#LaSalida is not a strategy


San-CristobalA few people have been asking Caracas Chronicles to say what they think of the current wave of protests. CC does not have an “editorial” opinion, but for what it’s worth, here are five points I would like to make … from my own personal perspective.

  1. God bless the students. Their nerve, their idealism, and their enthusiasm is contagious. They do what most of us “keyboard activists” won’t or can’t do, so kudos to them. Having said that …
  2. While there are plenty of reasons to protest, there does not seem to be an agenda for the current wave. #LaSalida is not a strategy, it’s a hashtag! Do they want Maduro to resign? What about the National Assembly? What about the courts? Do they want a military coup? Are we headed to a Constitutional Assembly? What. is. the. strategy? How does #LaSalida actually become a reality? When these sorts of things work, it’s usually because they are triggered by something in particular, and the trigger becomes a focal point, the rallying cry from which other things flow. There are a number of potential triggers: the Law of Fair Prices, for one, or the Spear murders. But none of these is the rallying cry, none is seen as the objective unifying the protests. Leopoldo López says there is one objective: “la mejor Venezuela.” However, that is his governance plan, it’s not an objective! When the leader of the movement seems so confused about the difference between strategy, tactics, and objectives, you have a duty to be skeptical. So far, it seems like the protests are all catharsis. Reading this interview with a ULA student leader, who vows to remain on the street until the regime falls, I get the distinct feeling that we are headed right into a brick wall.
  3. The protests have not been massive … yet. It remains to be seen how many people show up tomorrow. That, more than anything else, is the reason why the media has not paid enough attention to them. Yes, what is happening to the students is not pretty. Yes, Leopoldo López’s tiff at Maiquetía Airport was illegal. But this is no Tiananmen … yet.
  4. Not a tweet goes by without someone praising the protests while blasting Capriles at the same time. Capriles has a point in that he doesn’t see this as being the right moment for massive protests. We lost an election a few months ago, and as Luis Vicente León rightfully reminds us, we cannot simply assume we are a majority. And yet Capriles, by raising these important questions, becomes everything from a traitor to a pariah in the eyes of some. If we can’t cordially disagree with someone on our own side, what kind of message does that send to chavistas? Have we given up on the idea of convincing the other side?
  5. Both Quico and I have been saying that the events in Venezuela do not depend on the opposition any more. Our leadership’s only immediate task is to raise their voice, yes, but remain united, a viable alternative should chavismo implode. The street protests, along with the public bickering they are engendering, are creating a false sense that our actions can undo the regime, while at the same time casting doubt on the opposition’s unity. Some people think the opposition remains united, but regardless, I fear that the “impression” of disunity can cause a lot of harm. This makes the current wave lose-lose in my opinion. Then again, these things can snowball quickly, so I may be proven wrong – here’s hoping!

Alright, blast me away in the Comments section, but this is what I honestly think.

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  1. “we lost an election” -I am sorry did we loose a free and fair election? In fact, did we even loose a rigged election? That Juan is the problem.

  2. Hi JC,

    The main issue I have with Capriles is that he does not have a clear message. With Leopoldo and Maria Corina at least I understand a message that is more or less “we can’t wait till the next revocatorio or the elections in 2018. We need to pressure the government to quit one way or the other.”

    With Capriles I *think* he wants to say “while we have a worthless and irresponsible government, we have to accept that Maduro won the last elections and as believers in democracy, we are going to get organized for the next elections in 2018. In the meantime, let’s show results in the regional and local governments that we currently hold and call out the government on all their inefficient and corrupt practices. I invite you join me in building a community-based movement from now till 2018 so that we can be ready to win and change the country’s future.”

    While Leopoldo and Maria Corina may be replaying 2002, at least their message is clear or at least clearer than Capriles’ message. I don’t have a flipping clue of what Capriles wants from the opposition supporters. I only know that he keeps saying that God’s timing is perfect and he likes to take selfies when finds mustard in the supermarket. Until he comes out with a clear message (maybe my fantasy message mentioned above could do the trick) I think he is a true guabinoso and not the leader we need.

