Damned if you do, damned if you burn tires


venezuela-guarimbaFor the past few days, I’ve been pondering why Quico’s post blasting the guarimba protest movement (here, and in The New Republic) grated on me so much. I think it goes back to Quico’s assessment of last December’s local elections.

Back then, Quico, along with thousands of opposition voters, couldn’t be bothered to care about local elections. The thinking was that the opposition was political roadkill, simply unable to leverage its significant size into exercising power of any kind. The idea of convincing people about our views seemed utterly pointless. The outcome of chavismo was simply out of our hands, more a function of complicated power plays between the Cubans and the military, the product of what happened in the oil markets.

Quico named us “the gimp.” Here is what he wrote:

So far, I’ve resisted the urge to write much of anything about Sunday’s election, largely because I didn’t quite know how to put words to the feelings of utter futility the whole exercise inspires: this sense that Sunday will be remembered not-at-all, a non-event on the road to outright dictatorship notable mostly for having distracted us with an illusion of agency for a few weeks.

Now, it seems as though a helpless opposition can do something – it can screw up even more!

With its image increasingly defined by its least appealing members, it’s little surprise that the protest movement has failed to build meaningful alliances outside the opposition base. People in working class neighborhoods, whether urbanizaciones populares or barrios, see the protest movement as something alien, different, not about them, not by people like them and certainly not for people like them. (Yes, there are exceptions, but again, they’re only that: exceptions.) People in the towns and villages see nothing at all, because a concerted blackout has disappeared the peaceful side of the protests from the TV and the radio. (Yes, there are exceptions, but again, they’re only that: exceptions.)

Quico, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the opposition is powerless, and at the same time say that they are hurting their cause, that their actions are turning off hearts and minds. Either they should focus on convincing people, or this doesn’t have a point.

Ultimately, unless they are affecting your day-to-day existence, complaining about guarimbas is a bit like complaining about the weather – they are there, they cannot be controlled, and they are not going anywhere. Might as well ride it out.

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  1. The problem is quite simple, so I won’t write a thesis here.The Short and Sweet of it:

    Quico, like some others in the opposition, is a perfectionist and a defeatist, and while good with numbers,he does not understand the human condition well enough to place the proper value on doing something ( anything really).It takes all kinds to make a village and everybody doing their own thing in their way adds up.Also when people cry out from the heart, there will be those who are won over.When there are people standing up to dictatorship in anger and bravery there will be some people who listen.He just doesn’t get it, and instead of fighting in the way he can make a difference, he puts a downer on other people’s contributions .

    It is a bit hard to imagine someone being spoiled enough to complain about Guarimbas in the light of what is really facing them.

    The ability to forgo pleasure for future rewards etc etc….is a sign of intelligent planning.

  2. a story we heard last night while talking on the phone with family:

    Anonymous lives on the Carretera Concresa/Baruta in a building right in front of a barricade

    …or what WAS a barricade.

    She was crying and depressed because she said that the other day,

    the police arrived and told everyone that the Tupamaros were coming and

    were going to get violent so they had better hide.They all went inside the building,

    even though nobody in the building was responsible for the barricade.

    She and her mother know the people who made it ; they were ex-Chavistas who lived behind their building and up

    into the ranchos. According to them the vast majority of the people in those ranchos of Baruta are now anti government.

    Soon the Tupamaros showed up.They described the horrifying noise of between 100 to 200 motorcycles.The women on the back of the bikes carrying shovels and guns.Shovels
    were to bring down the barricade.Guns were to threaten.They said the women looked even more evil than the men.They destroyed the barricade then began to threaten some of the people in the buildings who were banging pots, and the Tupas took pictures of them….At which point they started shooting at the building and the people retreated. The Tupamaros then took some trash bins which were in front of a Panaderia and pushed them up against her building’s entrance
    so that now they have to go through the parking lot to get in and out, and the building smells like trash.While they were doing this the Tupamaros were calling them” Oligarcas” .The people living in a lower , lower middle class buildings are being seen as ‘Oligaracas’ by them…incredible!

    She said that some of the Tupamaros were Cubans….but didn’t say how she knew.

    She told us how now everyone is sad because now they know they live in a dictatorship
    and that it is way too dangerous to keep protesting even though they want to , but it is too risky right now.

    • Fire, thank you for a dose of reality, but, if it’s too risky to protest now, the longer one waits, the more impossible it will become….

    • “…The people living in a lower , lower middle class buildings are being seen as ‘Oligaracas’ by them…incredible!”

      Let me put it in this way, as simple as it can be:

      EVERYONE that doesn’t agree EVERYTIME to EVERYTHING the high rotten dome of chavista regime says, will inmediately be considered a “escuaca”, that is, something enemy that’s not a person that doesn’t deserve to LIVE.

      It’s not about “two sidewalks with a lot of ninís in the middle, waiting to be seduced by the prettiest promises”, it’s one sidewalk, filled with raging murderers, bent on destroying everybody else.

  3. When I read that latest Quico post I really didn’t agree with his assessment, and I wondered if he was here “on the ground” in Venezuela; -or perhaps he’s in Japan?? (wasn’t he there for a while?- I don’t keep up with you boys and your wanderings…) I keep hearing that this time it’s different because now the people in the interior are getting riled up too. Let’s see what happens today when Los Gochos are supposed to come to town………

  4. JCN, I’m not sure I get your argument. Your examples have Quico saying three things:

    A) utter futility
    B) non opposition see the protests as alien: not by nor for people like them
    C) no city folk don’t even see the protests.

    As I understood your argument, one cannot have A together with B&C. Why not?

    • It should be expanded as:

      A) There’s no point in getting riled up about the 8D elections because nothing the opposition does is going to bring down chavismo, it’s a matter of waiting until the regime collapses due to a internal split or an economic collapse.

      B) Protesting and Guarimbas are alienating non-opposition constituencies and therefore are destined to fail.

      The opposite of B is doing on the ground political work to achieve a new majority (A). But Quico had already dismissed that as futile in A.

      Therefore Quico claims that A is futile and B is counter-productive.

      The only third choice I can think of is the Insulza invisibility spell.

      • Sorry, but I’m still not getting it. Even with your expansions, I am understanding that

        A) nothing we can do will bring down chavismo
        B) protesting is making it even less likely that we can bring down chavismo

        Where’s the contradiction?

        • (…)Protesting and Guarimbas (…) alienating non-opposition (…) and therefore are destined to fail.”

          But the garimberos could’t care less about that, they are not doing that in order to conquer “hearts and souls”, they are blocking roads to save their lives from fascist colectivos that want to kill them.

          There was recently a post from someone on the ground that expained that very clearly. Those youngsters are not political scientists trying to apply or understand complex political strategies, that’s what people like us commenting here do. Those folks are just fighting for their own protection. It’s a survival struggle, really, and thus it’s simply not going to end while they keep being threatened.

          • I don’t think the kids are up against a political party anymore. They are fighting against a military dictatorship. Where did the chaviztas learn their tactics from? COMANDANTE Fidel! I’m sure he is very proud of his soldiers these days.

          • Marc, I am looking for an explanation to the contradiction Juan claims is in Quico’s logic. As far as I can read in Juan’s posted quotes from Quico, Quico is simply stating that any tiny chance of not ending up as a dictatorship is diminished, not increased, with these protests. Juan’s post claims that there is an inherent inconsistency with those two thoughts.

          • Extorres, I used to enjoy a lot Quico’s posts and I have been reading what he writes in this blog for many many years, but he is currently going from the stage 1 of the Kubler-Ross model to stage 2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model) and should not be taken serious just now. We have to wait until old Quico is back.

            And the guarimbas should not even be mentioned anymore because they are spontaneous, meaning that you (or anyone in this planet) can do jackshit about them. People are just fed up (period). And they will remain fed up until many problems that are disturbing them are solved. Remember easy to call for “calm” when you are in exile in a 1st world country. (Read Firepiguette’s post on the top of the page).

            And this whole talk of “diminishing the chance of not ending up as a dictatorship” is total BS because VENEZUELA IS ALREADY A GODDAMN FRIGGIN DICTATORSHIP! AND A VERY BRUTAL ONE! ACCEPT THAT YOU LOST THE MATCH! IT’S OVER! FINITO! THE END! GAME OVER!

