Venezuela’s government and its opposition have begun a tentative dialogue process. This has sent part of the opposition blogosphere into a frenzy, and has excited many in foreign diplomatic circles.

At the same time, the OAS is beginning to discuss whether or not to invoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Backed by a massive report from its Secretary General, the hemisphere’s top body is moving towards an unprecedented punishment for Maduro’s dictatorial, rapacious, heartbreakingly inept government.

This … has also sent part of the opposition into a frenzy.

Confused? Here’s the news for you: none of this really matters.

Unless this is your first time on the blog, I think we can agree that the underlying problem in Venezuela is a lack of freedom. Whether it is businesses stifled by excessive State control, a government tied by near bankruptcy, lack of access to foreign exchange, or a political process hijacked by people without merit, Venezuela can only be righted by loosening the knots of chavista control that keep her down.

That … can only happen if chavismo leaves power. In other words, “chavexit” is the only strategy for anyone wanting a solution for Venezuela. Anyone thinking Maduro is going to change course is living in a fantasy world.

The only game in town should be Maduro leaving power. That is the strategic goal. Everything else is just tactics.

It would be wise if our foreign friends kept this in mind as they guffaw and gasp, feigning concern over Venezuelans not having enough to eat, declaring themselves heartbroken at the thought of children dying because of a lack of medicine.

Seriously, does the international community – the Pope included – think dialogue between underlings is going to convince Maduro to change course?

Dialogue in and of itself is not going to put medicine on the shelves or get the pranes out of our streets. Dialogue is not going to get Leopoldo out of jail. Neither, for that matter, is the OAS Democratic Charter. All those are mere tactics, and as such, their value in achieving the ultimate strategy is questionable.

Unless, that is, those things are the strategy.

After so many years in the trenches of Venezuela analysis, one develops a sixth sense for why foreigners are interested in our problem. More often than not, they are concerned about Venezuela because it makes them look good – magnanimous, idealistic, and sensible. It’s not about us, it’s about them.

Only, for us, it is about us.

The Democratic Charter is supported by the Venezuelan opposition because they believe it pressures Maduro, and this pressure could be translated into actors within their coalition pushing for a change. Yet the extent to which this actually happens is questionable.

Dialogue is supported by people because it makes them look “dialoguey” – diplomatic, resourceful, and positive. After all, who doesn’t believe in dialogue that can diffuse conflict?

But just like magical unicorns and candy-coated rainbows, the fiction that dialogue in Venezuela can lead to Maduro leaving power is just that – fiction.

Ultimately, that is the yardstick through which we should judge any of these initiatives: to what extent does <insert your favorite international initiative here> lead to the end of chavismo. That is the only strategic goal we should have. That should be the only strategic goal for foreigners interested in our problem.

The stakes are too high, and the drama is too near for us to be entertained by silly little games. While the region’s top diplomats fiddle away about the commas and colons in a radically unserious piece of paper, people are going hungry in the streets of Venezuela, kids are dying, and a social eruption looms.

This is all because Maduro and his cronies are in power. Ending this nightmare is the only strategy.

The region can engage in sideshows, but we should avoid them. Let’s instead focus on the tactics that are going to lead us to our strategic goal.

43 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Nagel, at last you are getting somewhere. Eventually you will think that the solution is the complete destruction of the Bolivarian revolution and you will be right.

    • Destruction and then accountability from the responsible parties of all this mess. what is happening now could have the positive effect of setting an example for future governments: a new Venezuelan judiciary need to be firm and effective in punishing the chavistas and their cronies. If they don’t the history will repeat in the future

      • That, I suspect, is too far baked into the culture to be changed with an accountability witch hunt. Even with accountability, history will most likely repeat itself in 20-30 years when the cycle comes around and the next generation has already forgotten the WHY of this disaster.

        MANY of my friends here are chavistas. We tend to avoid the subject of politics… but its plain from casual conversation with them that the majority still don’t have even a small clue about WHY we got here, HOW things got so bad. Sure, they get it that things are bad. But there is no understanding of why. EVEN IN SOME OPPOSITION CIRCLES, there’s an a solid belief that it’s the chavistas fault, but not much understanding about the economic reasons WHY.

        You can hand out all the judicially correct and deserved punishment in the world to the chavista leaders, however if el pueblo doesnt understand what the fk happened and why, then equating the administration of deserved justice now to preventing future events like this from happening again is just as fictional as the unicorns.

        EDUCATION is the only thing that will prevent another event like this from happening again. Unfortunately, from my perspective as an outsider living in Venezuela, education (both general, and specific to this event) still appears to be going backwards in progress, not forwards. The chances this will happen again in 20 years, tragically, remain very high.

