re so desperate to believe that chavez was a masterful statesman and chavism is actually viable.

      • Really? I can’t believe you are ready to throw Capriles under the bus. It’s only been 4 months since he “probably” won the election indicating “most” of Venezuela supports him and if not most, than damn near close to it.

        • I’m merely asking…exactly when is his mandate going to expire? Are we going to end up in a Ramos Allup type situation where the guy has inamovilidad from his leadership post?

          Inquiring minds want to know…

          • That’s not how politics work. A politician carves his way into the public arena. He doesn’t just step down and let someone else -to be named later- to take his place. The difference with Romney and others is that they were postulated by their parties. It’s the party that has the following in that case not the candidate, and notice that the party doesn’t “step down” and allow another party -to be named later- to take their following.

            This reminds me of the many pleas here in CCS.Chron. for the old dinosaurs to please retire already. It’s never going to happen. In politics followings are wrestled, not ceded. If you want someone else to be “the leader”, then that someone needs to work hard for it. Politicians do not retire they have to be retired like Chavez did with so many politicians.

  3. Thanks for this post. Very pertinent questions and you would be crucified for asking them in Venezuela. Venezuelans are still not able to publicly question anything about their own side (unless they are from some rabid fringing group).

    Capriles talks about education and that’s fine but he does not want to educate in the few things he should be able to do.

    Tiny typo: a few leaderS.

  4. “In the developed country democracies, the standard is clear: you fight an election, fail to secure power, you step aside and let a new leader take up the baton. Mitt Romney knows this. Rodríguez Zapatero knows this. Michael Ignatieff knows this. Nicolas Sarkozy knows this. Yoshihiko Noda knows this. It’s one of the defining characteristics of modern democratic politics: it’s not personal, it’s not a dishonor, it’s not an insult. It just is.”

    I have two questions about this statement:
    1. Who will be the new “better” leader? I think in Venezuela the one-eye man is leading the blind!
    2. Are you including Venezuela in the list of democratic countries? Democracy is more than having elections, so the mold of leader for developed country democracies, may no work in Macondo, excuse me…Venezuela.

    I agree with Pilar, “el hombre nuevo” does not exist, everybody is expecting to get something…un colchon, una nevera, TV,lavadora, $$ from Cadivi to go to Disney.

    • Do you want to promote leaders?
      Promote real, public debates about things, visions. If Chavistas don’t want to participate (they never will, not within fair debates), let our politicians go to the ring and carry out real debates between themselves about ways to move forward. Do that not just for primary elections or the like but as a habit, as part of the democratic life.

      That is what Greeks were doing over 2400 years ago. It seems we haven’t reached Iron Age stages but believe in the one person who can facilitate the Cargo Cult.

      • You misunderstand what politics has ALWAYS been about. The greeks were trading privilege and power 2400 years ago just like all politicians have before and since. Democracy is a guiding principle. Your idealized version of politics and government has never existed.

        • Fred,

          Capriles does not have the money to provide the mattresses, Maduro does (at least some now).

          Instead of focusing on mattresses, he can be talking about real hospitals with decent services for everyone…about creating a new general hospital in , where patients do NOT have to bring the medicine, the injections, etc.
          instead of focusing on TV sets or refrigerators he should be talking about the need for people to have real education to make refrigerators and not import them from China (that is populism but at least more constructive and gives a general idea of what is needed).

          We need to be to some extent credible. We can promise stuff, but at this stage, we need to make it credible because we don’t have the money to prove our case now. To be credible a couple of truths need to be said. He is just being an imitation of Chávez.
          Even if Chávez’s image is fading away more and more, he seems to expect people to see him as “the true Chávez”. How credible is that? Even if he really wanted (which would be plain stupid): how credible is that if Chávez said what he said about Capriles?

    • It’s precisely through the competitive dynamic that takes root when old failed leaders get out of the way and make way for new ones that new “better” leaders arise. You’d think a guy who first got elected to congress on a COPEI ticket would grasp this dynamic!

      • One would certainly hope that a guy who first got elected to congress on a COPEI ticket would grasp this dynamic. Unfortunately, hope makes a fine breakfast but a lousy dinner. You’re absolutely right when you say that the willingness to step aside when a politician’s been unsuccessful is “one of the defining characteristics of modern democratic politics.” Unfortunately, it’s been a while – you’d know exactly how long it’s been much better than I would – since Venezuela’s been a “full service” modern democracy.

  5. Spot on, Quico. Now prepare for el palo de agua looming in the horizon. Oppos are not that different from chavistas when it comes to (not) looking at their leadership with critical eyes.

  6. Kepler, even the Catholic Church feeds and help the needy before asking to listen to their message. Why would Capriles not do it? To gain somebody’s affection the first thing you have to do is to show him that you care not in a future time when your “smart” ideas are in power but now when they do not have a mattress to sleep on food in their table.

    • you don’t understand how clientelism works. The point is that Capriles doesn’t have the resources to buy a mattress for every person in Miranda who needs one. He needs to be selective. And you can bet your ass that those mattresses are not going to PSUV party members. It’s in the selectivity, in teaching people that the only way to get ahead is to do a politician a favor so he’ll do you a favor in return, that clientelism corrodes the fabric that holds real communities together while it locks clients into relationships of subservience with their patrons.

      The politics of clientelism are toxic. Always have been.

        • Clientelism is toxic, but i start to believe that it is part of the Venezuelan DNA…and no political leader can go against it…Chavez knew this very well. I do not think the problem is the lack of a leader…the problem is the people of Venezuela…rojos, azules, amarillos, transparentes, Ni-Ni. Always thinking that a leader will show up an resolve the problems…un lider no se consige en una caja de ACE…

        • It is often recognized that what public men do to gain electoral favour does not exactly mirror what they will do after gaining power. Once they gain power they must of course attempt to retain that favour whilst at the same time ( if they have a conscience) try to govern responsibly. . In Capriles case this should mean creating a well organized , well run efficient system to provide safety net support to Venezuelas many needy people and such opportunities as might allow the best of them a chance to become self reliant , productive people . The social support system can be organized two ways , one so as to help all the needy regardless of political affiliation , the second to create a clientelar system where political support is rewarded with all kind of give aways and favours while non supporters are left out of the benefits programs as puinishment for their ‘wrong’ political affiliations . This is where you kill clientelism ( which as Francisco correctly states is a creeping cancer of political and social corruption) when the system is set up it takes in all comers indiscriminately of their political views or preferences. The rules of electoral politics force contestants to play the field with those tools as are common and avalilable . but once the candidate becomes an Official then he can afford to make a corrupt privilege into an entitlement for all. You institutionalize and make the management of social programs something to be offered all the needy regardless of any partisan considerations. This must be made into a crucial element of Capriles and the oppositions political program. Is it not already??

      • I think that the problem right now is that the country is hostage of a vast majority who want cheap gas, free things from the state and that think that oil can afford everything, they simply want a president who is like chavez but with less corruption and a bit more efficiency (y que no joda tanto).

        The sicbi machinery have discredited the right-wing thinking so much that the vast majority of the population wouldn’t even consider a more liberal agenda in politics, I think that for the moment capriles is the best guy we have since he has tried to ride that wave of thinking and had some success in attracting some chavists, his time may never come and he may fall in disgrace but for the moment he’s the best we got and it is extremely difficult to build a new leadership from scratch the way things are now.

        It would be impossible to dismantle the chavism thinking from the goverment in one single blow, the mud plan seems to be having capriles as a transition president and then rebuild a democracy in wich all the ideas would compete more fairly (I really hope that the mud have some sort of plan).

        • I know another couple of guys who thought it was a good idea to accept a bit of clientelism “during the transition”…Romulo Betancourt, Hugo Chávez…

          Clientelism eats the movements that tolerate it.

          • What about Taiwan and South Korea?


            Look I fully agree that it is a disgusting practice, but you need to fix your priorities, man

            In no particular order because it will spark another debate.

            Low Crime

            These are the things that matter, not some dragon ironically chosen because it is mythical creature. Corruption is much higher and it still does not make the top 5.

          • clientelism will not end if we get rid of capriles now anyway and he is still very far from being a great statesman, he is the best avaible in our options at this point, way ahead of ledezma, maria corina, lopez and pablo perez in public opinion, and the only one who seems to know how to speak, I don’t think the opposition is ready to get rid of Capriles at this point, the 8D election might give a hint about that tough, I guess that what he’s trying to say to the poor with these “gifts” is that he wouldn’t let them die as the sicbi says, the moment I see a better guy for the job I would support him.

