Chavismo Forfeits the Fight Over the Economic Emergency Decree


Friday morning, for the first time, the New Majority in the National Assembly asserted its institutional power, refusing to pass Maduro’s half-baked Economic Emergency Decree.

It’s no surprise. The measure, released last week just ahead of the Memoria y Cuenta address, was never seriously meant to be passed. It was strewn with poison-pill clauses: measures that chavismo couldn’t fail to see would doom its chances of passage by an opposition-controlled AN. They included several enabling law-like clauses that would have given Maduro even more control over the economy. Article #2, for example, would have stripped the AN of any influence over public spending, writing Maduro a blank check for dealing with the economy. Article #4 would have enabled the central bank (now controlled by Maduro) to regulate bank accounts with an Argentina-style corralito.

Coupled with the president’s existing powers, passing the decree would have had dangerous repercussions for Venezuela’s troubled democracy. Or, as Ismael Garcia called it, “como darle al mono una hojilla”.

Worse, the proposal failed to coherently address any economic issues. At most, it insinuated a boost in national production, without a logical causal argument behind it. Heck, it didn’t even make any noises in the direction of protecting social spending.

The decree was clearly a farce: the government could not have thought it ever stood any real chance of passage. And yet, it placed the Opposition in an uncomfortable position: rejecting a measure backed by the full might of Communicational Hegemony could carry high political cost. As Ramos Allup put it on Globovision, either the opposition rejects the decree, creating partisan deadlock during a time of economic crisis, or it passes the measure and becomes jointly responsible for the economic catastrophe soon to follow.

Chavismo had sought to frame the opposition’s reaction to the decree as an assessment of the New Majority’s willingness to cooperate in overcoming the current economic crisis. The decree was always a non-starter, but rejecting it was tricky.

Or at least it would have been tricky, until Maduro’s ministers failed to show up to debate the decree at the assembly, unwilling to discuss the topic in front of the journalists that are now freely allowed into the hemiciclo. It was a decision that gave the game away: how could the AN imaginably approve a contentious decree if ministers wouldn’t even turn up to answer their questions about it?

The odd part here here is that Maduro’s ministers seem to be much more unwilling to discuss the topic than the mustachioed man himself, even if he belatedly declared their absence intentional.

La AN le está dando la espalda al país, is the latest prefabricated phrase used by Maduro and Diosdado to try to hide their ineptitude. We’re well past that. Empty rhetoric won’t save them from ideological blindness.

After 17 years of dealing with ruthless, competitive authoritarianism, the MUD has learned to navigate through our country’s messy political theater. Chavismo never had to learn to deal effectively with competing institutions, at least not as a movement. Now it’s paying the price.

At this point, it’s not even about the Assembly trying to negotiate with the government. Even this late in the game (c.f., economic meltdown), Chavistas continue to reject any hint of pluralism, seeking to impose a “criterio unitario” and utterly at a loss when faced with a power center that won’t be dictated to. The outright denial of different viewpoints is what prevents them from discussing policy in front of the media, what makes them see an empty decree as the path to a “new economic model”, and what will eventually lead to their downfall.

In the past, unacceptable (yet deft) political moves like the Dakazo had us believing that Chavismo was an astute political machine, even if it sucked at governing and managing the economy. Following this metida de pata, Maduro’s weakness as a leader within his own party and the movement’s inability to politic in a multi-party system are apparent, to say the least.

It’s not that Chavismo is unwilling to negotiate. It’s that they can’t. They’re simply unable to. They don’t know how.


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  1. That’s the problem when you surround yourself with, in the worst case, criminals, and in the best of cases, with blind fools; so you can appear as a cleaner, smarter person.

  2. Excelente articulo. Se metieron un tiro en el pie con eso de no comparecer.

    Cambiando de tema, Martín creo que lo correcto seria “in front of the journalists that ARE now freely allowed into the hemiciclo”. Para el “is” deberias usar the press o the media. Siéntete libre de corregirme si me equivoco

  3. Not to be overlooked is that the MUD won the election propelled by a deeply dissapointed electorate’s furious anger against the regime (el voto castigo) , the MUD thus cannot be seen as playing cozy to the regime , Despite all the sirupy calls for dialogue , what people would never forgive the NA is to be seen as engaged in ‘behind closed door bargaining’ with the govt’ ..!! Instantly they would have been suspected of corrupting themselves with the regime big wigs, In any event the regimes popularity is being hit hard as each day passes and the inflation and scarcity crisis grows worse and worse without abatement !!