            But as a miracle some brave people all over the country started trying to revert the whole process of Venezuela becoming a 50-year-old dictatorship as Cuba is. Yet you are concerned with the “guarimbas”. You are looking just at one tree, but try to look the whole forest now! You should be concerned about Maduro resigning and calling new fair elections (with international observers). Forget the noise, focus on what really matters.

          • Marc, I don’t have to agree or disagree with Juan, you, or Quico to analyze the inherent logic in any of your arguments. You are telling me to ignore Quico, to ignore Juan’s argument about a fail in Quico’s logic, and to ignore my desire to understand Juan’s argument about Quico’s supposedly failed logic.

            As to the dictatorship label, the taoist in me prevents me from giving the name given importance; what matters is what it is, not what we call it.

            As to Quico’s writing, I began enjoying years ago, have continued enjoying it, and still enjoy it. I do not tire of reading his writing. It is first-class.

            As to the protesters, that’s their chosen role. I do not judge them. I work with the way things are, and look for a way to “improve” them.

          • No, you should not ignore Juan’s logic, he explained it very well what he meant and why Quico’s position is absurd, I will copy and paste it for you, I think you did not see it.

            “If the opposition is powerless to do any good, it’s also powerless to do any bad, particularly regarding its own image. You can’t believe there is nothing we can do, and at the same time believe, as Quico is doing, that the current strategy is a political mistake. If this strategy is a mistake, then there is some other strategy that is helpful, but that would require belief that the opposition can do something about its current predicament. Hence, the contradiction.”

          • Marc, that’s faulty logic: I may be unable to open a safe, but I can bury it in cement and make it even more difficult to open, hence, no contradiction.

          • “Marc, that’s faulty logic: I may be unable to open a safe, but I can bury it in cement and make it even more difficult to open, hence, no contradiction.”

            Yes, there is a contradiction because if the opposition is really as powerless as Quico says that it is, it is impossible for them to have any relevant impact with these protests, be it bad or good. Something POWERLESS don’t have POWER. Right? Quico’s conclusion is impossible for anyone who had had one single class of mathematical logic at University in their lives. But Quico is a journalist so we can forgive him.

            Regarding your example, it is like saying that a terminal cancer patient should not use an experimental new drug because it’s yet experimental and thus it may worsen the already bad condition of the patient.

            And If there is simply no way of opening a safe and someone says that they might open it to you but there’s 50% chance of deterioting the situation, what would you do?

          • Marc,

            Firstly, note that the quote JCN posted of Quico does not use the specific word powerless.

            Secondly, Quico’s quotes do not talk about impossibility of changing chavistas minds, at all; they point to changing them *towards* our way of thinking.

            Thirdly, when someone using English language states that something is impossible, they are not referring to the absoluteness of the word “impossible” necessary for JCN’s, and your argument. The phrase “things can always get worse” does not *logically* imply that they can get better, too.

            Summarizing, Quico’s quotes can be put in a nutshell as follows:
            A) futility
            B) non opposition: protests are alien, not by nor for us
            C) non city folk: what protests?

            Those views are *not* mutually exclusive.

          • Also, as to the cancer patient, yes, things can get worse: the drug may increase pain, and render other helpful medications unusable. Like with the safe, something that one tries may make it less likely that something else that one my try succeeds. Regardless, this logic is irrelevant to Quico’s quotes.

          • “Firstly, note that the quote JCN posted of Quico does not use the specific word powerless.”

            The use of the specific word is irrelevant, he implied very clearly that the opposition is powerless.

            “Secondly, Quico’s quotes do not talk about impossibility of changing chavistas minds, at all; they point to changing them *towards* our way of thinking.”

            And why would that be the case? That’s an irrational, illogical and absurd view. It’s just his imagination, not based on anything concrete. He doesn’t use any evidence to confirm that, just his abstract perception. You may say that it’s impossible for the Tibetans to bring the Han Chinese to their cause in the next couple years and that anything that they try in order to achieve that will be counter-productive, but (1) you will be saying that they can still influence things around (not that powerless) and (2) you will have to explain why you’ve reached this conclusions. To claim that it’s because “you FEEL that things are this way” is just ridiculous.

            “Thirdly, when someone using English language states that something is impossible, they are not referring to the absoluteness of the word “impossible” necessary for JCN’s, and your argument. The phrase “things can always get worse” does not *logically* imply that they can get better, too.”

            Ok, let’s assume then that the word “impossible” doesn’t mean “impossible”. Quico did say that the opposition in not capable of influencing any sort of positive cascade effect to benefit itself at all, and then said that the opposition is still capable of triggering a negative cascade effect. He doesn’t show one single concrete evidence to base this “phenomena” upon. Again, just imagination and abstract perception. Actually, empirical evidence (Capriles winning the last presidential elections and CNE frauding the result) dismisses his view and proves he is wrong.

            “Summarizing, Quico’s quotes can be put in a nutshell as follows:
            A) futility
            B) non opposition: protests are alien, not by nor for us
            C) non city folk: what protests?

            Those views are *not* mutually exclusive.”

            Ok, but A, B, C are based upon what? Dreams? Psychography? He even admits that he “doesn’t know how to put words to the FEELINGS”. Quico is talking about feelings, there’s no science there. But yes, a hell lot of emotion.

            Now, regarding the second part, about the cancer patient. Well, you’ve just recognized that Quico’s logic is faulty, because although the experimental drug may worsen the condition of the patient (we have some evidence to believe that this is possible), it may also be possible to improve the condition of the patient (we have some evidence to believe in that too!) Quico would have said that the experimetal drug may only worsen the condition of the patient becase “his guts” say so.

          • Marc,

            1) The only implication of powerlessness that I see in the quote that Juan posted of Quico is related to averting the road to dictatorship, *not* powerlessness in causing other changes. If you see differently, please quote the portion of Juan’s quote where you see otherwise.

            2) I don’t have agree with Quico. His view can be irrational, illogical, absurd, and even ridiculous yet my point would still stand: A) that Juan’s sample quotes from Quico do not logically imply what Juan claims they do, and B) that the two different quotes are not contradictory.

            3) Your example “proving” Quico wrong would be logically valid. I would not have argued it. What I am arguing is that Juan does not validly support the two interpretations he makes from Quico, and, *even* assuming the interpretations are correct, fails in the logic to reach his conclusion.

            4) Glad we agree that A, B, anc C are not mutually exclusive. Their validity is not part of anything I’ve argued, only their lack of contradiction.

            5) You’re wrong about the cancer patient. Point blank. If I say, a number is not positive, it does not logically imply that the number is negative. It could be zero, for example. Whether I made my statement out of mathematical rigour or mere tea readings is irrelevant. What Juan did was incorrectly *assume* that the number was negative, when it could have been zero, and then claimed that the assumed negative number could not coexist with any other zero-supporting statements of mine. Double fail. With his lack of apologies, triple fail.

        • Ok, using strict logic, there ARE actions that fall neither in A nor in B (no convincing and no protesting). I’m just discarding doing nothing, as I assumed it was obviously undesirable.

          Besides the Insulza invisibility spell, meaning oppo figures should stay mum while the Government further encroaches the little freedom left (very unnappealing to vast sectors of the oppo constituency), what DESIRABLE actions can be carried out by the Opposition in the “no convincing and no protesting” space?

        • No. It’s clearly understood that:

          A) The opposition will not bring down chavismo with votes and trying to CONVINCE people.

          And B) Some of the guys protesting with guarimbas against govt. (opposition), should stop making guarimbas and try to convince people…

          See? Read the post again.

          • David Fig, in the quotes provided by Juan, Quico does not suggest replacing the guarimbas with convincing people actions. If that is to what Juan was referring, the excerpts he chose do not exemplify that.

    • What I’m saying is that you can’t say everything is futile and then say the opposition is screwing its chances of convincing hearts and minds by mindless guarimbas. If everything is futile, then we’re out of the “convincing people” business. In fact, it’s precisely *because* everything is futile that guarimbas exist in the first place!

      • JCN, OK, I understand what you’re trying to say, but it does not follow logically. Here’s an analogy:

        I think that there is no way to convince syd to support unconditional cash transfers, but I also think that if I start claiming that the idea came to me after a crystal ball / ouija session I will cement that impossibility even further. You see, I’m already out of the “convincing syd” business, but by posting my certificate from the Medium’s Association backed by Voodoo University I can be sure that I’d be screwing my chances even further.

