Being Chúo Torrealba

You can't pre-negotiate your defiance, Chúo, por Dios.


Chúo Torrealba cut a terribly lonely figure at Hotel Meliá Caracas yesterday, speaking all on his lonesome to a huge, empty room on behalf of people who clearly didn’t back what he had to say. Appearing an awkward few minutes after the papal envoy, Monsignor Tscherrig, had read his cazabobos communiqué, Chúo looked ill at ease as he confirmed participation in a ‘dialogue’ that clearly commands no consensus in the famously consensus-dependent MUD.

As the opposition works to mobilize its supporters on the streets in a show of defiance against a government it has already labeled dictatorial, the very worst visual possible is of one of its leaders getting clubby with the other side and a bunch of priests at a five-star hotel.

The snippet of his speech that really caught my eye was this bit:

Where Chúo announces proudly that from the very first meeting with the government, they’d agreed to keep tomorrow’s protest activities peaceful. The statement, flatly contradicts the rest of MUD’s contention that there had been no direct talks with the government side that day. More importantly, it totally undermines the spirit of tomorrow’s protests, which are supposed to be about facing down a dictatorship, not “playing nice” and staying within pre-agreed bounds.

Contrast Chúo’s let’s-talk-things-out-to-make-sure-nobody-gets-hurt note with Julio Borges — Julio Borges!! — a mere 24 hours earlier:

Those two clips, in juxtaposition, paint a picture of a deeply lost MUD, a MUD floundering badly as it tries to figure out what it actually means to face down a dictatorship on behalf of a severed hilo consitucional.

What’s clear is that the optics at Meliá Caracas were garishly bad. So it’s not surprising that the rest of the afternoon was a virtual stampede of MUD figures racing to distance themselves. Everyone from Henrique Capriles and David Smolansky to Luis Florido to Henry Ramos Allup claiming they’d first heard of this new National Dialogue on TV and wouldn’t back it.

(You gotta love HRA’s response — tongue, one suspects, firmly in cheek.)

Put it all together, and some detected a P.R. fuckup of genuinely hemispheric proportions.

Of course, being MUD Executive Secretary is no bed of roses: the position is heavy on the “secretary” and light on the “executive”. It’s a job with much more visibility than power, amounting really to a glorified Press Secretary: a public face to put on statements agreed by the parties behind the scenes. Which, of course, is why they tapped Chúo — a journalist who cut his teeth as a Radio Talk Show host — rather than an experienced politico for the role this time.

But then, a spokesperson role makes it all the more important that you make triple sure that the things you say really have the support of the people on whose behalf you are talking. Caught off base by what seems to have been a last minute bait-and-switch by the government and the mediators, Chúo momentarily forgot that cardinal rule yesterday, and boy did he pay the price.

A more seasoned politico would’ve made sure to have his party heads flanking him right on that tarima, so they couldn’t claim to have been binge-watching TV later. As it was, Chúo’s loneliness made it enormously easy to throw him under the bus, which most opposition figures did with relish.

Capriles, for one, was not exactly ambiguous in his stance:

Live Streaming Video

Listen, I understand what Chúo was trying to do. I can see how snubbing a papal envoy is horribly dicey. I can even see how trying to secure calm at upcoming protests and forestall a wave of arrests of opposition activists could seem like a good idea. A similar kind of agreement was quietly arrived at just ahead of the September 1st march, enabling it to go ahead without incident.

But it’s a question of timing.

Ten days ago? Maybe.

Now? No friggin’ way.

Today, Chúo must be considering his position. It’s hard to be a spokesman when everyone you ostensibly speak for has so publicly thrown you under the bus.

But Chúo’s hesitation only underlines the opposition’s broader confusion. MUD really, really needs to figure out if it wants to be this,



or this,



…because it can’t be both.

You can’t pre-negotiate your defiance, por Dios.