    • I, too, have lost my patience with HCR — even before his selfies in the supermarket, where he – Oh, sorpresa – discovered shortages. As well, several televised messages left me scratching my head. How could someone who grew up in a highly media-oriented family not demand better production values from his information officers? How could HCR not demand better preparation of himself, prior to his delivery of messages?

    • “The main issue I have with Capriles is that he does not have a clear message.”

      I think you are confusing the concepts of “clarity” and “length”. You have beautifully summarized both messages yet only one of those hints at actual tactic and strategy. (Hint: it is not the “clear” one, “one way or another” indeed).

      • Maybe my comment was a bit off message and misunderstood. My comment was not really focused on the impact that #LaSalida mobilization efforts may or may not have. It was more about who in the opposition is being clear and open about their message. Capriles has never actually articulated the message I wrote above. This is why I call it a fantasy message! I think that is what he is trying to convey but he has not actually said it. I think he has not said it because he would probably loose support from the hardcore opposition who do not want to wait till 2018. This may be a smart tactical move, but I think it is dishonest and does not help build a political movement in the long term.

    • This isn’t about Capriles. It’s not about supporting anyone who has a different strategy from him. Unless, that is, the real strategy is #LaSalidaDeCapriles, in which case LL and MCM are being disingenuous.

      • A lot of what you say is right. But that defense of Capriles comes across a bit cheap, he was the one throwing punches at ll and mcm, and it came across more as resentment than common sense and responsible leadership.

    • “we can’t wait till the next revocatorio or the elections in 2018. We need to pressure the government to quit one way or the other.”…This uncanny similar to what happened in 2002.

      And the results will be the same.
      More desolation in the opposition supporters.

      I do not know if Capriles has a waiting strategy or is still the leader of the opo, I’m not sure the post is about Capriles.
      But until the chavistas, the majority, does not go out ‘a la caracazo’, these public gatherings would probably not cause the government to fall.

    • I think HCR just gave up the whole thing, just that he does not know it yet or in the best case he does not want to pass the torch out of hope of recovery. In any case he got a lot of flak when he lost support to demonstrate the fraud of the presidential election, got more flak by using the Governors and Mayors as plebiscite against Maduro and certainly crashed and burned with his inability to capitalize the current situation. Not to mention that period with the “beard”.

      Former president Rafael Caldera was certainly skillful to build his case back at the Caracazo to appeal to the people and putting the government as evil and unsentimental on people’s hardships. HCR seems to just focus on telling Maduro to “do your job”, “fix the country”, “tienes el pais hecho leña”. Please…that it is incredible soft for Maduro and his cronies.

      HCR is not even trying to exploit the tangible separation between Maduristas, Chavistas and Cabellistas (sound funny when you type it). He just touches on the sale of the country to the Cubans and the pervasive presence of Cuban intelligence teams reigning over our military cadre. There is a completely laid back approach to the rampant corruption at all levels including visible high ranked officials, how easy has been to steal $30,000,000,000 and HCR has just put on lite-out-of-the-weeds generalizations of corruption and boliburgueses.

      Now, the paramilitary groups that are killing on top of the crime killing which by far a lot of killing for a country that is not officially at war. Our people has traded a lot for an almost guarantee that a bullet (strayed or purposely aimed) will hit you while making 4 hrs line to buy half a chicken.

      Maduro just had had it too easy, too soft, and too uncompromising opposition.

      It seems Chavistas/Maduristas are right… HCR is just too bourgeois to understand the righteous fight for the survival of what is left of our Country, thus unable to mount an effective opposition against a government that is even losing its own people.

  3. Voy a comentar en español para ser claro. Estoy de acuerdo con Juan y otros analistas que, como él, observan que la oposición está en desventaja pues no ha logrado conectar con las masas chavistas. También entiendo el punto sobre la falta de claridad en el objetivo. Lo que Juan obvia en su análisis es que los procesos sociales no siempre siguen una lógica lineal ni tampoco dependen al cien por ciento de un plan estratégico. El descontento, particularmente el descontento de la clase media, está allí. Será suficiente para acelerar un cambio de régimen? Probablemente no. Pero no descarto un efecto multiplicador de la protesta si el gobierno no atiende algunos problemas urgentes, especialmente el de la comida y la salud.

