On Saturday, Quico wrote a second post predicting the demise of chavismo. In this version, the PSUV refuses to negotiate with a congressional majority elected democratically on 6D, acting as if it hadn’t just lost the popular vote. Repulsed by this display of despotism, the military, the bureaucracy, and the streets rush into the opposition’s open arms. Then, with MUD at the helm, the country sails off into the sunset as if these sixteen years never happened.

He has it wrong on two counts. The first is how the PSUV might respond to an opposition victory on 6D. The second, and, I think, more fundamental disagreement is over how the rest of the county might respond. In Quico’s rom com, the MUD is Cary Grant: Venezuela’s man all along! I’m concerned that the MUD might be more…Ralph Bellamy.

On the first point, Quico has written that, even if faced with an unambiguous choice between compromise and irrelevance, chavista politicians won’t negotiate—not in public, not in secret, not ever. They never have, and therefore they never will. But desperate times, desperate measures: mothers bench-press cars, climbers self-amputate with dull knives. An oppo supermajority would change PSUV incentives, and incentives, they tell me, shape behavior.

Moreover, the purest of the chavista ideologues—the wouldn’t-touch-escuálidos-with-a-ten-foot-pole types, from Hector Navarro to Ana Elisa Osorio and, of course, Giordani himself—bolted some time ago. With the hard line winnowed away, who’s left to be shocked by a pragmatic negotiation? El Pollo Carvajal, maybe?

On the other hand, Maduro has talked openly and in no uncertain terms of governing through a unión civico–militar if the opposition controls the AN. That sure sounds like digging in, doesn’t it?

We don’t know what chavista pols will do. What seems clearer to me is what the rest of the country will do, and this is the crux of my disagreement with Quico. For Quico, a big 6D victory means that the military, the bureaucracy, and the streets are done with chavismo, leaving the MUD as the lone and lucky suitor. For me, a 6D win is just an opening, a first date, a chance for the MUD to win everyone over, with chavismo—if not Maduro—as continued rival.

So, what does Venezuela want from oppo leaders? Flowers? Chocolates Franchesi?

the purest of the chavista ideologues—the wouldn’t-touch-escuálidos-with-a-ten-foot-pole types, from Hector Navarro to Ana Elisa Osorio and, of course, Giordani himselfbolted some time ago.

The MUD could do worse than look to Alejandro Velasco for its cupid. In his new book, Barrio Rising, Velasco argues that 23 de enero—and perhaps the Venezuelan barrios more generally—have a long history of mobilizing ante el gobierno, pero no anti-gobierno. This lovely phrase loses rhyme in the translation, but means, roughly, that popular demands have focused on fixing bad governance, not on trying to overthrow governments outright. It means that the barrios support criticism of elected leaders but not insurrection. Velasco substantiates this claim with examples from every decade since the 50s.

Oppo leaders have missed this point in the past. The ante el gobierno, no anti-gobierno distinction has flown right over their heads: witness the mistakes of 14A, the paro petrolero, the 2005 election boycott, #lasalida. Interpreting a 6D oppo victory as a once-and-for-all rejection of chavismo would make the same mistake, all over again.

There are some signs that the MUD may be catching on. Promoting Chuo Torrealba could be seen as a step away from salidismo. The head—or at least, the not-in-jail head—of Voluntad Popular, Freddy Guevara, appears more aligned with the MUD moderates than with VP’s extremist past.

But then there are other signs that salidismo is alive and well. Leopoldo Lopez wrote a letter saying that the future MUD diputados are committed to “liberating” Venezuela by instigating a “change in the corrupt leadership,” specifying that the MUD “cannot wait until the presidential elections of 2019” but instead will seek to replace Maduro “in the first semester of 2016.” Yep, “liberating” was Leopoldo’s verb of choice. And in case that wasn’t clear enough, there’s an animated video version of the letter, too.