  5. Ummm,….has everybody forgotten about Leopoldo Lopez sitting in a jail cell? My God. If you’re looking for a symbol which should unite all opposition it is this despicable incarceration of a totally innocent man. How long has he been sitting in that jail cell? Three weeks now? On what charge? How is something like this allowed to happen without continuous demonstrations? Do nothing? Venezuela could be sliding down the path to a North Korean-like dictatorship very shortly. Do nothing? Of course no one is advocating violence, but,….but,….an opposition leader has been placed in a jail cell with absurd charges being filed and everyone is supposed to do nothing? Scary. Scary.

    • A child dies from treatable disease because medicines and surgical equipment are not available. A woman is killed in her car for not turning over her mobile phone fast enough. A community still does not have access to clean water after a trillion dollar oil boom. A mother loses both of her sons to street violence. Countless family-owned small businesses cannot survive the wave of stupid economic policies from high above. Students have been injured and jailed and even killed.

      Why should Leopoldo be our most powerful symbol? There wasn’t enough to unite around before Leopoldo?

      • Wrong analogy.Leopoldo volunteered for his martyrdom, the others were unwilling victims.If you cannot appreciate this huge difference then you would be collapsing hierarchies.

          • Oh my God….I am usually up for a debate…but comparing Leopoldo to Gandhi…it’s just too far down the rabbit hole. Yikes.

          • well you just lost the debate then Lucia…..you don’t like something so you just bow out.

            A martyr of any kind can be a leader, whether he be on the scale of Gandhi or the scale of Venezuela .His sacrifices have entitled him to a great deal of respect and respect and role modeling are the basis of a good leader.

      • It’s the hypocrisy of the so-called “ninís”, who couldn’t care less about any of those people and think only on themselves up to their hoouse garages, the rest of the world is “grass and snakes” or just “I don’t fucking care if it doesn’t affect me”.

        They truly don’t care about the country’s situation, it’s hilarious to see them shoving their heads up their butts now that the “dreaded sifrino 4th republican swindler coward” Leopoldo finally did what the kept claiming was the perfect excuse to never “follow the opposition”: They were spineless cowards until they dared to “bare their chest to the guns of the regime”, well, López shut them up by going not only to the front of the protests (Remember that often used excuse “Yeah, I’ll go protest when HE is the one on the front to get shot in the face!”), but he also agreed to face the putrid ministery of injustice, one of the things that many people despised from Rosales (and every other one in exile) years back.

        It’s true that aimless protests affect very little the regime, but several people are trying to find a way out of this, because they don’t want to waste their whole lives surviving as the gutter that is Cuba or just want to live in peace and prospet, something the regime clearly doesn’t want, and it’s true too that several people don’t want to do anything at all as if that would magically change the asshole regime, those are ninís too.

      • “Why should Leopoldo be our most powerful symbol? There wasn’t enough to unite around before Leopoldo?”

        We are the country that let Franklin Brito die. Quico’s prediction is only logical.

  6. I think there is a sense of urgency in the protest. They have gone this far and retreating is conceding to a totalitarian regimen. People in the opposition have it clear that either they take a stand or they are left like the cuban middle class of the 60s, people without a country. Miami, Madrid, Bogota… they are harsh for the newly arrived… better fight, you have only uncertainty in your present.

    In the meantime, the dictatorship is painted into a corner by the macro-economic realities, unable to react due to its dogmatic stand and dimwitted leadership. They think they can weather it out as they did in 2002, apply a generous amount of repression, and presto, serve and enjoy with a nice side of cadenas.

    So everyone is looking at los barrios. If they stay put and watch bemused on the plight of los oligarcas (and this seems to be carrying the day). then this round goes to the dictatorship. But I think the opposition los espera en la bajadita… when hyperinflation hits, el cerro will remember of this convincing muscle flex of los sifrinos, and then… Caracazo anyone?

    • The “caracazo” is overrated, it was just a glorified attempt to topple the elected CAP government orchestrated by castro, disguised with a wave of riots and pillages.

  7. Juan,

    Some observations from what my clans tell me in Carabobo.
    This might or might not reinforce Toro’s stance, but it is relevant, just to ponder:

    Buhoneros from the poorest sectors of Carabobo have been going for years to other areas to buy stuff with their extended family (lots of teenagers) and sell then on the streets or in their “negocitos” (all informal). We know that. But:

    Since the end of December those queues were growing dramatically and the people in the better-off areas (and those that are not better-off but not completely poor-poor slums) were having a much harder time finding their stuff.

    So far, we know this.

    Now: according to some observers there those buhoneros were now many more and they were more frustrated – there was just not even enough for them – there were more of them, probably each one was bringing along all the relatives they could mobilise.

    Something was going to happen to them.

    And then came the explosion of guarimbas and most of those areas don’t get deliveries.

    Some of those buhoneros now, with their extended families -are supporting the paramilitary who want to take those barricadas away. The people of the barricadas are not just annoying the local population. It seems they are in part considered as people destroying the business model of those buhoneros.

    A hypothesis I have is that if we had left the ever growing flow of buhoneros collapse their whole system on their own we would have been able to change more hearts and souls to our cause.

    But that’s just a thought. It would be incredibly wonderful if we could have hard data about where those people in Miguel Pena parish are getting their food and their dosh from at this moment versus January, in % of change.

    Most of the supermarkets those people were visiting are currently closed or mostly empty, from Naguanagua and Prebo and Vinedo and El Trigal-Trigalena to San Diego and Isabelica (which, as I said, is not middle class, just not dirty-dirty-poor).

    • “Since the end of December those queues were growing dramatically ”

      I read an article from Hein Dieterich months ago in which he anticipated that. And he linked the worsening of the conditions with the “Dakazo”.

    • Not our fault that the buhoneros decided to go for an illegal activity to get money, they’re hoarders and plain thieves, it’s the regime’s fault for making such a difficult task to get a proper, legal and REAL job.

      Besides, the regime protects and excuses them, because the ones that get the most goods away are part of huge military-controlled-mafias that smuggle almost everything out of Venezuela, mafias that have their roots deeply sunken in the rotting chavista clique.

  8. The Guarimbas is hurting the cause of the opposition because the government can be easily dismissed them as violent. Moreover, what are they accomplishing really? Is there a “chavista outreach” component in all of this? I doubt it!!!

    If that’s the case (which most likely it is), then Quico’s analysis is correct. The guarimbas are thus self-defeating and strengthens the government’s position by redirecting the majority of the attention way from the protest movement. This frees the government from taking up any responsibility of addressing issues of exclusion (which if you think about it, underneath it all, is what this is really all about).

    • If it wasn’t the guarimbas, the regime would have found another thing to blame.
      You talk like Venezuela has been living 15 straight years (or at least since april 2002) filled with guarimbas, and that’s a big fat lie, the castro invading regime specializes in finding excuses for everything, don’t go blaming the guarimbas as the “perfect scapegoat” because they aren’t, you know as well as everybody else reading this and me, that the regime never takes the blame for ANYTHING, it’s always the “evil sifrino-fag-bitch-escuaca-fascists” that are doing everything to ruin the country, that’s one of the biggest lies of the chavismo, and one that has worked the best for them.

  9. If you frustrate or block off the legitimate channels of dissent and opposition to arbitrary power, you get guarimbas, or worse. So yes, the guarimbas are like the weather: they are a function of pressure systems that have been building and collecting and have consolidated.

    One of those pressure systems arose from the regime’s interference with the electoral process. We can debate about where and how that happened, but it happened, and people widely understand it, whether it is the people who were told by their bosses how to vote, or the people who reported irregularities at the ballot box that were not dealt with in an open and transparent manner.

    What Venezuelans will need when everything collapses is a viable civil alternative, not some provisional civil window-dressing on a military-backed junta (like we basically have now). For that reason, participation was essential and the right thing to do. The people who engaged in the electoral process can say: everyone saw this coming if nothing changed,we sought to steer the country away from it by legitimate means, and our organization, ideas and resilience are here when this phase comes to an end. The alternative is to sit back and let the military and its proxies fill the vacuum.