        • I believe that is the case too. And my conclusion has been, ‘you know what? screw them. Let me have their paradise and enjoy it. This is a population that doesn’t want to live in the XX century, much less the XXI. They are happy eating shit, I think the minority of us that believe mankind is aimed to higher goals should step aside, move elsewhere and let this vocal majority rot by itself. Is not something that can be fixed. They are already lost. Stop wasting time trying to fix the unfixable. Enjoy your life and try to make it as good as within your possibilities elsewhere

    • Guys, I think the girls (Pilar and María González) are the ones closest to discern what today’s politics is in VE. Here are some tips that I consider key in any crude analysis of the situation (not necessarily in order of importance):
      1) Most of you are centering the debate on the two leaders. Wrong. Take them out of the game and things will remain just about the same. Chavez is out and nothing really changed. Were it not for Maduro et al continuously mentioning him I think his memory would be just about gone. It’s not about the two guys, it’s about perception, mostly emotional but every day more pocket-centered. People want their needs and feelings addressed and they are so keen on that that they will give little thought to filter true offerings from false promises. Like it or not that is the game and you have to play it. Do you really think the greater part of the population, chavista or not, will be reading stuff like this…? Naiveness is also free!
      2) In your arguments, especially in Toro’s, most of you post as if we Venezuelans were british, swiss, swedish… There is no such thing as a republican (not refered to the GOP) mentality. So the political and social messages can not be of the first-world type. Bear in mind that between the Venezuelan population of the 1700’s and nowadays there has been very little evolution. We still think first in the easy way out rather than in the best way out. First in oneself and maybe at the end in the nation. We still do not understand that the whole depends on the structure of its parts. El mundo de los vivos still dominates our gentilicio, in ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY.
      3) You seem to forget that the park, the balls, the bats, the uniforms, the clubhouses, the broadcast, the sponsors, the souvenier shops, etc. are owned by the team in power. We play if they let us play… So if we want to beat them we have to find a way that can not be the usual confrontational approach. We have to pretend to be playing their rules but in such a way that they end up beating themselves, the famous Chacumbele Method. Now that they control almost 100% of the media do you really believe that a protest in Falcón will be perceived in Ciudad Bolívar, Maturín, Porlamar or Maracay…? Only through the social networks but that will be always be tinted as maybe being exagerated, planted byassed info, not fully credible, political gossip. So Kepler’s suggestions are quite ineffective from design itself. To sync moves in different parts of the country becomes very difficult because there is no massive communication means. And the enemy knows it (divide and thou shall conquer). But something will come about…
      4) So, I think the strategy has to be to keep taunting those in power, forcing them to react, to explain, to come up with more and more lies trying to explain their failures, to point to the consequences of their governmental stupidness, and so on. Sooner than later the running out of cash, the collapse of public services to the extent that it is impossible to hide or to blame on iguanas or lightning, the scarceness of basic goods, etc will bring many, many people down to reality (see item 1 above) and a revolt from within will give way to an all-out riot (remember el Caracazo?). Back in 2005 I heard it from Teodoro Petkoff at a business luncheon sponsored by a binational chamber of commerce in Caracas: “What chávez is doing is irreversible. The lower classes are becoming aware of their power and they will be the first to demand when the government can not deliver what it has promised”. The Chacumbele Method.
      5) TORO, are you out of your mind!!!? To suggest a change of front leader 3 MONTHS AWAY FROM THE ELECTIONS… Ah, common man, let’s be serious here. You gotta include some proteins and aminoacids in your diet, man. How in the world are you going to sell in 3 months a new figure at the helm when you do not even have a runner-up candidate…? You gotta be kidding…
      6) To have a chance at winning the ball game we have to remain united, pushing in the same direction and with the same force. Sure enough we can not all agree on every detail of the strategy and tactics but we must focus on the only real target: getting these guys out of government and if possible out of the land, and hopefully out of this world… The allies did it during WWII, for God’ sake! Did we not learn THAT lesson? The USA, Russia, France, Great Britain had important differences among them in many details but they had no doubt on the final purpose.
      My best wishes to you all.

      • If there were a Hall of Fame for comments, this one would be right in there. And this summary of the Vz psyche would be framed in gold:

        We still think first in the easy way out rather than in the best way out. First in oneself and maybe at the end in the nation. We still do not understand that the whole depends on the structure of its parts. El mundo de los vivos still dominates our gentilicio, in ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY.

        Thanks, Monte, for the common sense reminders.

      • You had me up to #6. Our objective can’t be to get rid of these people. We need to accept that we will have to share the country with Chavistas for several generations, particularly as he has become their patron saint.

        • I believe that in # 6, Monte was referring to the enchufados in government, not with the broad segment of the population that still venerate Saint Hugo.

      • Montecristo,

        Though I appreciate your thinking through this idea I beg to differ.If people keep thinking the same way the same results will come from it, and thinking is not a part of DNA.It is habit and habits can be changed.I leave you with this quote, food for thought:

        “If you’re going to change the world, you have to be able to think about a world that works differently.” ~ Samuel Delany

        Otherwise get even more stuck in the box.

        • FireP: I would tend to agree with you but bear in mind that the principle you bring to the table applies when you are in control of the whole context (inner & outer) of the problem you are trying to solve. If you couldn’t solve it via A you go on with via B and so on, kinda trial&error. But the context of VE politics is fully dominated by “the other guys”, so my thinking is not completely independent, I MUST consider the opponent’s display of tactics. When I wrote “We have to pretend to be playing their rules but…” I expressly used the verb pretend to mean I am acting in a way different from what it looks like from outside. This of course implies doing SOMETHING DIFFERENT, thinking differently like you suggest. And that’s where I agree with you. Mutatis mutandis, I think it was Einstein who sentenced: “If you approach a problem the same way every time you will always get the same result”. But then again context is a variable not to be overlooked.

  7. Educate people? You are so wrong! People do not need and ethical education, what people need is an opportunity.Some people choose to work and some choose not to. It happened in Greece,and happens today in the developed and underdeveloped world. It is a matter of personal choice, not of education. Castro chavismo relies on those that choose not to work and that is why the economy does not work. No amount of education would change their minds. Not even Christ expected, expects, everybody to be saved. Come down from your self righteous towers and help Capriles secure your freedom to choose. Take notice: intellectuals and navel gazers are the first ones to perish because of the “education” that you defend. I do not believe that I need to show examples of that.

    • I am self righteous because I think people have the right to get real information and be told some realities (or what one honestly thinks are realities) and not promises of more bacon and thinks one knows are rubbish?
      Ha…I don’t consider myself “intellectual” but I see that is the little word US right wingers seem to use to classify people who think differently.

      You consider people are stupid and won’t ever learn anything and
      you prefer to give them bacon and you tell me I am self righteous.

  8. Meh. Me might have realized that the only way to unseat Chavizmo is to beat it at it’s own game of unfulfillable promises.

    Ironically it’s more likely to work than any of the alternatives I know of.

  9. I think Capriles needs to stay in public view any way he can. As long as he remains on the public stage, Maduro can’t be comfortable, especially as economic conditions continue to deteriorate. The power to put political rivals in prison can’t solve the problems that are bearing down on the society as a whole.

    • Again, this is Normal Politics Trap thinking. The connecting-belt that links Maduro’s comfort with “the problems bearing down society as a whole” is democracy. Democracy collapsed. Maduro can be entirely comfortable while the country sinks to shit all around him.

      • You do realize that by posing things the way your are posing them, you are basically saying that the problems in Venezuela have no solution, don’t you?

        Well, actually, there is one (and only one) solution, but it is not a solution that will solve the problems of the country. It is rather solution for each person to take individually, and one you, FT, already took: emigrate…

  10. Francisco as a true journalist has the need to be provocative by going to the jugular of subjects which are discomfitting, darkly thrilling and thought inspiring . From what I know he is or tries to be a truly honest man, where it matters . Maybe Socrates had something of the journalist in him when he posed so many uncomfortable questions to his Athenian Comtemporaries. That was great for humanity but no so good for him . The thing is that accomplishing difficult things in the realm of public affairs is seldom something that can be done going the high road of the inmmaculate observance of lofty principles , some level of pragmatism is almost always required , some sacrifice of principle, specially in modern politics , specially in underdeveloped countries in which success is so dependent on the whimsy of rather gross popular preferences. The best description of what politics requires of public men is still the foreword to Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage . I am ‘aesthetically’ appalled by what Capriles is reported to be doing now, evidently in an ‘ad captandum vulgus ‘ mode. But that doesnt necessarily lead me to doubt his qualities of leadership in the particular circumstances he is facing now. If Francisco or some else has some ideas as to the need to start preparing for the birth of new improved leaderships , maybe this is a good ocassion to offer names of potential candidates ! I am aware that Capriles is not always the perfect candidate for opposition leadership , but then again I am wary of perfection , specially in such imperfect public opinion enviroment as now surrounds us !!.Remember a time when someone I know accompanied a High level Official to offer explanations to a hostile Congressional Comittee in the old days on a project his ‘Department’ was advancing , My friend begun noticing that the Officials explanation was all wrong in all sort of details and felt the impulse to intervene quietly to allow the Official to correct himself , but then he noticed that the Comittee members were all nodding and smilingly approvingly to what they were hearing , so he kept mum and saw the officials marred explanation carry the day. !! The Project was a huge success.

    • the moral being, as I understand it, bb, is let the politicians be politicians. Let imperfection reign, a troubling for an already troubled environment.

        • Syd : I find the spirit of self righteousness always suspect , Feeling oneself goody goody and pretentiously scrupulous, inmaculately pure and primly umbending is the first step on the road to fanaticism and intolerance and whats worse to futility in any human endevour . Also it doesnt make any allowance to the dark trite frailties of common human nature or to the demands of reality which require of even the best of people to adapt to external conditions at least enough so as to get anything accomplished . Sorry for being so wordy but I hope the message gets through and is not offensive !!.

