Now that we’re all taking stock of the protest movement, here’s one heretical thought: time is working against it. With every day that passes, it becomes less likely we’ll be able to turn the recent outburst of middle class arrechera into a broad-based, multi-class movement able to challenge the government’s hold on power.
Why? Because the red macro-economic adjustment is close to fully cooked. A dollar disbursment stop started marinading last year, and since then a series of lightly disguised devaluations and price adjustments have been thrown in the pot. Scarcity and the need for minting money are diminishing. If turmoil is the consequence of mismanagement, can chavismo escape its own trap?
This slow cooked macro-adjustment started long ago. Meanwhile, it’s all about keeping the simmering pot from boiling over. Part of the recipe involves pretending to have a dialogue. Another part is to keep protests at bay through repression. Of course, remember to condiment with loads of propaganda.
The opposition has failed to brand itself as a safe haven for economic macro-chaos. Instead of that, it went from being on a sabbatical after the last elections to a long list of intangibles.
Quico was right when he said:
With the very limited means we do have at our disposal, though, we can probably do a lot to hollow out the regime’s elite support, by establishing a clear, consistent and truthful discourse that draws out clearly the way the regime’s incompetence courts chaos and establishes us as the logical – indeed, as the only – alternative: a safe, competent pair of hands that understands the drivers of chaos and knows what to do to bring them to heel.
Now the MUD isn’t even a viable option to the electorate (neither is GPP, FYI). The grass-root movements around the discontent have failed to grow into something organized.
Current protest are likely to be unsuccessful as long as they focus on calls for intangible things like freedom or justice. Protests show that people are feeling miserable, but can they really put a finger on why they are miserable? Is it the crime? Is it inflation? Is it CADIVI? Is it the CNE? The movement has never had a clear answer.
Efforts have been made to try to capture that discontent and turn it into demands like the release of political prisoners. To our dismay, when protesters are asked about LL, you realize that isn’t why they’re on the streets. Most people would like to see Simonovis and LL free, but it isn’t something that affects their daily lives. And if even the people out protesting aren’t doing so for abstract reasons, what hope of rallying others around those types of banners?
When protest begins to ask for tangible things, things that the government is unable to provide but we all need, then that’s when the joropo starts.
If a few hundreds march to an automercado bicentenario decided to buy milk and vegetable oil (both produced by government-owned companies) with cash on hand and decided not to leave until they bought all they needed or could afford. Only then you will see authorities trembling.
Can you imagine that headline? Government disperses camp of people waiting to get milk and vegetable oil. Meanwhile the civil unrest and the repression that goes with it is nothing but a PR blunder for the government, but it isn’t eroding any support.
Unfortunately, the window to expose the government on its failure to deliver the most basic of its promises is rapidly closing.
Until protests boil over beyond its middle class roots, the simmering continues. The macro-adjustment has all the ingredients in and the government is merely waiting for the results to show.
When shelves are stocked again and there are no longer lines at the stores, will civil unrest continue?
I hope it does. I hope behind that misery felt on the streets has lack of institutions and republican needs right at its center. But I don’t think so.
Sadly everything tells me: “It is the economy, stupid“.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.