Give us the CNE

Three chavistas too many
Three chavistas too many

Dear UNASUR Foreign Ministers:

Thank you for your interest in the Venezuelan conflict. Now that you helped make the OAS a veritable “circus,” we can start discussing the visit you agreed with the government, the one to help jump-start “dialogue” with the opposition. People in the opposition have nothing but contempt for most of you, but, you’re going to be in Venezuela soon, so we might as well make good use of you.

A large chunk of the current conflict stems from the fact that the opposition has stopped believing in elections as a viable way to solve our differences. People have taken to the streets because, as they say, it’s now or never – which implies that they don’t believe chavismo can ever be defeated at the polls. No one in the opposition believes the electoral processes, as we have witnessed in the past, allow for a fair contest between two starkly opposing yet similarly sized populations.

It’s not like we’re imagining things: last time, after we brought a large stack of evidence documenting a slew of high-profile irregularities following the April 2013 presidential elections, not only did the Supreme Tribunal refuse to hear the case, but they actually fined our candidate for even bringing it, and formally asked the Prosecutor General to file criminal charges against him.

The current crisis is the bastard child of that other one. The unresolved April election created a cloud of legitimacy over the government that is directly linked to the barricades and the protests. And I would like to remind you that, after both Maduro and Capriles asked you to intervene, and after you passed a resolution calling for a full audit, the government ignored you. You failed to follow through, you dropped the ball, so this crisis has your fingerprints all over it.

But … water under the bridge, right?

However … since this is the root of the problem, I would like to make a proposal that will save you a ton of time and that, if succesful, could deactivate the conflict quickly and help you get back to your capitals safe and sound, away from the hell-hole that this blog is named after.

Give us the CNE.

Half of Venezuela is now certain we’ll never get an electoral handover of power under the current CNE authorities. This has led to the current levels of frustration, and no amount of tear gas, no amount of posturing or huffing and puffing from the overmedicated blowhards you represent is going to get people off the streets. Mujica may rant, Dilma may pout, but it doesn’t mean squat to the good folks of Rubio or La Isabelica.

The only thing that might, might get people away from the streets is replacing Tibisay and co. with a fair CNE – one that will put a stop to abusive cadenas (i.e. mandatory broadcasts of government campaign events), to assisted voting, to sloganeering outside of voting centers, to witnesses being forcefully removed from voting centers, and all the rest. And the only way to have a fair CNE is to have an opposition CNE.

Most countries come out of crises like these with some sort of power sharing between warring factions. Hell, Robert Mugabe had to work with Morgan Tsvangirai in order to get people off the streets. Given how toxic the environment has become, there is no chance Capriles and Maduro could possibly work together, and quite frankly, I’m not sure asking the opposition to join the government would do anything other than enrage people even further.

I’m sure you agree a coalition government is impossible. But what about the other institutions? Bar one, they simply don’t get at the core of the issue.

We don’t want the Fiscalía, the Prosecutor General, because ultimately the courts are the ones that decide. We’re willing to wait for a Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) that represents the entire nation – in the meantime, an opposition TSJ would simply be ignored by Maduro. And the people’s ombudsperson? Well, her office is a joke, and she’s a lightweight.

Freeing political prisoners is the right thing to do, but at this point, it would only feed the protests, not quench them. And asking for particular measures – promises to disarm paramilitatries, for example, or shelving particular laws – are simply going to be ignored by the government just like the last time. The opposition knows this, and that’s why they won’t talk to you.

But giving the opposition the CNE would be a coup de grace. Only an opposition CNE can potentially get people off the streets and return a level of sanity to our political life.

Maduro loves to boast about how the people love his Revolution. He certainly makes sure of that every election cycle, spending wildly on vote-buying schemes just like his predecessor did. Much of the argument spouted by international chavistas is that the Revolution keeps winning elections, so they can’t be doing things that badly.

But this whole charade comes hand in hand with an absolute grip on all levers of power, most importantly the electoral bean counters. If Maduro is so tough, if he is so demcratic, he should be willing to fight the opposition fair and square, in conditions similar to the ones you face in your own countries.

That’s all we want.

An opposition CNE is not going to be almighty, but it will have the legitimacy to bring some sense of order to Venezuelan elections. The streets are an imperfect substitute for a referee of our disputes, and what we need is a referee. Save yourselves some time, and start discussing the core of the issue.

The problem in Venezuela is lack of democracy born out of the death of the division of powers. Let’s begin by reversing that, and actually dividing the powers. 

We’ll take that piece – the one that holds sway over elections.