  11. While I don’t agree with the guy’s actions (as you well say, it perpetuates the clientelist model) I think it’s a bit of a jump to ask for a new leader. Firstly, while Capriles didn’t secure power, his electoral participation have had some successes, not just in numbers but in helping consolidate the different oppo voices. Should the MUD take a hard look at itself? yes. Should we criticize them and Capriles for this “show”? Absolutely. But I think it’s counter-productive and inconvenient to look for a new leader. A leadership race would take a lot of time, money and effort that the opposition should really devote to its main priorities. Though perhaps I’m naive for thinking they do have main priorities that deserve said time, money and effort.

    Unlike Spain or Canada or France, the game wasn’t over on election night. It was just beginning.

    • I’m not asking for a new leader. I’m asking for clarity about what it will take to get a new leader, and some sense of when his mandate ends.

      Let’s not mince words: Capriles has already shown himself willing to go in for *the*very*worst* practice of the old regime – clientelist piñata politics. It’s not too far a stretch to think he may go in for the *second* worst old regime practice – hanging on to his leadership post forever, no matter what, Caldera/Ramos Allup style.

      • I think Francisco is are overreacting at this point, he has less than 2 years as leader of the opposition and no alternative leadership have arised, it is a very healthy discussion for the oppostion to have, tough I would prefer it would be after the 8d

      • Giving shit out is not the worst of chavismo/madurismo. Crony capitalism and huge massive secret contracts are the problem. Who cares if a million people get washing machines, they’ve been shown by Hans Rosling to be truly “magical” (they emancipate people, particularly women, from hand washing, allowing them to read, and teach their children to read, etc). The problem is the failing infrastructure. I am a big fan of CC but sometimes you just get it wrong. Small handouts like damn mattresses is not a big deal nor is it something to criticize Capriles over. I think sometimes those in the developed world or western world or world where shit isn’t hitting the fan every day (Venezuela being one of the most deadly places on the planet) are out of touch. A well rested kid (on a new mattress his family couldn’t afford) with a mother who helps him with his homework and to read (because she doesn’t have to spend so much time washing clothes by hand) is going to change a country. Not the street thugs who aspire to become one of Venezuela’s “thug saints.” (Who, btw, Maduro channels.)

  12. Excellent points for discussion. I would go with the following suggestion: get into power first, then worry about cleaning up the ship. Politics IS about promises and one or another form of clientelism (although perhaps not by your narrow definition), even in the most developed of countries. Taking the USA as example, why are such issues as pork barrel politics, special interests, PACs etc, controversial. Promising lower taxes, jobs for the middle class, etc… you may not be writing a check to person X but you are in fact favoring a select interest group. And politics in Japan is (or was? – on this you should know best x) )notorious for being clientelist.

    I’d conclude that choosing leaders is a cultural problem and has nothing to do with Capriles versus alternative X. But you bring up a few excellent points: what is required is a change in the structure of political parties, sharing of responsibility, parsing of ideas so that the best bubble to the top. Perhaps Capriles should “refresh” (purge) his circle of advisers?

    By the by this NYT piece seems relevant:
    Don’t cut off the head of the leadership until you have a solid alternative!!!

  13. you fight an election, fail to secure power, you step aside and let a new leader take up the baton

    In the U.S., that rule is contradicted by the careers of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Grover Cleveland, all of whom were elected President after losing the previous Presidential election. In addition, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey, and Adlai Stevenson were nominated again after losing.

    In Australia, that rule is contradicted by the career of John Howard, who led the Liberal/National coalition in the 1987 election, which they lost, and later in the elections of 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2004, which they won. Also apparently by Tony Abbott, L/N leader in 2010 (when they did not win), and now, when they are predicted to win the 7 September elections decisively.

    In Britain, that rule is contradicted by the careers of Winston Churchill, who led the Conservative Party in the 1945 elections, when they were routed, and in 1950, when they lost narrowly, and in 1951, when they won.

    Capriles has a claim to be the legitimate President. A few months ago, CC backed that claim. Does CC now accept Maduro’s election as legitimate? If not, why should Capriles step aside?

    A candidate whose defeat was the result of fraud or other cheating is usually considered right to protest the decision, and to contest a following election. That was what happened with Jackson, after the so-called “corrupt bargain” between Clay and Adams made Adams President. After the bitterly contested election of 1876, losing Democrat Samuel Tilden was expected to run again in 1880, (Tilden dropped out after it was revealed that Tilden’s Democrat cronies tried to buy the electoral votes of South Carolina and Florida. The deals fell through because the local Republicans asked too much money to start with, and the reporting deadline cut off bargaining.)

    Condemn Capriles for this bad strategy (I agree). But until the election dispute is resolved or abandoned, he remains the standard-bearer.

    • Good counter-example: Al Gore

      You drop a leader because their popularity has eroded to unsustainable levels. Party leaders are usually selected by party elections and/or backdoor politics. If there is lack of good leadership in the oppo it is because the parties are weak, a catch-22.

      • I don’t know if this is veering into OT territory but Al Gore fell into obscurity. A lot of people wanted him to run and his popularity rating wasn’t bad at all. He instead wanted to become rich with Apple and other ventures, so he decided to bail on being President (granted, war Presidents like Bush are difficult to unseat, so that had to be instructive).

        Capriles, unlike Al Gore, is keeping his supporters informed, and active, and basically has created a social media based fan-base of epic proportions. I’ve never seen it before in my life. It’s the first time a losing candidate has kept so many supporters. Look at his facebook page, they average between 60k-130k on a regular basis. He has his ups and down but his support is unparalleled for someone who is supposed to be the “loser.”

        Al Gore was a loser, because he simply didn’t fight.

  14. Wow, Quico. This isn’t Game of Thrones, you know. These are real people. I’m kind of fascinated by your urgent desire to throw away someone who has earned, the hard way, the really hard way, his current status as the best-polling political leader in Venezuela today.

    I don’t think any of us love the give-aways as policy — but maybe you should pause to consider how hard it is to develop a reputation as a leader who delivers for people in the current environment. How hard would it be to effect change on any scale when the central government’s policies are sending the nation down the sinkhole? How can you actually help your constituents right now? There aren’t many tools for doing so, when your funding and policies are deliberately blocked.

    No one serious thinks Capriles would follow Chavista economic policy on a grand scale as President….

    • The reason I first got into Venezuelan politics – way back while Chávez was painting watercolors of the moon in Yare – was a basic, gut level revulsion at the toxic politics of clientelism, a determined conviction that this dragon must be slayed.

      For me, goodie-based clientelism is the absolute red line – the point at which you forfeit any reasonable claim to be better than the other guy.

      In any event, I’ll clarify again: I’m not calling for his head, I’m calling for clarity. In February 2012 we elected this guy as candidate for October 7th, 2012. His mandate already magically got transmogrified into a second candidacy, and now into a kind of open ended blank check. Is that what people thought they were voting for in those February primaries?

      • Really? your biggest beef in the world is not hunger, inequality, war, torture or death.

        But clientelism?

        Venezuela is not poor because we have free gas, anymore than humanity is poor because we have free oxygen.

        • Gas is not free. Somebody pays for it one way or another. And neither is oxygen (externalities?)

          Clientelism in its standard definition as used by FT erodes basic democratic principles and can lead to inequality, hunger, war, torture, death…

          • Somebody (as in a human being) does not pay for Oxygen so whatever Friedman was stating is wrong, that said there does exist limited resources which liberal economists also deny paradoxically, cornucopians that they are.

            “Clientelism in its standard definition as used by FT erodes basic democratic principles and can lead to inequality, hunger, war, torture, death…”

            Or it can lead to developed status. (Taiwan and SK)


            The idea that just because the state provides free healthcare will cause hunger, death, war and torture is ridiculous. Yes its ugly, yes it is not moral, but to make this your #1 moral crusade under such weak weak causality is drowning in a glass of water.

          • Are you seriously comparing SK or Taiwan? Because there are many non “socialist” policies there. And from free mattresses, subsidized goodies to healthcare there is a stretch.

      • That’s kind of crazy. Shouldn’t it matter whether the handouts are central or peripheral to overall policy? You make no distinction? Capriles has forfeited “any reasonable claim to be better than the other guy.” Really? REALLY? Capriles is no better than Maduro?

        As for clarity — I’m not sure what you’re looking for — he should make some sort of announcement? I mean, he hasn’t demanded some kind of title, as far as I know. Other opposition leaders are free to collect supporters and make their case.

        • ok, I’ll cop to overstatement.

          I guess what I mean is: this Mi Desanso plan shows clearly where his red-lines lie. Clientelism is clearly not a red line for this guy.

          In my view, clientelism is the nub of the problem – the hard, inner-core of the country’s dysfunction. The one that explains all the others. The one all the others flow from logically.

          Mi Descanso strongly suggests that a Capriles government would accept clientelism – perhaps as a “necessary evil” in the transition period. But my reading of Venezuelan history is that clientelism spreads like a cancer every time. It grows and swallows the movements that think they can harness it to their ends. It grew and swallowed Accion Democrática. It grew and swallowed chavismo. And I have very little reason to believe that it wouldn’t grow and swallow caprilismo in power.