    So I think it is fair to denounce the violence, but I think we need to be clear on what is at the root of it. It is not an opposition strategy, really, though some in the opposition might tacitly or openly support it. It is something which happens when the peaceful means of resolving differences in a democracy are rendered illegitimate or taken away.

  10. Violence is not always bad.Gandhi was violent toward his own body in order to force a change.But Gandhi also said:

    “I WOULD risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.”

    “I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live for ever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully”

    “Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right”

    • Actually, a lot of the protests organized by Gandhi were violent. Any good history of India contains specific instances, which sometimes included deaths.

  11. I am completely sick and tired of the lack of responsible adult leadership on both sides. Here is what I want to see…

    Put in the same room, Maduro, Lopez, Cabello, Capriles, one of the generals from the FAN, and one of the leaders of the students (Juan Requesens?). Lock them all in the room, tell them to get their s**t together, and televise it all “en cadena” until they have come up with a plan for Venezuelans to live together again.

    • Roy…hehe

      That sounds like someone who is lost in high seas,during the setting of the Sun, with no radio on their small sinking boat and no working motor, suddenly announcing:

      “That’s it ! I refuse to stay here any longer”

    • And, then a phone call comes from the Castros–those who think those in power are going to give up without a fight had better think again.

  12. Juan, you are not pointing any fallacy in Quico’s argument. Quico said the opposition was powerless to enact any meaningful, desirable change. The guarimbas are strengthening the status quo. No one could have predicted back in December what we have seen throughout February, but the last few weeks seem to me to have reinforced and not contradicted Quico’s thesis from December.

    I also understand everyone’s qualms about criticizing people back in Venezuela with regards to guarimbas from the comfort of living in a fully free, democratic country (be it Chile or Canada of in other working democracy). However, y’all should also bear in mind that there is many people in the opposition and *physically* in Venezuela (a majority? a minority? who cares, lets listen to their argument) that profoundly reject the guarimbas and see them as being highly counterproductive.

    • And there have been a lot of people who have been wrong since day one 15 years ago.Those who care and have a plan are actually doing something and things are changing ; those who are willing to risk themselves and make a bold statement are in charge now.The rest are doing their usual: criticizing..

      I think people are listening to the anti-Guarimba argument everyday so you surely do not have to worry about that one.

      The Guarimbas might be reinforcing the status quo for you and for some others, but to many they are not.

      Patience and momentum are required for any plan to really work.It has been 15 years of slowing boiling the frogs…the Status quo will want to hold onto their status for as long as possible.It cannot happen over night.

      Lack of staying power might do people in…..especially with so many hecklers and defeatists on the sidelines.

      • I am not a defeatist, a heckler, nor on the sidelines. I am stating my opinion (a valid one, that you can share or not) that the guarimbas are highly ineffective and are not helping. The reasons why people prefer one over the other have been debated here and elsewhere over the past few weeks, and they don’t come from a place of contempt or from underestimating the gravity of the situation back home. Moreover, and for the record, this position is completely compatible with rejecting and denouncing the violent all-out repression with which the government has met them -and, which it willingly does to promote them, because it does not fear the guarimbas.

        • Yes! This exactly. And for those who can’t stand to even read debates about the possible impacts of various strategies, I suggest highly filtered Twitter feeds, where you can ensure you read only that which makes you feel good.

  13. JCN, I’m not sure if the post title is exactly correct.

    Shouldn’t it be something like “Damned if you do, damned if you *don’t* burn tires”?

    Also, I’m going to posit once again that imho the current actions of the protesters, whether one agrees with them or not, will bring *more* people over to the opposition side, not less, in the long run.

    That said, I hope the violence ends soon and that it’s due to the regime “blinking”.

    • I think those actions are going to bring more violence which is what the government wants.

      Consider this if the government wanted, the guarimbas would disappear in a week or two. All they need to do is stop the attacks by GNB & Tupamaros. The guarimbas would not be needed anymore and would languish. We know the GNB & Tupamaros are under orders and they can stop anytime. On the other hand the guarimbas now are deemed as uncontrollable, a pure reaction of the people.
      What that really means is:
      a) the government is the one controlling the guarimbas.
      b) the guarimbas are there by design.

      It is the Cuban version of social engineering.

  14. I might not have agreed with Quico’s sense of futility in December, but I sure do agree that current tactics are setting the opposition cause back.

    No one has articulated a way to go from guarimbas to meaningful and desirable change….

    But Quico has outlined clearly how they can do the opposite — provide cover to a government looking to explain further economic deterioration.

    And no, guarimbas are not “like the weather”.

    They are not an act of God or nature — they are very distinctly associated with one side in this struggle, and the problems they cause (and the exaggeration of those problems) WILL be attributed to that side.

    As Canucklehead put it the other day — guarimbas are a symptom, not a strategy.

    But that doesn’t mean they can’t cause harm.

    For all those who support the guarimbas…know that you have some company….Nicolas, Diosdado, Raul…

    • For those that like Guarimbas so much I’ve been getting messages from friends back home describing ridiculous conditions where neighbors can’t go out to get food or medicine or even take poor old grandma to the hospital because the idiots manning the barricade won’t let them through. Think about that one for a minute.

  15. What I like about Quico (apart from the amazing writing!) is that he makes EVERY possible effort to reason about the strategic moment, and the objective possibilities present in it. He discounts his hopes, and the stronger those hopes, the more he refuses to let them take over his thinking. He looks carefully at all the historical precedents, too.

    Myself, I have found that that sort of analysis usually helps avoid error. But every once in a while, you miss, big. In my own case, I was sure that the Polish trade union Solidarity would get crushed, just as its predecessors had been. And Eastern Europe, therefore, would always be part of the Communist Bloc.

    So, that turned out way better than I had thought! Nowadays, I tend to keep an open mind when the people, unbidden, hit the streets. These situations are dynamic, and develop in unpredictable ways. You should never forget that some times, though not too often, and never to be counted upon, new worlds are born.

    • When a communist like Heinz Dieterich said back in November that Maduro would probably not last until April (check on aporrea), Heinz was discounting his hopes, shutting off his communist heart and using pure cold logic, past situations to reason his opinion. But when I see Quico ignoring the food shortages, the blatant political repression, the inflation rate, the lack of hope for a better future among millions of Venezuelan, and many other obvious “in your face” counter-revolutionary “sparks”, I think he is doing the opposite of what Heinz did. His is letting his lack of hope and frustrations that accumulated throughout all these years regarding Venezuela’s politics speak louder than pure dispassionate cold political analysis.

      • He isn’t ignoring the food shortages. He’s worrying that the guarimbas will be used by the government to explain them.

        • “He isn’t ignoring the food shortages. He’s worrying that the guarimbas will be used by the government to explain them.”

          So what.

          What difference does it make? Complaining about the guarimbas is just like complaining about people wearing blue shirts or enjoying pizza. You can’t control it. The people are doing guarimbas out of desesperation. And since the desperation will not going away soon, they will keep doing the damn guarimbas.

          It really doesn’t matter if the Venezuelans in exile, LL, MCM, Diosdado, the colectivos or Maduro “like” them or not. Humans tend to fight when they are with their backs against the wall and feel that their lives are threatened. I remember reading a book from a death camp survivor and the stories he tells about resilience in Auschwitz are just incredible. There’s nothing “unusual” about guarimbas taking place in Venezuela, but again a guarimba in NYC or Chile would be indeed unusual and nonsense. You guys have to make an effort to understand that the Venezuelan society/people are N-O-T under normal circumstances.

          It’s a dictatorship! Please understand that!

    • To pick up on your Solidarity reference, the most effective and non-violent way out of this is a crippling strike. Given that Venezuela is a nation of bureaucratic and logistical bottlenecks without equal, I am at a loss as to why people are not talking about this option.

