Was the win last Sunday a straightforward vindication of moderation over “salidismo”? This is a key debate moving forward. As the government digs in to a maximalist strategy, the danger is that we over-interpret 6D, turn our backs on the street as a legitimate locus of political action, and silently allow the government to nullify our new majority without a proper fight.

On first reading, the election played out almost exactly according to what had been the moderates’ game plan all along: sit patiently, wait for society as a whole to understand how hideously counterproductive chavista policies are, and then court their votes.

In the context of the repeated salidista screwups and own-goals of 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2014, moderates can say with some justification that their strategy succeeded. Love him or hate him, Henrique Capriles is objectively right: the smart thing was to work hard, at the grassroots, to build a crushing electoral majority and then bring that majority to the polls.

This view has become Conventional Wisdom within the new majority, and nothing scares me more than a Conventional Wisdom that’s congealed overnight. There’s always a risk of overlearning the lessons from the last war, of latching rigidly onto tactics rather than focusing on strategies.

That risk is especially relevant now, as the ascendency of moderation could take more confrontational street tactics out of circulation right at the moment when they seem most likely to bear fruit.

Chavista maximalism operates by treating any defeat in exactly the same way they would treat a victory. And they’re at it again. Chavismo has already started to try to nullify the impact of the opposition’s majority: appointing new members to the Supreme Tribunal, putting the poster girl for the regime’s human rights abuses in charge of legal defense, etc. As the government’s huida hacia adelante becomes ever more aggressive, the challenge now is to protect not just the vote but its relevance.

What the New Majority must learn quickly is something the old opposition never quite caught onto: salidismo and the voting booth are complements, not substitutes. An agenda that leans entirely on one to the detriment of the other is unlikely to have much of an impact in the face of the outright thuggishness of this regime. It’s natural, right now, that salidistas must concede much of the argument to the moderate side. But it’s also true that their new electoral legitimacy allows moderates to own salidista tactics in a way that would’ve been unthinkable a month ago.

The new majority cannot allow itself to forefeit the street as a site of political action. The street is where a political movement proves its popular mettle. It puts party activists in the shoes of the person suffering, and in contact with local leaders and with the people. And street actions, in a moment of crisis, can precipitate the kinds of defection-cascades that bring down authoritarian regimes, Ceausescu style.

Faced with a recalcitrant government, the new majority needs to master the symbiosis between popular mobilization and its own newfound electoral legitimacy. That symbiosis will only become more relevant in weeks to come.

In Maduro and Diosdado’s hands, with the economy in disarray and a barrel of oil at $31, the “huida hacia adelante” becomes incredibly dangerous. A move that could have made sense in the hands of a skilled, charismatic politician with cash to spend looks like little more than a death wish in the hands of this bunch.

Still, the maximalist gambit is upon us. And none of the institutions of the republic will stop it from working. Without real mobilization on the street, it will be easy for chavismo to get away with its nullification strategy.

The challenge now is for the new majority to really master the symbiosis between voto y calle that for so long eluded the old opposition. That can’t happen if the lesson we take away from 6D is that there’s no room for active, direct citizen engagement on the street. It may be that, as Henry Ramos said, the regime “is melting” – but the heat lamp that will help it melt faster is the pressure that only mobilized citizens on the street can create.

In the current economic climate, more social conflict is virtually guaranteed next year anyway. The question is whether the New Majority can lead that conflict and turn it into a catalyst for change, or whether a triumphant moderate win will feel itself threatened by it and try, idiotically, to shut it down.

In fact, the electoral legitimacy that 6D confers gives the opposition a unique opportunity to put street tactics at the service of a certified majoritarian agenda. What we need now is, in part, for the salidisatas to moderate themselves, but also for the moderados to start acting like salidistas.

89 COMMENTS

  1. Just an idea. The new AN should steal the idea of Asamblea de Calle and direct the street pressure through them, before the Asamblea de Calle steals the place of the new AN

  2. Great piece.

    “salidismo and the voting booth are complements, not substitutes.” And as complements they add, not subtract from each other. This is something so plainly obvious to me, that I can’t understand why isn’t common sense.

    “In the context of the repeated salidista screwups and own-goals of 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2014” and as much as I agree that these movements failed to deliver tangible results at the time, they really caught international attention. Particularly 2014 events. I believe that those events led to an international pressure on these elections that cornered chavismo into not only accepting the results (at least electorally) but even a supermajority. The amount of oversight felt by chavismo this time was there due to 2014. Whether we could have attained the same results from Sunday without any protests in 2014? Without LL and AL in jail? Without Tintori and Mitzy circling earth multiple times? I can’t say. All I can say is that 2014 showed chavismo’s ugly side to the world. And that was very important. Also, as an activist, you have to be able to be a threat to the status quo if you want to challenge it. Sometimes you have to force action and the best way to do that is with non-violent protest.

    Also, it is worth mentioning that this is not the first time that these two tactics complement. After RCTV’s closing, the student movement was consider to be a catalyst for Chavez’s defeat in the referendums. Something we quickly forget.

    • No, no, no…there have been significant human rights abuses, repression of the media, political prisoners all along. It was not La Salida, nor Tintori’s world PR tour, that changed international response. It was the polls that led up to 6D — the sense that this government had lost popular support. International actors looked the other way for a long time — they stepped up pressure in response to plummeting oil prices and plummeting poll numbers for Maduro.

      • Which polls Lucia? Really? the polls? The polls caught international attention?

        Because what I remember is reading about is former presidents, senators, judges and secretary generals talking about Lopez and Ledezma.

        If it was the polls you have to elaborate in your argument on why that led to international oversight.

        • The willingness of international actors to get involved has always been linked to how they view popular support for the regime. They are much more interested in what Luis Vicente Leon is saying than Leopoldo Lopez.