The irony here is that a major opposition victory on 6D, paired with a blatant PSUV refusal to recognize the results (say, setting up a parallel Asamblea Revolucionaria, rejecting negotiations), might legitimize a revocatorio or calls for Maduro to step down—even by Velasco’s standard. But by crying “off with his head!” before the elections have even taken place, the MUD loses the leading lady. This message alienates almost everyone the opposition needs to turn a majority on 6D into a real political win.

Worse, it may alienate voters the opposition needs this Sunday.

25 COMMENTS

  1. The “unity”, despite the fact that it was mostly intact these elections, is fragile. Which is why they must be careful when threading after the win. Like you said, it could be La Salida all over again. Leopoldo wants to be president, and he’s not subtle about it. It remains to be seen if he has the patience needed.

  2. This paragraph says it all about this article:
    “Oppo leaders have missed this point in the past. The ante el gobierno, no anti-gobierno distinction has flown right over their heads: witness the mistakes of 14A, the paro petrolero, the 2005 election boycott, #lasalida. Interpreting a 6D oppo victory as a once-and-for-all rejection of chavismo would make the same mistake, all over again”.

    Mistakes? Why mistakes? Because they did not work as all would have desired? The obsession of anlysts is strategy whereas they should pay a little more attention to ethics. The paro petrolero of the managers of PDVSA was totally justifed and did have an effect, at least it showed that venezuelan s could stand up for their values/principles. The 2005 electoral boycott was entirely justified. The behavior of the opposition when they had 70+ representatives was as null as if they had had none. La Salida was totally justified and has made more of a difference in the balance of power in venezuela than any other activity by the opposition. I the gvt. decides to do with the NNational Assembly in the hands of the opposition what they did to Ledezma’s mayoralty, then it’s time for open rebellion.
    You cannot divorce leadership from ethics and values. If we do, then Hitler and Ghandi would be in the same boat.

    • Mr. Coronel,

      I agree with the high moral ground that these actions tried to achieve, but there is one flaw under the “doctrine of just war”:

      “There must be serious prospects of success.”

      I guess we could argue that the paro petrolero would fulfill the previous requirement, but the rest of the actions seem like kamikaze charges with unclear prospect of success.

    • Gustavo,
      Your talk about ethics is very nice and everything, but isn’t the ethical responsibility of a political movement that seeks power, to change reality -by taking such power-? If your tactical have been a proven and tested way of getting you more and more AWAY from power, you have to reevaluate your argument about ethics and politics.

      Calling the biggest fumbles of the opposition the only “ethical thing to do” as if participating in the 2005 Legislative Election was “unethical”, is manichaeism as its best.

    • “Because they did not work as all would have desired? ” Well, that’s the usual definition of mistake: something that did not bring the desired results.

  3. Man, CC is the best read these days!

    Oppo should not overplay their hand. They have a bad habit of it, but the number flung around of 57% Chavez approval ought to keep them sober as well as the bruises that they have taken over the years. As someone said around here, they are not voting for the oppo they are voting against Maduro.

    Maduro is a goner, he has no political capital to address the pressing economic collapse. What I don’t see is how can they ease him out and still remain in power. I mean if they did think a few steps ahead they would pass the flaming economic turd to the Oppo and let them deal with it while crying foul all along on the ‘neoliberal-inhuman’ measures that are in store for Venezuela. While the opposition consumes itself with the economy they can restore their romanticized Chavista patina as a ferocious opposition party: PSUV 2.0.

    The thing is that being out of power is extremely dangerous for el cogollo. There are guisos that are too good just to walk away from and there will be ‘pase de factura’ that will come due, one creditors being Mister DEA.

    So my prediction and is that greed and fear will drive the Chavistas moves and they will implode. Meantime, as one of last nights panelist said, just oppo controlled Assembly should push for term limits and don’t touch the economy. And for good measure, free the political prisoners.

