Don't trust your gut

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Do it for him
Do it for him

Some people say that the best way to make decisions is to “trust your gut.” As political advice goes, we can do a lot worse. However, the danger for Venezuelans of both clans is that our gut is frequently wrong. As we face a rash of political persecution, now is a good time for a gut-check of our guttural instincts.

We haven’t really talked much on the blog about the heightened persecution of political leaders. From the outrageous jailing of Leopoldo López, to the moves against elected officials such as Enzo Scarano and Daniel Ceballos, to the recent attack on Maria Corina Machado, whatever notion that authoritarianism was being contained has been swept away by the tsunami of repression emanating from downtown Caracas. The status quo in Venezuela is that nobody is too hot to mess with, and nothing the Maduro government does can surprise us anymore.

With that in mind, what can we do? What can we say that hasn’t been already said? Remind people that Daniel Ceballos was elected mayor with more than 60% of the vote, and that Scarano won with more than 70%? That Leopoldo López is a political prisoner?

That would be trite. The interesting aspect of all of this is not that it happens, but how we choose to react. When faced with these events, it turns out that there is something we can do: think.

These moves by the government are deliberate. When they jail Leopoldo, they are not going after him – they are after us. In particular, they are looking for a reaction that serves their long-term goal.

Take, for example, the Ceballos case. Mr. Ceballos is not being jailed in order to quench the protests – if that were the case, San Cristóbal would be Sabaneta by now. He is also not being jailed because of a particular vendetta from someone in the government.

No, Mr. Ceballos is being jailed in order to break our spirits, make the protests continue, and to steer us on a particular path. He is also being jailed so they can steal the San Cristóbal mayor’s office.

His removal and imprisonment have been remarkably swift, and the announcement of an election to replace him has been equally abrupt. It is all being done so arbitrarily that the natural reaction is to say “the hell with it, we’re not participating in a sham election, we already have a mayor and will not accept a replacement.”

That reaction is legitimate, and it is exactly the one the government is looking for. They want a repeat of 2002-2004, they want to force us into supporting coups, strikes, and walking out of elections. That is why we should go against our gut and do the exact opposite.

Sitting out the replacement election, as some have suggested, would be a massive mistake, similar to the one we made in 2005. Not only would we be betraying the thousands of gochos battling out in the streets, we would be giving away a prominent political office that is ours to begin with, and that will most likely remain ours. The government simply cannot win the mayorship of San Cristóbal – and nothing they do can change that. The same holds true for San Diego. Not participating would mean letting them off easy.

I understand all those who think the deck is too stacked against us. I empathize with those that say voting in these circumstances is akin to “legitimizing” a dictatorship. I get it.

But still, we need to think long term. The best thing for Ceballos, for Scarano, for Leopoldo, is to go out and vote whenever we can. Do it with a handkerchief on your nose, but do it anyway. Don’t trust your instincts on this one.

1 COMMENT

  1. I definetely agree. This is the time to elect mayors in those municipalities by an 85% oppo vote.

    THAT would send a message.

  2. Of course in San Diego people will vote en masse for the opposition again.

    I think the opposition should choose a couple of relatively well-known figures that do not have anything to lose when it comes to being made “inhabilitados” (thus, not any of our deputies or mayors or the like) and let these people speak out abroad about the fact the key elements of the CNE and the top of the Supreme Court are proven Chavista politicians (the head of the Supreme Court, for instance, was a MVR candidate for the governorship of Nueva Esparta and then secondary deputy at the first National Assembly).

    These spokespersons should challenge people such as Dilma and the foreign minister of Chile and they should say the Supreme Court will probably want to sue them for saying the Supreme Court is not partial (such a counter-attack would be unconceivable in democratic countries)

    • It worries me that in San Diego, the only known “pre-candidate” is Scarano’s wife. I have no doubt in my mind she’ll win. I just don’t like the wife-as-proxy rationality that brought us Evelyn Trejo.