Active non-violence isn’t about cutting pragmatic deals to avoid getting your head bashed in. Gandhi wasn’t out negotiating no Comisión Conjunta with the British before he marched to the sea to make salt, coño. He went and did it, because it was the right thing to do. And he quietly welcomed the repression his action triggered because that repression — and his defiance when faced with such visible injustice — was an integral part of the plan to eat away at the regime’s support. That’s how this works, guys.

You’d think it goes without saying. Apparently not, though.

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  1. Active non-violence can’t simply get through Torrealba’s head. And that’s OK, but in the current situation he shouldn’t remain in charge. Also, given that his core responsibility is PR, in the face of yesterday’s blunders he should resign.

  2. “Active non-violence isn’t about cutting pragmatic deals to avoid getting your head bashed in. Gandhi wasn’t out negotiating no Comisión Conjunta with the British before he marched to the sea to make salt, coño. He went and did it, because it was the right thing to do. And he quietly welcomed the repression his action triggered because that repression — and his defiance when faced with such visible injustice — was an integral part of the plan to eat away at the regime’s support. That’s how this works, guys.”

    Now you are lecturing on Active non-violence…sigh…

  3. Always negotiate from a position of power. The opposition has the power is just that Chuo does not believe it. Hence he got into a “negotiation” out of which 3/4 of the negotiators are pro-government or Chavez admirers. Let’s not count on how well the last negotiation went to the country.

  4. But isnt it an oppo mantra that all of its street protests are peaceful and non violent …….dont understnd where his message differs from the standard oppo message on the subject……!! As I see it saying that they would be peaceful gave nothing away…!! he is definitely saying that the protest programme is still on…

    I dont realistically expect people in a leadership position and in such uncertain times never to incurr in error , its a given that there will be errors even blunders and know full well that there are always cannibalistic puritans that are just waiting to eat alive anyone showing the least bit of slack from the most fervent epically beligerent positions…….and yet dont see how after the vatican is finally included in a mediator position (which the oppo asked for) now the oppo can cry foul , and shout ‘we will not sit down with anyone….’.

    Given the state of ferocious beligerence that we all feel after the RR was fraudently sabotaged by the regime its dicey for any oppo leader to appear willing to sit down with the regime …..thus the response that we see in so many other oppo leaders… oerfectly explainable….!!

  5. Chavistas are cheats, so one expects talks to fail along with the rosary of past attempts. Chavistas MUST SHOW a token of good faith, I suggest free all political prisioners ipso facto.

    I expect the men in olive to make a move, a violent and uncertain one. It will probably have blood letting. Hence, another go at talks trying to save lives is a noble enterprise.

    Let us not lose sight that the Church hierarchy was been plain spoken anti Chavista, so I am sure the Vatican is not too far removed from this position.

  6. So when the Vatican gets involved along with UNASUR (which given recent events may not be quite so pro-gobierno), why would it not pay to play both angles?

    Torrealba playing the sacrificial lamb and meeting with the dialogue side, which no one honestly believes will mean anything given historical precedent, while the individual leadership of the parties acts affronted, has plausible deniability, and rallies the protests and claims “coup, dictator, coup”?

    The political costs are too high internally and externally to not do both. Does anyone believe the government is negotiating in good faith? Yet the one thing the opposition has going for it is spreading negative view internationally that the government is undemocratic. Meanwhile, not protesting the government’s actions internally appears like a default acceptance of dictatorship and rapidly erodes support for the MUD.

    Is it sustainable? No. Will the government likely do something stupid with everyone watching in the meantime? Possibly. Does Chuo need to say something to have some control over the narrative before the government controls the story? Yes. Is this a situation that can strengthen the oppo’s hand if deftly played? Yes. Will they pull it off? *shrug*

    Unpalatable? Certainly. But that is politics.

    • Because you cant play a negotiation angle by starting that your people in the negotiation are irrelevant. That works for somebody in power as a delaying tactic (yes, I agree to negotiate, I send a flunky, I dont pay attention) but it is ridiculous on the other side, or should be, as exactly what are you delaying things for?

