A Night of Epistemic Closure

And the winner last night is...
And the winner from last night is…

First, a confession: I did not watch last night’s misnamed “dialogue”. I didn’t need to. Nor did anyone else.

There was no point. We all knew exactly how it would go. Reading the accounts this morning, that’s exactly how it went.

Last night’s parallel-monologue (which is way different than a dialogue) exercise was useless for reasons that don’t boil down to the basic fact that the two sides just don’t agree on anything.

Not agreeing on anything can, under the right circumstances, be the starting point to a productive exchange. But only if some minimal conditions are met. Each side has to be partially interested in how the other side sees the world. Each side has to agree that it doesn’t own the truth, that there is a possibility of learning by confronting their own beliefs to a reality that’s sometimes recalcitrant, and to views it might find repugnant. Each side has to agree that dissidence is legitimate, and that truth matters.

We knew last night was a waste of time because it’s so gallopingly evident that those conditions don’t hold in Venezuela. But while the opposition has its problems with confirmation bias and groupthink, this is no time for specious parallelisms: the problem in Venezuela is a government sealed into a air-tight bubble of rigid ideological certainties that bear no resemblance with reality as the rest of the world knows it.

The opposition’s problem with epistemic closure is a spring breeze. The government’s problem is a category-5 super typhoon.

Fifteen years of sitting in front of a VTV screen have taken their toll. Chavismo has zero interest in reality outside the deep, cozy grooves of its ideological comfort zone. We’re talking about a movement that, when faced with a prominent figure claiming that Jews were using newspaper crossword puzzle clues to send each other coded messages, actually promotes the guy.

These people have all the power, all the money, all the rents, and all the guns. It’s going to take a lot more than having the Papal Nuncio sit through a six-hour meeting to get them to step outside that bubble.

In a way, chavismo doesn’t have an epistemic bubble – it is an epistemic bubble. The obdurate refusal to confront a reality it cannot control, to honor opposing points of view without necessarily sharing them, to treat others’ points of view as basically legitimate even if possibly wrong…these things aren’t features of chavismo as a belief system, they’re its essence.

Which is why, all told, there was just one figure who came out of last night looking relatively good: Maria Corina Machado, who called bullshit on the whole sad charade before it even started.

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    • What this article and pretty much everyone here fails to grasp is that it doesn’t matter if you think the government has terrible arguments, or lives inside its own bubble, or is doing a horrible job with the economy, or lost this debate, etc. etc. etc. That’s completely irrelevant to the purpose of this dialogue.

      What matters is that the government was elected by a majority, and therefore must serve out its term. Just because a good portion of the population (wrongly or rightly) thinks a government is doing a terrible job does not mean the opposition has ANY right to attempt to change that government, or force that government to change its policies.

      On this key detail, the government is 100% correct, and the opposition is 100% incorrect. And this is why the Chavistas continue to harken back to the coup attempts of 2002, 2003, etc. Because this opposition has continually tried to overthrow the government undemocratically, and that is precisely what they are trying for with the current crisis….. a “salida” from a democratically elected government.

      If you all ever manage to understand how democracy works, you’ll realize that it doesn’t matter if you win the debate. You don’t get to take power until you win an election.

      • A weapons permit is not a license to kill , if used unlawfully or abusively , then the license gets revoked . Too many people have this ‘james bond’ idea of what democracy is about , this kind of folly is too deep to deserve any further effort at correction !!

        • Yes, great reasoning. So whenever a group of people arbitrarily decide that the current government should be “revoked” then they can simply do that, without regard for the fact that the majority of the population wants that government to stay in power as evidence in multiple elections.

          Bill bass just proves my point that you all don’t understand how democracy works.

      • Just because a good portion of the population (wrongly or rightly) thinks a government is doing a terrible job does not mean the opposition has ANY right to attempt to change that government, or force that government to change its policies..

        What is your opinion of this rephrasing?

        Just because a good portion of the population (wrongly or rightly) thinks a government is doing a terrible job does not mean the opposition has ANY right to expect the government to follow the Constitution- a Constitution which the party in power wrote- nor to expect that government to govern in an effective, impartial, honest, and transparent manner.

        What is your opinion of that rewrite? Inquiring minds want to know.

        • They can expect them to follow the constitution, but they can’t attempt to overthrow the government simply because they think they aren’t following the constitution. Again, you make it utterly clear that you simply don’t understand democracy.

          • Well, if you cant fight them join them , When the dear departed heavenly commander tried to topple the democratically elected CAP government he really understood what democracy was, Equally Castro who understands true democracy knows that having it implies running a repressive regime that allows no free open multipartied elections , in fact lets all become followers of Chavez and Castro , maybe we should adopt Chavez early democratic principles or Castros current ones and go for toppling the regime outright , a despotic regime that rigs the system so that it cant lose elections or that when it incurrs in constitutional violations that merit its removal uses its corrupt control of institutions to formally prevent itself form being removed !! All very democratic.!!

            Come to think of it , Castro was an late follower of Henry Ford who when his factories only manufactured black cars and people asked if they could buy cars in other colours , coolly answered that of course they could , provided the colour was black .!! Way to go Henry Ford. !!

          • Chavez went to jail for his attempt to overthrow the government. The same should happen to all those opposition leaders involved in the 2002 coup, and in subsequent attempts at provoking a “salida”. I’m glad we agree on that. I hope to see you calling for the jailing of Corina Machado, Capriles, Lopez, etc. etc.

          • Betty:
            They can expect them to follow the constitution, but they can’t attempt to overthrow the government simply because they think they aren’t following the constitution.
            Thank you for your opinion on expecting the government to follow the Constitution. Here is one example where the Chavista government doesn’t follow the Constitution: gerrymandering [the numbers in my comment are out of date, but go to the links: the current ratios are about the same] . What should be done when the government doesn’t follow the Constitution?