      I hope the candidate ends up being someone from Cuentas Claras, who’s able to stand on his own two feet, instead of always having to be lift up by Scarano. It would launch new leaders from Cuentas Claras into the public sphere and pave the way for Scarano’s run for the Governorship, which now seems inevitable.

      • Navarro,
        I agree with you as well. Just in case: I am NOT a Scarano fan. I know the guy like I know the Salas and…well, eso es lo que hay…it’s better than Madurismo but it is not what we should have in a developed or developing nation.

        Nepotism is really bad her as well. There is Scarano’s wife and there is Scarano’s brother.
        I’d hope it is someone else but I doubt it: unfortunately, Cuentas Claras is even more of a family business than UNT (its scope is also much smaller), like Proyecto Venezuela.

        As I said somewhere else, we hardly have any party, they are mostly tools for caudillos or proto-caudillos.

        • If only Carabobo would get over dynasties…

          There’s also Ameliach (governor) and his brother (viceroy of southern valencia), in case anyone thought it wasn’t widespread.

          Then there’s the Celis, and the Peñalver-Salas dynastic link.

          Sigh.

      • …yada yada yada… I hope the candidate ends up being X….” yada yada yada.

        Really! have we learned nothing?
        still going about elections here! its getting boring people.

        Reminder. The CNE is run by the same people shooting to the students in the face!, now, do you trust your electoral administration again? Common’

        • The alternative being… boycotting the election? Because I prefer today’s National Assembly to the one we gave up in 2005 by a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG shot. That’s a mistake we can’t repeat ever.

          What Chavismo wants is for the opposition to forfeit those strongholds. A mix of hotheads actively boycotting the election, moderates abstaining in learned helplessness and undecideds scared of a vengeful opposition speech.

          As a Valencian, I can tell you that losing an opposition stronghold to Chavismo sucks big time. I hope the memory is still fresh in San Diegan’s minds, and is also transmitted to San Cristobal residents.

          • J.Navarro. elections are over.
            Only real force in the street, in the diplomatic front, in media, true sustained all fronts citizens resistance for example, no one pays taxes until there is accountability for public monies, will bring this regime to give in.

            They have not allowed any visibility into elections since the RR of 2004!!! ten years ago!, and will not do so as long as we are all discussing elections. Elections are over, get over it.

            Or are you going to continue to play in the game set up for you to play, and fight over the empty bottle…

            The walk out on legislative elections or boycott as you call it of 2005 was not the failure. The failure was having done so and continue to act as if things were normal.

            Why did people not trust the Elections back then?
            Why did the society past the page leaving the issue as that and accepting the misrepresentation of great % of the population in an farce election?

            hAVE THINGS CHANGED? IMPROVED?

            . ..And then again after winning and suffering the effects oF gerrymandering and a myriad of other frauds, moved ahead again accepting the current Asamblea.

            …And the again by having as you say TODAY’S ASSEMBLY where opposition is treated with contempt and disrespect.

            Amigo es tiempo de dar unos conazos de vuelta!,
            …que asamblea tan de mentira! tan inutil tenemos.

            TIEMPO ES DE DEJAR ESTAR MAREADOS Y VER LA ESCENCIA. NO LA APARIENCIA.

    • I talk to people all the time about lack of independence in the Venezuelan judiciary. The most convincing possible proof is the declaration of Supreme Court Justice Aponte Aponte. He met with Vice President Jaua every Friday in the Supreme Court offices, and Jaua told the Court, under threat, how to decide cases. The regime has never investigated any of his allegations.

      Their rejoinder is so weak as to be laughable: “We won’t unvestigate because he, the guy we appointed, is a major drug baron.” Oh well, then.

      Then, Afiuni.

    • Have absolutely no clue about Brazil, but guessing its similar. For Bachelet and Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz the Venezuela topic might be much more an emotional than an analytical issue. Some part of the chilean population might see values in Chavismo, which doesn’t exist in reality. And this part may be bigger than Pendejos sin fronteras in Europe and the US. They deal with difficult reforms in their society and won’t risk negative feelings about a foreign country in parts of their society and even their coalition. Really sad.