  2. You write that the underlying problem is a lack of freedom. You are so correct in your conclusion but your analysis is incomplete. Freedom is not in vogue, justice defined as fairness is the litmus test so the real underlying problem is that lack of freedom does not compel international action. . It doesnt matter that people are denied the freedom of selecting leaders democratically as long as the government pursues left wing fairness. Freedom is a quaint middle class aspiration but fairness is rhe left’s antidote for the poor. They are so wrong because there cannot be fairness without freedom, the two are indivisible.

  3. Yea, “dialog” sounds so mature and serious and diplomatic…

    But, see, dialog and negotiation make sense when you have something like a civil war. Party X promises not to disappear the other side in some dark dungeon and to respect election results while Party Y agrees to surrender weapons at an internationally-supervised process and…

    Not the Venezuelan situation at all. You cant negotiate, because there is nothing to negotiate. What are you going to put in the table, that Maduro should respect the Constitution, human rights, and all the stuff he should be respecting already and as payment the opposition will… what… not use the referendum? not have any marches? not use any of the rights that they ask the other side to respect?

    The only useful negotiation would be “what kind of impunity do you guys want so you stop? Asylum? Some law of ¡forgiveness’? Is there any of you we can use as scapegoat?” and things are not nearly there yet.

    On the current situation this is like mediating between an abuser and his wife to see what can be done to get him to stop beating her.

    • Very good post Juan and very good comment Jesus.
      – The international community can do very little except talk.
      – Negotiations and dialog are just talk.

      Only the people and Venezuelan institutions mobilized (and creative, do not just do rallies) can exert change.

  4. A luke warm post that smells of defeat and disillusionment. You have various options: work for the late 2018 presidential elections; hope that something untoward happens to Maduro; organize a coup of hope for a Deus ex Machina.

    Forget the refeendum this year and probably next. Fraud in the signatures will invalidate the whole process. Ramos Allup and others will be expelled from the AN for usurping presidential powers (Article 226 section 4 of the CBRV) as the Supreme Court will apply the full weight of the Law. In fact, Allup and Luis Florido could be facing 16 years in jail for High Treason.

    Sure aim for your strategic goal but within the time frame of the Constitution – not the time frame you dream about which is effectively tomorrow.

    • Shouldn’t you be in line waiting for your kilo of rice?

      Oh right, these mmgs don’t stand in line…

      • No – my day is Tuesday to stand in line. no rice last Tuesday so today is yuca and sardines.

        What are you eating today – more crow? 🙂

        It must be boring after 13 years and nine months of fruitless propaganda. Hehehehe………..

          • Correct Roy,and also seems to share the sadistic Chavista quality of enjoying the prospect of someone being jailed. Pathetic.

          • “And there is the Chavista mentality in a nutshell”

            Wrong, that is the Venezuelan mentality in a nutshell.

      • Mr. Toro! Do you kiss your wife with that mouth?? xD

        Heheh, nowadays when I see that tariffed’s nickname I just skip the whole post, they don’t even deserve the seconds one might spend reading their blabbery.

      • He’s right. This is what you want.

        You think Nelson Mandela brought democracy to South Africa by blogging for democracy? He did it by going to jail for 27 years.

        You need to give the international community something concrete to rally around. Otherwise you’ll just be playing the Chavista’s game. If Allup gets arrested then that might be what you need. The Chavistas are thugs, let them act like thugs.

        Also, you need to change this site so that people are notified of the responses to their comments by email. That will really get traffic and responses going.

        • He used to post more often. I think he was once a true believer at one point but now mostly limits his post to snarky insults and comments intended to provoke ire.

    • This is literally a dumb comment. I’m sorry, but nothing you wrote is worth any respectful consideration. You obviously don’t have a clue of how things are in Venezuela. If you live here, that would be astonishing but not at all strange.

      • Oh, I tell you, that guy KNOWS how stuff is in Venezuela, the thing is, that he’s for sure some poor tariffed that’s just trying to ensure his modus vivendi of getting paid for sputtering nonsense on pages like this.

        In fact, a great chunk of hardcore chavistas are just like him, because they are corrupted folks like any malandro that kills people for a couple of bolivars of a cheap phone.

    • Quico, Venelondoner, Lugimex and Javier,

      Let’s back off this guy, if we upset him enough he may have a heart attack which cannot be medically tended in Venezuela right now and we will share with chavismo the guilt.