            I would also infer that you are against violent overthrow of the current government. I am glad to hear that. Violent overthrows of governments go against democracy. Would I therefore conclude that you are against a government which celebrates a military coup against a democratically elected government?

            Again, you make it utterly clear that you simply don’t understand democracy.
            Please quote what I wrote which lead you to that conclusion.

            Since you did not answer the second part of my comment, I will repeat it:

            What is your opinion of this statement?
            Just because a good portion of the population (wrongly or rightly) thinks a government is doing a terrible job does not mean the opposition has ANY right to expect…that government to govern in an effective, impartial, honest, and transparent manner.

            I repeat: what is your opinion of that statement? IOW, do a government’s constituents have the right to expect that their government govern effectively and in an impartial, honest and transparent manner? Do they or do they not? Very simple question. What is your answer?

            Example of Chavismo governing in an ineffective manner: tripling of the murder rate in 15 years. Selling gasoline for several dollars US a tankfull, which benefits the better off who own motor vehicles, not the poor- who do not own motor vehicles. Shortages.

            Example of Chavismo not governing in a impartial manner: Supreme Court Judges chant “OO Ah Chávez no se va [Chávez isn’t leaving]; and such examples of the end of judicial impartiality.

            Example of Chavismo’s government acting in a corrupt, dishonest manner: The 2600 pounds of of cocaine that police in Paris confiscated. A ton of cocaine couldn’t have left the Caracas airport without the consent of higher-ups.

            Example of Chavismo not governing in a transparent manner: releasing information about Chávez’s illness.

          • Just to sum up here: I say that it doesn’t matter if you think the government is doing a terrible job.

            You respond with “but the government is doing a terrible job!”

            Again, you all need an extremely basic lesson in how democracy works. Governments that do a bad job are changed through elections. This isn’t hard to understand. I suppose it is the oligarchic tendencies of wealthy Venezuelans that they just can’t get this through their heads.

          • Just to be extremely clear here, you have every right to EXPECT your government to be transparent, but you have ZERO right to overthrow that government just because you think they aren’t being transparent. Many governments are not transparent, especially those governments in the world’s leading nations. There have been just a few minor scandals in recent years regarding the lack of transparency of the US government. You might have noticed if you don’t live under a rock. Does that mean Obama should be forcibly overthrown by violent guarimbas?

            This is so basic I feel embarrassed that I even have to explain it.

    • I basically agree. I don’t think it was useless to watch, I just think it confirmed our deepest misgivings about chavismo. I also think we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that, yes, much of what was said last night we had heard before, but to a non-insignificant part of the population it was the first time they had heard our side. Whatever that’s worth…

      • “but to a non-insignificant part of the population it was the first time they had heard our side.” – this was my main takeaway. It was broadcast en cadena nacional and other major channels like CNN played the whole thing. We were exposed to different leaders of the opposition. For example, on twitter, people were positively surprised by Henri Falcon was and I was truly moved by the words of Liborio Guarulla, governor of Amazonas. I’m still convinced that MCM’s interview on Brazilian TV pressured Lula to criticize Maduro and this dialog will do the same throughout Latin America. Other takeaways: 1. Our politics are not inclusive enough and we need women at the table – obviously not MCM in this case – but I can think of Delsa Solorzano, a great speaker, and Dinorah Figuera. 2. While Henry Ramos Allup’s speech was cathartic, it wasn’t wise for him to be present (does he -AD- still have a following?) 3. I don’t think that the dialogue will deflate protests. Barriga llena, corazon contento and bellies aren’t full!

        • They could have invited Lilian Tintori, or Evelyng Trejo, or Liliana Hernández, or even Rocío San Miguel or Cecilia Sosa. They are hopeless.

          • Oppo needs more ovaries. Rocio San MIguel would have been my pick as well. One example of somehting that bothered me yesterday, Borges talking of the girl that wanted to leave Venezuela, Dad works, Moms stays at home and searches supermarkets. I’m sorry, but Venezuelan families are very diverse and you would do so much more speaking to all of them. Many women are single housewives, who work and have to scout supermarkets everyday.
            Seriously, there needs to be someone in a top position talking to Venezuelan women and girls, and fighting on behalf of our rights. The oppo coud gain a lot from this.

      • Quico what did you expect? I agree with Juan. It was worth having the other side peek into our reality! The I didn’t see it but “watched it” thru Twiiter from the Oscars to Miss U. IMO Henriquez from Copei hit the nail on the head, as well as Velasquez and what about ramos allup with his viejita voice telling Diosdado “Epa no me toque la campanita que esta no es la Asamblea y no soy su subalterno,” hit the nail on the head.
        People could hear the hysterical eeeeckout screaming her ideological twaddle, watching the posted photos of Arreaza’s face and JVR’s nosferatu’s one make me think it’s not as one sided as Quico represents. The # tropa instantly started spewing insults and were like crazy bats out of a cave. So?
        At least the other side heard unexpected and quite clear message, not just the govmnt’s drone orwellian voice. Will they beleive it? Maybe not the hard radicals but many nini’s 23% of the country and soft chavistas will probably be questioning the epistemic bubble. And that for me at least is a beginning.

        • good recap of what I, too, did not see, but want to — anyone have the youtube link? I especially want to hear “allup with his viejita voice telling Diosdado “Epa no me toque la campanita que esta no es la Asamblea y no soy su subalterno,””


      • That was going to be my point. I watched the summaries on El Universal. I am not Venezuelan and I don’t live there. The messages given by the persons from the opposition were far more compelling, serious and credible than the others. From the standpoint of a debate the government got whalloped in front of (hopefully) a large audience in one or more of their propaganda stations, I assume. If so, it was quite positive.