      • the last one didn’t work out so well for us…

        and for years — really, truly, years — the government effectively was able to blame economic problems on the strike rather than government incompetence

        so — that’s the last thing we should want to hand them — that kind of weapon — which would plausibly allow them to lay any of the problems of the economy at the opposition’s feet

  16. Gracias Juan por presentar otro punto de vista en inglés de parte de CC. El post de Quico (y sus respectivos artículos) así como el artículo de Osío Cabrices en el NYT presentan una versión falsificada de la situación venezolana a los lectores que están fuera del país. La protesta no es una pataleta de sifrinitos ni la expresión de un estado de locura de la clase media. Es la arrechera de una sociedad harta de tanta humillación. Tiene su lógica y su dinámica. Analizarla con una vista puesta en el retrovisor de 2002 es un error. Quienes protestan representan una nueva generación (son los hijos de los que marcharon en abril de ese año). Chávez está muerto. Maduro es un incapaz, y al parecer le cuesta un montón movilizar a la calle chavista (la marcha de “estudiantes” chavistas hoy en Caracas fue un fracaso). Al régimen no le queda otra cosa que reprimir y matar, con la guardia o con los paramilitares. Si sigue en esa vía, lo único que logrará es incrementar la arrechera y el número de personas arrechas. Podrá mantenerse a punta de tiros? Quién sabe, pero el costo político, económico y moral será inmenso.

  17. If Cubans had taken to the streets when Castro went Castro, probably the regime would not have taken hold. Chavistas will not allow the opposition to unsit them democatrically.

  18. Have you guys read Francesca’s (the italian arrested photographer) recent interview?
    She was later released and implied that the journalists that are still in jail “could have something to hide because they are being investigated”. Can you believe it?


    -¿Eres seguidora del proceso revolucionario?
    -Sentí afinidad hacia conceptos, ideas y propuestas de lo que era el mensaje de Hugo Chávez. Me encariñé, no puedo negarlo, y estaba en un grupo que también era afín a esa ideología. Una amiga me propuso para sacarle unas fotos para un concurso en Argentina y muy sencillamente participé. Por eso salí retratada en una foto que apoyaba a Chávez. Luego pasan cosas, cambian las situaciones, pero yo no me arrepiento de haber creído.

    -¿Por qué se le concedió libertad plena a los dos extranjeros y los otros detenidos tienen que cumplir régimen de presentación?
    -Cuando averiguan que las personas no tienen nada que esconder no tienen por qué insistir en algo improbable. Creo, además, que de ambos lados hubo intención de evitar un escándalo internacional.

    -¿No hubo inequidad en la justicia?
    -No. Ni yo ni el ciudadano portugués estábamos haciendo nada malo. Los demás están en un proceso de investigación.

  19. If the opposition is powerless to do any good, it’s also powerless to do any bad, particularly regarding its own image. You can’t believe there is nothing we can do, and at the same time believe, as Quico is doing, that the current strategy is a political mistake. If this strategy is a mistake, then there is some other strategy that is helpful, but that would require belief that the opposition can do something about its current predicament. Hence, the contradiction.

    Frankly, all these people fretting about the guarimbas are worried about the opposition’s image. The question I am trying to pose is: does the opposition’s image matter all that much for the outcome?

    The guarimbas are wrong because they are an immoral infringement on people’s freedoms, and we should be all about defending freedom. Whether they are politically costly or not is not the real issue – they aren’t. In fact they could be a political asset if used by Capriles and the other moderates to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.

    • Of course the opposition’s image matters. The question in the coming months/(years?) for all the players, domestically and internationally, will be: are there any grown-ups in this room? Anybody who might be able to fix this mess? Same question voters will be asking.

      Why assume the opposition’s image couldn’t erode further? The millions of votes Capriles won last April do not represent some sort of floor under the opposition.

      • I think Capriles’ image is one thing, and it hasn’t suffered much in all of this. But the opposition’s image as a whole only matters if you think they are in the electoral game of convincing hearts and minds. We had agreed that they weren’t. The game is different.

        • I hate to say it again, but the people who engage in this type of analysis all the time and have developed some expertise are syndicatos. In normal countries, and in the past in Venezuela, before it became a workers paradise where enforceable labour laws were unnecessary, they regularly face the decision of whether or not to engage in action that if done right could (a) bring pressure to bear to force bargaining and concessions from the opponent, but which, (b) if not done right, or miscalculate, could (i) result in a protracted dispute that will alienate the public, cause unpredictable collateral effects and entrench the position of the other side, and/or (ii) destroy the thing necessary to their existence.

          There are leaders in Venezuela who know their way around this stuff, and if the opposition is not talking to them, they should IMHO.

        • I think we should always be in the hearts-and-minds business — not just when election dates loom. One of the reasons you won’t see more movement inside the armed forces, or more forceful declarations from abroad, is that Venezuela is divided in terms of public opinion. What is possible and what is appropriate depends a lot on public opinion.

        • The opposition image is all the opposition has. It is the only thing that matters. The government has the money, the weapons, the authority, the courts, the laws and the airwaves. All the opposition has is the public support. This supports depends on the image of the opposition.
          It is called POLITICS. (I was going to put it with a capital P, but it needs to be highlighted much more)

        • Like Lucía says it matters a lot more than just elections. In non electoral times that public support is even more important because it requires more force (political force) and more participation to obtain political victories when there are no elections.

    • It’s utter nonsense and logically absurd to say that the guarimbas are politically costly. The ones in opposition are already very fed up with food shortages, crime and absurd inflation rates, they are not going to magically start to like Maduro and become Chavistas just because of a silly guarimba when there are other 1000 worst problems disrupting their daily lives. And the guarimbas will probably not attract the Chavistas to the opposition’s cause, that’s true, but they might be a spark of something big.

      • The spark of something big….?

        Could you elaborate what “big” things are possible or appropriate in a nation deeply divided?

        • It’s simple. Civil disobedience works in some sort of “contagious” way, so the more people start to see their neighbours (people that they know and trust) with unhappy faces complaining about Maduro around their neighbourhoods, the more is the probability that they themselves will start questioning their own views of the government. There’s a good book about that called Social Physics. Based on that I tell you that the probability of the guarimbas having a positive effect are much higher than having a negative one.

          • Guarimbas are highly counterproductive because they prevent the peaceful protests. They invite a climate of violence and repression that will transfer to the normal street protests, effectively preventing them or reducing their effectiveness. They also rob the attention from the peaceful protests focusing only on the violence. They promote confrontation, chaos and destruction.

            Some people will see that as attractive and “join the cause” but most people, on both sides, will be repulsed.
            Guarimbas are uncivil disobedience, not civil.

          • “And the guarimbas will probably not attract the Chavistas to the opposition’s cause, that’s true, but they might be a spark of something big.”

            “the more people start to see their neighbours (people that they know and trust) with unhappy faces complaining about Maduro around their neighbourhoods, the more is the probability that they themselves will start questioning their own views of the government.”

            This actually sounds like an argument *against* the utility of the guarimbas. All the neighbors (the people who know and trust each other) around the guarimba location are against the govt. already. So all they are doing is providing fodder to the communication hegemony, taking attention away from issue-centered protest marches (which is where the social physics spark is more likely to happen, IMO). (Whatever is going on in Táchira might be the exception.)

            In any case, the social physics stuff applies where there is some free flow of the info, and when the networks are not as balkanized as they are in vzla.

    • You are trying to use logic where no logic can be used. Your reasoning goes like this:
      1) Quico says the oppo can do bad
      2) bad is the contrary of good
      3) ergo, the oppo can do good
      and thus
      4) Quico is contracting himself.
      It doesn’t work like that. In a lot of human activities you have situations where you can hardly improve your situation but wait and yet you can easily screw up your situation.

      And yet: I do not agree completely with Quico about us not being able to do something.
      As I said repeatedly, we can do 2 things: 1) do the intellectual, mental work of producing a set of detailed proposals and informative, succinct material about what’s wrong with Venezuela (corruption cases in detail but also structural analysis) and
      2) carry out propaganda work on a long term basis.

      And then, when the economic crisis really hits the poorest sectors we will have our time.

        • Ya entramos en otra etapa de esta dinámica de las protestas. El asesinato otro joven en Valencia y la brutal represión de la protesta en la entrada de la UCV marcarán ya otro rumbo. Vamos a una insurrección de la juventud en Venezuela.

      • You want to lecture the poor on “corruption cases in detail but also structural analysis”? Seriously?

        What matter for poor people is (1) food supply, (2) job security, (3) their own and their family’s health and safety, (4) income and purchasing power (5) basic consumer goods’ supply

        Any other attempt will be like shooting on water and meaningless.