          There have been serious human rights abuses in Venezuela for more than a decade, with people complaining about them in foreign capitals for just as long.

          Foreign actors are driven primarily by pragmatic concerns.

          • I disagree.

            In 2014, #LaSalida was the right call. It put Venezuela on the forth-front of every major news outlet in the world. When your enemy is suffocating, you don’t wait, step-back and watch until they die. You finish the job yourself. Too many of you think like arm-chair political commentators and not in terms of war. LL inspired a nation and showed fearless in grave circumstances (whether you believe or not is irrelevant). Polls rate Leopoldo as the most liked opposition leader.

            The PSUV has used about every combination of electoral/voter fraud in the book.

            That doesn’t mean people should stop voting and fighting through whatever means possible.

            I honestly don’t believe Dec 6. would have been possible without #LaSalida.

          • All I can say Lucia is that what they spoke about was the political prisoners, not polls.

            You do have a point. The lack of patronage and a sense from the international community that chavismo was headed to a defeat prompted action. But they relied on injustices to make their argument.

            But that argument doesn’t discount mine. You are working on conjectures.

    • “I believe that those events led to an international pressure on these elections that cornered chavismo into not only accepting the results ”

      How about the ongoing economic collapse? Don’t you think that also played a role in the regime’s calculus of its response to the election results? The regime’s favorite defense has always been to blame its opponents! An economic collapse while the AN is in the control of the opposition is fresh fuel for that defense!

      Meanwhile, the regime has total control of the nation’s assets! The new AN has authority to make law, but how can it run the country?

      What can be done now with the AN’s new found control that has been mandated by the election? What is needed and cannot wait?

  3. Really an excellent synthesis of the two tendencies. They were both right, and they are tendencies, not dug-in-forever trenches. Now new circumstances require tactical flexibility.

    I think this means that the first actions of the new Assembly have to be on morally-clear issues. Releasing political prisoners by amnesty is constitutionally an attribute of the Assembly, and a proven way of mobilizing people in the streets.

    It will be hard for the “courts” to uphold the government in refusing such a bill, and if they do, mobilization, both national and international, can be effective.

    I’d say that overview/review of the President’s budget could be another winning cause.

    “Where’s the Stolen Money?” can bring many marginally- political people into the street; and if the President were to hand over the accounts–almost unthinkable, I know–there will be many new crimes and thefts to use to unravel their power.

    People Power!

    • Liberating the political prisoners is the slam dunk first action the assembly should take. If the government decides to die on this hill, so be it. Can you imagine a march to Ramo Verde led by the assembly with the signed bill in place to liberate Leopoldo Lopez? I mean, in the most Gandhi-esque Salt March? It would be an incredible showdown that would demonstrate which side is the paper tiger.

      • Let’s make a list!
        1. Free political prisoners
        2. Legalize Foreign currency and exchange
        3. Relax and eliminate price controls
        4. Refocus police and military to provide public protection vs crime
        5. Revitalize hospitals, schools and universities, public transportation.
        6. Remove censorship and give support to journalists and media

        • Sure, I agree with your list, but liberating the political prisoners is the cheapest in political investment with a huge Hollywood moment as an outcome. Wars are lost with such photo moments (Vietnamese Napalm girl for example, Marine’s tearing Saddam’s statue).

          Es un mango bajito and it will depend on how much of an own goal does Maduro want to self inflict on this.

          The rest of you list is necessary and serious political work.

  4. Cool. A compromise, a smart one, could be reached: put the mobilizations in the hands of a new generation pol who historically isn’t salidista with a second in comand that is. Like Pizarro with Guevara as second. You would kill at least three birds with that stone, probably more.

  5. I fully agree that calle and voto are complementary strategies and should be used in combination or as required by changing circumstances, Censoring one in favor of the other is stupid and counterproductive. It is highly possible that the opposition /the people who voted against the regime will have to defend this victory in the streets. Not doing so would be unthinkable. It happened once before and it cost us two years of Maduro in power, a very tragic period.
    Voto y Calle, Calle y Voto. There is no contradiction, they go together like horse and carriage. Toro has done a good thing by debunking the notion that it’s either one or the other.

    • Defending a 50-50 victory was nearly impossible — half the population, all the artillery, paramilitaries, courts, national media and foreign beneficiaries on one side of the 50. Not our side, obviously. Capriles saved lives by not asking people to come to the streets to defend a victory that could not be proven.

      For all those who have (rightly) said Venezuela is an authoritarian state — that’s one of the features. You don’t get to win close elections. You have to win big.

    • Those two, street and vote strategies are purely political. Neither will fill supermarket shelves or shorten the lines! The political battle is decisively winning, but more political struggle could make things worse, and the election victory could easily wind up making things even worse!

  6. But the horse comes before the carriage, and a solid majority was needed BEFORE calle would really work.

    Calle will be different, far more empowered now, IMHO. With a proven majority, all avenues become more faesible.

    • I’ve thought about it a lot, and I really don’t know that I agree. In 2014, “calle” was a desperate gambit, yeah. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and times were (and remain) desperate. There was a real threat – since realized – of millions of people falling into poverty, of millions of lives being permanently disrupted, of millions of futures being permanently degraded unless the regime could be overthrown right then and there.

      The fact that it didn’t work can’t be retrospectively read as meaning it wasn’t worth a shot, any more than a desperate attempt to save a dying patient with an unproven new experimental drug can be retroactively be judged a mistake because it didn’t save him.

      The ex-post judgment is easy. Too easy.

      The question is about how sound the ex ante judgment is. And given the extreme circumstances, I remain deeply uncomfortable saying #LaSalida was not the right response.