  1. I 100 % agree and MCM ‘s presence was felt even without her being there. Her physical absence at this so called ” debate” was an example of the real spirit of the regime.

    • WHO felt it? I think she missed an opportunity to be seen and heard on national television (the same they use daily to lie) exposing these hypocrites for what they are at their faces. It would have been a pleasure to watch this brave woman in that table and Maduro’s face.

  2. So, basically, your point is that you’re not interested in partaking in dialogue unless your conditions are met? Funny, isn’t that what you & the “opposition” accuse the chavistas of doing?

      • Quico I understand your frustration and deflated expectations, but… Mandela negotiated and dialogued while in prison, ended up As you know beating his carcelero for the Presidency. In Northern Ireland it took the IRA and the UVF & UK gvmnt 35 years, 3700 dead and almost 10.000 wounded to sit to talk for the first time. You have to start somewhere.

        • Actually, the IRA had direct talks with British government in 1972 and in 1975-6, both during official ceasefires.

          The first one broke down after a week, the other after many months.

          But your overall point stands.

    • Like it or not, there is the need of minimal conditions to start a truthful dialogue; it so happens credibility, confidence, and honesty are requirements, otherwise there is only circus. Unfortunately, no one has less credibility, and it I perceived a more deceiving and dishonest as those who sat down last night representing the government. Surely opposition “representatives” are not a gold coin, but reality on the streets suggests not to the level of the government itself. BTW, the fact we are discussing about last night “talks” confirms this perception.

  3. Marina Corina’s position carried with it some negative international consequences; the certainty that Oppo intransigeance–refusal to even talk–would undercut its legitimacy. That may also be true inside Venezuela to some extent, I do not know.

    I think that the best strategy was the one carried out: some Oppo talked, and some refused.

    • Totally agree, besides if you had read the #tropa’s tweets you could have realized how big the zing was to their “epistemic bubble”

      • Scoff, but it is obvious that you, the blanquitos, the oligarques (fr.) had never ever heard that argument before just like you pretentd that the years of corruption (1954 to 1998) & the national rape of Venezuela (AD, COPEI, AD, COPEI, AD, COPEI) never, apparently, happened. Que? borrón y cuenta nueva?

        • “The blanquitos”? Wake up, man. Who was the whitest guy with the bluest eyes in the round? The mogul Rafael Ramírez, whose whole clan is employed by PDVSA. Then there was green-eyed Cabello.
          And we know what he stands for.

          If you haven’t figured out, in almost every democratic country something like AD, COPEI, AD (actually there were repeats there) is the norm. That is the case in Germany (there is often a coalition with some tiny party but then it’s the same: either SPD or CDU in power)…in Norway, in Britain, etc.

          What is the alternative?
          It is not the bloody same in Cuba, in the former Soviet Union and in North Korea. The PCV and other violent parties were allowed when Caldera came to power…and actually Chávez came to power through this system you criticize.

          Why did you write “oligarques”? You want to show us your “command” of French? Me impresionas, sí, muchísimo. Por lo visto ni entiendes qué es oligarca. Quienes están en el poder actualmente son los chavistas y esto es así desde el 99 y son ellos los oligarcas! Busca un diccionario e investiga la etimología de la palabra.

          As for “borrón y cuenta nueva”: what do you think of Chacín, a man responsible for the Masacre del Amparo, being a top chavista? Róger Cordero, who was involved in the Masacre de Cantaura?

          • Kepler what hardcrad is criticizing is the fact that there was alternability, that a president elected for 5 years couldn’t stay in power for life, that many times he had to hand power over to another party. That the face of the president didn’t adorn the side of buildings or that they didn’t rename everything to claim it was theirs. That a president could be ousted for breaking the law.

          • Poetry slam–yes, she’s the Allen Ginsberg of the Chavista Generation–but, instaed of “Howl”ing, she screams.

          • She had the rhythm of the after-midnight Vale TV whistle that accompanies the striped screen (which lets people know they’re off the air until tomorrow morning).

          • I honestly didn’t know that much about her before last night.

            I just thought chavismo was showing how inclusive it was by inviting someone to speak who obviously was being treated for dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s.

        • Do us a favor, go your cave, unplug the chip in your brain, reset your memory, and then stand straight so you can unplug your head from your rear. The come and bring us a comment, we will be interested.

        • “years of corruption” Lol. Cruel joke of the day. 1958-1999 corruption is to 1999-2014 corruption what 1970’s softcore is to 2010 hardcore

        • Why do chavistas always assume they have the monopoly on race, man how annoying! They remind me that the only time I’ve experienced racism was in a 90% black pseudo-state island in the Caribbean. I wasn’t black enough for them (although believe me, I’m more black than anything else)
          Not all black, mulatos, zambos or whatever are chavistas… that’s a lie they like to repeat all time, as they say free education came with chavismo and all the other crap they like to repeat.
          Come on Hardcrad, elaborate a bit more, don’t get involved in the mediocrity you leaders want you to live

        • Not. The. Fucking. Racism. Card. again…
          And then the “all was crap until it magically went away in 1998”
          Nice brainwashing there, drone.

        • You’d make a wonderful writer for AVN.
          “The national rape of Venezuela”… Brilliant. Might I also suggest, for future alarmist headlines, the Gangbang of Democracy? the Cleveland Steamer of the Cuarta? Bukkake fascism?

        • I’m quite brown miself and still remain a convinced “escualido”, corruption is an unavoidable consequence of hegemonies, the psuv hegemony is far bigger than anything ever seen in the previous 40 years, every bad thing that was done in the ad-copei times is being done on a far worse scale than before, so you should stop justifying the bad decisions of this goverment on the bad decisions of the past.