        • It’s difficult educating the educated about the uneducated needing needs met before being educated on how to meet needs, especially in a context that makes it so difficult to meet needs, even for the educated.

      • I meant “contradicting”.

        Having a bunch of students of whom a large part look like better-off in the middle of the better-off of Caracas for foreign journos to photograph ad nauseam is not the best PR we can have.
        I also hear from people in Valencia who are tired of guarimberos closing their areas.
        And the guarimbas have included a couple of trigger-happy guys who have shot at Guardias Nacionales.
        Two GNs have been killed like that.
        Yes, many more of our side have been killed, but the Guarimbas as they are organised now are not precisely helping us, in spite of the post about guarimbas in Mérida.
        There can be other ways of protecting people.

    • I call this the Martin Luther King move. He first became REALLY popular among whites when the alternatives were H. Rap Brown and Malcolm X.

    • “The guarimbas are wrong because they are an immoral infringement on people’s freedoms…”
      Ah, the higher than any other human right, “Freedom of movement”, well, at least, by a couple of streets, because you’re banned from basically going out of Venezuela or from many other regime-controlled parts WITHIN Venezuela.
      Don’t worry, that supossed “freedom of movement” is even higher than little meaningless freedoms like “freedom to have a decent job that allows me to sustain a family and be at least middle class”, “freedom to say or point an idea about anything without risk being jailed by the hyper-sensitive regime”, “freedom not to be extorted my a SOB with a plate” or, maybe this could be at the bottom of the list in today’s Venezuela, “Freedom to NOT GET KILLED BY MUGGERS AT ANY GIVEN TIME IN VENEZUELA.

  20. Ultimately, discussing the guarimba’s appropriateness or not is about as helpful as the government’s decrying them as fascists. They are a fact of life, and they are not going anywhere. Railing about them, saying everything they are doing wrong, and demonizing them doesn’t do anything to get us out of this pickle. In fact, it hurts a cause that is much more important: maintaing the unity of the opposition in case the government implodes. Complaining about guarimbas is a bit like complaining about the weather.

    One can be against the guarimbas as Quico or, to some extent, I am. But one doesn’t need to be saying it, if anything out of respect for the reasons behind them.

    • http://el-carabobeno.com/portada/articulo/77240/un-gnb-muerto-y-tres-heridos-en-maongo-tras-brutal-enfrentamiento

      This is the second GN killed there. People are tired on both sides, but this is not spelling to the government. We could be using those forces for something else, like ridiculing the government, really distributing flyers with very concrete information about corruption affairs not just for 100 persons a day but for thousands a day in every city. Instead, these guys are annoying dozens of thousands of residents and of the buhoneros-poorest, among other things.

      • Mildred Manrique ♥ ‏@milmanrique · 8m
        CONFIRMADO 4 muertos en Valencia por impactos de bala: 1GNB de 36 años 1 señor de 42 años. un estudiante de 23 y una niña de 6 años. #12M

    • I disagree completely with this. Voices need to be heard and the guarimberos are not the only voices. Opinion makers (that includes bloggers) need not shut up, specially given the great dangers that guarimbas pose (in my comment below). Public opinion changes all the time, and is up to all of us to guide it. The politics of silence is self defeatist. In this there can be no unity, except between the people that reject violence.

      In fact we should stop romanticizing and making heroes of the guarimberos. The consequences can be too disastrous to be indulgent with them. I know many will say: consequences? no vale! yo no creo. But this is a recipe for brewing violence, and with violence everyone knows when it starts but no one knows when it ends.

      There may be many justified reasons for putting up the “autodefensas unidas de la calle” but all the justifications do not counter the fact that what they are doing is damaging for the opposition and that it can be extremely damaging for the whole country.

  21. Being outside VZLa, and having the day to day necessities of a work life, family, mental health to look after, I can only follow with updates so far.

    My fear is that given the bias for bad and sensationalist news, the impact of the guarimba movement is overrated. Yes, some guarimba barricades are cutting off important enclaves in major cities and causing divisions among the oppo, and potentially being exposed as future scapegoats fro the coming shortages (and further violence). Is it being unfairly reported? is it really that bad? can you not get through most of Caracas or is it a cafetal altamira, prados issue?

    The amount of exposure it is managing to get suggests either:

    The situation is really bad (not only el este, but all of Caracas), nor only Caracas, but also la provincia
    It benefits the regime to show it bigger than it actually s for the purpose of galvanizing its own support, and setting precedence for their coming blame game.

    So, what is it? (family reports are contradictory depending who you ask. even corrected for my appreciation of the reporter’s world views, its not consistent)

    I am going to assume one alternative for my analysis.
    Lets say the situation is really bad.

    Why is the military still under control?
    Why are the paramilitary forces still acting with total impunity?
    What is the resistance/ former oppo movement waiting to up the ante and pay their cards? (an attrition strategy does not work in their favour IMO)

    The answer I come to is that the regime tiene el sarten agarrado de la mano, they control the forces within the military and are able to neutralize any dissent, and are not expecting this to change.

    en otras palabras, estamos (ESTAN!) Jodidos.

    Lao dicatadura cubana esta asentada, y solo se retirara cuando no halla mas carne en ese hueso que es Venezuela….

    Quico’s point.

    Now is this defeatist? or realists?
    Is this what i would like to see? no.

    Its real life and not always do the good guys win.

    With this in mind, waht can really the oppo do? IMO educate. Educate, Educate. Counter the coming blame game with facts and figures. discourse and values….

    do these get you back to power? no. But at least neutralize the next round in the game and get you closer, eventually, to a position where you could opt for power when the democratic game is reinstituted.

    Now, this is the oppo. As few have commented the game has changed. IMO there is the space and time now for RESISTANCE and Insurgency, which are matters not to be takes seriously if discussed in an open forum as this one.

  22. Ok, I think this needs to be said out loud:
    A guarimba, (a barricade if you prefer) is NOT a peaceful demonstration.

    At first sight it may seem you are not attacking anyone. But you are inviting an attack on the barricade. You are summoning the violence to your doorstep. A barricade is the equivalent of tracing a line in the ground and daring people to cross it. Is the famous “quítame esta pajita del hombro”. It is taping a KICK ME sign to your back.

    Now, they are being justified as a defense mechanism, but why were they not necessary before? Is it coincidence that the attacks happened right after the barricades were put up? I don’t think so. Gated communities have existed for a long time, ask yourself, what is the difference?

    Also they may seem kind of harmless but they are not. In fact they pose an extreme danger for the future of Venezuela. By the logic of the defense mechanism it is inevitable that sooner or later someone will say. Why are we throwing rocks and bottles? I have a gun, that is what they are for, that is why I bought in the first place. The next SOB that tries to take the barricade is going to get it.

    After that some will organize themselves with guns and men to defend and protect the barricades. And hire themselves for a low price. There will be deaths and then sicarios there will be a couple of generations lost to violence. Kids will learn the art of sicariato.
    It is called escalation. Remember Colombia? Do not forget it. Venezuela is at the doorstep and with a foot inside.

    Meanwhile as the violence surges there will be no real opposition anymore. Demonstrations will become too dangerous. In times of turmoil, political assassinations are easy. The government will be sitting comfortably for decades to come. Thanks to the violence. That violence that right now is a germ and is being nurtured and that many applaud in this forum.

    • You make valid points, but I think the violence will continue with the guarimbas or not because the colectivos are also shooting and harassing neighbourhoods where roads are not being blocked.

      And I also don’t think that the guarimberos will start shooting people because they all look like regular people, not criminals. In truth, they are being annihilated by the colectivos. I’ve just watched several videos of the violence in Venezuela today and I have no words to describe what I’ve seen. Simply horrible.

      • ” they all look like regular people, not criminals”

        What do criminals look alike? Most criminals start as perfectly regular people. It only takes a triggering event until someone snaps. Besides I assure you in those neighborhoods there are all kinds of people. You can’t count on all of them having common sense.

      • ” the violence will continue with the guarimbas or not because the colectivos are also shooting and harassing neighbourhoods where roads are not being blocked”

        The violence will continue as long as is beneficial for the government. They do not want the guarimbas to stop. Which is probably the best reason to stop them.

