Let’s start at the beginning. Do I believe there will be a recall vote in 2016?

Of course not, I’m not an idiot.

Did Rosa Parks think she would be allowed to sit in the front of the bus? Did Gandhi think the British were going to let him make salt? Did Susan B. Anthony think she would be allowed to vote?

Of course not, they were not idiots, either.

The reason you positively insist on exercising the rights a repressive regime denies you isn’t some faith that merely insisting will be enough.

Just the opposite.

You insist on your rights because they are your rights, and because if you treat them as such, with determination, courage, grit and a sense of genuine civic duty, you dramatically raise the political costs your oppressor has to pay for denying them.

Your goal is to raise those costs so high, in fact, that they become impossible to pay. That’s how you win.

Rosa Parks calculated that segregation would not survive the violence it would take to sustain it. Gandhi calculated that the amount of repression the British would have to employ to sustain the state monopoly on salt would eat away at the Colonial regime’s legitimacy to the point of collapse. Susan B. Anthony calculated that the shock of seeing ladies hauled to trial for exercising a basic human right would fundamentally shift the terms of debate around suffrage.

All three “failed” at the immediate goal at hand. All three succeeded in obtaining much more fundamental goals they were pursuing.


If the regime is absolutely determined to deny us this right — and we all know it is — the politically relevant question for us is how can we maximize the political prize they pay for that outrage?

The act of positively insisting on a right you know your oppressor is intent on denying is intrinsically liberating. The opposite, perversely, grants the oppressor the prerogative to decide which of your rights he’ll allow and which he won’t.

Bizarrely, in Venezuela, the same people urging MUD to commit to a campaign of civil disobedience attack Chúo Torrealba for refusing to obey Jorge Rodríguez’s demand that we all give up on a recall this year. They pour scorn on Chúo for not meekly filing to the back of the bus.

If the regime is absolutely determined to deny us this right — and we all know it is — the politically relevant question is how can we extract the maximum political price for that outrage? 

That is the question that MUD has to ask itself this weekend, and it isn’t an easy question. However much the guerreros del teclado want to make it seem like it’s down to a question of cojones, the moment you start to look closely at it, you immediately recognize it isn’t.

Let’s start with the comecandela fantasy: CNE announces its crazy, recall-denying conditions on Thursday at 8 p.m. By Thursday at 9:30, Chúo is in front of the Cameras calling on opposition supporters to march on Miraflores the next day. De pinga.


A lopsided majority wants the regime removed peacefully, but that majority evaporates instantly the moment that adjective drops out.

The next day, 35,000 people —probably can’t bring together more than that overnight with no logistics, no preparation, no canvassing, nothing— come together in Plaza Brion and start marching West. They make it about as far as La Previsora before the teargas starts. By noon the march has been broken up, 300 more opposition supporters are in jail, and that’s the end of that.

But it’s worse than that, because while public opinion research shows a lopsided majority wants the regime removed peacefully, that majority evaporates instantly the moment that adjective drops out. On this, the polling is emphatic: marcha-sin-retorno style adventurism is a tiny, fringe position. Sure, it makes a lot of noise on social media and the panaderías of El Cafetal but an afterthought where it really matters: in the Class C and D strata where the vast majority of recall supporters and opposition voters live.

The politicians who represent those voters understand that perfectly well. Not surprisingly, then, those leaders cannot and will not support a hyperconfrontational, parapeo street agenda. Try to launch a parapeo strategy tomorrow and MUD will fracture, not because Enrique Marquez, Henry Ramos and Julio Borges are wimps but because they know their voters and they know their activists, they know what they can be expected to support and what they can’t be expected to support and they’re good enough at their jobs not to sign up to an agenda their followers won’t follow.

This simple dynamic systematically eludes the #Cafetaling right, as does the fact that this is how democratic politics is supposed to work. 

A politician’s job is to represent his constituents, and the vast majority of MUD constituents do not support a parapeo agenda.

Look, I understand that everyone is tired, and I understand that everyone is frustrated. It’s been seventeen years, the country’s so far gone people in Zimbabwe worry they’ll end up as bad off as we are. (Yes, literally.) We’re heartsick and hungry and desperate and we cannot afford another false start.

That’s why I’m heartened by MUD’s decision to take the weekend to agree, really agree a new strategy. To consult it not just among the usual AD-UNT-PJ-VP cogollo but with the smaller parties and with regional MUD leaders and with business leaders and labour leaders and student leaders and faith leaders and professional associations.

Moving forward in the extremely tricky circumstances the CNE announcement creates demands real unity and MUD really is a diverse coalition where people genuinely don’t agree and have real differences in standpoint and opinion and preferred vision and practice and those visions cannot be harmonized overnight just because you had a pataleta.


It’s an extraordinary feat MUD is attempting right now, made all the harder by the fact that huge numbers of their core supporters are busy sniping at them instead!

Venezuela changed on Thursday night.

What had been a movement to get rid of the chavista regime by recalling it from office changed, subtly but decisively, into a movement to get rid of the chavista regime by forcing it to act so brutishly to deny the right to recall it that it crumbles from within.

If MUD manages to morph accordingly over the course of a three day weekend they’re not slow, they’re proper Guiness World Record contenders for pivoting.

It’s an extraordinary feat MUD is attempting right now, made all the harder by the fact that huge numbers of their core supporters are busy sniping at them instead!

So, really? Is this really the time to be taking out our frustrations over our powerlessness on the people risking the most and working the hardest to make our rights realities? Is this really the time for arrechito fantasies and the adolescent onanism of the marcha sin retorno?

Grow up, coño. 

We finally, finally have a political leadership that understands we’re playing chess, not checkers, that you have to plan things out five moves ahead, that de la prisa solo queda el cansancio. We finally have a political leadership that understands unity, real unity can’t be wished into existence, that it takes time and consultation and real listening outside your echo chamber. And we finally have a political leadership that understands that while you can’t force the other side to respect your rights maybe, just maybe, you can raise the political cost of violating them beyond their capacity to pay.

Which is why I’m only to happy to say:

¡VIVA LA UNIDAD!

Thank God we have them. We don’t know how lucky we are.

(De pana, we don’t.)

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