      • We hold it was a wrong response because:

        There was an alternative which was less inmediate, so had that cost, but it was both sustainable and could actually work. Say they succeded, how do you hold a regime like that together?

        And sorry but anybody on the ground could foretell it wouldn’t work. I said it many times during the thing: they will alienate people tired of conflict, appeal mostly to yes, desperate and also fiery young men and women and thus will lead to: being forsaken by the people and violent repression. Blood and waste.

        Grim circumstances are no excuse for lack of strategy.

        • I’m with Nacho.

          Quico — people wanted change, very very badly, but they also don’t have airline tickets to Miami if things get dicey. So Venezuelans have always said — participate in elections, even on a tilted playing field.

          It has always been clear that the opposition needed to prove — to Venezuelans, to the world, to Chavismo — that they were the majority BEFORE expecting military or international support for change brought about by street action.

  7. The opposition needs to tread carefully, “andar con pies de plomo”.

    Street protests can and should be part of the toolkit of the opposition. They should be, at times, an important pressure tactic within the larger strategy to push back against the regime and effect change. What cannot be allowed to happen is to let it run amok, to become the strategy itself. Discipline is required.

    The problem with La Salida was not that it was a street action but its maximalist objective, (all or nothing), its lack of control and restrain. Its disconnect with a larger strategy and with a large segment of the population. It became an objective in itself, just like the 2002 strike.

    No single action or tactic, (protests, elections, propaganda) is the silver bullet. They are all just steps along a difficult and perilous path that requires loads of constancy, creativity and resolve.

    But yeah, street protests are part of Gene Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action”

    • I agree with this. The issue with #LaSalida was not tactics, it was strategy. Consequently, I think it is incomplete to equate “salidismo” with street action without the asterisk of what the aim of such action is. I don’t think that the new conventional wisdom in the opposition is that street action should be abandoned in favor of electoral politics, but that we should do away with protests as a way to force out the government particularly when we are not even sure if such a thing has the support of the majority of the population – which now, thanks to 6D, we [mostly] do.

      If it comes to going out to the streets to defend the rights of the newly elected National Assembly, I’m down for that. This is the Assembly we elected and it is our legitimate right to defend it. But using protests them to force some kind of 11A shenanigans? I’m not keen on that. I’d be glad if that were the lesson that the opposition learned.

      • You hit the nail on the head. Venezuelans, in the past, haven’t had the patience for proper democracy take place; you can’t recall a president a mere months after elections have taken place, barring grounds for impeachment.

        The problem with the radical opposition is that they’ve always thought of themselves as the majority of the country. Today we are, 12-18 months ago we weren’t.

          • For sure there are many but in Venezuela the public turns a blind eye to that type of controversy. Even now people don’t really care what happened to all the money, they just want food on the shelves.

            The salidistas should gone out and gotten the required signatures, although legal mechanisms are useless, and at least would’ve had something to show for their efforts.

  8. MUD should use the differences inside the coalition to its advantage. Not only in balancing Calle and Voto, but also when negotiating with chavismo. And, yes, there will be some negotiations between MUD and the government, even if only for routine or bureaucratic things that require AN approval, such as additional credits to pay the salaries of public employees or pensions. A Barclays report on Dec-7 had a good line about this: “the strategies of moderates and radicals could be complementary. Pressure from the radicals (ie, proposal of a recall referendum) could be a credible threat that the moderates could use to force chavismo to negotiate”

    • “such as additional credits to pay the salaries of public employees or pensions.”

      Woah, I hadn’t even thought of this. The government *just* approved a 2016 budget that won’t work at all without créditos adicionales.

      • Yes, the most surprising thing about that budget, at least for me, was that it was evidence that either the government didn’t think MUD could win, or that they had already decided to ignore the AN if MUD won. They didn’t include some huge items in the budget. They’ll need additional credits to pay for everything that makes chavismo, chavismo: misiones including freaking Mision Vivienda, wage increases, food imports, military purchases, etc. Bypassing the AN to openly take money out of the Treasury without authorization would be the ultimate “I just don’t give a shit” move by the government.

  9. What is it that Salidistas have to concede to “moderates”? Salidismo is about pressure and timing, not about not going to elections. All Salidista proposals involved elections, we just wanted them to occur before the destruction of the republic. Salidismo couldn’t force its view on timing, but the circumstances will make the moderates concede on the point of pressure. If we don’t pressure, that’s it for us. Bye bye. Most moderates I speak to believe this is not neccesary, a.k.a: “The regime is melting”, “patience. patience, they will fight each other and collapse”. Keep wishing.
    I will concede that Salidismo was wrong when the regime collapses without pressure.
    All I can concede now is that we are very very late.

    • This is just untrue. Salidistas argued endlessly about how elections could not be won. The problem with Salidistas has always been lip service to democratic values but there has been a deeply un-democratic heart beating within…

      Moderates didn’t sit around saying “patience, patience” — they worked like hell to make 6D possible.

      How do you win an election in an authoritarian state? You do the fucking work. You recruit candidates, talk to voters, organize volunteers, make contingency plans. That is NOT the same as sitting around waiting for the regime to collapse.

        • Hi, Juan! I’ve been here all along…listening, and learning lots from the many amazing people now writing for Caracas Chronicles. My congratulations to you and Quico and the terrific contributors.

          There are many issues raised on this site about which I can’t particularly contribute expertise or insight. But what particular opposition politicians had in mind when, say, they decided to boycott the 2005 legislative elections…yeah, I do have some knowledge re how that went down, and how these tactics and ideas have played out in the years since.

          And I do think it still matters — because all sorts of ideas and values are underneath all this, along with questions about judgment and maturity.

          Capriles vs Leopoldo in polling — people have basically been force-fed government propaganda about both for years. It’s complicated. But if you ask Venezuelans straight up — should change come from street protests or via elections? No contest — never has been.