  4. Dorothy, i love this debate, but …. large majorities of Venezuelans *want* the government to step down. They may not dislike chavismo or Chavez himself, but they understand that while the current chavista handlers are in power, the economy will not heal and nothing will change. They understand this better than the MUD does! The polls are clear about this.

    Interpreting a win on Sunday as a mandate to activate a transition would not be far-fetched. In fact, there is a solid argument that it is what people want. Just look at the head to head numbers between Leopoldo and Maduro, or Capriles and Maduro if the election were held today.

    I think we are over-selling the idea that people still want chavismo to run the country. The numbers simply suggest the opposite.

    • I acknowledge in my article that “a major opposition victory on 6D … might legitimize a revocatorio or calls for Maduro to step down.” But that major victory hasn’t happened yet. Both the Venebarometro and the Datanalisis polls indicate that the government has gained ten points in the past month. If the government gets more than 40% in these economic conditions, I wouldn’t blame them for seeing that as a victory.

  5. It’s not Leopoldo that is saying that, it’s the MUD. Leopoldo is just quoting the document of the MUD. You make it seem as if he has a different strategy, and it’s not true. It is the MUD strategy to seek political change in the first semester of 2016, by any constitutional means, as stated in the document signed on July 23th 2015. Please check the document at their webpage, and lets try not to create artificial divisions. La Salida is over, what we have ahead is political change in 2016 with an united opposition http://unidadvenezuela.org/2015/08/acuerdo-de-conduccion-y-definicion-de-lineamientos-generales-de-la-estrategia-unitaria-de-campana-para-la-nueva-asamblea-nacional/

    • There is not one mention in that document of the word “dictadura”. Leopoldo’s video and letter, on the other hand, establishes quite clearly that the “dictatorship” is the enemy.

  6. Dorothy, and what’s wrong to ask for the Government to step down? is it a sin? a crime?
    Call us radicals, extremists, loonies…whatever you desire, but it ain’t no unjustified call. To think that these times are normal and the next National Assembly should stick to go with the flow and pass laws them I’m not sure how’s really naive on this piece.

    Regards

  7. #Lasalida with oil at $40 would have been a whole different animal, but LL burned that cartucho way too early.

    12 more months of oil around $40 will do more damage to Chavismo than anything the opposition plans to do if they win the AN. So, keep it simple guys that the world economy is finishing the job that you could not do.

    I agree with you Dorothy, cool heads think better.

    • Sure, that’s a way. Maybe faster are nuclear bombs or biological weapons. Everybody death, no more Chavismo. #CoolHeadsThinkBetter(FromAbroad)

  8. I would say that in politics -as in general- it’s a mistake to commit yourself to a tactic rather than to a goal.

    I would say that our goal as a political movement is to regain power in Venezuela, in the briefest time possible, with the less human cost admisible.

    Calling the government to step down? Revocatorio? Rebelion? Regional elections next year? Negotiating with the regime? Gobierno de Unidad Nacional? Well, It’s a BIG mistake to frame the discussion on the value of these tactics on moral grounds of wrong and right, or this is justified or not. I want my political leadership to explain to me that we are going to rebel because it gets us closer to POWER, or I’m going to promote a Gobierno de Unidad Nacional because it gets us closer to POWER.

    I don’t want to be in the moral high ground, I want to see Venezuela changing.

  9. I have read everyone’s theories and predictions about what will happen after the vote. I have tried to formulate my own theory and prediction. I have finally concluded that there are just too many variables. The problem is indeterminate. I think that we can predict that the vote will go against the PSUV and it will be massive. But, that is as far as I can get. We can try to guess at how Chavismo will react to a massive defeat, but even that is problematic, because any guesses necessarily assume that the people in charge are rational, and I am not even certain that is an accurate assessment. We can guess at how the MUD will react to various scenarios, but all of these depend on the exact details of how Chavismo responds. One wrong move (or right move) can make a huge difference. So, we are entering into unknown and very possibly dangerous territory and I think most Venezuelans understand this. But… and here is what is important… most Venezuelans are OK with “unknown and very possibly dangerous”, because “more of the same” is just not acceptable.