    • No protests of which the spokepersons are MCM and LL will have any multiplicating impact other than in opposition circles. I have nothing against either of them and I hope I am wrong, but that is just how I see it.

  4. JC seems to have a clear view on the ultimately futility of the street strategy , probably correct on that one , and yet it can be useful to help rally oppo forces which feel dissapointed at the passive stance of part of the leadership and want to vent a bit of their impatience on the streets , May help keep the fires of oppo enthusiasm burning , The thing to watch out for is not to create any unrealistic hopes that this strategy will lead to a sure regime change because as the promise of success fails it can be very demoralizing , One must look it as an expression of disattisfaction which however futile creates an impression which can galvanize oppo hearts . The other thing to consider is that many of these protests are really ‘fishing expeditions’ , you dont have a clear target but cant discard that one will unexpectedly appear creating opportunities to advance the oppos position .!! Of course I know nothing of these things so that Im really at a loss to know for certain what benefits these street strategies might bring !!

    • “Opposition is getting tired of Capriles.”

      What does this actually mean? What exactly is the “opposition” tired of? Is he on TV all the time? Has he been spamming phones over there? Or is the “opposition” tired of waiting for Capriles to hulk out and overthrow the government single-handedly? Tired of waiting for Capriles to give them that exhilarating feeling of “ahora si!” that they haven’t really felt since the early morning of 4F ’92?

      Over the past couple of weeks Lopez has been saying the very things that the “opposition” had wished Capriles said. Yet words are not magic and the government stands. But let’s blame Capriles’ “frenazo”. Let’s remain blind to the actual numbers and remain in a fantasy world where chavistas are a small minority.

      • My three cents:
        1. Capriles is now what Carlos Ortega was in 2002…somebody to blame because thing do not happen “ahorita!”
        2. Nobody have a clear message because the situation is so complex that everybody is “like pajarito en grama” and it is very difficult to focus on one thing!
        3. The government has successfully change the goal of the protest by only putting few students in jail and no let Leopoldo get into a flight…the initial message was the crime rate…now is send free the “4 gatos” that you put in jail and poor Leopoldo he could not go to Tachira.

        I am sorry but the only way that this will work is if millions protest with one voice, with one message and the message remain the same even when thousands or millions got to jail. The government will use violence in small focus to capture the attention and deviate the message…they are experts on this….so please do not step on the peine!

  5. These protests are a result of scarcity,crime,inflation and oppresion. It’s a boiling point, it will explode, it will end in nothing(like all Venezuelan protests) and nobody will remember it by the next Barca´vs Real Madrid game.

  6. I’ll step in to defend Capriles, to an extent. My view is that the guy’s main job is doing, not saying, he is the governor of Miranda. And this is important, because chavismo is stepping up on the rhetoric of the oppositiom being even worse, no volverán, etc. And when the time comes the strongest arguments are going to start with “Mira que en Miranda tal cosa” and “Mira que Capriles pudo tal otra”. The guy has an incredibly tough job to do. Is this an argument for him to step down from leadership and focus on his governorship, maybe. But he needs the support of all of the opposition in doing his job. The gov is doing lots and lots to make his life impossible, it’s ridiculous that the opposition might be doing the same.

    I recognize there’s a big risk, if the situation turns so dire that Capriles loses all capacity to execute then it could be game over. But if someone has the energy and determination is him.

  7. I also think that as HCR focused on Miranda (as he ought to), his national leadership status began to wane. For me, it didn’t help that he decided to go public with thoughts like “I wouldn’t have devalued the currency” (really HCR??!)

    And that void (of leadership) wants to be filled. It may be that this initiative is a consequence of an internal need for elections

    A big problem with the opposition is the lack of strategy. The only things opposition parties coordinate semi-efficiently is electoral tours, news conferences and public demonstrations. Remember MUD playing dead while the Cadakazo played out? Remember MUD playing dead with December announcements? Remember MUD’s inability to react to the changing reality of El Gato Briceño running against Chavismo in Monagas?

