If you read Caracas Chronicles, there’s a good chance you fancy yourself a political junkie. But we criollo political junkies have led a strange, paradoxical existence these last 16 years: in some ways, we’ve had precious little actual politics to obsess over.
If by politics you understand the art of sitting down together with a bastard whose guts you hate and hashing out a deal that’s better for both of you than no deal, then we’ve really had almost no politics at all since 1999.
Much of chavismo’s appeal was always its rejection of politics, its bedrock commitment to, well, anti-politics. That’s what I was getting at in my previous post when I wrote chavismo couldn’t negotiate.
And in an ontological sense, I stand by that. The moment the-movement-we’ve-all-been-calling-chavismo begins to negotiate, it stops being the same movement in some fundamental sense.
It surrenders its founding idea. It becomes just another political party doing, well, politics.
Deciding to negotiate, in itself, would be transformational: the end of the Chávez era. The most radical idea in the air right now, the one with the most potential to disrupt the status quo is not revolution, or neoliberalism, or salidismo. It’s politics, actually.
That’s why I’m still skeptical that the governing clique can genuinely negotiate. I don’t think the movement would hold together under the pressure a negotiation would create. But hell, Dorothy and Andrés make a pretty convincing case that the government (or at least some hairy, divinely bestowed players within the government) may conclude they have no choice. And faced with such a scenario, the opposition unquestionably needs a plan.
Dorothy argues that in such a scenario, the real danger is opposition over-reach: staking out a maximalist, atorado, salidista position that sends wavering regime supporters in the military and the civilian bureaucracy back into those hairy arms.
But I think Emiliana’s right to point out that under-reach is at least as big a risk: we could end up very much in the position of a Caribbean Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader who “negotiated”, joined the government as Prime Minister, brought some measure of economic stability…and extended the Mugabe dictatorship’s lease on power by at least a decade.
MUD can be as emollient as it wants in front of the cameras. (Hell, once it takes over ANTV, there may finally be some cameras for it to be emollient in front of.)
But once those doors shut, it needs to be clear that all it’s really negotiating is how to ease the governing clique out of power without a slide into civil war. Some minimum of order and legality needs to be preserved as Venezuela takes back its government from the genuinely appalling gaggle of drug traffickers, torturers, arbitrageurs and plain old criminals who’ve hijacked it.
And if that sounds like my inner señora de El Cafetal speaking, take a stroll through Aporrea one of these days: a nauseated, visceral revulsion at the shit our governing elite’s been up to these last few years is now as common there as it’s on DolarToday.
An appreciation of the pressing necessity to throw these criminals out of power is no longer the stuff of partisan invective. It’s pretty much a national consensus.
Venezuela faces unique, extreme circumstances. A group of hugely greedy embezzlers and drug traffickers have taken control of the state, bankrupted it, stolen tens of billions of dollars, destroyed the livelihoods of millions of families, and everyone knows it. Despite controlling the state and all its resources and abusing their power daily for a decade and a half to manipulate public opinion, they’re about to lose an election by something like 20 points: a government-ending electoral catastrophe anywhere else in the world.
And we’re worried about overreaching?
What I know for sure is that the Venezuela we’ll wake up to on December 7th is radically unlike the one we’ve known since 1999. For some of our younger readers, it’ll be the first time they’ve witnessed actual politics in their whole lives.
Shit’s just about to get interesting.