          • Francisco, I think that your time away from Venezuela might be affecting your view of the political situation…I have been away for 28 years and the distance has affected my view. I feel like I am from another planet! Sometimes I can’t believe the every day events that I read about Venezuela and as you I wish that clientelism disappear from Venezuela. It is crazy! However when i go to Venezuela and see the every day life of a lot of my friends, and my crazy chavista 75- year old uncle, I have asked myself how people can advance or get even the every day necessities without help from somebody? It is impossible and in many cases it becomes the only way to get ahead…anything that is free make life easier! We should not blame Capriles for what is “el pan nuestro de cada dia” in Venezuela. Capriles is trying to rally the troops, to get in contact and let people know that may be another way. Si yo te ayudo, mañana tu me puedes ayudar. His plan may not be perfect but at least he is doing something…more that what you and me do writing in front of a computer.

          • There are many present in Venezuela that agreed to the dot. Clientelism will continue to erode any movement towards development.

            I agree with Torres here and FT. While the government (and in Vzla government equates with ruling party or caudillo) has discretionary use of oil rents it will always tend to a populist state.

          • “how people can … get even the every day necessities without help from somebody? It is impossible and in many cases it becomes the only way to get ahead…anything that is free make life easier!”

            In the days of the city “bosses” in the U.S., precinct captains and ward heelers gave out buckets of coal in the winter and turkeys at Christmas. These petty charities bought the votes of desperately poor slum dwellers, and allowed the bosses to loot millions.

            The situation in Venezuela is much worse. Most of national economy is in the hands of looters. The sentence above says that many (perhaps most) will join in the looting out of desperation – for some small scrap of loot.

            Clientelism is distribution of loot.

            And looting destroys wealth. Those whose work produces wealth will stop working if their production is stolen from them. Others will stop working because they are given wealth without working. Capital (infrastructure, industrial equipment) will be consumed rather than maintained. (I say to any Venezuelan, circumspice.)

            The petrostate disease is that the “free money” from oil allows this syndrome to start without any individual or class being a victim, so there is no resistance. But the looting habit is insatiable. The more that is looted, the more that is destroyed, and the more attractive looting becomes.

            FT is right to condemn Capriles. No country can function properly when most of the citizens think the business of government is to give them stuff, and that government is where they get get stuff,

          • Clientilism is not distribution of loot; it’s *conditional* distribution of loot.
            UCT gets rid of clientilism but garners the same followers of clientilism. It’s our best bet.

          • Clientelism is defined by the deliberate distribution of public funds or resources to buy the political support of those favoured with such distribution even where such funds can instead be used to serve some more worthwhile public purpose .

            Most modern political thinkers however do feel it justified for govts to provide social assistance to the very poor to protect them from the worst dehumanizing ravages of extreme poverty. Rawls called this principle the ‘safety net principle’ .

            The difference between clientelism and the application of safety net policies lies in that in the latter case the distribution is made to benefit indiscriminately those in direst situation of need regardless of their political preferences whilst seeking to protect them against the worst effects of poverty while in the former case the funds are distributed not only to sattisfy needs but to gratify the greed or tastes of would be political supporters.

            Populism differs from Clientelism in that its measures are targeted to curry the political favour of the maximum of people even where they are in the long run irrresponsible measures which hurt the common good and even where those people are not at the time identified govt supporters . Populism is clientelism writ large .

            In Venezuelan, given the culture any political group wanting to win an election must engage in some measure of populism to gain the necessary popular support to attain that goal. People expect govts and profesional pols to adopt or promise populist measures largely because they have no sense of what the public good involves and no clear understanding of what responsible governance demands .

          • One could possibly win without *being* populist but by merely *seeming* populist if one could come up with a proposal that is good for both the economy as well as the individuals. Unconditional cash transfers of all non taxed monies fits that bill.

    • In the “Guerra de los sexos” going on here the girls are winning by paliza !! María González, Pilar and now Lucía are just thrashing us… We should surrender our king and call it quits, boys! (Please do not take this comment as sexist or genre-oriented… Its simply a recognition of these girls’ better view of the scene).

  15. I kinda wish the opposition would not only turn over the dinosaurs, but everybody involved in the dark period of 01-03 They have to fully reform, regain the loyalty of the people not of washington.

  16. I don’t know what you are talking about. Capriles’ leadership spot is being challenged on a daily basis by DA, MCM, LL, and there even seems to be a renewed interest in what EF has to offer. He is also free to continue to advance his standing. You don’t like his tactics? Then follow someone else or run for office.

    However, I do agree that the opposition needs to grow new leadership. Wait, aren’t we running potential new leaders in an upcoming election? Weren’t they elected in open and transparent elections? Aren’t we trying to execute a long term strategy that has already achieved improvement? Instead of loosing focus on sterile debates about La Constituyente or the opposition’s leadership, why don’t we focus on the regional elections in the same way a farmer tends to his crop? Who are all these candidates? Are there any promising ones in the bunch? How can we get more attention focused on the best ones?

    We are in a path that requires patience and discipline. In order to take over power we need to be an overwhelming majority. We need to be organized. We need to not only have witnesses in every single voting center but they need to have support, transportation, safety, access to communication, etc.

    Lets focus.

    • Personally, I think Capriles’s message with-regard-to December 8th is an absolute dog’s breakfast. “They cheat, we can’t stop them cheating, we only win when and where they graciously elect not to cheat that much, yet it’s crucial that you come out to vote.” Right then!

      To me, it’s entirely obvious that the mayoral elections are all about the needs of opposition politicos – a few of which will be able to secure control over a few enclave middle class alcaldías here and there, and along with them the resource streams they need to build their own tiny clientelist networks there – and not at all about the creation of a viable national alternative to the regime.

      There’s a clear accomodation being worked out – tacitly, I suppose, but that’s neither here nor there. Chavismo’s figured out how to keep the opposition engaged in a political process where we have no chance of taking national power by letting a few dozen low level oppo politicos nibble at some of the crumbs of the petrofeast. Folks will line up to vote on Dec. 8th, and where we win, we’ll get oppo politicos handing out blue electrodomesticos instead of red ones. Ni un paso atrás, right?

      • “To me, it’s entirely obvious that the mayoral elections are all about the needs of opposition politicos – a few of which will be able to secure control over a few enclave middle class alcaldías here and there, and along with them the resource streams they need to build their own tiny clientelist networks there – and not at all about the creation of a viable national alternative to the regime.”

        THIS. This a thousand times. This is the reason I feel disconnected, useless, brazos caídos, agog at the “strategy” the Venezuelan opposition seems to be following. Capriles just cristallized, and FT brought it into focus with his post above, and even better with this last comment.

        A short story, not obviously relevant but bear with me. In the first years of chavismo I was witness to a private conversation with a then young and promising politician from the PPT. I loved the guy, even if I was puzzled by his support for Chavez. He used to be idealistic, a great speaker, funny, warm, intelligent, and had the fire of social justice in him. When chavismo got into power, he changed dramatically. It was all about tactics now, how to stay in power, how to screw the adecos, “los vamos a joder”. Lost was the idealism, the vision, the lofty goals. Not postponed, not deferred: gone. In the following years, I saw him sink deeper and deeper, perhaps with some regret, into his new persona. Until it was too late, and the (public) change was forced into him by the events.

        I feel the same way about the oppo figureheads now (with maybe the exception of MCM, but boy does she have baggage). There is no vision, no specific grand strategy. Just small politics. Mind you, that is my impression. I hope hope hope it is a wrong impression.

      • Hang on, FT, politics is all about getting elected right? Actually, it’s about getting your agenda through, but that translates, almost by definition, into “get elected first!”.

        As Clinton might say, it’s the economy…

        So I understand the point about clientelism being generally unwelcome practice (and perhaps it’s been pushed a tad far?) but what exactly are you asking of the opposition politicians?

      • I do agree that the opposition has not been able to pivot out of 14A and has lost control of the agenda playing defense since the Mardo attack.

        I also understand the impatience and sheer disgust at having to endure Maduro for 6 years, but frankly this is the most likely scenario and we should base our strategy on the most likely scenario and not be looking for shortcuts. Besides, building a massive majority is not an easy task and 6 years may be necessary to become stronger.

        I fully understand that Venezuelan politics has always been Top-Down, that is, Caudillos or Cogollos rule. However, there is an open option to build the brand from the bottom up, and we should take it. Lets imagine for a second if ALL the alcaldias that we will win followed a similar approach and truly made a difference in their alcaldias.

        In any case, gaining as many alcaldias as possible can only help us in the future.

      • Being an oil country we have no way out of Populism. It’s part of the DNA of our country. We have a stream of income that feeds our government product of the work of few people. We are trust fund babies. Obviously we have not figured out how to use that income to produce prosperity for all. The question is not if we are going to give out goodies or not, the question is how to do it so it is effective.

        • Note that my rant isn’t about “populism” – a hazy, abstract concept that means different things to different people. My problem is with CLIENTELISM: using the goodies as leverage in creating a network of patron-client relations, with the state-office holder abusing his control over state revenue to hand PRIVATE consumption goods to clients in return for political support.

          Of all the ways one could conceivably distribute the goodies, clientelism is *the* most destructive. It corrodes a democratic ethos. It turns citizens into supplicants. It subverts the possibility of democratic give and take. It turns our res pubblica into a burdel.

          For me, it’s the reddest line out there, because it perpetuates a pattern of citizen-state relations that renders public-mindedness obsolete.

          • I wish I could find it, but there was an article in Narco News just about when you launched CC where a group of journalists had gone to Venezuela to witness the revolution. They were very happy with what they saw in terms of social programs, but as they were riding around with the guys running the programs they overheard them discuss how those programs should only be available to people that supported the government.