  4. Toro,

    The point is not there was no debate. The point is precisely how millions in the middle could see the absolute failure of the government (and in part of the opposition) to actually have a debate. And that is good because Venezuelans haven’t ever tried…

    Venezuela is like a place from the Stone Age in a world where most tribes have learnt to handle fire but not Venezuelans. It is like showing to our tribe the chiefs now are not able to handle fire for cooking: they burn themselves and the others but they can’t use it. Was the event bad for that? No, it was good because more and more people will start to see these thugs cannot use fire. They also have the opportunity to see things are different in other places. It is up to us to stress this now.

  5. I have to disagree on a few points. One – the opposition DID accept the fact that some protests HAVE been violent. In fact, at one point both sides were actually trashing the guarimbas! I think that was the one aspect where there was a willingness to agree on something, perhaps the only one. And two, and this is related to the above, the inability of chavismo to step away from its own bubble (they brought in a Tupamaro, for cryin’ out loud) hopefully showed the foreign ministers and anyone else interested how relatively sane our opposition is … when compared to the alternative. I think those two things might have made the night worthwhile … might.

    Of course, no dialogue took place, but that was never really in the cards anyway.

      • history doesn’t give ifs.

        I wouldn’t have happened without the 12F march for sure. If we have had no guarimbas and a more intelligent protest, would we be some place better? Maybe. Truth is that the message across the board was that guarimbas suck and no one wants to have anything to do with that.

      • The hatred for guarimbas is what made these talks happen in the first place. Harsh to say it but I doubt that your ol’ usual marchas would’ve had the same effect.

        • Guarimbas are an undernourished armed resistance, which has accomplished a sense of ‘zonas liberadas’, in commie lingo. This speaks strongly to the leftie bullies in power. They look weak and unable to govern, hence their brutal reaction.

          Guarimbas have worked, but I am quite uncomfortable with them.

          • They are not designed to be comfortable…those who need comfort right now in Venezuela are cynical….how do you think post people are living and will be living?

            Lack of comfort is a good thing…People need to start feeling the lack of comfort so many of the poor are living in Venezuela.

          • Uncomfortable in a moral sense. I do NOT believe in utilitarianism. Means must be moral to bear moral fruit.

          • Moral is what it takes to save Venezuela and guarimbas are the least violent and most moral of all options….far more moral than dialoging with the devil.

      • well they have already made some useless aproaches in december before the guarimbas, the format is a bit different, slightly more serious I think, probably because of the presence of the chancellors. What it’s clear to me it’s that Chavez would have never allowed this to happen, and even if he’d have done it, he would have never allowed any oppo guy speak for 5 minutes without angrily interrupting him and start a 5 hour ramble about bolivar’s times and stuff.

      • Actually it has happened before and without guarimbas, remember the mesa de negociaciones of 2002-2003 with the mediation of the OEA and the Carter Center. Those negotiations resulted in nothing but effectively quelled the protests of the time. I think the government is trying to repeat the same script a second time around to put the protests to sleep. We’ll see, if they stop attacking the guarimbas that would signal another step on that script.

        Lets not get overboard and over praise this dialog for more than what it is, a catharsis, after so long without being able to tell it like it is to their faces, and on TV, this feels good, but I believe little will come out of it.

    • I was exceptionally pleased to see Falcon disclaim the guarimbas. They hurt more than they help and it was important for someone on the opposition’s side to be open and honest about that.

      Supporting barricades does not bridges build.

      • We don’t want to build bridges with criminals …we want to force them to relinquish power..at least most people I know do.But hey maybe you’ll get lucky and get a chance to work with them side by side….I can’t even imagine.

        • Why does it have to be absolutes? Are all chavistas criminals? Do you really think Ramirez or Cabello are that bothered by the guarimbas?

          I simply do not understand the mentality in Venezuela and particular to the chavistas/opposition of Either/OR.

          Who do you think the average person struggling to survive in an environment of reduced purchasing power, enduring inflation, rampant violent crime, venal officials and shortages, views as criminals: A) Cabello and company, who may steal but the effects of which have little tangible result? Or B) The guy who blocks buses, trucks, and roads by day and causes an unholy ruckus (with free gas!) at night when the GNB shows up and makes life that much harder?

          There is support for the barricades are out there, but it won’t sustain over time. It simply can’t. Why? Because it has no actual impact on those in power but really screws the smallfolk. You know, the people whose support you need to be successful!

          You will not force them to relinquish power. That isn’t realistic. Sharing power, initially at least, is far more feasible, even if it seems unrealistic.

          As for working side by side with chavistas, which apparently was meant as an insult, it is not taken as such. See, my extended relations come from both sides of the political tracks from rabid chavistas to radical “fascists”. 95% of them put family before ideology. They are decent folk, despite their political preferences. The other 5% can take goats to Coro, for all I care. Perhaps, taking a page from Rand, you should check your premises.

          Venezuelans tend to be amazingly adaptable when it is needed. It confounds me that they cannot adapt to this and prefer, instead, to keep banging their collective heads against walls. Last night more or less confirmed that they struggle with dealing with each other.

    • whats the constitution got to do got to do with it?

      whats the constitution but a stupid little bluuuuuuu book

  6. i watched the debate with an open mind and found the chavista speakers to be particularly weak and out of touch.

    • Not a surprise, they have 15 years in that condition; 18 if you include the electoral campaign of 1998 and the other 2 years after the supreme universal dead-but-still-alive leader got off jail and went into politics.

  7. The idea for a dialogue is not one which most committed people in the govt or the oppo like , its happening because of the pressure of internal and international opinion and external pressing circumstances (the raging economic crisis ) , its the equivalent of a shotgun wedding , this means that engaging in it involves not only risks for each side but overcoming their own disgust at treating with people they deeply dislike . At best its a gamble , not many odds favouring it and yet holding some remote promise of some good results for both sides.

