The appeasers

Venezuela’s economic crisis is showing no signs of abating, and people are increasingly frustrated – and rightly so. In lieu of this, the opposition umbrella group, the MUD,...


Venezuela’s economic crisis is showing no signs of abating, and people are increasingly frustrated – and rightly so. In lieu of this, the opposition umbrella group, the MUD, has called for street protests this Saturday.

That people should take to the streets demanding some sort of solution should be a gimme. No government should be allowed to get away with the type of stuff the Maduro government is putting Venezuelans through without feeling at least some heat from the street. Furthermore, opposition politicians, including those previously lukewarm to using the streets to press for change, have realized they either channel public discontent, or they will be left out of the coming change.

In spite of this natural development, there are still a few who think Venezuelans should keep calm and just stand in line quietly.

Key among these is Lara governor Henri Falcón. Long a darling of the left wing of the opposition, the former chavista has come out saying that Venezuelans should *not* take to the streets, that instead they should focus on “electoral, constitutional, peaceful ways” of solving our problems.

That Falcón equates marching in the streets with unconstitutional, violent coup-mongering is shocking enough. What was even more galling, at least to me, was his use of Chile as an example.

Falcón cites Chile’s Concertación as an example of how to channel public outrage into change via elections. What Falcón didn’t understand in his brief visit to Chile a few weeks ago – invited by a group of Chilean left-wing politicians and activists – was that for many years the Concertación took part in peaceful protests before focusing on the referendum that ended up ousting Augusto Pinochet.

Only when a date had been set, and conditions for participating had been established, did Chile’s Concertación decide to focus on the referendum. Even then, they never left the streets. In using a completely inappropriate example, Falcón is simply showing his ignorance.

Another group that is trying to deflate popular discontent is Unasur. Yesterday, the organization’s chief diplomat, Ernesto Samper, said the group supports Maduro as well as dialogue.

We’ve seen this before – engage in fruitless dialogue to deflate popular anger. It may have even worked the last time around. Samper is delusional if he thinks the opposition leadership is going to fall for this trap again, particularly after showing such biased support for the government. By forfeiting its impartiality, Unasur has lost a ton of credibility with the majority of the country.

Venezuela needs dialogue, that’s for sure. The number one item on the agenda is the transition to a new, democratic government that will provide solutions Maduro is simply unwilling to enact, and free political prisoners. In fact, if I were the MUD, I would name Maria Corina Machado the opposition’s chief negotiator in such dialogue. Let’s see how Samper deals with her at the negotiating table.

Nobody thinks that street protests alone are going to topple Maduro – in fact, I’m not sure that’s even the point. The use of marching to effect change is a debatable point. However, expecting people to simply not protest for what is going on strikes me as hopelessly tone-deaf. It is even unwise to pretend you can put a lid on the simmering anger.

I don’t know how wise street protests are. All I know is that they are completely understandable, and inevitable. Appeasers such as Falcón and Unasur don’t really seem to grasp how dramatic the moment is.