            Yes, I agree with you that Clientalism is a very pervasive and corrupting practice.

            Capriles claims that he does not distinguish politically when he is offering goodies. Are those claims true? I have no idea but at least he recognizes the problem which is to politicize social programs.

            The only way to combat this problem is with stronger institutions that can control discretionary spending, more transparency in the use of public funds, more public participation in the establishment of budgets and then in the control of spending.

        • Jota E,

          “being an oil country…we have no way out of populism” ????

          so let’s keep turning riches into rags, and sages into fools.

  17. Btw, Capriles is really not the leader of the opposition. Aveledo is, and he is doing a remarkable job of keeping the coalition together and functional.

    • Aveledo is a shameless liar. No one elected him to his position. We must get rid of him as much as we must get rid of our Ed Miliband.

      • So your case for calling him a liar is that he stated sometime before the 2012 primaries that the voting machines had been audited and you, and your informed contacts, deny these audits ever occurred.

        Does anyone on this blog know if in fact the machines had been audited? It is my impression that they had been audited, but it is just an impression.

        • Jota, there are degrees of auditing, like there are degrees of anything. And just as Boyd likes to stretch facts to suit his argument and importance, so, too, evidently does Aveledo for political expediency, when he says that the machines were “auditadas suficientemente”. To take that comment and stretch it into the epithet of a liar is a classic exaggeration, a condition that has affected Boyd in the past, as online records show of his hothead days.

          And speaking of degrees … the day I see that diploma in MA (merits), a degree designation, which Boyd claims to have gained in 2009, in Spanish American Studies, at King’s College – London, a “merit” designation unknown to that College’s administrators, who in turn require an undergraduate degree — which Boyd does not have — before undertaking any Masters degree, is the day that Boyd can, in all honesty, label another as a liar.

          Just sayin’ …

          • Hahaha, suggest you make a better hyperlink, Alek, as you try to deviate from the request:

            Evidence of that *Masters degree* of yours, Alek, is MOST welcomed, before you start calling another a “liar”, or by the same token, “definitely disturbed”.

            I’m not the one clamouring for public attention, pretending there’s nothing I don’t know, pretending I have a degree that I never earned. What else of yours is pretense?

            Just askin’ ….

          • Turnip trucks from Misongyny on the left. Conference on Fraudsters-and-their- obfuscations to your right.

            ” am I going to be there?” you ask. ” Yes. I’m introducing a guest speaker who’ll be discussing Confessions of a Torquemadas, or ‘Ahm gonna fry their heads in oil, but Ahm scared of the flames lickin’ my toes.'”

            ” what else? Well, I’ll be speaking in a seminar titled ‘After the first lie, or shoot! I thought I had it covered with a discussion on my innate intelligence and thesis.’ ”

            ” blankies, Pamonalek? Yes, they’re for rent for the simpering ones whose behavior is unacceptable in the civilized world, but who can’t take it when they get found out.”

  18. What is happening is that many of you have neither understood yet the nature of castro-madurismo (Chavez does not count anymore) nor of the human condition. Every relationship, husband-wife, lover-loved, parent-child, are clientelar Even Christ offered something for the future, and, this specially for you Quico, to some, a few of them, he cured their sicknesses so that they, and the others, would believe in him. You guys do not understand the world. The social programs of the civilized true socialist societies, like Scandinavia are no more than a social contract by which people that have less live with some decency.

    • > Impliying such a thing as a “social contract” even exist.

      > Assuming that swedes hadn’t tried to reform their Welfare State since the 90’s

      Oh God, all those commonplaces …

      • They do exist of course, in all stable democracies. Its existence does not imply for a second that people would not want to change it. But all stable societies are clientelar. Those who produce share with those that do not. In castro-madurismo the ones that produce, from books to ideas, have no place. Quico and others want the cart to get there before the horse!

  19. Although I share your views about the lack of an adequate oppo discourse, Kico, maybe its not a leadership issue but an ideological one. The opposition can’t get out of the “normal politics trap” without a long term goal. To idealize a social project leads you to coordinate words and actions. That applies to the leaders just as much as to the masses.

    Ideological vacuum and clientelism go hand in hand.

    • Ideologies are one thing and ideolatries are something else, the former are recipes for understanding things and getting things done , the latter are recipes for interpreting things so you can get drunk on certain high falluting passions , In Venezuela ideologies are something only tiny minorities of people actually worry about while ideolatries are what really energizes the masses. Ideologies are sometimes cannibalized by intellectual barbarians or intellectual illiterates to build with them emotionally intoxicating ideolatries which they can then use to concoct their own sectarian passions. Its what old witch doctors did to sell their wares, they added a bit of cocaine and hard licquor to their miracle medicine so people could imbibe them with good conscience.!!

  20. It seems odd to cite the election climate of the USA as an example of defeated political contender etiquette. In the US there is an expectation that every 4 or 8 years the presidency will definitely be recycled (possibly a dwindling expectation in Venezuela since the indefinite reelection amendment?). Candidates come and go and more or less win on a couple hot issues, their charisma and what stupid things they do or do not say to make headway with that odd phenomenon of swing voters. I think a more accurate comparison of the opposition’s struggle to unseat Chavismo may be in the idea of a third party (in the US) slowly gaining momentum that one day they will have a viable shot at the presidency, but it’s a long-con, it can’t happen with just one or two election cycles and it seems those third-parties keep failing to secure the voter base they may deserve by not making a commitment to propping up one viable, charismatic, likable candidate for the long-haul and hence in the USA the Republican-Democrat grip on the presidency will not be released anytime soon. Do you not think you have those qualities in Capriles?

    Either way, isn’t all of this speculation of the “right candidate” gaining supporters hinged on the idea that elections can be won fairly in Venezuela? If the CNE is in Chavismo’s pocket then what does it matter if even 100 % of the electorate votes for the opposition?

    • This is another example of you guys not understanding a thing about your country. It might just be that your country exists only in your heads.

      • Pilar, I do not represent most of the people who comment on this blog, I am not Venezuelan; I lived in Maracaibo for the better part of 2008 and 2009 and since leaving I am now merely a spectator of Venezuelan politics. The questions I asked are just that, questions based in my curiosity.

  21. After any election, a leadership review should be held, as a matter of internal party statute. Those who have done well in difficult circumstances may be retained for a second election, while those who have disappointed tend to be voted out. Quico’s point about a sunset clause is related to the absence of this process within the MUD.

    Concern about clientism validly refers to this point, as the leader who hands out goodies to his supporters may be able to artificially retain power within the party, just as this can be done in a national election, to artificially and corruptly maintain office.

  22. 1) The MUD is not a party, but an arbitration mechanism between parties. The parties select, through their internal by-laws, their own leaders and representatives to the MUD. No one is indispensable, but a change of leadership -a regular fact in normal politics- could be construed as a major crisis by the State meda. Perhaps, alas, there is a major crisis brewing.

    2) The MUD’s parties decided to hold primaries and/or agreements through which candidates for the 2012 electoral cycle were to be selected. Capriles emerged as the indisputable winner for the main candidacy in play. As such, for many he became the face of the Venezuelan opposition, here and abroad; today, he’s the most recognisable and likeable of all opposition politicians (think of Manuel Rosales by August 2007… A far cry…).

    3) I’m assuming that if the MUD exists through the next presidential election, there will be a primary (which might be uncontested, though I doubt that; there are a number of obvious contestants).

    4) Most of the examples cited by Quico are those of functioning parliamentary democracies, where the opposition’s leadership is formally recognised (and, usually, runs its course after an electoral cycle). There are exceptions, though: Churchill and Wilson remained leaders of their parties after important defeats. Moreover, some parties toil with their losing leaders until they win (in Venezuela, that worked with Copei (well, it did) while a promising opposition party who changed candidacies every now and then fizzled into irrelevance (URD). Again, this all worked in a “normal politics” framework.

    5) Clientelism can be seen, indeed, as a scourge. Quico assumes -perhaps rightly so- that this gifts come with a political favour price tag. It might also be a kind cultural expectative from potential voters (a good candidate, specially in certain zones, solves problems, gets higher-ups interested in plights, and so on (see Mardo, R.). Nonetheless, nothing that made Capriles the most voted opposition politician in Venezuela comes, mainly, from any clientelist strategy (it would have been impossible). It might be a show of poor judgement, But I can find instances of pseudo-clientelism the world over, and social assistance can be pictured as clientelism very easily (Quico made an insightful comment regarding washing machines a year or so ago; mattresses can be just as unattainable and life-changing).

    6) Whether Capriles or the MUD remain relevant in 2014 onwards, hinges both on the December results and the rational will of the parties (who assembled the MUD and could very well dissolve it). The strategy right now seems to focus around become an overwhelming majority, and as such the opposition might need to go “mainstream” for a while (the price for all of its squandered political capital). Did HCR became the most likeable and mainstream opposition politician because he was indeed mainstream, or is this merely an act? Whether or not is an act, HCR has had to shed some of the 2001-2005 notions, in which many of those who oppose the PSUV government are emotionally invested.

    7) Should HCR hone his own credentials for the future? It should not harm him. And who wouldn’t like to be Plato in Syracuse? We all have ideas we would love our leaders to hold as dear as we do.