    MUD members are mostly united solely in their opposition to Chavismo. Off the top of my head, the only social issue MUD has tackled somewhat effectively, with a proposal, is the Gun Control Bill. Otherwise, PJ has a First Job Bill proposal though I haven’t seen anyone else sponsor it. I don’t recall any MUD proposed bill to deal with drugs or drug trafficking, teen pregnancy, female discrimination, civil unions or marriage for LGBT couples, irresponsible fatherhood, and any other issue that could bring widespread support (or even just show where they stand on some topics besides opposing chavismo).

    So this is MUD, being MUD, for whom either somethings get done without thinking them through or nothing gets done at all.

  8. I think people should be protesting, there is a lot to be mad about, shortages, violence, cadivi, trash, pare usted de contar. I just think that we shouldn’t do it under the #lasalida flag. We should be preparing ourselves for the upcoming legislative elections (one year is more than enough), now is the momment to convert voters, I fear we may just loose them.

  9. Excellent post, yes we don’t have fair election, we don’t have a lot of things, and that is the reason #la salida is not an strategy…Where is it? or everything magically would change if maduro resigns? About Capriles, why wasting time even talking bad about him, instead of using that time in getting a PLAN …just because 4 or 5 people write in Aporrea writes against Maduro doesn’t mean anything, for that matter just see the video where the lady calls “escualida no es TU problema”to the woman trying to “wake up”people on a line for milk! Yes zit is not easy…but the protest has to come with something more…not betting everything you got in student’s protests! Diversify the portfolio!

  10. The regime is brittle. It looks hard, but if you tap it, it could shatter spectacularly.

    How brittle is it? How hard do you have to tap it before it shatters? It’s impossible to say beforehand.

    The regime is also aware that it’s brittle. It has strong incentives to disuade people from tapping it hard – or, indeed, at all. It will respond disproportionately to any tap because it also doesn’t know where its shatter point is. Brittleness builds in authoritarianism…but rising authoritarianism also increases brittleness.

    This dynamic is unstable. The more authoritarian the regime becomes, the softer a tap it will eventually take to shatter it. The more brittle it becomes, the more heavy-handed it gets to avoid getting tapped.

    I’d say how long this escalation goes on is un-knowable a priori. What we do know is that a lot of kids are going to have to spend a lot of time in some truly horrible jails so we can all find out.

    • I quite agree. I feel horrible for the kids. There will be some truly ugly things happening behind closed jail cells. Do we really want to go down this path,…now? Or wait for a more unifying moment in the future?
      I dunno. I dunno.

    • Very, very well said. The regime will probably err on the side of increasingly harsh restraint, leading to even greater resolve on the other side, eventually leading to a hopefully successful conclusion, with currently unpredictable timing. With a strategy or not, the current street efforts, in my opinion, can only help in the long run.

      • My thoughts exactly. As lovely as the brittle theory may be. it doesn’t stand up in the wash, when considering the real overlords of the Venezuelan experiment, and how long these overlords have been in “bizniz”.

      • You know, FT is still the ever optimist! Come spend some time in Miami and I will introduce you to folks who will tell you about brittle Cuba!

        • I live in ground zero doralzuela. Venezuelans and Cubans in the know see things a lot different. I defer to those in country but don’t come around here talking about brittle when you don’t know Cubans.

    • Brittle?

      Last time I saw, chavismo still had diminishing but plentiful ammounts of the three “P” of substantial-fundamental power in Venezuela -and everywhere else-: Pueblo, Plata y Plomo. Maybe I was not paying attention enough.

        • From today, we can surmise a few things:

          – We’re woefully unprepared for a media blackout.
          – The Armed Forces seem in full support of the government.
          – Protests are A-OK if there’s no violence. And we cannot contest violence as of now.
          – Political party leadership has no authority over small but significant autonomous groups, either organized (the “colectivos”) or disorganized (the students who remained at Candelaria after the march had officially finished, and have continued protests elsewhere).
          – There was little clarity regarding the results of the events.

  11. Have to agree with JC on this one…this “movement” makes political gallineros like the one happening in Thailand right now seem focused and carefully planned in comparison.