          I think La Salida was a tactical error — and one that resulted in political prisoners, lost lives, and injuries. The students who ended up in dank prison cells — without the celebrity status and the headlines and the blond wife circling the globe on their behalf — that is serious stuff. The costs were just too high.

          The street protests led to international attention — but that’s not the same thing as international pressure — there was no chance governments in the region were going to support undoing the results of elections via street action.

          Defending a clear electoral victory, like the one we just had, in the streets — sure. That’s a whole different ballgame.

  10. Kudos on balanced and realistic assessment of current situation and the need for both sides to continue acting together allowing for tactical change in mode of operation depending on developing circumstances warranting a more proactive stance.

    Have only one comment regarding the street protests of last year , never thought they would have much chance of effecting a regime change while understanding that sometimes its difficult to keep people on hold while they feel crassly oppressed and humiliated but do feel that protests did achieve something positive which helped the current success, they brought the attention of the world to the regimes misdeeds and desportic dark side as never before and with it the open support of forces and people that otherwise might have remained in the side lines . This put the spot light on the elections and movilized much of international public opinion to pressure the regime not to go overboard in its abuse of its powers. This had a salutary effect in preventing the regime from being more blatant in their persecution and repression of the opposition .!!

  11. Chavez succeeded, in large part, because he always wielded the threat of unleashing catastrophic violence. The colectivos and bolivarian militias were his ace in the hole. We always knew he could play that card. Sure, we always had some doubt about how far the military would let him go with it, but the threat existed. Maduro also wields this threat (far less less subtly than Chavez did), but now that threat is blunted. On 6D, he (or Diosdado) tried to “go nuclear” and play their ace. But they were blocked by the military from doing so. So, now that threat is mostly a bluff. Sure, he can still play that card, but it would be suicide.

    But, consider how effective that threat was and for how long. Ultimately, all politics is an extension of force through peaceful means. But politics, diplomacy, and negotiation only work when you have real force to back them up. The Opposition now has a clear (overwhelming?) majority of numbers, the moral high ground, and the support of the international community. We cannot and should not reject or renounce the use of any of the weapons in our arsenal. Even if we ultimately can avoid using these tactics, we must be prepared to use them, because the threat that we will use them is what gives the politicians the upper hand in their negotiations.

  12. “Salidista”?

    I’m a native English speaker living outside of Venezuela and every once in a while a term pops up in C.C. that I’m not too sure about. From the context, I assume it refers somehow to the realpolitik of the streets? Is this correct? Thanks.

    • Dang, I’m so inside this story I forget to explain these things. A salidista is a follower of #LaSalida: the opposition’s failed 2014 strategy to force the government to step down via militant street protests and direct action.

      • But this is why it’s strange that the article equates salidismo with protests. I see no contradiction between (a) abandoning salidismo and (b) using the street as a site of political action. In fact, some people would argue that the Unidad’s ability to do (b) depends crucially on its consensus around (a): In this view, voters are more likely to heed a call to protest the government’s actions (such as specific nullification measures) than a call to protest the government’s (and chavismo’s) existence. This view could be wrong. But it’s nevertheless the case that there’s no inherent conflict between protests and the moderate-Unidad strategy.

        • Dorothy,

          The tactical debate within the MUD has always been passive-electoral vs protest-electoral. To my knowledge the PJ-UNT block has never been in favor of street protest. It is my opinion that they don’t know how to organize it and they rather avoid it as to stay in control.

          I think Quico is using La Salida just as an example of what protest had been. But he does mention many other previous instances.

          VP, VENTE and perhaps ABP understand protest, but lack the strategic planning, and most of all, the discipline to really produce something that can pan out in the mid-term.

          Of course the ideal strategy is what you suggest. A combination of both. But somehow this hasn’t happen. So here is Quico trying to advocate just for that. Right?

          • It’s not a matter of for/against street protests. It’s a matter of when and how to wield them…and to what end.

            Let me focus on the WHEN — the when would be now…when there is consensus among all important actors, domestic and foreign, that the protests would be in service of democracy, not to subvert it, and when the protests could plausibly be said to represent majority opinion.

            That just has not been true during the Chavismo era until NOW.

          • “To my knowledge the PJ-UNT block has never been in favor of street protest. It is my opinion that they don’t know how to organize it and they rather avoid it as to stay in control. ”

            Stalin González

            Miguel Pizarro

            Henrique Capriles

            And, I am sure, many more who were protagonists in a number of protest situations are from these parties. This opinion is foolish.

          • I get that it’s nicer to believe that VP is a hub of heroes surrounded by cowards and monsters, sole keepers of virtue and real Gs, but you might want to sit down and think through how it is these parties were formed and grew, what the process was that began with the mother of all protest eras.

            Or, you know, maybe we’re all just lazy traitors grubbing for control, and VP was the only flag that attracted the REAL minds behind those protests.

            Yeah, that’s probably it… How else could you explain the treachery?

            Incidentally, I met two people my age at rehab that were opositores, both had weapon stashes during the protests and did good business selling drugs at the parti- I mean, very serious civic actions. They saw themselves as liberators of the patria, starting a movement that would finally bring back the glory of… something! You may not choose to believe it, intellectual honesty takes more work than the beautiful world of black and white. But, word to your mother, that’s what your heroics attracted.

          • Nacho, you are saying things I am not.

            Like I said before. VP has organized way more protest in the past. PJ is way more strategic and disciplined. I don’t think they are cowards or colaboracionistas. They simply don’t understand protest.

            And when I speak of protest I speak of non-violent protest. I feel like PJ discounts protest entirely and feel like talking to folks is enough. In some cases it is, but not always.