    8) I believe most presidential contenders within the MUD might wait a few years or months to state their case as potential leaders. Again, with no institutional framework, they would be as much de facto as HCR is… And the same goes for the off-MUD opposition, which exists but does not seem to gain traction as of today (and whose ideologies would certainly unpalatable in these corners).

    (DISCLAIMER: Most of you know I’m the son of Ramon Guillermo Aveledo. Alas, I do not work with the MUD nor am I privy to any secret facts, cabals or arrangements, or seek political office of any kind. My opinions are my own, though I support Venezuela’s main organised opposition, and I have an excellent relationship with my father.)

  23. I think we need a new leader BUT of an underground armed movement focused on taking out rojos rojitos.
    It doesn’t matter who leads the mud/opposition, they have no chance under the circumstances to get into power.
    Is that what you wanted to say Quico? Because that that is how I feel…

  24. Toro, fully on board with the Capriles bashing . I’m close to being done with him myself.

    However the argument that in established democracies losers step a side is flat out wrong. Rajoy lost 3 times , and if I recall correctly Lula did too.

  25. Patronage Clientelism are twp names for the same thing , Cronyism is a close cousin phenomena and both involve the natural formation of circles of followers and pals who gather arround the figure of an influential person or group to exploit the spoils of power and who generally expect some kind of benefit from lending their personal or personified allegiance . to a particular caudillo or cause. Patronage – Cronyism comes from ancient rome , People back then didnt have ideologies or political parties so they created circles of patronage ( for example between freedmen and their former masters) which a powerful figure would attach to himself and use for political ends. The word Patron comes for the latin Pater or father and suggested a kind of erzast father son relationship between the figure of power and his followers , Even now in spanish we have the word padrino to represent pretty much the same thing . This ancient form of socio political relationshipship – organization has been going on for centuries , its part of our mediterranean cultural inheritance , its been the way the country’s politics and social life has worked for all its history , Institutions are too abstract dysfunctional and impersonal so people substitute them with patronage and cronyism . This has always been a country of roscas , of patronage systems When modern parties came into being they adapted to the old systems and kept them going , Its a deeply rooted feature of our cultural life . Venezuelan’s distrust with reason the operation of abstract impersonal institutions because for the most part they dont deliver , instead they have their rosca , their circle or netoworks of compadres or companeros or panas , in influential or powerful places that help them out because of a personal or quasi personal relationship between them . To do away with clientelism we have to create a system of institutions which work and which are acesible to everyone and change the mentality of ordinary people , the one they have developed over the centuries. Its a noble cause and one which certainly the opposition should strive to achieve , but it will take time !! and of course a lot of patience.!!

    • To do away with clientelism we have to create a system of institutions which work and which are acesible to everyone and change the mentality of ordinary people , the one they have developed over the centuries.

      uuuf, nirvana, especially after over a decade of entrenching the patronage route as de facto, and now coming to a neighbourhood near you, the comunas.

      otherwise, don’t change your style, BB just cuz someone wants a little more white space between groups of lines. I’m lovin’ the read.

      • Thanks Syd for your tolerance , I too think that Clientelism will be very hard to uproot because its part of Venezuelans traditional culture-mentality and particularly after Chavez reinforcement of the abuses of the institution.

        Still, whatever the difficulties , an honest attempt must be made to at least create islands of meritocracy in academia , in government , in business , where clientelism is barred and which later can spread their influence as they slowly become the model to follow.

        A bit of sprit d corp is de rigeur to consolidate the inner solidarity of any working group ,

        We are all familiar with the european ‘old boy networks’ not to mention Japan’s customs of corporate paternalism and how they tend to breed some forms of mutual patronage and cronyism. Its not just us , its everybody except that in Venezuela political patronage has taken a perverse and venomous form that suffocates the workings of civilized governance . !!

        • Bill Blass,

          Reform is hard, no doubt, but nothing that isn’t hard will produce any profound change.

          By following the easy, and natural course of events, we now have the gift of Chavismo.

          • As always , yours is the temperate voice of reason. I fully agree with your message, except for one thing , Chavismo is not a gift , its a …CURSE !!

  26. The question is indeed in order. Capriles should NOT be the uncontested leader of the ooposition forever. Not only that, there should be mechanisms in place for such leaders to step aside without shame. One thing is for sure, the government is doing the opposition a favor by removing Oscar Lopez (perhaps the most toxic individual, Ramos Allup type today in the MUD).

    • Just like the government did when they barred (toxic) Enrique Mendoza from being candidate for governor of Miranda state in 2008. Otherwise he would have come with his bag of tricks and would have sidelined Capriles and prevented him from rising to political stardom.

  27. Francisco we have to be pragmatic not dogmatic. I would love for Venezuela to have a free market like Chile tomorrow morning with no clientelism but that wont happen. Theres 2 possible economic models for Venezuela. The cuban one followed by Maduro or a center left one by Capriles. Apart from Capriles’s being a million times more efficient its democratic. As president he wont arrest right wing politicians, bar them from running or have them exiled. Theyll be free to run for office, organized themselves and present a candidate for the election after that. Theres something bigger at stake right now. Bringing democracy back to our country and ending the communist nightmare that we’re going through. Capriles is not the best solution for that, hes the only one. If you held a primary tomorrow he would win even more comfortably then last year. Lets get our country back first then we can organize into parties going from center left to right wing and have normal elections like a real country but this isnt the time for division…

    • Two things strike me odd. Where is there a right wing politician in Vzla? Really? Are there really fiscal conservatives or libertarians around here?

      And those two options are not real. Venezuela continues to have mas de lo mismo (clientelismo, dependencia petrolera). We should pursue a road out of that.

      Couldn’t we ask from HCR to have a more concise agenda? I don’t see anything wrong in challenging him. If we did could we help him improve his proposed plan?

      • No, there is not. One of the features of Venezuelan politics is the weak muscle of civil right wing ideologies. It’s said to be wrong that business owner’s interests should get representation in politics, which is why, in my opinion, a faction has repetitively resorted to corruption and manipulation in the past to get what they want from center-left politicians. So, as inexperienced in the political arena as they are, no wonder they fucked up in staging the 2002 coup. Nevertheless, the military type of right wing ideologies is another story. Some call it ‘Derecha Endógena’.

        We could ask HCR to have a concise agenda. The point is, shall we get an answer?

        • St Paul understood that he had to have a ‘formula’ in order to persuasively spread the message of Christianity as a new religion in a world of heathens. He expressed that agenda in a single simple phrase: “you have to be all things to all men” .

          What was true then in founding the Christian Religion is still true today in the realm of politics. This is now Capriles Job . In a climate of opinion as fractured as that of todays Venezuela.he has to be ‘all things to all men’ , i.e. he must be careful not to offend his own core constituency of die hard anti chavistas . ( which include many different shades of opinion) and strive to attract a portion of the former Chavista following to his cause .

  28. Capriles secured the best electoral result for the opposition in the Chavez era. Nobody else came close. There is nobody else in the opposition that comes close to his name recognition both domestically and internationally.
    I think polititians “step” aside really because they get pushed aside by better and more powerfull and popular leaders or by their party and right now the opposition has no better or more influentl leader. Has anybody even tried to challange his leadership within the opposition? No, and not for lack of ambition but because realistically nobody has the backing, recognition and quite frankly the determination to risk everything like Capriles did in the April elections. You have to remember a lot of people were calling for opposition to not even try or make any efforts for that election or saying Capriles was commiting political suicide and he went out there and gave all he has and came very close to winning. I dont agree with everything he says or does but, come on, this is Venezuela and in politics you need to play the game to beat the system. I don’t think him stepping aside would be be good for the opposition right now.

    • Certain someone thinks otherwise. Haven’t you realized Leopoldo López is more than willing to challenge Capriles the next time he gets the opportunity?

      • Isn’t Lopez, besides being handsome, a direct descendant of the almighty Bolivar? That has to count for something among those numerous Bolivar worshippers in Venezuela.

        Although, he is still barred from running for office, right? Speaking of that, wouldn’t Maduro and company just find some absurd made up reason to bar any up and coming popular oppo politician whom they found threatening in the least?

        • * Bullshit, there isn’t any Venezuelan politician in history who’s needed to show pedigree to become relevant.
          * Lopez’s barring expires next year.

  29. FT wrote this last April: “It grieves me to say it, because I have steadfastly resisted this conclusion over the years, but there isn’t. We didn’t choose clandestine opposition. The government chose it for us. And that’s where we are.” In my view “Entrega de enseres” beats “clandestine opposition” by a morena. I see it as a radical strategy by Capriles not to fall into the role the goverment chose for him. I prefer it to an exile government in.. Chile?

  30. “is there a statute of limitation on this guy’s leadership status? I realize we elected him to stand for election on behalf in last October’s election, and maybe we didn’t check the fine print carefully enough, but…is the plan just to spin out that mandate forever?”

    I agree!

    And handing out more mattresses ain’t gonna solve the problem!!!

  31. History teaches us that sometimes very flawed people achieve some good, very extraordinary things. I was thinking of the Lyndon Johnson as portrayed in Cantors 4 volume biography and the crucial role he played in passing the Civil Rights legislation (something that according to Cantor JFK was unlikely to achieve) . Also Vargas Llosa’s account of how Balaguer , the obsequious courtier of Generalisimo Trujillo manged to manouver the Trujillo family into giving up their hold on power in the Dominican Republic.

