The day after the opposition’s historic landslide in the elections of December 6th, 2015, Venezuela finds itself strangely calm. After the vote count was announced, the most astonishing thing happened: nothing.

There were no motorcycle-riding gangs to talk about, no soldiers, no armed groups of any description out at all. Just peace, actually.

This is, I think, is the crux of what makes the opposition’s win so remarkable. At a key moment last night, Defense Minister Padrino López had the legitimacy to press the president to accept the election results. To do that, he drew on the constitution Chávez had written 17 years earlier, a constitution that contained within it strange, subversive ideas—like the idea that the military isn’t the armed wing of the party in power. It’s right there, in Article 328. And for Article 328, we have to thank the student movement of eight years ago.

Why? Well, back in 1999, when those students were still in kindergarten, the principle of civilian control over the military was enshrined in the constitution:

Art. 328. La Fuerza Armada Nacional constituye una institución esencialmente profesional, sin militancia política, organizada por el Estado para garantizar la independencia y soberanía de la Nación y asegurar la integridad del espacio geográfico, mediante la defensa militar, la cooperación en el mantenimiento del orden interno y la participación activa en el desarrollo nacional, de acuerdo con esta Constitución y la ley. En el cumplimiento de sus funciones, está al servicio exclusivo de la Nación y en ningún caso al de persona o parcialidad política alguna….

Yes, Chávez once championed those very words. But Article 328 was systematically stripped of meaning once he took office. And, in 2007, Chávez attempted to kill Article 328 entirely. The constitutional reform Chávez proposed that year would have disfigured Article 328, making it read:

Art. 328 (rejected reform text): La Fuerza Armada Bolivariana constituye un cuerpo esencialmente patriótico, popular y antiimperialista. Sus profesionales activos no tendrán militancia partidista.

La Fuerza Armada Bolivariana será organizada por el Estado para garantizar la independencia y soberanía de la Nación, defenderla de cualquier ataque externo o interno y asegurar la integridad del espacio geográfico mediante el estudio, planificación y ejecución de la doctrina militar bolivariana, la aplicación de los principios de la defensa integral y la guerra popular de resistencia, la cooperación en tareas de mantenimiento de la seguridad ciudadana, y del orden interno, así como la participación activa en planes para el desarrollo económico, social, científico y tecnológico de la Nación, de acuerdo con esta Constitución y la ley. En el cumplimiento de su función, estará siempre al servicio del pueblo venezolano en defensa de sus sagrados intereses y en ningún caso al de oligarquía alguna o poder imperial extranjero…

An ideological harangue that turned the army into the ruling party’s militia. In the referendum, the Generation of 2007 mobilized to keep this wildly dangerous idea from being implemented. Up against the student movement, Article 328 was an idea that chavistas couldn’t just disappear.

Over the last few days, I’ve met a handful of the thousands of MUD volunteers who got together, organized themselves into citizen EPAs (Equipos Populares de Apoyo) all around the country and mobilized hard to any place where abuses of military power were reported.

There are tens of thousands of them, working on the basis of a sophisticated local technology platform and a complex feat of crisis-time volunteer mobilization.

Here’s the thing: Many of the people who organized and implemented that plan are veterans of the 2007 student movement. They’re not students any more. They’re more grown up, toughened, but still committed in body and soul to their cause. Many of them will soon be MPs. Manuela Bolivar, Freddy Guevara, Marialbert Barrios, and Elimar Diaz are just a few of the names who spring to mind.

It’s their generation, the Generation of 2007, that won last night. Yes, there was a massive voto castigo. Yes, economic crisis helped the MUD. Yes, the oppo victory was so big that there was no room for chavismo to call out the crazies. But at the end of the day, it was that group of tough, idealistic, battle-hardened kids (now pushing 30) that defended the constitution in 2007, including its crazy idea that the army works for the people, and not the other way around.

And when it most mattered last night, that victory came to the rescue of Venezuela’s democracy.

 

24 COMMENTS

  1. Touching… And who would have guessed that Padrino Lopez was not so bad? Either he repented of his crimes, or he needs “the country alive to keep stealing”. One or the other…

    • My bet. He foresaw how the winds were blowing (there was some news of him talking to Capriles back in “the dialogue” days) and decided that, unlike Diosdado, he didn’t want to land on a jail cell.

      • Guys, if there’s something I’ve learned in my lifetime is that there really isn’t anything more uncertain than the behavior of a Man in Uniform. You never know what they’re thinking, and what happened last Sunday was totally unpredictable: they actually closed the voting centers, jumped ahead on TV and literally told the government it must assume its cliff because they weren’t up for shenanigans. Pretty sure they had ulterior motives, but their move was a game changer.

    • There are two reasons for Padrino Lopez’s action:

      1. Armies have a long institutional memory. Even 16 years of Chavismo and corruption have not completely destroyed the FAN’s concept of institutional loyalty to the Constitution and to “El Pueblo”.

      2. I am pretty sure that had he tried to support an auto-coup, most of the junior officers would have turned against him, and it would have failed and he would have been shot.

