The Peace Talks Conundrum

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it says peace, with flowers, it must be true then.
it says peace, with flowers, it must be true then.
it says peace, with flowers, it must be true then.

In the middle of a heavily repressed state of civil unrest that has been both magnified as a continued coup and minimized as a handful of trouble makers not worth missing a holiday for, Maduro launched his National Peace Conference. The conference was of course forcefully  broadcast by every TV and radio station. In this conference, not a single one of the key stake-holders attended. If the goal is to achieve peace, then this is a terrible start. But of course, it is not peace what the government seeks – it is all a PR matter.

On the government side, the PSUV Troika, the President, the President of the Supreme Tribunal and the President of the National Assembly, among other lesser bureaucrats.  The Minister of Interior and Justice and the General Prosecutor did not attend. On the opposition side a a couple of deputies, a mayor, and two major businessmen: Jorge Roig from Fedecámaras, and Lorenzo Mendoza from Polar.

No victims. No political leaders. No students.

What makes me so frustrated is that dialogue is the only way out, but dialogue must be sincere, and it has yet to be. Just a few days after this conference, 41 students were detained for protesting.

If honest dialogue is what the government wants, then they should bring it to a parliament geared for that or perhaps, appoint a national unity government.

Instead, what we saw was a show. It was the Troika looking for a picture to show Maduro’s “magnanimity.” And in this tasks both Roig and Mendoza were useful fools.

First, these guys are nothing but symbols. The first represents private interest, while the second represents a brand. Polar is not even close to being the most important company in the country, but it does have brand recognition. Chavismo’s elite has made sure that both Polar and Fedecamaras are seen as the root cause of all evils, has blamed them with no evidence for causing the people all kinds of perils, insulted them, and demonized them. In spite of all that, these two fools go along and lend themselves for a photo op, not for peace.

What makes me even more frustrated are the demands from the students to willfully participate on this show: a debate with Maduro on national TV.

Dear students: let me give you some advice. You will be conceded your meeting on national TV, and be sure that the setting will be such that your probabilities of success will be next to zero. Because like with Roig and Mendoza, you will get a few minutes, while the media hegemon will be blasting the government’s version 24/7.

And so, with no clear prospects for peace, with no actors willing to bog down and engage in peace, the violence continues. It continues in the form of physical repression and verbal aggression. As Barrera Tyszka brilliantly puts it:

“The repressive actions we have seen these weeks its on its [chavismo’s] speech. There, they sum 15 years of verbal violence that power has exercised against diversity. That body of words that has dominated the official language for years. That sign of chavismo, the fist that repeatedly hits an opened hand, is expressing itself today in a natural way trough the actions of the National Guard. We have to turn them into a soothing lotion. Hit them with the fist. Hit them with the helmet. Hit them with the gun. The deserve it. They are escuálidos. They have no fatherland. They are murderers.

I am going to hit you hard and without mercy, but I am going to talk about love. Power’s language seems incoherent and confused, its statements make no sense. But they legitimize day by day what their mortal, direct actions tell us. It can’t be a dialogue in Miraflores while there is deafness in the streets.”

And it is all logical. It is a show to maintain governance with next to zero concessions.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Even if there is dialogue, it’s not going to be honest. It would only happen if the government gets cornered. But I’m an advocate that if there is going to be dialogue, it must be to decide how many years in jail will this combo spend.

  2. I’m on the camp that the opposition should attend the summons, and then make their demands explicit right in Maduro’s face, making it clear no negotiation will commence until Lopez, Simonovis, the students, etc are released and the rest of the conditions are met, and only then would negotiations commence.

    I fear, our case gets weaker if we demand dialogue and then refuse to attend when summoned.

    I don’t advocate demobilizing protests, or giving any semblance of the talk being an agreement in itself. Some “in your face gestures” could include designating LL as one of the negotiators, or demanding each victimized student get a chance to testify on national TV about the tortures they suffered. Something like that. But if you call for dialogue and someone invites you, you attend. I see no reason not to repeat the list of demands to Maduro’s face.

    Mendoza and Roig HAD to attend. They are not politicians, their agenda can’t be set by MUD or the students, and they have to show they aren’t enemies of the people, but rather victims of Giordanomics. Had they failed to attempt they would have given crdibility to the claim that student protests are really shams promoted by businessmen. Remember their goal isn’t changing presidents, their goal is changing economic policy, if they get overtures for policy change the responsible thing for them to do is attend.

    The Peace Conference is a bluff. I say we call it.

    • OK. It is not the first meeting Mendoza had with Maduro. One occurred last year. No progress was made. I am not against them meeting. By all means they should meet. I am against them participating in a show.

      And the thing is that it is not poker. It is about strategy. Who was better off after the meeting? Maduro et al or civil society? I feel it was the first.