    • I’ve got 15 extra ‘flambeau’s’ in the garage, my neighbor has 3 or 4 tumbril’s in his back shed and I understand that Walmart is having a sale on guillotine blades this week. We’re all meeting at Monsieur Defarge’s wine shop tomorrow night.

  4. The refusal to appear and debate before an open media is telling. Chavismo has always a rubber-stamp regime that operated behind closed doors with no oversight or chance for peer review. If Chavista “economists” ever got in front of a knowing crowd (MUD) and were grilled for particulars, as opposed to revolutionary rhetoric sans economic carne, they would immediately be the laughing stock of the free world. As mentioned, managing public opinion is key here – but measure still need to be taken to ease a certain meltdown that everyone from Reuters to the BBC is predicting. So MUD needs to come back with something substantial to show they are about solving problems rather than just cock-blocking Maduro and co.

  5. Bingo. The frame of the discussion is no longer about the decree. Is about: Why the Ministers didn’t wanted to face the country, not the MUD, the “pueblo mesmo” and explain the real numbers and why we are on this crisis?

    Even the chavistas are livid that the Ministers hid like cowards instead of facing the country and give explanations:

    Not to mention important numbers like the state of PDVSA, the International Reserves, which companies got CADIVI dollars and how much, as a start. And the illegal act of hiding those statistics. Bocaranda says that they want to hide those numbers so that the debt holders don’t rip them apart before the inevitable default.

    • You’re probably right, but I also like to think that if we’re going to fix the country, rapprochement needs to also happen in the public sphere at some point.

      • It’s one thing to want a democratic system. It’s another to expect chavismo to play that particular kind of ball.

        This is what is known as a transition period. But only if we are smart and know who we are up against. The public rapprochement will only be the claudication, which will only happen once all the details of how we will force it and at the same time allow a dignified exit are hashed out. It will be a play, and chavismo will accept their exit stage left.

  6. Chavismo has taken a beating on every public debate. When they had the guarimbas dialogue all they could do was spew left wing cliches and old time grievances. They were clearly outclassed. Then last week Ramos Allup just demolishes Maduro in his retort. I mean, even my dog learns after such beatings that he is not alpha on public on tv debates.

  7. I just read over on that MUD’s questions to the economists et al had already been published and those in the know had all seen them – as well as anyone else interested. The Chavistas can say all they want per MUD seeking to create a media circus and they’d be right since the “ministers” are clowns. The no-show illustrates shows the Chavistas terror of being made accountable, probably for good reason. This is truly a sinking ship and one wonders how much longer the Chavistas can stall and bluster.

  8. This is a bit off topic, talking about communication hegemony, I noticed Diosdado still has his tv show. I wonder what will happen if Ramos Allup writes a letter to VTV requesting an equivalent amount of time on national tv for a talk show where other Venezuelans can discuss the economy and politics?

    I mention it because I know people in the barrios outside Caracas, they don’t get cable and many of them are stuck with the government channels.

    A separate letter should be written to Telesur requesting a one hour talk show as well. This will probably be supported by Argentina, a minority shareholder.

    • very good idea, though the move to allow even one hour of oppospeak on public airwaves would contradict the regime’s number one communication and social mantra: polarization, polarization, polarization.

      Besides, grandpappy on an island would not approve of the banana glasnost.

  9. “and what will eventually lead to their downfall”

    Some are saying that with such oil price Putin has got only two more years before Russia collapses for good and the regime disassembles.

    To convert Russian years to Venezuelan years is the trick here. How to do that?

    Russian brown bear> average life span in the wild: 25 years
    Venezuelan chiguire> average life span in the wild: 10 years

    Do the maths.

  10. And just a continent to the north, the socialist interst continues in the young hearts of the free. The socialist experience does level the playing field for the masses, only so in the most depressing of circumstances.

  11. “In the past, unacceptable (yet deft) political moves like the Dakazo had us believing that Chavismo was an astute political machine, even if it sucked at governing and managing the economy. Following this metida de pata, Maduro’s weakness as a leader within his own party and the movement’s inability to politic in a multi-party system are apparent, to say the least.”

    Aha. Chavez was a horrible administrator but a great talker. His crew is none of those things. Back when Dakazo happened, it bred political results because when you have the money, mistakes are more forgiving.
    The money ran out now. Cue in the COPS theme song.

  12. Did you see that government member maybe minister Hector saying that they failed becouse of the iliterate people in Venezuela were to high. He is the iliterated son of … he has no desgrace, shame on him. They should go ones and forever and give the country back, before it is extremely too late.


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