  10. wow!
    …what a great read, both the original post and the preceding opinions and predictions!.

    My highlights:

    Goals not tactics
    Ethics, is it ethical to run failed tactics just per se, or ” the end justifies the means”
    elections, chavista moves, opposition moves, whoever makes less errors wins!

    My opinion:

    Venezuela is a used condom. The cubans abused it for 15 +yrs. sucked it dry and used it as a bargain chip in its negotiations with the US and the vatican.

    This election seems like it is the proverbial fight for an empty bottle. Still commendable and necessary, least the nation continues its descend to somaliland, but not an inflection point towards prosperity.

    Argentina fell, Brazil (impeachment) is following and Venezuela will follow after 7D, the game is up, the orgy is over.

    i really hope its the opposition who makes the least and lesser errors in the coming months and a least negative path forward is achieved.

    Without the right (ethic) narrative to explain to all the young resentidos and brainwashed nationals, chavismo will become the new peronismo and will hunt any attempt at modernity.

    Hence, I advocate for Machiavellian tactics now for sure, but really I commend the new leadership to really prosecute and make exemplary convictions of the criminal elite that abused the nation under chavista rule (and before!), else, all the lesson opportunity will be lost, and the next $$$ oil price cycle will be dejavu all over again…

    To naive? I guess.

    • That “used condom” and “empty bottle” is not just a cash cow to be milked. It is also “home” to 30 million people, many who are right here on this blog. A little sensitivity please…

      • Roy, I understand your call, but forgive me, it is these 30 Million people precisely the ones deserving the government they enjoy.

        Forgive me but I cant pussy foot around the fact that it is up to them, to demand better governments and accountability and hence, they are active participants, some say co-responsible, actors in the developments to date.

        Forgive me again but I call it as I see it and I am not playing politics or sunning for election here, in that case my rhetoric would be purposefully edited to that end.

        • There is no doubt that the population of Venezuela acted as enablers for Chavismo. As a society, Venezuela needs to grow up and act responsibly. I hope/expect that Venezuela will eventually emerge from this social and political crisis sadder, but wiser… citizens who will demand better governance, not more “caramelitos”.

          But, Venezuela still has a lot of things going for it. It will take time, but it can and will recover. To call it a “used condom” implies that it is irrecoverable. I reject that conclusion. However valid your cautions are, this is a moment for hope and optimism.

  11. So, in short: “Don’t mess with our corrupts!”

    Mmmm, makes sense, after all, no one in the opposition has ever said anything negative about the rotten one, save MCM, Diego Arria and Ledezma, and for that they were considered “right wing extremists”, because there’s this fallacious belief that the corpse is sacred and should be hailed as a national hero to “avoid touching the chavizta soft, little heart”

    Stomach-churning, but that’s politics.

  12. There is no actual unity, so it is obvious even a “great victory” would be completely irrelevant. In fact, we already lost last year when we decided to give up our moral compass. Most candidates will simply switch sides after the elections or corrupt themselves . That’ s why I don’ t care about how smart some of you think you are. Capriles’ s discourse may seem clever at first, but it is actually utterly meaningless and irrelevant. Guys, it is not only about getting the votes and popular support, it is about making those votes actually mean something. RIght now we can win the elections, but we did nothing to make that victory have any meaning and impact. The only card we can play is thanks to the salida, and I am not even proud of that.
    The truth is that chavismo exists simply because we did not have the courage or determination to defeat it, not necessarily because our tactics were wrong. That is a wrong asumption and it is time we face it. Even the coup could have worked, for instance. IN fact, it worked… SO my only conclusion after all this years is that chavismo only survived because it had key accomplices both inside and out of Venezuela and that if we really want to win we have to find them and take their power away.

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