            By the way, this I wrote at the time of La Salida. I still maintain those opinions. (Hopefully they aren’t “foolish”).

            http://caracaschronicles.com/2014/04/08/roadblocks-for-democracy/

            I think there is a very dangerous political game here where the likes of Guanipa want all kinds of legitimacy as master tacticians. They clearly aren’t.

          • YOU simply don’t understand protests.

            It was a relief to hear that response, though.

            And do consider, maybe you are saying nobody in those parties understands protests because it fits your case better, and not the other way around. It juuuust passes into the realm of cynical to suggest that those parties aren’t largely made up of the minds behind the RCTV protests.

            There are a number of criticisms to level against VP, and your stance doesn’t allow us to discuss them with you because you stand, not on their pure achievments as you see them, but also on the idea that somehow no other party has any. I hope you see the danger in that way of thinking.

          • Same as yours really: a last resort. The difference is that you are reaching for your boot knife already, that last weapon which will never prevail but gives you some dignity and might fend the opponent off, at a price, while I see that our opponent clearly can be dealt with with a much cooler head.

            When you reach for your last resort and you don’t need it, not really, you get the kind of desenfrenado kids that came out and also a kind of disdain from the common joe: “que ladilla estos carajitos, ahora vamos a ver como hago para llegar a X sitio.” I heard many a well off hasta la muerte opositores say that. The only group I actually heard gaining respect was, well there were two groups. One were international hippies and Arab Spring enthusiasts, the other were pranes, who respected the violence and appearently gave the protesters a measure of respect, which is the most important currency in jail.

            On the other hand, the early protests were a kind of desperate spasm, none of us understood how deep Chavismo really went, even then, we didn’t understand that before we could get our democracy, we had to convince a number of people that it was worth it for them. And the RCTV protests, though extremely corny at times, was during Chavismo’s true hayday, when no other answer seemed possible. In fact, it bred a whole generation of politicians. I remember Freddy Guevara coming to my high school, all amateurish but extremely driven and, in his amateurishness, extremely well tuned to political action.

            In all, I agree that PJ might be the best. Because of their ground level revolution of how politics is done, that is the actual street mobilization we need, but it’s definetly less exiting.

  13. The problem that moderates had with #LaSalida was the lack of consensus.

    VP and allies proposed the agenda to MUD, most parties didn’t agree it was time for it and they decided to go for it anyway.

    Remember the first move of #LaSalida was the full-page communique released *one day before* the municipal elections that Capriles and MUD tried to turn into a plebiscite. Yeah, that election was a big fail and Capriles publicly recognized it several times. Who knows if the election could’ve been turned into a plebiscite like 6D if everyone had been in the same bus.

    Finally, as early as January 2015 Capriles himself said that *now* it was time for mobilization, and it was: the whole campaign was a huge number of small door-to-door mobilizations and a couple of mid-sized rallies.

    Last night in the celebration rally at Chacaito Capriles said that if the government obstructs changes to save the country from the crises, then it will be time to change the government itself by constitutional means.

    I don’t expect guarimbas, but I feel that there’s consensus that 2016’s first quarter is the time to go to the street… and this time Marea Socialista and similar will join us asking for Maduro’s ousting.

  14. “The most potent weapon of the oppressor’s arsenal is the mind of the oppressed.”
    Steven Biko

    …Speaking of arsenals, and using one’s own, lets remind everyone that the Castrismo/ Chavismo/ Madurismo (SSDD) has been working mostly on the mind space with strategies towards learned hopelessness and such.

    The “6-d victory” is a key opportunity to work on messaging and towards reversing the trend.Its value lies mostly in messaging and hope, besides actual legislative and controlling capacities trough new still-to-be-installed AN.

    #LaSalida was key in raising the oppositions BATNA to the regime’s.

    The thugs in power progressively realizing the costs of appeasing and suffocating open rebellion focai , in Human right violations, and lesa humanidad charges. Without the increased costs, and treat of further street protests much of the decision criteria of the military, came 6-D could have been different, so strategically I think it was well warranted.

    However, you can not necessarily state as a objective that the protest is for raining your negotiation power, it does not sell to hot heads and young idealistic protesters, so I think the stated objectives of “fuera ya!” and other maximalist intents were tactically correct.

    Now, Quico, I totally support yout main thesis here, “bailando y mascando chicle” to say it in out dearest venezolanismo terms, but what should we do now.

    The next 100 days are key as they will prove the AN, will expose the real Plan B and recovery plans by the regime, and will precede the Presidential revocatorio window, if that is what the main action ends up being for the oppositions.

    IMO lets just be a kick ass parlament, and do waht a parlament should do, control the goverment and start asking the difficult questions, donde estan los reales, and nothing more….

    The pressure will be unyielding and the regime will be naked and exposed. We need not do anything else, let the hordas of people know who they need to hold accountable for their new misery and broken promises, do not fall into the trap of being targeted as co-responsible for the social blow up!

  15. Many great comments above, maybe just one item which deserves underscoring , the timing , is there any doubt that what made this election a thriumph was the total breakdown in the accessibility of daily necessities , the long queues , the run way inflation and crime and the deep discontent and anger those events spawned , something that wasn’t there in early 2014 when the mass protests took place ………, it was always mentioned that protests wouldn’t work unless you had massive support for them , that the timing was wrong for them .

    Repeat the protests were very useful in rousing up oppo sentiment and in attracting the attention and support of the world , key factors helping the oppo achieve its electoral success , but the protest could not kindle a regime change by themselves unless this other element was present . Another important consequence , it served as breeding ground for all that youth that started to organize itself so splendidly to carry the future battles of the oppo forward .!! This adds to the strength of the oppo, a newfound movilization capacity which didn’t exist before and which is there for when its needed again ….