    The opening salvo wasnt going to involve any meaningful or practical exchanges , it was a Mise en Scene,a TV spectacle for public consumption , everybody would be flexing their dialectical muscles and of course sending the radical opponents of dialogue in each side the message that their views are being represented that their intransigence is being put on the table. So unsurprisingly it wasnt a real dialogue but the presentation of two monologues. Nothing to gabble about .

    And yet there is some wisdom in the attempt , there are a lot of sayings in both english and spanish that say it , ‘tocar la puerta no es entrar pero hay que tocar la puerta’ , ‘nothing wagered nothing gained’ , ‘el peor esfuerzo es el que no se hace’ and so on. !!

    I suspect that the govt pollster publishing figures that show the increasing unpopularity of the regime was a way of the govt convincing the diehards we need to do something before all is lost, That the aggresive messages about the Voluntad Popular prisioners was meant to reassure the same diehards , we arent pacifiers , were still warriors faithful to the cause , that reluctantly they do want a dialogue if it helps them get some propaganda that helps their deteriorating national and international image.and maybe disarm part of the virulence of the oppo protests .

    The real exploration of possibilities begins now , after the initial theatrical event , in the working tables , not an easy dialogue but one which results cant be totally discarded however unlikely they appear to us at this moment !!

    The oppo maintaining a two pronged approach is not necessarily a bad strategy (even if it wasnt calculated )

    • Just lovely isn’t it?

      “The Venezuelan government and a coalition of opposition parties have agreed to enter into “formal talks” to end weeks of anti-government protests.”

        • Of course but they say that but they have no clout.The bad thing is , is that these talks give more legitimacy for the government to condemn the protests Internationally…read my message below.

  8. I think it was a far more positive than negative experience for the opposition, overall. The government was exposed, the oppositionists spoke loud and clear everything that should have been said.

    But one thing that shocked me was the Chavistas’ total lack of respect for the Vatican representative. I’m not concerned about Ecuador’s, Colombia’s and Brazil’s representatives, but the Chavistas should have shown at least a minimum amount of respect for the VATICAN guy! And at some point Cabello called Allup a “hijo de puta”! How come could he call someone a “hijo da puta” in front of the Vatican just like that? A new low for Cabello.

    And Maduro finished the whole meeting saying that the bourgeoisie will NEVER regain control of Miraflores again, EVER! I mean, you are there speaking about democratic values and principles for the whole damn time and closes the meeting saying this kind of thing? Seriously? And a little bit earlier Maduro literally said that he could have crushed the opposition if he wanted to, but he had chosen not to do it. Really? How merciful, good-hearted and democratic you are for not “crushing” the opposition, Maduro! Lol, it’s so absurd that unbelievable. Was that Dom Corleone speaking? “You should be happy because I didn’t chop your head off yesterday, but you know that I have the means to do it anytime”. Ha! What about Aristóbulo’s or Eeckhout’s name calling and nonsense accusations? Again, there was someone there representing the POPE and 2 billion Christians around the world, tone down your language for God’s sake!

    • Marc …People have known who Maduro is for a very very long time.The problem is not that.The problems are interests and politics.You have to understand how International politics work.And as for the people inside the country, I would say the something similar.Those who support Maduro have their reasons.Are you in contact with a lot of people in Venezuela? I am….and I know for a fact that none of these talks will change them one iota.

      Read the above article by the BBC to get the idea better.If the government can get agreements to end protests, that will be the end of us – and even if they do not end protests, the world will likely turn a blind eye after this.I mean for God’s sake the Pope is involved.

      • Firepigette, I will try answering some questions you made.

        1: I’m aware that the people already know who Maduro is, recent polls actually confirm that, but for the population to hear guys like Falcon, Borges and Capriles telling the truth on cadena nacional can’t be bad at all. On the contrary!

        2; No, I don’t know anyone in Venezuela, but I think it’s premature to say that “none of these talks will change the people watching it one yota”. And although you do know people in Venezuela, it’s impossible (for anyone) to predict how every Venezuelan will behave when confronted with speeches like the ones made yesterday by the opposition. And again, I don’t think these speeches will be counter-productive to our cause. Imagine that some people started liking the Venezuelan opposition even more yesterday (as I did), and others possibly sharpened their aguments against Maduro and will try to convince more people to take to the street. It would have already been worthwhile.

        3: I do agree with you that if the government get agreements to end the protests, it will be the end for Venezuela. But I believe that the protests have now gotten a life on their own and are currently unstoppable. So, I’m not too worried about that for now. But yes, there’s a risk and we should be alert.

        4: Regarding the last part, I think it’s the opposite: the world had turned a blind eye on Venezuela until this meeting, but is now very concerned about what will happen next, specially because Pope Francis (a very popular worldwide figure) is directly involved with the situation and Vatican’s millennial tradition of being a great conflict mediator is on the line.

        • Marc,

          Before the opposition was saying that the government was a dictatorship and that was justifying their protests….by accepting these talks they are implicitly accepting the government as legitimate, and that by itself would justify the government taking harsh measures against the protestors who would be then considered to be standing in the way peace and the more so because the Pope is involved in these protests.

          In bother cases the protestors will be sideline.If their is an agreement they would have to back or face International scorn…if there is no agreement they will still be subject to greater repression for not having reached a peaceful solution.

          The fact that some members of opposition do not see this in my opinion shows that they are being out maneuvered once more by the Cuban handlers of Maduro.

          An incredibly sad situation that just gets worse as we speak.

          • Sorry for the typos I am very farsighted.and I have to go back and scrutinize what I wrote.I meant to say:

            …in other cases protestors will be sidelined,and if there is an agreement, they would have to back down or face International scorn.

