Leopoldo, one of FP's "upenders" of 2014

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leopoldoLeopoldo Lopez, jailed by chavismo for helping light the spark that led to the street protests that erupted nationwide in February, was highlighted by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the 100 Global Thinkers of 2014, for “upending the tactics of Venezuela’s loyal opposition”.

To our mind, this is the first time a foreign publication calls the opposition out for being “loyal” to the government. This should give everyone inside the MUD some pause.

The 100 leading Global Thinkers is a special issue of Foreign Policy magazine that unveils what they claim to be the top hundred most influential actors embodied in an array of 10 different categories, from Agitators, Decision-makers, Challengers (where Leopoldo lies), Naturals, Innovators, Advocates, Chroniclers (unfortunately not us, jeje), Healers, Artists, and Moguls.

There’s no need to repeat Leopoldo’s role in Venezuela’s opposition movement against Chavismo these past 15 years. Within the opposition he is deemed as the Venezuelan Mandela by some, megaloathed by others. Chavismo simply despises him.

Regardless of your views on Leopoldo, what is telling is his large impact both inside Venezuela and abroad. Just two months ago, President Barack Obama called for his release in a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in NYC, which was followed by calls from a UN High Commissioner  to release him, along with and Mayors Daniel Ceballos of San Cristobal and Enzo Scarano of San Diego.

After spending nine months behind bars, what should really dismay the opposition in Venezuela is that his imprisonment, unacceptable in any democratic system, continues with no sign of letting up.

I’ve never voted for Leopoldo, nor am I a member of his party. It is pointless and irresponsible to continue bickering about the endless silliness between “la salida vs Capriles,” or the divide between those fathomed as mere “radicals” and other deemed “progressive.” All of us who oppose the dreadful tragedy that has fallen upon our nation should step forward in defining what we really represent in order to inspire the people around us that a new country could rise in our lifetime – talk about ourselves instead of the others.

Mr Lopez, like it or not, has been confined to a military prison without due process, trial pending or delayed. This is how Big Brother treats those who dare challenge or question its authority. Allegedly, the opposition movement represents a democratic alternative against the Bolivarian Revolution, but it feels to some extent that the democratic struggle from those who are outside Ramo Verde prison lacks the comprehension of some of the basic principles that rule any democratic society. There’s no deficit or surplus of democracy – either you live in one or you don’t.

The “disruption” that FP claims is not between a people and its government, but between a government and its official opposition. Mr Lopez, along with the other political prisoners, are being recognized abroad for disrupting the cozy relationship between the regime and the apparent acceptance of the status quo.

The rest of us who are outside those cells should continue disrupting the discussion forward if we truly wish to start imagining change.

1 COMMENT

  1. Just one comment on the term “loyal opposition”. I don’t know the history of that phrase except that we like to use it in the context of British-style parliamentary democracy, and in that context, it does not connote being somehow compromised. I don’t think it is used here as a general critique of the opposition, but yes, the article does speak to Lopez taking the opposition in a more militant direction. Whether it follows in the article that the opposition is otherwise in a more cozy relationship with the regime I am not so sure. I think someone was just throwing around a fancy phrase, but I could be wrong.

    Good for FT for raising awareness – somebody cares about what is going on- and I full agree with you that the retrospective bickering over tactics is really silly (at best) when people are being jailed for political activity.

    • I dunno, in British constitutional practice the “loyal opposition” is the one that opposes the government of the day without opposing the system of government.

      To my mind, that’s *EXACTLY* what Voluntad Popular criticizes the rest of the opposition for. Remember?

      • If by ‘system of government’ you mean the way the regime runs the country, in open violation of the constitution, both VP and the rest of the MUD oppose it. VP proposes convening a constituent assembly not primarily – or so it seems – to change the constitution but to kick out the people who have occupied the various branches of state and made a mockery of their constitutional role. It wants to use the Constituyente as a kind of ‘super-election’ to eject chavismo from power.

        That is to put the cart before the horse. It’s pretty much what chavismo did in1999, when it used its majority at the ballot box to impose a constitution on society as a whole, without bothering to seek a consensus. If it’s really necessary to open up the constitutional Pandora’s box (which personally I doubt), it should be done once there is a post-conflict consensus and with due respect for minorities.

        The term ‘loyal opposition’ is misused here by FP. There is no possibility of constituting a loyal opposition to a regime which rules out, as a matter of principle, any form of negotiation and believes it represents a supra-constitutional wisdom enshrined in the messianic utterances of its founding father.

        • I think you have it. The notion of “loyal opposition” is premised on an incumbent operating within a constitutional system and constrained by the rule of law. In other words, not this context.

          • It also has a pejorative use, in relation – for example – to the role of the PAN in relation to the PRI in XX-century Mexico. Critics maintained that the PAN refrained from challenging the system in exchange for being allowed to win a minority of seats in Congress and a few state governorships. That might be the case for some elements of the MUD, but to tar the entire non-Salida MUD with that brush seems grossly unfair.

          • Is it the PRD you are referring to? I do know that as things started to look dire the PRI went about setting up a bunch of parties, including the Partido Verde. I’d never heard they had their hands right in the PAN.

            Anyway, when I think about how things might go here, I do think about Mexico and the old PRI, with a lot more drugs and guns, if that can be imagined.

        • Since we seem to be splitting etymological hairs, I might as well point out that “figurehead” has a connotation different from what, I assume, the write up was intended to convey.

      • You write: “in British constitutional practice the “loyal opposition” is the one that opposes the government of the day without opposing the system of government.”

        Which in our case clearly means anyone opposing the government but who agrees with that it is the government (in their hands) that should have control over oil revenues. As I understand it Voluntad Popular is in this respect also full-fledged “loyal opposition”

  2. It seems to me that the opposition used to be quite loyal. That is, if loyalty means complaining about the regime’s Orwellian tendencies while hoping that constitutional law and its electoral provisions had any hope of regime change. I think that there isn’t any more hope of that. So, loyalty at this time might actually be “disloyalty” to the foundations of Venezuela’s constitutional democracy. It’s a paradox!

    • Yes, the “Loyal Opposition”–loyal to the concept of a Constitutional solution to Venezuela’s disaster, which the Regime will continue to subvert.

  3. “Loyal” opposition? The fuck is that supposed to mean? Is this about that handshake thing after the Monica Spear murder again? Why did they use that word? So Leopoldo is the one and only freedom fighter, while rest of the oppo are quislings who sold their souls for silver? Smh……

  4. “Loyal opposition” is a term in British parliamentary doctrine. It refers to members of the Parliament who are opposed to the ministers of the Crown, while remaining loyal to the Crown.

    In the British context, the “loyal opposition” would seek to win the next election – to displace the ruling ministers by the operation of the de facto political system, in which all parties are loyal subjects of the Crown, which is above all parties.

    However, in Venezuela the formal political system is corrupt and fraudulent; the chavernment violates the constitution at will. The “real” political system is the contest for support among the people for extraconstitutional action to maintain or displace the regime.

    However, all parties claim to be acting for the Venezuelan people. The will (and the interests) of the people are above any constitution; the “loyal Venezuelan opposition” is loyal to the nation, the people – not to the regime, and not to the constitution which was concocted by that regime and which they do not treat as binding.

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