This is the real question we need to be asking in the wake of Timoteo Zambrano’s enraging statement about Mercosur yesterday. Zambrano, you’ll recall (or perhaps you’re drinking heavily to try to forget) attacked Mercosur after the trade block threatened to suspend Venezuela in response to the regime’s increasingly dictatorial style.
For once, Zambrano managed to unify the opposition as a whole, with everyone from Chúo Torrealba to María Corina Machado racing to distance MUD from this catastrophic brain fart, including this world historic burn from El Hatillo mayor David Smolansky:
Empiezan a llegar los presidentes a la Cumbre de Países No Alineados. Falta Timoteo Zambrano para recibirlos.
— David Smolansky (@dsmolansky) September 16, 2016
But the question here isn’t whether Zambrano did or did not put his foot in his mouth in attacking the one clear foreign policy success the opposition has had these last few weeks.
The meta-question hanging over all of this is about accountability.
The question is how he can possibly stay on as MUD’s Coordinator for International Affairs after a blunder on this scale.
And the answer is he can’t: Timoteo Zambrano has to resign. And if he won’t, he has to be fired.
The meta-question hanging over all of this is about accountability. The question is whether any mistake at all is considered resignation-worthy within MUDistan, or whether MUD really thinks its leadership posts are covered by inamovilidad laboral.
MUD is in a strange situation in the Venezuelan public sphere. Having cornered the market on anti-chavismo, everyone understands — and many resent — that its word is basically sacrosanct: it’s their way or the highway. With institutional mechanisms inside the alliance murky at the best of times, accountability is pretty lax: it’s hard sometimes to figure out what sanction its leaders face even for mistakes that ought to be career-ending.
Which is why Timoteo Zambrano’s blunder is really much more a test of MUD than a test of Timoteo Zambrano. We know what to think of him. MUD, in contrast, is a bit more ambiguous. We’re labouring mightily to keep the faith here. But you gotta throw us a bone now and then, give us some sign that you hold your own bigwigs to minimal standards.
And it’s a test of Chúo Torrealba’s leadership personally. The guy’s never been known for ruthlessness, but if he can’t impose a minimum of order on the alliance then it’s hard to figure out what he’s doing there. Chúo, de pana, show Zambrano the door. For your own sake.