  16. The 6D victory required both widespread anger at the economic and security conditions…AND it required an opposition willing to do the hard work to organize and participate in elections while ignoring multiple and serious provocations.

    Those two things led to victory — large majorities in support of (and even desperate for) change, and an opposition mature enough to be in a position to channel that desire for change.

    So…no…6D did not require La Salida for success.

    (La Salida may have even possibly delayed the important work of making the opposition a comfortable home for former Chavistas and ni-ni’s. How can a country undergoing such an economic crisis still generate 30+ support for its government?).

    La Salida brought international attention? Venezuela has had it, multiple times….during the paro, for example…but “attention” on the front pages doesn’t translate into helpful action.

    Franklin Brito died in 2010. Venezuela has had plenty of brave activists all along.

    Whatever international pressure was brought to bear this time around was due to larger anti-left trends in Latin America and the fact that this government — for the very first time — had lost the support of the people.

    I am not down with moving to this “sure, we need both!” thing — without even pausing to examine the deeply undemocratic impulses that led the same people who didn’t want to go to elections in 2005 (because they couldn’t win!) to call for bringing down the government in 2014 with street protests.

    Only NOW, after victory, is everyone saying we need both — for a long time, to support change through elections was to risk being labelled a collaborationist and traitor.

    • Sorry Lucia but be obviously interpret some key events very differently. The 2005 legislative elections were “won” by effectively exposing a less than 15% of voter turn-up in massively artificially inflated and intensely manipulated voter franchise records (REP).

      The political establishment at the time was in total bailamos vs. comemos chicle mode (electoral participation vs. other political measures such as boycotts, protests, open revolt, etc.) same dilemma this post addresses.

      10 years later and plenty of the sum cero approach (we do this OR we do that) and consequences( you say: “…for a long time, to support change through elections was to risk being labelled a collaborationist and traitor…” , I posit the same to people advocating to #la Salida and use of other political tools, Don Franklin Brito’s principled fight is a very special case!), were similarly also labeled radicales and traitors),

      and perhaps we have gained the realization (Toro dixit) all approaches are not only complementary but necessary!

    • Here is the problem with this line of argument: if it were true that the moderates were more popular than La Salida, why are Capriles’ and Leopoldo’s numbers equivalent? If people really favored one approach over the other, you would see Leopoldo’s numbers in the tank and Capriles’ numbers much better, but they are both roughly equivalent.

      I think you also ignore the effect #LaSalida had on creating empathy between the opposition and the people suffering from Maduro’s government.

      • Trust me, barricading roads during hard economic times did NOT generate sympathy. I’d like to see those numbers, I flat out call a bluff on any presumption that Leopoldo can stand up to Capriles in a general election situation.

        Roughly half of the core opposition is NOT roughly half of the population. And even then, even for primaries, I have deep doubts, and would chalk any seeming equality up to the fact that it’s really hard to know what Capriles is up to at any given time, because he’s all boring, you know, all that bullshit about governance and democracy and inclusionism, to the point where I remember wondering if he was even still active.

  17. Ultimately, the hidden goal of #LaSalida was to place Leopoldo in a position of victimhood, to raise his profile as the leader of a wing of the opposition.

    • That’s just cynical.

      The real difference between the salidistas and the moderates is whether you dislike Capriles/LL. Both sides agree that to solve Venezuela’s problems we need to get support from the Venezuelan civil society at large to bring about deep and profound change via constitutional/peaceful/electoral means.

    • One issue that’s been somewhat overlooked is the different degrees of confidence/faith on the prospects of La Salida, by the very people who planned La Salida. I’m talking about Vecchio and Rivero from Voluntad Popular, who unlike Leopoldo, chose exile over jail. Why did they made that choice? They didn’t believe La Salida was going to work?

      Look, I know that voluntarily going to jail is not an easy decision to make. Had I been in their position, my choice would’ve been the same. The point is that they made this choice very early in La Salida. My guess is that Leopoldo really thought La Salida was going to bring down the government, and if it didn’t, the government wouldn’t dare jail him for a very long time. He was wrong on both. Vecchio and Rivero, judging by their choice, didn’t thought the same as Leopoldo.

      So, the question is, did Vecchio/Rivero changed their mind at some point during the first days La Salida? Or actually they always knew La Salida wasn’t going to bring down Maduro, and the aim was simply to raise the profile of LL and Voluntad Popular?

      I know that asking “Why didn’t they handed themselves to a criminal government?” might be unfair. But I think the fact they didn’t, and Leopoldo did, could be a sign that they weren’t as confident as Leopoldo of the potential of La Salida.

      (Of course, maybe they thought La Salida was going to work, but they didn’t want to spend even a few days in jail, which is perfectly understandable)

        • Sure, that can be a good explanation. But if that’s the answer, if Leopoldo chose jail and the others didn’t because LL hopes to be president, then it follows that the purpose of La Salida was closer to “Raise LL’s profile for a presidential run”, than to “Bring down the regime”.

  18. I’m feeling like a bird in the wilderness! La calla o el Vito are about continuing struggle! There are other struggles that could use some attention as well. The election was about growing discontent and the regime’s continued failure to address the public’s basic needs. Those basic needs are going to become more urgent unless some effective leadership shifts into high gear quickly!

    In previous posts there were discussions about negotiations with the regime. I think that topic is even more appropriate given the election thrashing. As for my wife and I, we want to bring some of our dollars back to Venezuela, but when will it be safe to do so? Where are the best investment opportunities? When will the dust settle and a new plan of recovery be established, so that my wife and I can get started?

    Am I the only one thinking about this? In our family, we have many businesses still operating in Venezuela that can use capital and begin expanding once again! However, it still feels too risky. Venezuela bonds have increased prices somewhat is the only good economic news I’ve heard since the election.

