In Defense of Ramos Arrechup

Some people still think a softly-softly approach can cajole chavismo into playing nice. Thankfully, Henry Ramos understands this is a fight for primate dominance, and the last thing you can afford to do is show weakness.

The opposition wins parliament by a ⅔ margin, a supermajority that gives them real power for the first time. The new Assembly takes office almost painlessly and gets to work immediately. You’d think oppo supporters would be celebrating.

Think twice.

Criticism is now raining down on the MUD and its parliamentary leader, Henry Ramos Allup, from our lines. The most infuriating one – for me – is the idea that the National Assembly is going too hard too fast on chavistas by telling it like it is on the propaganda posters he had removed from the National Assembly.

Some people are aghast at Henry’s tone here. For them, we shouldn’t confront chavistas directly because…well, because we want them to play nice, I guess. We have to take special care to not offend chavistas because a real change won’t come without them, and every provocation we make could be another nail on our coffin.


I find it baffling that, a estas alturas del partido, people haven’t grasped that you can’t appease chavismo into playing nice. Chavismo will do whatever they can whenever they want to, and it really doesn’t matters whatever the oppo does or stops doing. You’d think we’d have learned that by now.

The MUD caucus ignores a clearly illegal ruling from a blatantly corrupt Tribunal Supremo, and the Amazonas deputies, alongside the Southern Region indigenous deputy, take office. As an excuse to ignore all the AN decisions, and withhold funding, to avoid going there to present their memoria y cuenta, or subject themselves to any kind of scrutiny, it’ll do just fine.

So let’s imagine what would have happened if the oppo had held back just a bit.

Eventually, MUD will need the supermajority voters gave it on 6D. If the MUD is going to, for example, create a parliamentary commission, or just debug the Supreme Court from the illegitimate magistrates whose voted for themselves on Dec 23, the PSUV caucus could – and will, that’s for sure – allege  they don’t have the necessary majority for it, since 109 is not 2/3rds of 167.

If there was any hint of suspense about how the TSJ would rule on any such case, it would be one thing. But we know exactly the way it would play out, so why pretend?

And all the Chávez propaganda inside the Palacio Federal? Well, we knew that getting rid of it would offend chavismo’s 19th century Victorian lady sensibilities.  So, I guess we should let stand the new holiday Dec 8 alone too, you know, the día de la lealtad y el amor a Hugo Chávez, because sumar voluntades.

You don’t dismantle a dictatorship without dismantling its iconography – if you don’t believe me, ask an Argentino. Those propaganda posters should never have been inside the Assembly in the first place. Chavismo’s symbolic appropriation of the space inside the hemiciclo was an act of violence. You don’t repudiate acts of violence politely, coño.

We come back to the same category mistake again and again. Guys, they don’t want to resolver este peo: the Luis Salas’ appointment as Vice-president in charge of the Economy should be enough to clarify this. They don’t want to fix the mess caused by the thicket of economic controls that has turned us into an unproductive, cashless oil exporter where people have to face kilometers’ longlines to buy a damn chicken. They want to profundizar el modelo, and they don’t freakin’ care about  people who might starve in the process.

The one positive aspect in all this is that Henry Ramos Allup – and believe me, I die inside a little bit as I type this – seems to get it. He seems to understand this isn’t a question of legal niceties, much less of catching flies with honey instead of vinegar. He knows we’re in a primate dominance contest now. We’re trying to establish which monkey is going to be the alpha in this peo, and when you’re trying to establish primate dominance you never start by trying to be nice to the other guy. You have to impose yourself by showing everyone you’re more arrecho, that you won’t be intimidated and you don’t give a shit whose sensibilities get hurt in the process. This isn’t summer camp, this is a fight. Henry wants to fight. Halle-fucking-llujah!

There is no easy way to establish to a bully who’s been bullying you for years that things changed and he’s no longer allowed to carajearte. That takes courage and it takes a certain confrontational attitude. We’re still thinking if we can find the right kinds of words we can win this confrontation before engaging in it. It doesn’t work that way.

Of course, Henry’s strategy is dangerous. That’s baked into the structure of the situation: Chavismo will do whatever they can to protect themselves from a fall from power. And they still have the Supreme Tribunal, the presidency, the oil company…and the guns.

Chávez didn’t have even a fraction of the institutional power PSUV enjoys now. And yet  he was able to jujitsu a resignation into a coup d’etat and then put in jail any number policemen as scapegoats for all the blood he had on his hands when he called a Cadena Nacional in the middle of a firefight. Chavismo is a dangerous enemy that doesn’t care about anything other than keeping power, an attitude that ends up boosting its need to keep it, to avoid being tried and jailed for the crimes it’s then forced to commit  to keep the baton.

Welcome to Venezuelan politics, where a seamless transition to democracy just isn’t an option. The sooner we internalize that, the better.