    • Bill

      Sorry to go off-topic here, but you brought up Vargas Llosa. Did you ever read his ‘The War of the End of the World.’? Just borrowed it from a friend, but have heard mixed reviews….

      • That’s one of his best novels and well worth the read , there is an historical angle and a religious anthropological angle that makes it even more interesting !! hope you enjoy it !!

        • Thanks. I look forward to reading it. I usually read nonfiction and try not to get into ‘heavy’ fiction unless I know it will be worth it. One only has so much leisure time, after all..

    • I find it fascinating when the counter argument is: “You don’t get it because you don’t live here, if you did, you would”. Take that to another level and it is “You don’t understand because you were not brought up in a situation of poverty, if you had, you wuld be on my side”. Instead of actually providing a real argument.

      So sad.

      • Rodrigo: We in this blog have used the argument against foreigners ( Chavista sympathizers) who never having lived in Venezuela try to interpret things usind their home country criteria, the only one they have ever known but which are totally inapplicable to Venezuelas own reality .

        I guess there is a window between total ignorance of a particular reality and too deep and obfuscating an inmmersion in it, that allows for a more accurate view of things .

        Intellelctuals instinctively seek to distance themselves from what they observe to understand it better but having no acquientance from it can also warp their view of what its like. I ve found that often having personally experienced certain things help many to really understand them better . working from a purely abstract knowledge of things sometimes can be misleading !!

        • When you see those foreigners “who never lived in Vzla” you can easily defeat their arguments with an explanation. Saying that they don’t understand because don’t live here is laziness. In some other cases is dogma, and the only refutation is to argue such a weak argument as “You don’t live here, thus you don’t know”

          • Sorry Rodrigo , I get you now , what youre saying is that , it isnt enough to dismiss someones reasoning by simply stating ‘you dont live here hence you dont understand’ but rather answer ‘because you dont live here you dont know that ……’ and then go on to give an explanation of why specifically their argument doesnt work !!

      • Rodrigo,

        Personally any attempt at countering an argument by disqualifying a person, in my opinion if counterproductive.Nobody can be the judge of another person’s ability to know something- we can only disagree using the logic, facts, and or experience that is unique to each of us.If we start disqualifying others then anybody can be disqualified based on something, and we lose the sense of any train of thought and the inherent reality we are discussing.Arguments will then proceed to disintegrate into ” I have more qualifications than you do”…

  32. Francisco, Unfortunately in Presidential Systems, the Presidents are elected by popularity surveys. Then to be a popular candidate in Venezuela, you need to do what Capriles is doing. If we really want to fix this issue then we should move to Parliamentary System (like Canada, Japan or Singapore among others).

    • Parliamentary democracy is tempting but… is no panacea. Most former British colonies have such systems, and they are no guarantee against graft, nepotism, populism or authoritarianism (see almost any 1930s parliamentary democracy in Europe, and how well they fared).

      Popularity is the measure of any democracy, and goods-giving will depend on the soco-economic level and aspirations of the voters. Any sort of tit-for-tat arrangement is common, sometimes more blatantly so: in Singapore, the HDB blocks where the long-ruling PAP loses in any given election, don’t get the same subsidies for repairs and maintenance.

      Moreover, if we get a first-past-the-post system, because of the distribution of districts and voters, given our “two-party” demographics, the PSUV would almost be impossible to beat. The Singapore’s PAP commands something between 55% and 65% of the national vote, and they get an overwhelming majority in their parliament.

      Ministers and the head of Government might become more accountable, true, and could be punished by the electorate somewhat (but, mind you, if Pedro Carreño can win an election, so could unpopular cabinet members in safe seats).

      The most revolutionary thing to change the political landscape in Venezuela would be to modify our mode of “production”. The fact that we had a relatively competitive democracy between 1958 and 1998 was a matter of institutional, yes, and a much more strict division of powers (the 1961 Constitution gave more power to Congress than any other since 1811). But we were a Presidential democracy, anyway.

      • Remember parliamentary democracies have evolved a lot in Europe. One example is Germany. It is not only about the war: the way in which the system was conceived with te Grundgesetz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Law_for_the_Federal_Republic_of_Germany
        was to avoid the errors of the past. And it has proven very well.
        One of the things is the 5% threshold.
        The other is the role of the president versus the chancellor or the checks and balances for guaranteeing that the Supreme Court cannot be manipulated so easily.
        Last but not least there is the evolution of the public media and the level of debate.
        This is something I have discussed with a couple of Spaniards: Hispanics are not used to debate AT ALL. Only now do we see some shy attempts at debates in Spain (very rudimentary) and in countries such as Chile or Colombia. But those debates are far far far away from what you would see in Britain or in Germany.

        The difference is quite dramatic. Even some well-educated, “liberal” Venezuelans and Spaniards I know feel uneasy about that degree of “fair combativeness”, where debates can really be fierce, pitiless, but they are carried out following rules.

        • Having Institutions that cannot be touched by the gladiatorial pugnacity of partisan politics, with its savage factionalism , with its perverse or corrupt manipulation of public opinion (sometimes so putty like and blind) is a great help in achiving a sane balanced form of governance .

          That means providing for ‘above the fray’ highly respected head of state figures ( like they have in Commonwealth countries and Europe ) , politically isolated meritocratic or technocratic institutions in the Army , The judiciary , the Civil Service , The Electoral System , the Central Bank and any Strategic presence of the State in Basic Industries .

          Democracy is the best of systems but it can be perverted and degraded by sectorial passions and made into an abolutely corrupt fetish . Democracy has its limits but we’ve made it into such sacred idol that we dare not recognize those limits !!

          Kepler’s insistence on having a free well protected media and a healthy forum for the open debate of public decisions is of course of the utmost importance .

        • On debate in general, perhaps what hispanic countries need are guidelines/rules that govern procedures. I’m familiar with but have never read a manual that’s often referred to — in northern latitudes: Robert’s Rules of Order.

          Then again, can you imagine ANYONE in the current government in Vzla, submitting to such an idea, let alone READING a manual produced in the EMPIRE?

          Inconcebible! The alternative would require a level of education, and/or civility, and/or a moral compass. Better to be slinging slurs without proof or back-up!

      • Actually, I would say a Parliamentary System is not just tempting, it’s absolutely compelling. The evidence of the Parliamentary System’s inherent superiority and better track-record is out there for all to see. One just needs to read up on Juan Linz, Fred Riggs, Arend Lijphart, Scott Mainwaring, Cindy Skach, John Gerring, Strom Thacker, Alfred Stepan, and so many more political science PhDs to see that the whole political science establishment worldwide actually thinks that Presidential Systems suck balls while Parliamentary Systems rock.

        I would totally recommend reading Juan Linz’s work — “The Perils of Presidentialism” in which he talked about the inherent flaws of the presidential system such as gridlock, the popularity contests that pass off as “elections” for the top spot and the numerous inefficiencies found in how the system works — or doesn’t. Here’s a link to it:


        Here’s another article worth reading… It’s an essay by the late Dr. Fred Riggs who built on Dr. Linz’s work and looked for explanations that would explain why the outlier among all Presidential Systems — the USA — seems to do “ok”, while all the other Presidential Systems in the world — particularly in Latin America, Africa, or the Philippines all totally suck.


        Understanding the inherent flaws of the Presidential System allows objective observers to then look for systems that have the opposite of those flaws.

        Take Gridlock, for instance. Gridlock is the result of the separation of the executive and the legislative branches. The Gringo press-release about it on paper is that “theoretically, separation of powers means that they can act as a check and balance against each other.” In reality, it results in slower progress, slower passage of key bills, slower decision-making, stalled operations, etc. The president can block whatever the legislature wants or the legislature can also block whatever the president wants.

        Quite often, countries with presidential systems would put up a mega-pork barrel fund that is designed to circumvent this problem of gridlock by allowing the President to have the power to allocate or disburse funds to legislators who cooperate with the President so as to buy their support. This then has the added side effect of institutionalized corruption and bribery.

        In a Parliamentary System, you have no such need for that. Why? Because the Prime Minister is necessarily the leader of the bloc in the legislature that commands an absolute majority of all legislative seats. Everyone in that party and/or coalition bloc is expected to go with the Prime Minister because they are supposed to be on the same team anyway, while the “check and balance” that exists in a parliamentary system is not one done through separation of powers, but through the Opposition and its shadow cabinet.

        The Opposition (the minority bloc in the legislature) will form what is known as a “Shadow Cabinet” whose members will be “Shadow Ministers” intended to attend all the same Ministry meetings presided upon by the official government minister for each ministry. For instance, the majority who form Government will have a Minister for Education who will head the Ministry of Education. Well, the Opposition will also have a “Shadow Minister for Education” who will follow the government’s education minister around in all his meetings, and is even expected to provide a counter-voice during meetings to give alternative opinions. That Shadow Minister will also take note of all the decisions and other details about how the Ministry is being run.

        There are Question Periods in which the Education Minister will be grilled by his opposition counterpart – the Shadow Minister for Education – who will bring up criticism about the decisions taken during those Ministry of Education meetings that the shadow minister attended. As Question Periods are in the public record and are televised, it is possible for anomalous transactions and/or wrong decisions to be exposed in public and for that reason alone, the quality of Cabinet Ministers in Parliamentary Systems always tends to outshine the quality of Cabinet members in Presidential Systems.