  9. Last night was only a sample of what the government as in mind. Same pattern, arguments, and attitude as when the “Mesa de Diálogo” took place on 2002. It happened 12 years ago and here we are again, talking about autocracy, human rights, democracy, and the Constitution. The fact Jose Pinto was sitting there, and even took a turn to “talk”, along with Blanca’s anachronic rant hints you how useful this effort is going to be. After it was over I myself wanted to take to the streets and close a highway.

  10. The ones I heard this is my ranking:

    1.- Ramos Allup
    2.- Henry Falcon
    3.- Borges
    4.- Velazquez
    5.- Aveledo
    6.- Capriles

    I didn’t have the stomach to listen to any of the chavistas.

  11. Quico, as recently as December last year (Selling Sobriety) you were lamenting the invisibility of the opposition and its message to the people who needed to hear it. You were arguing for developing a discourse that could detach the ‘enchufado elite’ from the regime by establishing the opposition as the only viable alternative to the disaster we (and even they) see all around us.

    Through a combination of street battles and diplomacy, and in the face of ferocious opposition from within its own ranks, the MUD last night finally got the chance to say its piece, at length, in detail and with the squirming representatives of this dreadful regime sitting across the table and forced to listen. Henry Ramos – not my cup of tea either, but a simply brilliant speaker – even got to tell Diosdado to shut up.

    Having decided in advance that this was a waste of time and you weren’t even going to watch, you concluded that the leaders of ‘la salida’ (which you have hitherto dismissed as the biggest mistake since the Gallipoli landings) were the winners, because they rightly refused to take part. Colour me baffled.

    In December you argued that the enchufado elite (or EE) was permeable to opposition arguments. Now you tell us that chavismo is an ‘epistemic bubble’, immune to logical persuasion. Just when the opposition got around to doing what you suggested (for goodness sake, they even wore suits … though Henrique omitted the tie), you move the goalposts again.

    Just because this was billed as the start of a ‘dialogue’ and clearly wasn’t, is no reason – it seems to me at least – to dismiss it as a waste of time. The only thing I can find in common between your views last December and this post is the belief that it matters not a jot what the opposition does, since the only important variable is the speed with which the regime collapses from within. Tell me I’m wrong!

  12. It is the first ‘cadena’ that oppo gets (Arreaza dixit) . It was probably the most watched cadena ever. That’s a win.

    Chavismo strutted it’s A list. They were inward looking, wing-nuts detached from reality. Rafael Ramirez looked like a economic quack. The economy is dying yet he sees NOTHING WRONG. Tupamaro dude was fixated in grievances from a long gone past. Yeah you had a bad childhood, I’m sorry, but move on! Eekhout, has the maturity of a ‘tira-piedra-panfletaria’ (oh, wait, they all claim to cut their teeth in the 80s as ‘tira-piedra-panfletarios’). Rodriguez was as pleasant as listening to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Maduro has the elegance of a milk cow.

    (Man, I feel better already for getting that off my chest, cancel the shrink this week).

    Oppo, had pretty good showings. Allup had this Tio Simon persona and hit hard. Henry Falcon showed himself as an rejuvenated Hugo Chavez, quite appealing to electorate as we well know. Capriles was elegantly harsh with the government.

    As debate teams go, Oppo took the night… in cadena. It won’t win the war, but

    Todo pueblo tiene su loquito, pero en Venezuela ellos mandan!!

    • Did anyone else find Eckhout’s sour grapes about La Revolución de Octubre and Medina Angarita particularly gnashing…? I mean, the gall – a marxist complaining about a coup to Medina Angarita, when Medina was more to the right than the adecos that overthrew him. What an ignorant flake. What a waste to be arguing about coups that happened in 1945.

      • Not to mention that none of the people sitting around the table was even there in 1945; the only exception being (perhaps) José Vicente Rangel, who I could not figure was dead or alive when the camera briefly punched him. Anyway, not a surprise pamphletic rant if you consider these are the same people who claim the Spaniards are responsible for every single bad thing that happened to us ever since 1492, and that they just wasted a golden opportunity to convince the other half of the country about the merit of their own arguments and beliefs.

      • It also speaks volumes of her interest in history.

        I’m no AD apologist, but the overthrow of Medina brought about a huge democratizing push. For the first time ever, Venezuelans had access to universal direct secret voting. It was the first time vast illiterate segments of the populations had a right to vote, and it was also the first time people could vote directly for the president, instead of electing representatives for congress who would then elect the president.

        It has been widely reported that Uslar Pietri, as Medina’s Interior Minister and Secretary General of the ruling Venezuelan Democratic Party (PDV), was opposed to direct elections AND to enfranchising illiterate people. Caveat: most sources on this are from AD, but that was one of the most prominent demands from AD at the time and one that Medina’s government never fulfilled, Escalante was supposed to be the peaceful transition to universal direct secret voting, but that didn’t come to fruition, and thus arrived the October Revolution ant the Trienio Adeco

  13. It wasn’t all a pointless charade if strong interventions like Capriles, Ramos Allup and Ramos get heavy circulation in the following, especially across Chavistas. VTV may cut and edit but the footage is out there now, it’ll be mass broadcast through cadenintas de telefono and what everyone wants to hear is what the opposition says – not what they already know chavismo will say, and that applies to your everyday chavista citizens especially. To our grace, the opposition had, while not perfect, very strong and convincing observations that’ll cause effect on those who will remain forever blinded.

    One thing is for sure, this “dialogue” terribly undermined #LaSalida and its essence, forgetting that it is the reason that led to it. Hopefully UNASUR can be somewhat righteous and come out with a respectable balance that doesn’t harm MCM’s more resonant accomplishments on foreign grounds, the momentum Leopoldo Lopez and students have given Venezuela, and reignites the intention of the US to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials, after all, Maduro did call them “ridiculos” last night, right during the peace talks.