      • You said “By all means they should meet”. I think we agree. But I’ll elaborate just to be on the safe side, it might be we do agree albeit only partially.

        I strongly believe that business should not engage in politics, and that politics is only for the citizens (and residents to a limited extent).

        I think the same holds true for other non-partisan organizations or institutions. If the government summons:
        – the Engineering Guild for a conference on housing or infrastructure, they should attend and expose their point of view without any unnecessary concession.
        – the Medical Academy or the Medical Federation for a conference on healthcare, they should attend and expose their complains and demands without having to kowtow.
        – Labor unions to discuss work conditions, salary, employment, unemployment, etc. they should go and make their demands heard.

        Political parties and private citizens, on the other hand, they get to do politics. They get to chant for or against the government, demand authorities’ resignation, pledge loyalty, put conditions, and any other form of political expression and action.

        You also said “I am against them participating in a show”

        It’s inevitable that pictures of Mendoza and Roig are going to go public, no matter the format used to discuss the economy with the government. I think it is better that we got to hear them complain of Giordanomics, rather than just getting the smiling picture in a SIBCI article detailing how the “conclusions” from the behind-closed-doors-meeting are: Maduro is president, the will of the majority shall be respected, and this is a sovereign fatherland.

        • The thing is that you are right. If it was obvious it wouldn’t be a conundrum. Now, could you address the questions I postulated?

          Who was better off after the meeting? Maduro et al or civil society?

          I rephrase it. Do you think Mendoza and Roig got something meaningful out of this meeting?

          Rephrase it again. Do you think that what Roig and/or Mendoza said will steer in a positive direction what’s happening in Venezuela?

          Again, in principle I agree with your arguments. But in terms of real politik. Not so sure.

          • “Do you think that what Roig and/or Mendoza said will steer in a positive direction what’s happening in Venezuela?”

            Fair enough.

            Well… insofar the Economic Truth Commission, proposed by Mendoza was welcomed by the government, I expect the result of said commission to be:
            – The already implemented suspension of the faithful compliance bond for CENCOEX dollars http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/economia/gobierno-promete-facilitar-dolares-y-revisar-costo.aspx
            – Some more urgency on SICAD 2, otherwise known as foreign currency sanity
            – Updating some long freezed prices (some haven’t been updated in 3 years), like cheese, milk, chicken, etc.
            – Paying foreign suppliers so raw material purchases can be resumed
            – Government bulk imports to be sold to private retailers.

            I think some of that is bound to happen since Maduro needs to put food on shelves, and businessmen need to produce food and distribute it to remain in business. So it could benefit Maduro and Mendoza+Roig.

            If that is the case, both Mendoza and Roig bought more time for private industries and private stores in Venezuela, which leaves them with more hope of continuing doing business than they had in December, allows their employees to keep feeding their families, and Venezuelans to suffer less scarcity. Not a victory, but a cease-fire when they were on the brink of being overrun, and that has to count for something.

            I’ll say that they are basically adding fresh water in the pot, which will allow frogs to remain uncooked a little bit longer.

            But it’s up to political actors to get those frogs out of the water, and you should be focusing on the political actors who are yet to extract any meaningful political victory out of this crisis.

  3. Hay un error de apreciación en la cita de Alberto Barrera. Estos 15 años no han sido solamente alimentados por la violencia verbal. También ha habido violencia concreta y cruel. Asesinatos del 11A, Gouveia en Plaza Altamira y pistoleros que mataron a la Sra. Ron. Pero la cosa viene de antes: 4F, 27N. Además está la criminalidad desbordada como política por omisión del régimen, y por acción de algunos elementos del Estado. Claro que el discurso alimentó y preparó el terreno para la represión que hemos visto recientemente. Pero no olvidemos que Chávez ordenó matar cuando lo consideró “oportuno”, aunque siempre dosificó el asesinato. Ahora Maduro y Diosdado hacen lo mismo.

  4. What angers me is the lack of stating the obvious: we need a public debate live, with a neutral group determining the amount of time and other conditions and with possibility of reply and counter-reply and that for several days. We need that, nothing less.

    • Completely out of the question that this regime would ever entertain it, of course. But let’s just pretend, who would you most want to represent the opposition? What I mean is, who do you think would perform best in that position?

      • what a great thought exercise. Not an easy one. A part of me thinks that an intellectual should do it, not a politician. If a politician is there the risk of ad hominem fallacies is too large. Do you have someone in mind?

    • I reckon they should have used white flowers with some yellow. The orange ones are a little bit dubious. As we learnt in Kindergarten, orange is a mixture of yellow with red. And we learnt at secondary school red can mean either a certain ideology of bearded people or love in the erotic sense. White is for friendship and peace.