    Let’s say that the premise is that Maduro, as head of the executive, should resign because he hasn’t been able to deal with inflation/shortages/crime/etc…what would be the constitutional mechanism activated in the (beyond unlikely) case that happens? Would we go to elections under the same unfair circumstances, with say…Diosdado as the candidate of a fired up chavista mass versus a fractured opposition(LL or MCM vs. HCR…and possibly one or two more zamuros around)? Who actually thinks we could pull a win there?

    Key points to consider are:
    -Maduro and Co. are obviously willing to burn the ship and go down with it before accepting their mistakes and rectifying.
    -The military (the only entity that could override this or that majority) seems more interested in keeping their chanchullos for the longest time possible than in “hilos constitucionales” or that rare bird, “soberania”
    -The international community would hardly care one bit. We’d be a rather uninteresting addition to an already long list of nation-states in similar situations.

    Coming from someone writing comfortably on his keyboard from Singapore, I am aware of how these thoughts will sound to most people. I just hope that if the energy (and lives) of brave young people are to be spent in this kind of escapade, it is not done in vain…

  12. Maduro announced on TV this evening that the Chavistas would have their own marches tomorrow… in the same locations as the Opposition. Completely aside from how irresponsible this is, we now have the stage set for conflict and violence, which will be blamed on the Opposition.

  13. I havent made up my mind on what exactly is going on but the other day I read an interesting take on things. It went something like this: the Capriles/Maricori-LL split is part of a “carrot-stick” strategy. As in, knowing the crisis is weakening the government, the extremist wing of the opo (LL-Maricori) is going to apply pressure on the Gov, while Capriles remains a figure at the sideline of the protests. The idea here is basically is to push the Gov into a discussion table (not sure what would be the topic) while Capriles can be the figure that bridges both sides of the divide, if and when the Gov decides it had enough. If not, pressure resumes.

    I see a couple of cracks in the theory but it somewhat makes sense of the split, though it could be an example of the author trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because he prefers that version of reality.

  14. The problem I have about “convincing” the other side is that it has been done, yet now it seems that it is done by saying how terrible Maduro’s government is when comparing it to Chavez’s, without criticizing the latter. It was still a horrible period. And some people don’t react even when a bad situation is rubbed on their faces.

  15. Why protest when there is such risk to those few brave citizens who do? Why not wait until Venezuela implodes from within.

    1)There’s always danger when protesting against an oppressive government. It’s happened in the Ukraine, Russia, Cuba, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and China. Even in democratic countries like Turkey and the United States it can be dangerous, at times, to protest (for instance in the US: WW1 Veteran’s Bonus’s March, the long fight against segregation, Vietnam protests).

    2)The Chavista’s have worked hard to remake the Venezuela Army into their own image. Chavista indoctrination is daily, fortified by promotions. And those officers who don’t tow the Chavista line are canned or forced, by continually being sent to terrible duty stations and not given promotions, to retire.

    Then there is the efficient Cuban military intelligence overseeing the Venezuelan army. They set up many different layers of spying networks within the military. Enlisted men are recruited to spy on their comrades. No one knows who to trust.

    And the drug infested elements of the army mean to maintain their dominance.

    3)Outside the army there is the private Chavista militia, along with thousands of gun toting criminals who need the Chavista regime, to stay in business.

    So if positive change cannot come from inside then these piecemeal protests are necessary. That is because they keep the opposition’s momentum alive, in the news, and prevent the opposition from being intimidated out of existence.

    I now digress, probably even further, but anyhow, since the outside world has not come to Venezuela’s aid, Venezuelan’s must go to them.

    And the world-renowned humanist, Lula, has made possible two outlets for the Venezuelan opposition-The Pyrrhic victories that he won for Brazil: the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. He has presented the Venezuelan opposition with pure gold.

    How could Brazil have been so stupid, with these two major events on the table, to shit on its neighbor. How could it support an illegal presidential election and allow its neighbor’s citizens to lose their freedom?

    When the Venezuelan opposition hammers home to the world, before, during, and after the World Cup that Brazil does not respect human rights, hopefully the world will take notice. Possibly some South Amercian Countries may regret their stance in supporting the illegal election. Probably not. Then Venezuelans have nothing to loose by illustrating to the world that the South American Continent is heading in the wrong direction.