  14. It is not about TALKING to the Boligarcs…even in a real political debate, where there are items being referred to and questions and answers coming back and forth it is not really like a friend-to-friend debate or a business debate but a show for the PUBLIC. And that was good for us and I am sure Maduro and his people will try to have the next session behind closed doors.

  15. FT: excellent post, as were JCN’s and Rodrigo’s summaries of the parallel monologues non-dialogue. I found watching it worthwhile, to better understand some of the Chavista principal actors’ thinking, as well as that of our superior, but not stellar, MUD. A great summation of Venezuela’s intransigent problem is your “…Venezuela is a government sealed into an air-tight bubble of rigid ideological certainties that bear no resemblance with reality as the rest of the world knows it.” It will take radical surgery to extirpate these rigid ideological certainties so that the Country can really advance economically/socially/politically, and this will not be a bloodless procedure. The presence of Tupamaro Pinto at the table speaks volumes of the Maduro regime’s willingness to legitimize the use of violence to further its political ends. Maduro, himself, is affable enough as a mediator, but is not strong/astute enough to counter the radical/corrupt forces in his Govt.; in the end, he is simply being used by stronger malignant forces around him, and, by acquiescing, is hopefully assuring his own spot in the Hague at some future time.

  16. Francisco,

    I disagree with most of your article. The conditions that you mention for a dialogue to be fruitful are certainly important, but some evidence suggests that they might not be necessary or sufficient to reach important outcomes in a negotiation.

    (Sebenius, James K., and Daniel F. Curran. “To Hell with the Future, Let’s Get on with the Past: George Mitchell in Northern Ireland.” HBS Case #9-801-393.)

    Moreover, the “dialogue” was conducted under a set of conditions that are clearly favorable for the opposition. It was the closest thing to play in our own field, under our favorite conditions.

    The Government a while ago decided not to play in the opposition territory, no debate-type discussions, no preexisting or clear rules for everyone. Yet:

    – Diosdado Cabello wasn’t able to close any microphone
    – Every participant had only 15 min to express their opinion
    – We had the opportunity to talk to the whole country and express our point without PSUV- editions
    – We had witnesses.
    – There was no need to hear insults from others without the possibility to fight back

    I’m certainly less pessimistic that you on this one, and I bet that this type of initiative will not last to much…it might be politically risky for the government.

  17. Most reasonable and balanced view on the subject goes to bill bass, whose perspectives are refreshingly absent from personal attacks and extreme ideological positions.

  18. Unlike some, I watched the whole thing, except that I called it a night when Maduro started repeating the same BS he started the evening with. I thought it was a marvelous opportunity for the Opposition to get there message out in Cadena, and they did so well. Overall, it was a big win for the Opposition.

    Now, exactly how many Venezuelans were actually watching?

    • The political process is being lived quite intensely by Venezuelans everywhere. People follow it with the passion a ‘telenovela’, only that this one is for real. Last night had the interest of ‘a capitulo cumbre’ in a ‘culebron’.

      capitulo cumbre – key installment in a telenovela, usually at the end of it, not to infer that we are any closer to the end to Chavismo.
      culebron – literally long or big snake, belittling term used to refer to telenovelas.

    • Yes yes, they are all simpletons, but they are simpletons who follow their Cuban handlers who know more about evil strategy than the opposition does.

      • It’s true, but on the other hand lately they have been making too many mistakes. If your enemy is mKing mistakes don’t stop him. Did you see Holguín’s body language? The only suprised people in that room were the dojitos, cabello in particular cuando la tía RA shut him down, and the papal nuncio.

  19. After reading the comments here I decided to go to Aporrealos to see the other side of the coin. I was really surprised that I didn’t find anything, except for excerpts from each of the speakers. In the Aporrea forum people are seen with a bad eye if they say anything against the government on in favor of the opposition, so the lack of comments tell me that this is exactly what they saw.

    This is probably the first time for many that they’re able to watch opposition speakers. In that sense, I’m glad this “dialogue” happened. Actually, I would like to see more “dialogues” on individual subjects (economy, crime, inflation, etc.) with shorter time formats where the opposition gets a chance to present their reasoning for why things are not working and how to fix them. The dialogues will most likely not solve (all of) the problems, but at least will give us exposure that we desperately need.

    • And that’s the reason the regime’s so desperate to shut down absolutely all ways of freedom of speech, so the only message heard is the bullshit they spew.

  20. Seguimos adelante caminando y mascando chicle.

    I watched it all for the most part. Incredible performances by Allup, Falcon, Capriles. Missed Aveledo’s opening but will look it up I heard it was a forceful start.

    IMO the best was watching the faces of the regime’s parties forced to smile and keep a decorum in front of Usasur + vaticano witnesses and cameras. They are not used to be forced to hear their counterparts. Specially frustrating for Diosdado and PDVSA strong man. He was so publicly embarrassed by Capriles challenge to go take a night walk without bodyguards…. you could feel him about to burst.

    Good for them they keep it tight. I do not think any of them is willingly going to go to the live broadcast tev format and will push for behing close doors maneuvers (think Meda de negociacion y acuerdos Gaviria et al)

    Quico’s view follow IMO intellectual need to be hipster in his views and not following mainstream radicalisms, however when consistency matters, his moving positions are somewhat harder to defend.

    Is the opposition relevant? Is there two oppositions, or many? , or more importantly, opposition AND resistance?

    I promote actions by all fronts! its after all survival mode.

    Lets MUD keep up good work as shown yesterday with the all nighters!!! They should not accept t be taken off the public live broadcast. (ANTV at least)

    Lets MCM, LL, et alias keep their strategy alive

    Lets keep the protests continue,

    Lets make more efforts to educate and influence the society.

    Lets keep the diplomatic fronts open and active.