      Seriously: don’t underestimate the level of corniness of our regime.
      Perhaps the Vice-Minister for the Supreme Social Happiness of the People had a say on this.
      Autocratic regimes are led by people that have a quiet different sense of speech acts from the average
      humans.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_act

      Autocratic people think that by declaring things, these things become reality.

      Commies in Eastern Germany declared their system to be the “German Democratic Republic”.
      Those who force things need more adjectives: Islamic Republic, Bolivarian republic.

      We can always be sure those trying to force reality by misusing words
      are the least inclined to make the actual meaning of those words true.

  5. Dont believe the govt is honest in that the talks are anything but a propaganda effort made up to repond to the statistically important popular view that there should be dialogue to settle the political differences dividing the country,

    My own view is that the govt does not intend agreeing to any substantive change in behaviour or policy and that what it will finally do is break up the talks blaming the others for being insincere in accepting the govts peace offer while using their power to sabotage the govts peace loving efforts. Maybe they will accept some window dressing measures which after announcing they will ignore .

    And yet the offer cannot be rejected without offending the naive many for whom dialogue is a magic abstract recipe for solving all problems without really thinking all that it in practice entails for its to succeed.

    What the talks are good for is for making public in very clear terms the falsehood of the govt many theatrical explanations of why things are going so badly and demask their inccompetence and blame for the disasters that now afflict the everyday life of ordinary Venezuelans .

    • The Government has NO intention of abandoning their plans of Communizing Venezuela, as, in the recent words of Jorge Arreaza, (paraphrasing): “We are not abandoning the Bolivarian Revolution of The 21st Century.” Only by continuing down the current path will Cuba, which is pulling the political strings, be guaranteed their many billion $ annual stipend. Diosdado (who is only in it for the money) can keep the military in line only so long as the street cost is manageable, and, the longer the protests/repression continue/become more unmanageable, the closer Venezuela is to a successful end to its political/economic nightmare. Yes, Mendoza/Roig/et. al. play into the Government’s hands as Quislings defending their respective narrow-scoped fiefdoms, but this is short-sighted, as the few crumbs gained (maybe) short-term would all be lost if the Government is finally successful in establishing its Cuban political/economic model.

      • – “Yes, Mendoza/Roig/et. al. play into the Government’s hands as Quislings defending their respective narrow-scoped fiefdoms, but this is short-sighted […]”

        The oil strike comes to mind. If the members of Fedecámaras and Polar go bankrupt after refusing calls to discuss economic policy, it would play much more into the governments hand than if they survive another year.

        If they refuse to enter a dialogue with the government, they would be legitimazing the view of private business as antagonists of the state who can’t be negotiated with, they would also justify before Chavista eyes the economic strangling that would entail (no dollars and no price revisions), only to have the government pick up the pieces after they bust and prop up something like Invepal “in defense of the workers”. Having private companies go bust at a time when no sane foreign investor wants to come, brings us closer not farther from the Cuban model.

        Let’s not forget that if we find a successful path out of this crisis, we need those private enterprises to be survivors not martyrs, which is a different category altogether than collaborationists (like Cisneros, Ruperti, and several other boligarchs).

        Summing up: The government would get carte blanche to destroy private enterprise and get credit for saving those companies and jobs once they expropiate whatever is left.

        – “the longer the protests/repression continue/become more unmanageable, the closer Venezuela is to a successful end to its political/economic nightmare”

        That’s the working theory, but not quite a fact. Political actors (not just politicians) are the ones responsible to protest, define strategies, define goals and put an end to this mess. But this effort is can succeed, but it can also fail.

        • The day Polar is taken over is the beginning of the end for production of most food staples in Venezuela, as the Government has so well proven in its takeovers of countless private enterprises to date, and, this, in turn, is the end of Chavismo’s popular support. Chavez knew this, as well as do the Castros and Maduro, and therefore the reticence to act on their many threats. Yes, Polar’s negotiations/dialogue does gain them some protection short-term from the Radicals in Government, but it also gains them assured destruction eventually if the Castro-Communist state is eventually implemented in its entirety. As for the current street protests, no, they are not guided in the typical political leader context, but they can be successful over time in the current precarious Venezuelan economic situation in bringing eventual political change. Depending on future elections in a rigged electoral system with heavy Government dependence of downscale voters is no guarantee of future political change.

          • Well, presented with the options of short-term destruction by Giordanicide, or possible long-term destruction later on by Chavismo’s road to Cubanization, Mendoza preferred long-term destruction.

            Or where you hoping he martyrized Polar in order to test your prophecy?

          • i wasn’t hoping nor expecting anything different, nor do I expect anything really substantive from the Government meetings, except perhaps some little increase in Harina Pan production.

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