    Of course how this is to be accomplished is another story. Maybe not possible, could be a dead end, but instead of waiting for failure to save Venezuela, why not figure out how to use these events to make the molecules move in a better direction.

    • Stuart, excellent comments on the FANB. Not sure about Brasil…they shit on the US too canceling state dinner and a very big contract with Boeing worth over $4B. That contract was important. We sent the USAF down there twice for exercises and VP Biden even went there to seal the deal. A deal that was strategic to keeping Brasil in US military orbit. Brasil looks after itself. Yes we tapped Dilma….no excuse. Payback is a bitch.

  16. One regime tactic is to demonize the opposition and then invisibilize the considerable strenght and size of its popular support , The message they pounds is that the oppo is made up of a small gaggle of oligarch groups in cahoots with sinister foreign anti patriotic interests . No recogntion is made that close to 50%of people are oppo ( even if sometimes some of them are too lazy to vote ) . Their mantra is that the great bulk of ‘the People’ are unconditional regime supporters and that therefore they are entitled to do anything they want . Anything that gives a lie to his message is harmful to them , The highly visible presence of oppo protests in the streets is thus something that hurts them , their carefully crafted message that the regime counts on the mass support of most of the population which feel very happy with their lot . So in that sense promoting street protests hurts the regime and at the same time calls attention to the presence of a force that can attract widespread support from an irate and dissatisfied population , which can have a good effect not only on oppo morale but on soft proto chavista fence sitters who maybe are not happy with things or the regime but dont believe there is any alternative. The danger is in overplaying the expectation that this is by itself a regime changer. because thats hardly the case , when people expect too much and are then dissapointed the effect on their morale isnt good . Capriles by making himself appear the reticent opponent of street demonstrators makes the regime careful not to attack him too much for fear that then the oppo street protesters and those that lead them might sweep the support of oppo forces which of course they must try to avoid , so it probably stays the hand of its persecution against Capriles .
    Also if they attack the protest with great show of violence they create martyrs which help raly the oppo forces still more , so they have to be careful about that . The street tactic has its merits provided its played right ..

    • It might not be a strategy, but it’s working. The enemy is confused, scared and unable to focus solely on the solution of the myriad clusterfucks it faces right now.

  17. I agree with most agree with most of what Juan is saying. The #lasalida movement seems really improvised and I fear that with a lack of clear next steeps it will lead to demobilization. Nonetheless there is a moral imperative to be out there.

    • Juan Cristobal, I understand that in your point of view, you don’t see “the strategy” in all the protest, but what about the repression we have witnessed in the last few days, have you seen that? What about the information black out? Have you heard of it? What about the international awareness and people in other countries just realizing what is going on in Venezuela? Have you noticed it?

      Now, I´m going to talk as an engineer to make an analogy. It´s true, some projects need to have the conceptual, basic and detailed engineering to start the construction phase, but there are other kind of projects where you only have the concept/basic ideas, from where you start building foundations and work on the details as you progress in the project. These kinds of projects are very common, especially in countries like Venezuela, where you need to adapt to so many changes or curve balls.

      Don’t you think that this movement of protest is creating a momentum and taking us out from the inertia that the MUD have taken us? We have 2 options: a) wait until we work on the bases and build all the concept, basic and details on how are we going to change thinks in Venezuela ….by 2019 or b) #lacalle

  18. I read this today and really like it.I have thought this for years.:

    Venezuela no necesita marchas, no debemos marchar del Punto A al punto B, necesita que se termine de paralizar lo poco que está funcionando para que la gente entienda que es una EMERGENCIA.
    Tenemos que salir a la calle y quedarnos ahí, trancar las autopistas, avenidas y que no haya tránsito, que los que son obligados a trabajar, tengan excusas para poder salir también a unirse. Hay que DESPERTAR a los que están dormidos.

    El que decida salir mañana a la calle, debería tener presente que es PARA QUEDARSE, no para farandulear ni apoyar a un político, si no es así, NO NOS VAN A PARAR BOLAS.

    Que DIOS nos acompañe.


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