The Deal These Two Rejected: LL + TSJ for No RR

The government tried to persuade the opposition to give up on a Recall Referendum in return for a balanced Supreme Tribunal Constitutional Chamber and freeing political prisoners. Capriles and López said 'no way.'

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have revealed to Caracas Chronicles, exclusively, the outline proposal José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero brought to Leopoldo López cell in Ramo Verde. The deal would have committed the opposition to desisting from its call for a recall referendum, waiting instead for 2018 presidential elections, in return for the MUD’s wish-list, which ended up being whittled down to:

  1. Agreeing to free political prisoners
  2. A reform to expand the Supreme Tribunal’s Constitutional Chamber from seven magistrates to fifteen, with the opposition appointing seven new magistrates, and an eighth being agreed between the two sides.

The proposal was vigorously rejected,first, by Henrique Capriles (whose position is not always necessarily aligned with his party, Primero Justicia) who has become the strongest advocate of a recall in 2016 at all costs. Other parties, such as Manuel Rosales’ Un Nuevo Tiempo, were more open to this deal.

Since the deal didn’t have unanimous MUD support, Rodríguez Zapatero then sought to leverage Leopoldo López’s blessing, turning up in his cell in Ramo Verde alongside Jorge Rodríguez. López refused to talk to Zapatero in Rodríguez’s presence. One on one with the former Spanish Prime Minister, he backed Capriles’s position, ending any possibility of a deal.

Our understanding was that Leopoldo’s rejection of Zapatero’s proposal was categorical, telling him he’d rather be the last political prisoner to come out of jail instead of bargaining a 2016 constitutional change of government. As Zapatero was leaving, Jorge Rodriguez skulked around to Leopoldo’s cell.

A legendary tweetstorm ensued, including this key tweet:

This is the context to that leak in El Nacional yesterday saying Zapatero was seeking a solution that sidestepped a 2016 referendum, and its story – mirrored in Spain’s ABC Today – saying that Zapatero admits his mission has failed.

Interestingly, the story points to a new alignment in the opposition: with AD and UNT pushing for a negotiated solution that gave up on a 2016 referendum, and a reconstituted “Capoldo” (Capriles + Leopoldo) front nixing the idea.

Which, for a relationship that has been under such impossible strain for so long, is pretty remarkable really.