        The Prime Minister has an even harder Question Period… The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority bloc. But the minority bloc which is the Opposition gets its leader becoming the official Leader of the Opposition and every Question Period, the Leader of the Opposition collates information gathered from all the shadow ministers and grills the Prime Minister on issues, errors, operational mistakes, etc done by his entire cabinet and party. Naturally, whoever becomes Prime Minister must be intelligent, details-oriented, and a good speaker/debater, because his counterpart from the opposition — the Leader of the Opposition will also be the most intelligent, most details-oriented, and a good speaker/debater facing off against the Prime Minister.

        This is why you can’t ever have a George W. Bush becoming Prime Minister in a Parliamentary System. He won’t last.

        Presidents in Presidential Systems are shielded from such debates. Prime Ministers aren’t. They are always kept on their toes by the Opposition, and so they must be extremely capable and competent.

        There is also the fact that while a President must often serve out his entire term, even if people lose their trust or confidence in him, he continues on until the end of that term.

        In a Parliamentary System, a Prime Minister whom the people no longer trust may end up getting replaced if the majority in the legislature decide to withdraw support from him.

        It’s instantaneous, bloodless, and coup-less. No political instability, and it’s all within the way the Parliamentary System works.

        Lousy Prime Ministers can easily get replaced, Good Prime Ministers can stay on and continue as long as they continue to deliver positive results.

        In the Presidential Systems, single-term presidential terms mean that Good Presidents cannot run for re-election and thus continue the good long-term projects and programs they have started, and Lousy Presidents stay on within their term even if nobody likes them.

        Parliamentary Systems simply mean that to stay on, you have to be good and deliver, but if you’re lousy, out you go — instantaneously.


        Regarding popularity, the dynamics within Parliamentary Systems versus those in Presidential Systems actually differ.

        Presidential Systems that use a direct voting system (like everywhere else except the USA which uses an Electoral College) essentially have a one-dimensional popularity dynamic. Whichever candidate for president happens to be the most popular wins, end of story.

        But in Parliamentary Systems, the dynamics of popularity are very very different. It’s actually TWO-DIMENSIONAL.

        Two-dimensional because the way a person becomes Prime Minister is through a party or the formation of a coalition of his party and other parties. In fact, we need to get out of talking about individuals here because in a Parliamentary System, the Party (or bloc) takes centerstage, while the individual candidate is just a mere part of that.

        The primary electoral battles in a Parliamentary System are of Parties competing against other parties. Sure, you can have independent candidates, but those independent candidates can’t and won’t ever figure prominently to become high ranking cabinet members much less Prime Minister if they win. To actually have a chance, they’d need to be part of a party. But Parties will need to compete with others. How do they do that? They present their manifesto and their platforms. They present their plans and their intented projects. They present what they stand for. They show the people what they stand for and present to the people that they have a competent team of candidates who – if all win – will run the country much better than how other parties may do so.

        You thus have party A competing against party B, competing against party C, and so on and so forth.

        In the meantime, within those parties, the members are constantly competing against each other. Within a party, the members compete against each other so that the best members emerge on top, getting senior positions that would translate to them holding certain cabinet positions in the government if they won the majority, or hold shadow cabinet positions in the opposition if they ended up forming the minority. The best member becomes the leader. If they win as majority, that leader becomes the prime minister. If they only get a minority of all seats, then that leader becomes the leader of the opposition.

        Contrast the election dynamics between both systems, thus:

        1) Presidential: One Dimensional — popularity alone

        — Popularity of Candidate ALONE translates into votes. He who gets the most votes wins

        2) Parliamentary: Two Dimensional — platform popularity + party member competence

        — X-axis: Parties compete against each other based on platforms/issues. The more popular party gets its candidate winning

        — Y-axis: Members in parties compete against each other based on competence and skill. The more competent members rise to the top of their parties.

        * *

        By and large, my advice to everyone looking at this issue is to avoid assuming that just because things work in a certain way in a Presidential System, that necessarily means that they’ll work in the exact same way in a Parliamentary System. Remember, there are several changes in the overall dynamics that will occur and those changes alone will account for a lot of the improvement.


        By the way, Singapore is a First World Country thanks to the PAP, so whatever they do actually works. Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong, and Lee Hsien Loong became leaders of Singapore and were able to do what needed to be done to make Singapore the richest country in Asia according to GDP per capita precisely because of their Parliamentary System.

        How can Venezuela end up having a Lee Kuan Yew emerge who could do 30 years of uninterrupted economic development without resorting to military dictatorship and instead relying on an inherently democratic process of elections? Only a Parliamentary System can allow good Prime Ministers to continue on as long as they deliver, and instantly get rid of lousy prime ministers who don’t deliver or lose the trust and confidence of their colleagues and of the Public.

        Key takeaway:

        It is a consensus in the political science profession that Parliamentary Systems rock while Presidential Systems suck. Venezuela and the rest of Latin America plus everyone else relying on Presidential Systems continue to impede their own march towards progress because the Presidential System is inherently flawed.

        Why continue on using a flawed system when a less flawed system is available?

        • Taking your cue regarding less flawed systems, why not allow voters to optionally express their vote directly in every single decision where their proxies (i.e., representatives) are voting in their name. This option is currently used in stockholders meetings throughout the world and would prevent the kind of usurping of power that chavismo has so easily managed by undermining the democratic system’s representation flaws. This idea should be valid in parliamentary or presidential or any other kind of system where citizens are represented by elected officials.

          • Indeed, Orión, there’s a political science consensus regarding the benefits of Parliamentary systems, but for different reasons: some say presidencies become too inflexible and ultimately inoperative (and that checks and balances become cumbersome in policymaking), some argue they invite authoritarianism (and most authoritarian republics are, practically by default, presidential). Ultimately, we have to remember that a presidential system is a fictional historical compromise between a monarchy and and elective representative republic.

            Having said that, if you read my comment, I do not say that a parliamentary system is in and of itself a bad thing, just that is not a cure for all political ailments. There are a number of variables that provide for a sound and stable parliamentary democracy, which go beyond the institution itself: the distribution of regional power, intra-party discipline, political culture, bureaucratic autonomy, judicial autonomy, voting systems, nature and status of political cleavages, and so forth. (I’d say, to put it bluntly, that a political system remains democratic if it has democrats at its helm; and that curbing the power of the executive is always a good thing).

            A typical case in favour of your claim are the post-Soviet republics: the ones that started their transition effectively toppling the communist bureaucracy, went on to develop parliamentary regimes. The ones that didn’t, became presidential systems. But in the last ten years, for instance, the Ukraine and Georgia have developed authoritarian tendencies. And it is not alone in Europe: authoritarian parties have won pluralities or near pluralities in Greece, Hungary, and so on. Sure, as a region, parliamentary Europe is the leader in democratic liberties (especially if you consider the core of Western-Europe and regard the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as having “growing pains”), but given that that was not the case merely thirty-five years ago, it might be a case of correlation and not causation (a correlation, alas, that is almost lost if you veer outside Europe… Almost).

            I can say that, however, never in our republican history has a constitutional assembly touched the presidential system. Perhaps it is time to think outside the box.


            Regarding Singapore, I cannot say I prefer prosperity to political freedom . But I have neither, so…

  33. People of this fray, I salute ya’all. Boy, has this post brought up comments! 153 to this moment. I’ve read quite a number of them and I think most of the cards have been laid on the table, and now we are going round-and-round with not much new input. I go back to a comment I posted about 100 entries back when I wrote (more or less) that one of the encumbrances for a discussion like this to reach a significant portion of voters is language, political language. Much of what is discussed here comes from the realm of sociopolitics, political philosophy. Interesting erudit arguments that are not in the radar screens of the obstinate followers of chavocastrismo (or is it chimbocastrismo?). Their level of education is not enough to understand these concepts, they are not even interested in listening/reading them!! They have been trained to listen and pay attention to material offers from vote seekers and public officers (Remember “Cuánto hay pa’eso” ?). So if you are running for an election and have a diametrically opposed position to the chavista proposal you can not approach your craved-for voters with messages as many suggested in this discussion. YOU HAVE GOT to put in some clientelism, demagoguery, or else tu no vas pa’l baile, caballero !! It’s as simple as that. You’ve got to speak that class’s language, or at least some, whether you like it or not. YES, you must be a little hypocritical to season your betterment message so as to ring bells in their heads. It’s like going to a country whose language you do not speak at all. You start with universal signs, get some affirmative feedback that allows you to learn some words and so on; you do not try to communicate in YOUR language but rather in your audience’s. If you have lemmons you’ll have to prepare a lemonade… you can probably improve it later on by adding some cherries, a bit of Angostura Bitters, but it’s basically lemonade. So, we come back to Capriles’s mattresses: he’s got to offer them (or whatever other goods), and deliver if he wants to have a chance of winning. So long !

  34. Ex Torres a propos of the topic treated in this blog mentioned something about UCT’s in a message posted way back in the series . this is to direct his attention to a NYT article entitled ‘The Benefits of Cash Without Conditions’ by Tina Rosenberg in yesterdays edition which I think he will enjoy reading A related article apparently was also published in the NYTM and in This American Life .


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