    • “Now, they are being justified as a defense mechanism, but why were they not necessary before? Is it coincidence that the attacks happened right after the barricades were put up? I don’t think so. Gated communities have existed for a long time, ask yourself, what is the difference?”

      Wrong, there have been harrassment and attacks from the regime countless times before these events, almost all the gated communities have been attacked by the regime invoking the “freedom to move everywhere” excuse, when they just wanted to make things easier for the criminals that harrass people in those communities.

      There has been an ever-going attack against every non-chavista Venezuelan since the first very day that the wax doll took the power, summoning the violence against them.

      I could count more angles on that offensive, like the whole economic fiasco, but time’s short, I just say you that the chavista regime brought this on themselves, from the incident on 2002, the 2003 strikes, and now these 2014 events, not a single meaningful thing has been done to disturb the regime by the opossition since 2003 until 2014, and they weren’t the ones that called to mount the barricades, they just ended tagging along when people got sick of the “wait until the next election, vote and then go hole yourself in your home again” bullshit.

      • “from the incident on 2002, the 2003 strikes, and now these 2014 events, not a single meaningful thing has been done to disturb the regime by the opossition since 2003 until 2014, and they weren’t the ones that called to mount the barricades”

        That’s very relevant to understand why Venezuela is in such situation right now, The opposition has always been out of synch with the masses and just can’t anticipate anything. See Toro saying farewell to the blog just to return a couple days later because hell broke loose. “How come?”, he said. Those guys simply can’t “connect” to the average Venezuelan. They have always been outsiders to the whole process, be it in the times that Venezuela was a democracy or now that it is a dictatorship. For a extent, this protests have nothing to do with the opposition. I dare say that maybe there are more fed up ex-chavistas protesting against Maduro and doing the barricades than typical oppositionists.

  23. The guarimbas need to take their blockades to Miraflores palace and antagonize the gov’t and the collectivos– not their own neighborhoods. I’m in Valencia, and I’ve had friends who’ve been robbed while walking to work because they can’t drive. I’ve also had the fools running the marimbas throw rocks at my vehicle… The opposition is eating itself alive fighting their own neighbors.

  24. One more thing. I see many false dichotomies here.

    The opposite of a guarimba is not to do nothing. The opposite of a guarimba is not to wait for the next election. The opposite of a guarimba is not to not protest.

    The opposite of guarimba is to do everything we can, short of any form of violence or provocations in that sense. Why? Because violence only benefits the government.

    I’ll say it again: violence only benefits the government.

    So do not ask: “everyone is supposed to do nothing?”
    Of course we need to act, but smartly, thinking with our heads. I know emotions run high but they need to be channeled to productive actions. Emotions are powerful motivators but acting without thinking about the consequences is usually damaging.

    Peaceful protests of many different kinds, with creativity, different forms of expression, from people from many different extractions and professions is what is needed. United but also diverse.

    • But I see the guarimbas as some sort of fringe of the protests, not the flagship. I would not give them so much importance if I were you.

      • “But I see the guarimbas as some sort of fringe of the protests, not the flagship.”

        But you have the luxury of choosing how to view them because you are not as beholden to the communication hegemon as the average chavista is.

        • Because that’s what the communication hegemon wants people to think.
          They’re the new “april 11th”, just another made-up excuse for everything.

          • And it’s funny that the guarimbas would be “counter-productive” for the opposition but at the same time people think that the hordes of government funded paramilitary nazi-fascist troops (aka colectivos) terrorizing whole neighbourhoods would not even scratch a mark on the government’s popularity. It’s as if the Chavistas were some sort of indestructible force.

          • Important point there. A LOT of the “chavista base” are very much against the National Guard and the Tupamaros shooting people on protests. Compared to that, the complaining about guarimbas seems minor.

          • Therein lies the self-defeating self- fulfilling prophecy of the opposition and it is typical in an authoritarian culture.

          • Marc, that only happens if you mix and match the opinions of different people.

            Of course the Colectivos damage the image of the government (one more stripe for a tiger), but only in the cities, where people get the experience firsthand. But when both sides are acting violently and one side controls all the airwaves and has a huge propaganda machine, it gets murkier who is the instigator and who is the victim.

            For now the government doesn’t care, they prefer some violence now than later when the economic crisis hits everyone hard. Their hope is that by then today’s protesters will have been defeated into submission so that there won’t be any large protests, only some outbreaks of violence that are easy to put down.

            You need to understand that what the government really fears is a large non violent movement with an ever growing following conducting protests, demonstrations, week after week. When the crisis hits hard those protests will swell in number and participation, that can make the government shake.

            Guarimbas are just the opposite, they are small, they are not growing, either in number or participation and they stifle the nonviolent movement, by drawing attention and by spreading violence.

    • The guarimbas need to take their blockades to Miraflores palace and antagonize the gov’t and the collectivos– not their own neighborhoods. I’m in Valencia, and I’ve had friends who’ve been robbed while walking to work because they can’t drive. I’ve also had the fools running the marimbas throw rocks at my vehicle… The opposition is eating itself alive fighting their own neighbors.

  25. I’m just going to say, since Quico’s “retirement”, the few posts he has made sound very different when he wasn’t “retired”. He sounds more like an outsider,somewhat detached.

    • There are some similar tactics, for instance (from 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action):
      170. Nonviolent invasion
      171. Nonviolent interjection
      172. Nonviolent obstruction
      173. Nonviolent occupation
      183. Nonviolent land seizure
      184. Defiance of blockades

      Notice the emphasis on Nonviolence. The selection of any tactic of nonviolence is predicated on it not generating violence.

      About violence, from the Albert Einstein Institution:

      “Violence as a Contaminant
      Opposition violence toward the government or its supporters, authorized or not, can be a serious contaminant to the success of a nonviolent struggle. A single act of violence may provide the government with a convenient rationale for brutal retaliation against whatever target or targets within the opposition movement it purports to hold directly or indirectly responsible. Opposition violence may also have the unintended effect of undermining public confidence and participation in a movement whose very existence is premised upon achieving its objectives through nonviolent strategy and tactics.

      As with any political struggle, including the most violent ones, the importance of the energy, enthusiasm and idealism of youthful contributions to success can hardly be overestimated. But one of the most striking benefits of a nonviolent strategy –a benefit not always enjoyed where violence is employed– is that its ranks and leadership benefit immeasurably from the complete absence of age or gender restrictions. Violence, on the other hand, can reasonably be expected to deter the less physically active but nonetheless valuable supporters to a movement. Membership in a nonviolent movement is also compatible with pacifism and religious beliefs. Acts of violence can result in the loss of support by individuals and groups that could reinforce the moral authority of a pro-democracy movement. It is difficult for the international community to justify support to a cause, however worthy and justified, which appears, by its own actions. or through skillful propaganda and agents provocateurs by the opponent, to endorse violent action against a government.”

      On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamentals
      Robert L. Helvey

        • Two Guardias Nacionales have been killed in Valencia, in El Trigal and Manongo.
          That was bound to happen. That is not “non violent”.

          • Then they’ll be always ineffectual and thus useless, because the regime will always send its thugs to attack the protesters.

          • You forgot to add, that by that principle, every single demonstration or action took or thing said by non-chavistas is then useless, because the regime’ll always resort to attack violently, and then claiming the oppos are violent.
            Pretty conveninent for the regime, isn’t it?

          • Not true.
            There have been many large demonstrations (and smaller creative ones) that have gone without violence, or with just minor incidents. The larger the demonstrations the harder it is to attack them because it attracts more attention.

            The problem with the guarimba barricades is that they become an excuse to have a battle. It creates an illusion of a defense, because in reality they are not defending anything, just promoting chaos. They are just an outlet for the rage of the people.

            Every outbreak of violence is damaging to the opposition and beneficial to the government for the simple reason that the only power the opposition has is the people that support it. Acting violently makes many people withdraw their support, and with violence is hard to for the opposition to organize the actions required to grow in strength. How many want to join a fight club?

        • Obstructing a highway temporarily for a demonstration is a valid tactic but obstructing a way permanently with a barricade and defending the barricade is a different tactic and it has a higher probability of generating violence which is ultimately undesirable.

  26. There is an expression that captures succinctly the position of the opposition: between a rock and a hard place.

    Options are running out for everyone. Keep in mind the government is not happy with the way things are going either. They thought they understood how the world works and had invented a way of circumventing capitalism.