    • May I make a suggestion? Instead of focusing on the past election stats so much, let’s get some statistics that identify how many delivery trucks are still operational, farm land that’s available to expand production, factories that need vital resources to restart operations, and whatever else can build up the most products with the least amount of capital!

      There will be plenty of time for academic study of this election later. What is most urgent now should get some priority! At least, that’s my opinion.

      • Brother, if I was still in Venezuela, I would be all over it.

        From your mouth to young activist’s ears! This is where the gold is for future politicians!

  19. La Salida was demonized so strongly and for such a long time by the government for its supposedly anti-democratic tactics that if the government had cancelled the elections it would have most obviously contradicted itself to world public opinion. La Salida made the Venezuelan crisis highly visible and most likely was a necessary prerequisite to the elections being held as scheduled. That said, I doubt anyone planned it that way.

  20. Seriously, who is talking about “forefeit the street”? sometimes it seems like there is no middle ground on the opposition, either you’re “guarimbero” or a “comeflor”. The big problem with la salida is how wrong the timing for their actions were. Well that, and some of the actions taked by frustated citizens (that in some cases turned to violence, mainly because of lack of vision by the leadership behind La Salida)

    People need to understand that la salida was a mistake by a few, but all the opposition ended up paying the price. But we moved on and the mayority realized that wasn’t the way. GET OVER IT. Why are we still talking about it? we all need to understand that “calle” doesn’t mean “la salida”, there any many ways to legitimate take protest to the streets without generating violence, without causing a lot of deaths. The international notoriety that all that violence generated, it never caused an internal change. You know what did? scarcity, long lines and hunger. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    Sometimes I wonder if some people just want to alienate all the chavista votes gained on this election. I don’t know why, but all their actions point in that way. Chavistas aren’t the only ones reading the 6D results wrong

  21. You are totally wrong, “the street”, wathever da hell that means, has proven time and again to be a completely wasteful strategy, the price is too high and the prize is too small, even after rctv, a blantant breach of freedom of expression that hit every household we barely won by a hair.

    Every demonstration the opposition does carries a high risk of spilling into violence and death, not to mention that the government thugs infiltrate and kill with complete impunity since every “opposition” death is always blamed on an inside job and never investigated.

    Every guarimba legitimize the goverment as the party of order while the opposition is called the party of chaos. The more effective strategy is to do as moderados do, silent build up below the hegemony’s radar and then pum, wipe them out in their own election game. Eventually Maria Corina will learn.

    I think that the opposition should try to push a good agenda in the AN, and after a few months of complete blocking by the reds, claim that they tried to be civilized and go for the revocatorio or the nuclear option, the constituyente.

  22. I just hope greed doesn’t become a bigger issue within the opposition and division becomes more apparent. The first real showing of division is about who’s going to be the next president of the AN. It’s quite clear PJ wants badly for Julio Borges to get the post. Capriles’s rant after the election and the numerous PJ members posting the results of a Datanalisis poll showing Borges with a clear lead over Ramos Allup for the post confirm it.

  23. Well it seems that there are two sided arguments, one in favor of using public protest on the street as a way to effect regime change, and the electoral way as a way to effect regime change as well.

    The fact is that neither approach didn’t really work…

    This Venezuelan saying pretty much apply to current leaders of the opposition field: “GANANDO INDULGENCIA CON ESCAPULARIO AJENO”

    This result was more or like the consequence of people being fed up with the economic situation, and the fact that many chavistas hates Maduro’s guts. So we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, and start counting this electoral result as a real win for the opposition, after all chavismo still holds 40% of preference among Venezuelan people.

    Simply put, People voted against Maduro, not for the opposition leaders. Aside from a few exceptions they are all mediocre and below average including Henrique Capriles, just like Chavismo is.

    • How do you know Henrique Capriles and the team he’s painstakingly built is mediocre and below average? Do you know anything about his policy and governance record? With zero central government funding and even blocks to their plans from it?

      Did you ever before in your life hear of a team with that many people from the barrio? Who know the problems of their towns and had to work fucking hard to make a political life outside chavismo? Do you know what is happening with education in Miranda? Not only in terms of opening schools, but preparation of teachers? Of actual infrastructure? That fulana educación everybody keeps pontificating about?

      I guess it’s easier to spit on people who work extremely hard on the points that matter against all odds and look for a flashy alternative. Sure, Miranda is exactly the same thing as Barinas, nope, no difference in the governance, or the funding, same shit different toilet.

      Marico! Párale bola a la vaina!

      • Look I understand how important is Henrique Capriles is important for some, and I apologize If my words somehow offended you.

        The thing about leadership, is that it goes beyond simply having an office and making some work that are inherent to the position, We all know how hard was for him to overcome administrative blockade from the government, but leadership takes more than that. I mean his position as Governor, makes him no different than Henry Lara, Salas Feo etc… they also have problems too right?, does that makes them great leaders too?, I could give them an A for having Management Skills, by doing many things with so little. But that’s pretty much it.

        Leaders!, leaders are totally different thing, great leaders do tend to create historic moments and they spring events that no one else seemed to be able to do at the time. Hugo Chavez for once, whether we liked it or not, he is leader because he transformed the country to his own image and gave identity to many people that were invisible for the political elites. Mahatma Gandhi made a stand against the British empire and contributed to the independence of the sub continent of India, Ronald Reagan contributed to the downfall of the USSR and with that the end of the cold war, Simon Bolivar liberated 5 nations… I could go on if I wanted to… but what I mean leaders makes history by creating a chain of events that changes the course of history.