  3. “No, Mr. Ceballos is being jailed in order to break our spirits, make the protests continue, and to steer us on a particular path. He is also being jailed so they can steal the San Cristóbal mayor’s office.”

    If you break the spirits of the opposition the protests will stop…PERIOD…..

    totally illogical thinking

    • I think it should be expanded on. This moves are meant to instigate the radical elements into wanton violence (disconnecting them from the rest of the population), and to instill learned helplessness into the moderate elements.

      Those two ingredients would make those mayoral offices an easy steal.

  4. Chavismo has it really clear: They won’t win those elections. Are you familiar with the Cook Partisan Vote Index (PVI)? I used it for San Diego and San Cristóbal and the results threw a MUD+26 for San Diego and MUD+24 in San Cristóbal. That means in those municipalities MUD would perform 26 and 24 points above its national average. Now, this isn’t 100% accurate, and many variables change the outcome of the election; but it is a good way of knowing party strength in a particular area, and that (coupled with the fact that the PSUV lost the last mayoral election by 57 points) means that if chavismo has even a slight bit of electoral analysis done; they’d really know for sure they can’t win unless certain conditions are met. They just want a show.

    • And to top it off, ends the story with the brilliant “An Information Ministry spokesman, who can’t be named because of internal policy, declined to comment on the investigation plans.”

  5. Now a little more OT, I ask again if anyone here knows where can I find a transcript of the speech Leopoldo Lopez gave on Feb 12? Presumably the case against him hinges on his words before the crowd on that date? Wouldn’t defusing public opinion against him (which exists aplenty) also be somewhat easier if there was some record of this? Remarkably I haven’t been able to find a transcript, only links to the Feb 18 speech or really weird conspiracy sites. I know Alex Boyd and others tend to be quite systematic keeping records of this kind of stuff. Shouldn’t be so hard to find??

  6. There is no logic to thinking that jailing SC and SD mayors will make their followers sit out the coming elections, nor will the Oppo lose them The Regime is not trying to inflame more the street resistance, even though the continued jailings will bring this result. The Regime has their collective backs to the wall, and, guided by the Castros, believe that better selective repression now than impossible massive repression later. BTW, a post on the gross violation of human rights by Govt. uniformed/paramiltary attacks on civilian residences in SC/Maracaibo/PO/CCS/etc. might be a good idea–don’t think it has ever happened before in Venezuela, not even under Gomez or PJ.

    • It is a good question. I don’t think their goals reach beyond medium-term at this point. For the individuals in the government, I would say that most realize that their days are numbered. Their goal is to prop up the system for as long as possible, while stealing as much as possible, all the while looking for the way to get out and keep their money when the time comes. Which is not to say that there are not a few die-hard revolutionaries who will go down with the ship.

  7. I don’t think the situation would be similar to 2005, because in 2005 Venezuela was a democracy (flawed one? For sure, but still a democracy). So it was a terrible mistake to ignore the electoral process. But 2014 Venezuela is a dictatorship, and you don’t have “elections” under dictatorships. Does anyone doubt that the Chavista candidate will win even if 100% of the people vote for the opposition?

    OT:
    Brazil is reducing its support for Maduro, Brasilia started to believe that the turmoil can be blamed on Maduro and it is acting against Brazil’s best interest in the country.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/28/us-brazil-venezuela-idUSBREA2R0ZP20140328

  8. I agree. It would be an act of great courage for a person to run for office for the opposition in these circumstances, and for people to publicly support him/her, and it would be great to see. It would be even greater if the platform of that candidate was to support the decisions and policies of his/her predecessor now in jail and work for that person’s freedom and restoration to office. i.e. we knew the system was corrupt the first time around and we went forward: what has changed?