  5. When in a fight with someone holding all the big incumbency cards you go wholehog, you throw in the kitchen stove , you stoop to whatever might gain you some advantage that might get you closer to the goal you seek , you look not just for a knock out blow, but for any potential advance in your position….history tells us that ultimately its the cummulative effect of dozens of small things (with a bit of chance luck) that brings you victory , you go at it again and again, exploring different avenues of attack, until unexpectedly some small advance produces a tipping point where what you want falls in place ……above all never be disheartened when you face temporary or partial failures or set backs ……when researching disasters and accidents investigators discover that what caused them where the reciprocal interaction of many small mistakes or happenstance events which when strung together produce the catastrophe ………one japan airlines disaster was ultimately the result of 12 small sequential mistakes or chance events beginning when of 8 bolts used to attach a machinery one was left slightly loose …… !! Dont put all your hopes on a throw of dice ………but do make any small gain count …….!! and above all never give up….!!

  6. “I think we can agree that the underlying problem in Venezuela is a lack of freedom. Whether it is businesses stifled by excessive State control, a government tied by near bankruptcy, lack of access to foreign exchange, or a political process hijacked by people without merit, Venezuela can only be righted by loosening the knots of chavista control that keep her down.”

    No. The underlying problems are lack of education and massive corruption. At all levels.

    Why do you think there is a “lack of freedom”? Why is the country near bankruptcy? Why the exchange controls?? Why the “precio justo” rules?

    It’s not twisted ideology. It’s not Chavista “ineptitude”. This lack of freedoms you mention was deliberately designed to steal as much as possible as fast as possible, everywhere. That’s how you still have millions of self-admitted “chavistas” today. They get a piece of the PDVSA pie. Trckle-down pilferage economics, if you prefer. Why the exchange controls? To rob every penny left. On purpose. Not because they don’t know it’s a bad policy.

    Everyone knows what needs to be done to rectify the Vzlan economy, and freedoms, lack of controls is one of them. Raise gas prices, no more exchange controls or precio just.. BCV transparency. Separation of powers. It’s nothing new, a proven formula worldwide. But why don’t they do anything or change anything?

    Because the status-quo is how they can steal and get rich. Because if they apply tough, painful economic measure the “pueblo” would hit the streets in a hurry and overthrow them. Because if they stop bribing everyone, and giving free stuff everywhere, the system would collapse even faster, they would be overthrown, and they would have to flee, and hide to avoid jail time and loss of stolen properties.

  7. The radical opposition leaders always forget (do they even know?) that every time there is an international movement/decree against the goverment, they use it as a weapon, I litterally lost the count on how many time they use this plotline of invassion/war/imperialism and people always bought it, at least that solid 20-30% of the chavista population. They grow strong every single time. It is just a waste of time.

    • So, according to you, the only solution is to sit still and shut up, eating rocks, until somehow chavismo magically self destructs.

      Yeah, dude, sure, because that’s pretty much the ultimate objective for chavismo, to completely neutralize any dissidents so they can suck what’s left of Venezuela and leave a dry husk in peace.

    • Ah, yeah, even in the case that every opposition person in Venezuela would simply shut up and go quietly to their food line, get mugged in their way home which now is invaded by settlers and still not say a peep for it (chavista’s wet dream, to “dissappear the venezuelans”), the chavistas would still MAKE STUFF UP to keep blurting idiocy after idiocy through their propaganda-crapping apparatus, and still would attack, chase and harrass every non-chavista, because that’s their nature, they’re resentful morons who can’t live their lives without constantly needing to “assert their superiority” to those weaker than themselves, a consequence of their colossal superiority complex.

  8. Las capitulaciones se firman en palacios, no en el terreno.

    Lo que el chavismo llama “díalogo”, la oposicion tiene que dirigir a una rendición por presión interna y externa. Es a lo que apunta al menos el Secretario General de la OEA y sinceramente no creo que ni el Vaticano ni Zapatero estén muy lejos de ese objetivo.

  9. Any dictatorship is about limiting freedom and exerting control. The problem – and it’s huge – is that Maduro has vowed to do anything to keep the Revolution going and himself in power, so suggesting that he suddenly begin negotiating about what he has sworn to never do (give up power and return freedom to the State and people) feels like a non-starter. As mentioned, what can the opposition bring to the table per leverage? It has to be exerted from the outside – by issuing INTERPOL cards on crooked officials so they can’t travel; by the people still doing business with Venezuela; by the banking sector who’s vig on that bond(s) is due in no time. Save for a national uprising/strike al a Ghandi and India, or outright anarchy, the opposition and the pueblo have no freedom ergo no power.

    If dialogue can break the paralysis, I don’t see how.

  10. This is true… but let’s be fair here. One of the main reasons that all the other countries are backing down is because Venezuela probably has enough votes to defeat it at the OAS.

    Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and then a lot of the small Caribbean nations in PetroCaribe. Why push this vote to just give them a win?