        In this regard, Capriles hardly changed Venezuelan history, the circumstances around the chain of events that Chavez was responsible for, allowed him to be the governor of some state, and then somehow he became a prominent figure of the opposition to Chavez, and enabled him to Compete against Chavez on a national election, oh and his political stance comes from being a moderate around the political and institutional created by Chavez. That’s what makes him and others mediocre, not bad but not good either, he is somehow holding up there.

        I mean this guy does not have a plan of his own, he is pretty much waiting for the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, so he can use this circumstance against the current government, and somehow become President. Does that sound like a great leader to you? he might no different than any other politician whose guts we hate so much.

        • I agree, Capriles isn’t that, and I would also very much like to have that. But we are at a crucial crossroads, and we need to work with what we have. As far as that goes, I very much like Capriles. Falcon I mostly just don’t know enough about, but seems a little to socialist for my taste. Nothing against the guy.

          Also, it might seem little now, but his work in education, if followed through with on a national scale with proper funding, could really have a historical impact that could decide the fate of Venezuela. It’s not only that he builds schools and prepares teachers, it’s that, and this I think is his greatest asset and claim to the coroto, he really knows how and works hard to build a team of the best, most realistically forward thinking people. This goes for his education team as well as his development of young political talent. He’s good at fertilizing the field for the right people.

          In any case, much to the chagrin of most liberal forward thinkers, I too would like to see a leader like that. A galán, but a galán con cerebro. For now, though, throw the man a florecita.

          • About Capriles, for his work at education and everything you mentioned, he just make a good Manager, for which the role of Minister of Education is good enough. He lacks the vision and the courage to take difficult decisions for the good of country. i.e. Taking economic decisions to reverse the disaster created by 17 years of bad decisions and improvisation.

            If he manages to be elected president ** ghasp ** followed by ** oh hell no! ** , he’ll be beating around the bush around the most needed economic, social and political reforms. If this happens social volatility will still ensue, and a new Chavista government will rule one more time. The new president must have the vision to propose and implement a new economic, social and political framework for the new Venezuela.

            And I’m sorry to say, but Henrique Capriles was not, is not and will never be that man or woman that we require to lead the changes. Besides hasn’t he lost two elections already? if he were truly a democrat, he should take his name out of consideration, and follow the example of any person that lose a general election in any other country like Spain, UK, US, Canda etc… they simply resign, and let others assume the mantle of their respective parties.

  24. I do believe that the 6D victory wouldn’t be possible without La Salida, for one simple reason:

    La Salida was the moment when people stopped fearing the goverment.

    At watching mostly students daring to face the beast, it convinced people that facing the beast is not the end of the world, that is worth facing it in order to save this country. Goverment gangs could have reopened closed votation centers if the activist support network wasn’t well organized and willing to face them. They didn’t.

    Both sides managed to come together for this victory, and petty sniping doesn’t help now. Now is about organizing to face 2016.

  25. Im surprised at the heated polemics surrounding this article from Francisco because to me it seems so balanced and just common sensical that both tactics used in combination at the appropiate time and circumstances can be useful in bringing about the desired result . I like Capriles patient organized low key approach (Im always suspicious of firework displays) but also admire Leopoldos and others engaging in more spirited displays of oppostion to the regime and moreover find that they did help the oppo achieve this triumph. I took no part in the historical internal discussion and really dont feel anything but respect for the different groups advocating one or another approach not as totally counterposed to each other but as mutually complementing the pursuit of a very daunting political proyect.

    Summarizing there were three factors contributing in different degrees to the electoral result:
    1. the discontent brought about by the deepening crisis
    2. the growth in the oppos capacity to movilize and organize allowing it to reach an increased part of the electoral body .
    3. the increase in international attention and pressure (I am an avid reader of international publications and from following them for years on the issue of the Venezuelan situation have the distinct impression that the outlook and interest in Venezuela EXPLODED after the protests of last year made the repression and persecution here newsworthy in a way that it had never been before.).
    4. Very important the capacity of all oppo groups to maintain an united front thru the MUD.

    Without this last feature , all efforts would have been to no avail, to the extent we foster any intra oppo infighting we open ourselve to failure …..thus the need to keep ourselves united even if that means some loss or sacrifice of our personal macho tendency towards self affirmation !!

    • One reason the discussion is, and has to be, so bitter is that I think deep down we all are committed to unity in the end. So it matters what people wind up making calls in what kind of opinion climate. Unlike Chavismo, our unity was forged from grizzly experience, not from an ideological need for it, so it is more honest, more cohesive, and more fit for internal struggles. These struggles are very, very important.

      On the point of whether all things that have been done are legitimized by aiming at the same goal, it somehow overlooks the fact that a lot of us care about winning over chavistas, while others don’t. This has been a key factor since our first great defeat after the paro, and even more since we boycotted those parliamentary elections. It is crucial, Lucía has been pointing out that the side that is against this approach has, by definition, some very undemocratic tendencies. We need and want them on our sides, but they must not expect to maintain this unity free of scrutiny.

      They need to know: we, proudly called moderates, see a deep danger of tyrannical shades to your opposition effort. We have proof of different occations when this has manifested, like in fact when Leopoldo would say during the 2014 street take-overs that the Gvt. had to be pressured out even before the law or the political climate allowed for it, they keep maintaining we are the majority even at times when we are clearly not, etc.

      In any case, yes, we are on the same side and will be holding hands till the very end of this sublimized (thankfully, and mostly!) war.

      Still. Get your shit together VP people. Calma y cordura, carajo!

      • Also, it is worth noting that the one important political figure that went AGAINST unity in these crucial election, however small the scale of that fracture, was also part of the infamous LaSalida. The same genious, if you will excuse the hostility, who came up with Popular Capitalism…

        Oh yeah, chavistas are THAT stupid. They’r just dumb, easily maleable, uneducated animals anyway!

        Sigh…

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