  9. Your argument is sort of compelling, but I think the path that suits the government best is the one we’ve been walking on the last four years: legitimising the regime in rigged elections. Maybe with an overwhelming majority, the CNE would’ve been forced to recognise a Capriles victory, but what if this elections in opposition strongholds are a rehearsal for rigging even against overwhelming majorities. Sure sounds far fetched, but what isn’t these days?. It’s tough to acknowledge this is a dictatorship and the purely electoral solution is close to impossible, specially for political parties, conceived to win elections, but everything is pointing towards that, and the moderates should start considering it sincerely.

    • Nagel’s whole argument revolves around the assumption that “The government simply cannot win the mayorship of San Cristóbal – and NOTHING they do can change that. The same holds true for San Diego.” Does anyone really believe that? Because if that assumption is really true, Nagel is right, if it’s false, then Nagel is wrong. For me it would be like Vladimir Putin accepting a electoral defeat in Chechnya, not gonna happen. But since we can’t know for sure if that premise is true or falae, and we have nothing to lose, I think the opposition should follow Nagel’s advice.

  10. Hat tip to Quico who was absolutely right about the failure of the guarimbas and the slow motion coup when he came out of retirement last February.

    JC is as predictable as ever. Ceballos and Scarano were jailed for contempt of court no matter how you want to spin it. There will be more mayors being jailed and kicked out by the TSJ if they do not prevent the arbitrary blocking of major streets and freeways – I am thinking about Blyde and Ranón Muchacho. The TSJ had every legal right to ussue the orders so as the preserve the right of free passage as laid out in Article 50 of the 1999 Constitution.

    If you disobey a Supreme Court order then you expect to go to jail. The point is that Ceballos and Scarano never thought that this could happen. Elections will be held and in my view the opposition will probably win again in these municipalities. It’s a pity the length of the jail sentences were not more exemplary – say five years instead of a year – especially for Ceballos.

    So what is the next step for the opposition? It will certainly not be democratic and based on the number of sniper attacks it will probably be characterized by selective assassinations. The only way forward for the opposition is to escalate the violence. Bombs and more arson could follow.

    Why am I so certain about this? Simple. The opposition with its chief rat mouthpiece Avelado has refused to join the Peace Conferences and open a meaningful dialog. This tells me that they know all about the vandalism, arson, homicides and so on.

    The government has to cut off the oxygen from this terrorism (and that is the correct name for this) by capturing and freezing the assets paying for the chaos. Then the beast will die.

    We need more arrests and jail sentences and they will come. MCM is facing 20 – 30 years and sge was let off once when head of Sumate and from what I can see from the government’s attitude she could be making new friends in the Women0s Institution for Reorientation in Los Teques.

    The opposition has succeeded in weakening itself and strengthening chavismo but with the present policy of trying to take a short-cut to power that makes little difference. Once again the surprise factor will be the chavistas themselves who will not stand by for many more weeks before taking action to stamp out the vandalism and killings. I hope that the bloodbath is not to large.

    • “slow motion coup”. “terrorism”. “bombs and arson”. “selective assassinations” “chief rat mouthpiece”. “We need more arrests and jail sentences and they will come. ” “Once again the surprise factor will be the chavistas themselves who will not stand by for many more weeks before taking action to stamp out the vandalism and killings. I hope that the bloodbath is not to large.”

      As a mouthpiece of the government, you wonder why no one wants a dialogue with you? You are advocating violence on the part of the government. What reason, whatsoever, does the opposition have to believe that the government would ever have a “dialogue” in good faith? Especially with the continuation of the persecutions (Sorry, Arturo, but MCM is nothing other than a political persecution, especially with the “irregular”, by your own constitution, that it is being pursued.)

      When will you, or any other government sponsored shill ever accept the responsibility for economic morass that is Venezuela? It is the government causing the problems. Fix the policies and the protests go away.

      Instead, the government chases windmills, which will never, ever, solve the problem and only waste resources in doing so.

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