      So, he did the only thing he could have done. It doesn’t mean he is really a good guy. Our appreciation should be for the FAN as an institution.

      • The number one works for good and for bad (see Raul Baduel)…
        There’s also the low oil price as contributor, their daily lives must have been impacted a lot economically. 10% GDP fall is no joke.

      • Padrino Lopez, si debe ser felicitado por algo, es por no aceptar presiones, no por haber hecho lo que (por Ley) está obligado a hacer.

        Lo mismo aplicó para Baduel en su momento.

        Ya veo a la gente endiosándolo y aupándolo a postularse a cargos de elección popular

  2. This article is too rosy. La Patilla says “Al menos 47 muertes violentas en Caracas el fin de semana”, a bit less than Madrid in one year. Lo que cuenta es cierto pero fuerza los hechos para que se ajusten a una cierta narración que, por decirlo de alguna manera, no tiene mucho poder explicativo.

  3. What shocked me when Maduro made that post-election speech was the miserable look in his face, Cabello seemed very tense too, and I had never seen them like that before. They were truly miserable, the defiance was gone, the arrogance was over, you could even sense fear in Maduro’s talking as he was picking his words carefully and trying to transform anger into a forced and fake humility: probably for the first time since he had become a president he didn’t have full control of the situation anymore.

    I’m seeing the first signs of that in Dilma Rousseff, that unbreakable aura is slowly fading too.

  4. Goddamn right! I did hate those bastards back in the day for their cornyness, but then I will never forget the feeling of awe and respect when we won our real first victory “of shit.” If there is one thing these guys have always been, and girls, it’s dedicated and effective.

  5. And it will be those “kids” that will bear the brunt of the load to rebuild the productive capacity of the country. Do you think that the “forty-somethings” are going wrap their heads around the idea that the way to make money is not to have good connections, but to actually make things and deliver services?

  6. Good post Quico. You know why I know? Because I was gonna write a response saying that we give too much credit to the 2007 generation, but then I thought about how close that election was, and how galvanized we were thanks to their efforts, and I ended up deleting the comment. The 2007 generation was crucial – and I don’t think I’ve ever said that publicly. You’ve convinced me.

  7. Glory to the kids of 2007!

    But did we just avert a real CRAZY coup d’etat Sunday evening???

    Rumors, plus locutions from Generals in full battle fatigue on TV and reports like this from runrun.es today:

    “El 6D a las seis de la tarde en una reunión en la que habrían participado algunos jerarcas del gobierno, militares retirados pero que mandan en el ejecutivo y la Asamblea, se planteó que no se debía entregar ésta última a los opositores representantes del imperialismo. Duro encuentro que llenó de dudas a los uniformados. Por ello se debe reconocer la actitud del ministro Vladimir Padrino López quien como jefe del Comando Estratégico Operacional lanzó una alocución al país a las 10 de la noche con el fin de que los colectivos supieran que iban a reprimir cualquier deseo de venganza y al tiempo mandar una señal al CNE y Maduro que ellos sabían los resultados electorales gracias al Plan República.”

    The guys running chavismo are just ‘bajale dos’ from jihadis, and in good jihadi style this is not over until they blow up is some batshit crazy way.

    Estos se van con las botas puestas, y no se van parados.

  8. This just shows that the so called opposition has been the source of violence all along and Chavistas understand the meaning of democracy. Opposition loss=blood on the streets.

    Sadly for the NED bought and paid for opposition they will not be able to rule and this will just drive the people back to Maduro. The Venezuelan people know real progress and stand in international solidarity with progressive movements around the world, when the new Assembly tries to slip favors to the zionists, international banksters, and oil companies like thieves in the night they will be found out and thrown out again like rats.

    • LOL. This is some of the most asinine stuff I’ve read since last Sunday. “Look, chavistas are the majority but they voted for the opposition because they knew that a PSUV win would mean fraud calls and guarimbas and violence, so they decided to give them congressional supermajority just to calm them down, this is just part of the plan!”

      Alianza para una Venezuela sin drogas.

  9. This shows that the majority on both sides do not want violence, they just want what’s best for the country.

    I do have a lot of faith in the 2007 generation. I remember thinking the day after the Referendum Win that they would be great political leaders in the years to come. That was our ONLY nationwide victory against Chavez and it was vital. It was Chavez’s most ferocious attack against the Republic and it was defeated. We would not be celebrating 2/3 of AN if we had a Cuban-like constitution with indirect elections. We would have lost it all.

    After several years of hard work, MUD has made a real connection with the people, just like Chavez did back in the late 90’s. And Maduro’s government is as arrogant as the Cuarta establishment was back then when they lost all. I expect MUD deputies will use this popular advantage wisely.

    Some say people voted for MUD out of desperation against the Maduro-Diosdado establishment, but that was also the case back when the voted for Chavez against the Cuarta Republica. For years, many people voted for Chavez just “para joder a los escualidos sifrinos”. MUD needs to do really well to convince one-time voters into regular voters.

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