    The regime is clutching at straws. Its buying time and betting on the opposition and the resistance exhaustion. The anti regime is betting on values, and reason, and love for the country.

    It was well said last night, Common interests need to be placed ahead of faction interests if this is to be successfully and the Armageddon social explosion/ total domination/ open civil war is to be prevented.

    I was disappointed by the control the Cubans had in all the discourse. They were seldom mentioned and did not seem to be a root cause of anything. Was this a precondition? was this on the bullet points? was this an omission by opposition or an strategy ?

    Your thoughts?

  21. I didn’t have the stomach to watch the useless charade held yesterday by cadena, but after reading several articles and comments about it, I conclude it backfired for the regime as almost everything they do:
    The opposition recriminated all the commie-fascist-dictatorship sewage Venezuela has been poured since 1999, then the regime just flipped its middle finger, blabbering about stupid stuff no one cares about (Racism? Coup to Medina Angarita? Tupamaros are immaculate saints? The “viejas locas del cafetal” are killing hundreds of thousands of children and pregnant women to drink their blood?), but just getting a single message from the opposition to the low chavist base (Who hasn’t heard nor seen anything else than the stupid brainwashing commie lies) came as an uppercut to these bastards that have been destroying Venezuela from decades ago.

    PS: I read that eeeeyuckout’s freak out was hilarious, as it was diablodado’s expression when Ramos Allup basically told him “I’m not your flunkey, so shut up and let me talk, dude.”

  22. Any comments on the TV stations broadcasting the event last night? I live abroad, so I watch it via El Universal TV and found exasperating the constant interruption of a very sided journalist to resume what I just had heard myself, and to read twitters from the link in the newspaper home page. Because of this I miss portions of both MUD and Regime speakers, a nuisance in my opinion. Perhaps the long format requires this type of format used by the EUTV but I am not an expert and would like to hear your opinions about your experience.

  23. “Arreaza: Acordaremos en conjunto y sin pactos una agenda de trabajo para el país”

    War on synonyms: “Arreaza: We’ll reach an agreement together and without negotiating, on a work agenda for the country”

    I guess it’s just a natural outgrowth of the trend to “adjustment of the exchange rate” instead of “devaluation”, or “speculation” instead of “inflation”, “hoarding” instead of “shortage”, etc.


  24. We must analyze with an very open mind. The regime was left out in the open. Their masks fell. It also showed everyone why they do not talk to the press. They only believe in monologs because they are so out of any reality, they can’t stand one round of questions.

    It was an opportunity the opposition was not allowed to have in these 15 years. I do agree that the good thing was that the chavistas got to see that the opposition wants good for all. Also, Aveledo practically dictated the agenda to follow.

    Of course, they are all sitting down with an illegitimate government; which makes the whole thing nonsense. Perhaps, they should have started the meeting with “Maduro, let’s see and verify your birth certificate, then we can talk”.

  25. I saw it and I thought the opposition did it absolutely excellent. Not because there were big chances it would really lead to something but because it was something that had to be done… for the history.
    Can you imagine Venezuela going down to Faustian hell without having at least done this effort?

  26. Without guarimbas and street protests there would have been no debate (a more appropriate word than dialogue). Without debate the government would not have been so clearly exposed in its sectarianism, closeness and narrow-mindedness. Conclusion: the country needs all kinds of opposition. We need the so called extremists who block the streets and fight the GN; but we also need the so called collaborationist politicians like Ramos Allup, who know how to argue on TV. I think the exercise was useful and contributes a a tiny bit to the task of ousting this regime.

  27. The regime ALWAYS exposes itself for those with eyes to see, but never exposes itself for those who do not want to see.

    This is human nature.

    For how long is the opposition going to be pathologically naive?

    The only thing dialogue with devils does is legitimize the regime a bit more in the eyes of International observers.

    The regime is far more intelligent than the opposition when it comes to trickery..I am beginning to think that for this reason, the situation is hopeless.

    • Firepiguette : It is true that those that are blinded by their fanatism will never even listen to what the oppo says no matter how true or intrinsically persuasive , It appears from the polls that these fanatics represent about 30 odd percent of the people , then there is a segment of about 20% who tend to sympathize sentimentally with the regimes politics but increasingly much less so with the awful way the govt performs and many of which may be swayed , with a bit of patient intelligent inducements to come closer to the oppo side and ultimately to join it . it isnt easy but the govt is proving such a total disaster that every day that passes bring this possibility a little closer . Once you have a clear mayority on your side then it will become more feasible to transform that mayority opinion into a political move that allows for a regime change .

      The regime is deeply delegitimized in the mind of at least half of Venezuelans and a large segment of international opoinion both institutional and popular , even if they cling to some tattered cloak of purely formal legitimacy and some latam govts make believe it still exists for reasons of their own , every one can see behind it to the naked raw ugliness of their tyranical agendas.

      The so called debates did not legitimize the govt except perhaps in a very superficial or artificial way, it was a show , a TV spectacle , a lot of hoopla with little of substance , too much was made of it but it is early times yet to know whether it may lead to something that the oppo may take advantage of to prop up its manouvering position . The odds are strongly against it but in history you cant really tell what may happen .

      It is in that context that we may read Carlos Zubillagas comment who was one of the very few guys who can honestly say that many many years ago he ‘saw it coming’ and even wrote a book about it .

      Sometimes you have to play the fool in other to fool a very distrustful contender.

  28. All the opposition wants essentially is for Maduro to go away and the government to disband. except that is not going to happen.

    Uh ah Chavez No Se Va!
    Uh ah Chavez No Se Va!

  29. Am reminded of 2 graffitti in a Berlin wall I read about , One appeared 1st and read “Gott is Tot , Nietszche ” and the other the following day ” Nietszche is Tot, Gott” .


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