    To me some of the more important positive results of the demonstrations have been:

    * dogfaced Jaua going around begging for international support and denying that he belongs to a fascist regime, while missing the point: if your government was at least a fraction as noble as you claim it is we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    * at least some in the government acknowledging that human rights abuses have been committed by police/GN

    * suggestions from some chavistas that there may just be government-supported cooperatives that are acting extra-judicially and that should be curbed

    What is missing is a tacit acknowledgement that the government has run amok.

    But what is also frustrating is the same old rancorous delusional argumentation heard from both sides that always includes blaming bizarre conspiracies. The guarimberos? Why they are payed colombian operatives! The tupamaros, they are all cuban infiltrators!

    When in reality it is all the cumulative result of a deluge of incompetence, avarice and arrogance.

    It is what it is: a big fucking mess with everyone accountable and no one capable of doing anything.

    • To add a more constructive note, I think there are clear options for both sides:

      1) The opposition: bring the guarimbas under control. Neutralize the influence of the fringe nuts.
      2) The government: bring armed collectives under control: Neutralize the fringe nuts.

      If and only when (1) and (2) have been accomplished…

      3) Formalize the guarimbas: set up locally-controlled neighborhood policing – a sheriff system, neighborhood watch groups, call it what you like, but organize this.
      4) Bring violent offenders who committed crimes during the demonstrations to justice. Arrange for a neutral panel with members from the OEA or equivalent and opposition and government reps to monitor this.
      5) Deal with the government, particularly at the municipal level, to increase local policing, under local control.

      This does not address the general overarching problem of government mismanagement, but it reduces the current level of anarchy.

    • Very misleading title to that article. The poor being quoted are not being driven to Maduro, they never left in the first place and probably never will.
      Too bad the reporters couldn’t find someone else to interview in that neighborhood who wasn’t a “hard-wired socialist” (or as I like to say “stuck on stupid”), and felt confident that they could speak candidly without reprisal. But that would have ruined the title of the article, wouldn’t it.

  27. I’m with Quico in that a single event won’t change the status quo.

    It will take an ever increasing and accumulating number of small events, uprisings, economical implosions, running out of expendable cash, stronger opposition leaders, the eventual guarimba, increased disenfranchising -arrechera generalizada-, more repression via communists tactics, military uprisings, defections, international pressure, etc.

    Also important is that the regime is not run by a small bunch of guys. The number high and middle level bureaucrats in power run in the ten of thousands. To gain their support, they will want and need to have a better alternative to just being ousted from their positions.

    The same goes for all the people that depend on the networks of social support created by the regime -handouts if you will-. I don’t know the statistics, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I would say the majority of the population income depends directly on central government handouts in the form of imported and subsidized food, an ever increasing bureaucracy, margins in the exchange rate differentials, and a corruption that runs all across the society.

    Sugar-coating the situation, or deluging ourselves in believing that a miraculous event will change the state of affairs is not productive.

    With that said, I do think this past month of limited rebellion could be the start of a long process of change.

  28. I’m sorry if I rub you the wrong way with this, Juan, but didn’t Quico very recently write a whole post in your blog regarding El Nacional?

    “With characteristic lack of accountability, El Nacional has now changed the story on its website. They haven’t run a correction (they never run a correction!), they haven’t apologized to readers, they haven’t apologized to Ramírez, as though they thought showing a minimum of responsibility for this monumental fuck-up was beneath their dignity.”

    Here you are with a post of your own, making claims that Quico said something which the quotes you chose from him do not exemplify, and topping it off with faulty logic to reach unfounded conclusions that it is Quico who is off in his thinking.

    When brought to your attention, you didn’t run a correction, nor apologized to the readers, nor apologized to Quico, as though you thought showing a minimum of responsibility for this error was beneath your dignity.

  29. “Powerless to make things better” != “Powerless to make things worse”.

    I may be unable to cure the cold that is making me sick; but gorging on junk food and booze will make me sicker.

    Quico’s thesis has four parts.

    1) With the chavernment’s media hegemony and abuse of state resources, the oppo has little chance of winning significant state/municipal elections, and the chavernment overrides the laws and constitution to nullify such victories anyway.

    2) The guarimbas cannot shake the loyalty of the chavista security forces and paramilitaries, nor win enough popular support to do so; and as long as those forces are loyal, the chavernment will hold power.

    3) The chavernment’s media hegemony insures most of the Venezuelan public see only the problems caused by the guarimbas.

    4) As long as there is enough oil money, most of the Venezuelan public will support or accept the chavernment.

    I don’t see any evidence against any of these parts. His conclusion is that the oppo cannot affect any of these factors, which also seems definite. The only part that can change is (4).

    Right now Venezuela is engaged in a quasi civil war. The oppo blocks streets and roads; the chavernment beats people and vandalizes property. Neither side uses outright force. (Compare to Syria.) This is unstable.

    Fairly soon, one of two things will happen: some oppo zones will go into open rebellion, or the chavernment will forcibly suppress the guarimbas. It seems likely that support for the guarimbas will be gradually decline through exhaustion, and then the chavernment will move against them.

    Can anyone can see how a different outcome could occur?

  30. “I may be unable to cure the cold that is making me sick; but gorging on junk food and booze will make me sicker.”

    Yes, but you have evidence to believe that way. You know by experience that junk food and booze will make you sicker because that’s a fact. You are not using just using your “guts” to assert that. You just can’t pretend that your quote above is similar to saying that “anything that the opposition does will be fruitless”. It’s just not the same thing.

    “1) With the chavernment’s media hegemony and abuse of state resources, the oppo has little chance of winning significant state/municipal elections, and the chavernment overrides the laws and constitution to nullify such victories anyway.”

    Yes, forget elections.

    “2) The guarimbas cannot shake the loyalty of the chavista security forces and paramilitaries, nor win enough popular support to do so; and as long as those forces are loyal, the chavernment will hold power.”

    “as long as those forces are loyal, the chavernment will hold power”

    Do you think that they are that important?
    Actually, the colectivos might be doing more harm to Maduro’s popularity than the guarimbas for the opposition’s popularity, so we might be winning on that front and brewing the optimum scenario for a bigger popular discontent.

    “3) The chavernment’s media hegemony insures most of the Venezuelan public see only the problems caused by the guarimbas.”

    The media hegemony is not the only form of communicating with society.

    “4) As long as there is enough oil money, most of the Venezuelan public will support or accept the chavernment.”

    Not true, enough oil money and food shortages would alienate the Chavistas. They might like Maduro, but they like their children more.

    “I don’t see any evidence against any of these parts. His conclusion is that the oppo cannot affect any of these factors, which also seems definite. The only part that can change is (4)”

    Why ignore rampant crime, food shortages, a civil unrest dirupting everyone’s lives, the highest inflation in the continent and several other problems? We can’t just ignore these very relevant factors that are playing a major role in these protests. The opposition might not be able to “affect” that, but Maduro’s incompetence can’t either. So you have a good scenario for a fight, which is happening as we speak.

    • But …

      1) Quico did not say: “anything that the opposition does will be fruitless”. He said fruitless in getting us off the road to outright dictatorship, more so if you think we’re already there.

      2) Just because something causes a change does not imply that the change is fruitful. Just because a number isn’t positive, does not make it negative…

  31. The Guarimba serves a strong psychological purpose. It allows all sectors of society, regardless of age or physical capacity to participate in protest against a brutal Regime. Not everyone can go march in protest. Fear, physical limitation etc., can inhibit marchers. But a barricade at the end of your block where you can contribute a “watch” or objects to help the construction serves the purpose of feeling like you are doing something against the brutality. It is a powerful symbol of Resistance. Don’t count it out or diminish its’ importance in effecting change. Some of the smallest Guarimbas in small cities and towns manned by woman, mostly middle age or elderly sends a powerful message of solidarity to the Nation.

  32. JCN,

    The irony is that your post is criticizing Quico’s quotes for being logically contradictory, when in fact it’s your post that is logically contradictory while seem not to be. Once again, saying that there is nothing that can be done to improve our position does not contradict saying that somethings that can be done may worsen our position.

    Is your plan to let time pass so as to not have to admit fault, let alone apologize? That would be disappointing.


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