    If the CIA could have discretely removed the Chavistas from power a long time ago we would have done it. We currently have active sanctions against the regime. The only reason that people in Washington are holding back is because that would play into Maduro’s hands. He would accuse us of being Yankee Imperialist Bullies….. It would only help him cling to power like our embargo of Cuba has helped the Castros cling to power.

    The only realistic way for the Chavistas to go is a popular uprising. If the people of Venezuela can’t help themselves then there is no way anyone else can. Once the fighting starts then and the Chavistas start doing terrible things then they will play into your hands and other countries will have an excuse to intervene.

    If it hasn’t been apparent for some time then it should be now. The Chavistas are NOT going quietly. They crossed the Rubicon a long time ago…

    • “If the CIA could have discretely removed the Chavistas from power a long time ago we would have done it. We currently have active sanctions against the regime.”

      We have sanctions against 7 (?) individuals in the regime (restricting their travel to US, freezing funds held in US, etc). We don’t have sanctions against the country or the regime in general. Just want to point that out for other viewers of this site in case they don’t know…I’ve seen Chavistas claim US sanctions are hurting their economy when there are no such sanctions.

      As for the CIA, this is not the 50s or 60s.

  11. Juan, the strategy is not to take out Maduro, or we will have a new maduro , or a new chavez around the corner. The strategy should be to take out the petrostate and all its incentives.

    The strategy is to educate the pueblo of the perils of clientelism and populism, and how, only handwork, savings, productivity and investment (education mostly) saves the day.

    The strategy is a narrative that rescues the 50’s and 60’s bonanza and hopeful years and overwrites 20 years oh hate adn distortion in values sought after by the comunists in power.

    only if we aim our strategy towards these goals we stand to ever reconstruct venezuela.

  12. That is why I think any international sanction/decree/chart is a waste of time and energy. Opposition losses momentum with every single punch thrown to the air. Whatever you want it or not, there is a solid base of convinced chavistas that believe in the imperialism plotline, this tactic delay the fall of Maduro, gathering ex-chavistas (and others) around the idea of a commun enemy: invasion. Let’s be clear nobody wants an invasion (except for some delusional people).

    So, this apparent stupidity, leads me to think that maybe opposition doesn’t want Maduro to fall right now, maybe by extending the agony they can be sure that chavismo never rises again. Or maybe, they just never learn.

  13. “I think we can agree that the underlying problem in Venezuela is a lack of freedom.”

    I disagree. There is a great deal of freedom in Venezuela – far more than in Cuba, North Korea, Belarus, or ISISland. The crisis problem is the extreme corruption and incompetence of the chavista state, multiplied by its ideologically driven intrusiveness. The underlying problem is the subversion of the constitutional order by chavistas to entrench themselves in power (going back to the rampant electoral abuses of Chavez himself).

    But from what I can tell, the average Venezuelan is not continually coerced and restricted by the state, as in the regimes listed above.

    For instance, chavismo perpetrates exquisitely bad policy such as the gasoline giveaway, but does this deny freedom? Likewise CADIVI.

    • Disagree. I would love to speak my mind and blast away about all of the shit I have seen in Chavezand but I can’t for fear of the consequences this would have on my family stuck there. I have some family that live in Mission Vivenda housing, others that are ow level public employees. A of these would face consequences for me speaking my mind thus we are not free but we are coerced at every point by illegal and abusive use of power by those in government. There is no freedom.

  14. You are the Poland of the 21st century.
    A victim of others people diplomacy.

    My blood is at least 20% polish, though this blood thing got out of fashion in my country for obvious reason.
    Lately I was biking through Poland.
    In some regions: the more run down the farm, the lower the fence and the bigger the dogs.
    paths doesn’t match the gps and vice versa.
    German ladies in a bar of my hotel I arrived at 21:00 thanks to crazy paths and constant 20km headwind: “I wouldn’t like to bike in such a country.”
    I don’t even talk with them, cause I loved every minute of it.

    Best of luck.

  15. We can talk about “ineptitude” or “lack of freedoms” all we want.

    But the real reason is very, very simple: Aptitude at STEALING and then hiding the money or properties overseas. They are as good as it gets at that..

  16. I thought that getting Maduro out was just a tactic. The strategy was getting democracy back to Venezuela. That will take some serious work.

  17. Dear Juan,

    Venezuala’s problem is political. It has been so the past decades. Chavismo took advantage of this and came to power. Right now the tentacles of chavismo are in everything so there is no soft or political way out. Change will only come when either El Pueblo or the army revolts. And that is still not happening. The politics are used to buy time and still a part of El Pueblo can make barbecues like everything is normal. It’s going to be a very dark 2016 I think.

  18. The government is the principle obstacle in the way of a solution, obviously. But you’ll need at least a rough idea about what you’re going to do, once the government is gone. They need to be thought about, too.

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