      • I could be wrong and I am fine with that.

        However, Chuo commands no large following of his own. He simply “coordinates”, right? So he is the ideal point man for a negotiation because the other “leaders” maintain their fiefdoms and followings amongst the individual parties. This also lets them rally in the streets where their real value is and gives them plausible deniability at the same time.

        Is he likely wagering his political career on this? Probably. To me, when the negotiations fail, if he remains in his current role, then that would be the proof to me this was strategy.

        Also, this is no delaying tactic by the MUD. Delays do not benefit them that I can see. It is, however, giving the opportunity to the government to do something remarkably stupid in front of somewhat moderate observers while the world is nominally watching. The worse the government looks to the observers, the stronger the oppo’s hand.

          • It is easy to talk of action when you have yet to bleed.

            Any option is preferable to blood in the streets. I know there are several commenters here who advocate an uprising or, at least, far less peaceful protests. Given the amount of guns, polarization and all other things that go in this shit-cocktail, civil war or something like it is a real possibility.

            If chavismo were to vanish overnight, the country would still be the same tomorrow and for the forseeable future. Change in culture and a country is something that sometimes needs to measured in generations as I think will be the case in Venezuela.
            The seeds are being sown for the future now and all options should be considered.

            I have been in war zones before. I have seen civil war and actual systematic genocide first hand as an outsider. There is no glory or political gain or change or future that comes out of it that is anything but forever tainted and the dead remain dead. Anything would be preferable to that particular harvest of tears.

            Just ask the families of Genesis Carmona and Basil Da Costa.

            So protest, but protest smartly.

            As for world opinion…does it matter in evoking change? Depends on if you want to be looked at as August Kranti, or FARC.

          • So many wrong things here…

            “Any option is preferable to blood in the streets.” Yeah, like blood in the crib of your children, that’s got to be better, right? Or hey, maybe starving or a flu are better, because they don’t leave blood. Or what about being mugged? Being an anonymous part of a statistic is EVEN better than that, right?

            “civil war” It’s not a war when only one side is armed to the teeth, I’ve yet to see the FIRST opposition person armed OR actively assaulting a chavista in equal footing. EVER.

            “…the country would still be the same tomorrow and for the forseeable future. Change in culture and a country is something that sometimes needs to measured in generations…” No, destroying chavismo tomorrow would lead to at most one year of fixing the economy to livable levels, where you won’t have to be doing stupid fucking lines nor being extorted by bachaturds from a colossal black market. No, people WILL enjoy a better Venezuela WITHIN THIS LIFETIME. The minds of people? Tear them down and rebuild them through the education system, DESTROY every bit of appreciation towards ANY communist bends as it’s been done in other countries, outlaw all that stuff and demolish ANY attempt at seeding it on any more people’s heads.

            “I have been in war zones before. I have seen civil war and actual systematic genocide first hand as an outsider. …” And almost 100% of venezuelans have stared at the barrel of a gun pointed straight to their faces, and an atrocious part of them have bitten a bullet LITERALLY.

            “Anything would be preferable to that particular harvest of tears.” It amazes me that some people still don’t understand that chavismo is conducting a full-scale genocide against the population.

            “Just ask the families of Genesis Carmona and Basil Da Costa.” Génesis Carmoa was killed by rabid colectivos sent by Ameliachchc and she wasn’t even protesting, she was BLOCKS away from the protest but mind you, the bullets can travel a lot before hitting someone. And Da Costa was murdered in the same vein that EVERYBODY WHO DARES TO SPEAK AGAINST A DICTATORSHIP IS MURDERED, by a protected enforcer from the chavista regime.

            “So protest, but protest smartly.” It would be good that JUST FOR ONCE, the MUD stopped with the atrocious fallacy that is “If we go peacefully and let them crack our skulls open then we will win! DON’T DARE TO DEFEND YOUR VERY LIVES!” Self defense is a RIGHT, because you’re protecting your GODDAMN LIFE.

            “As for world opinion…does it matter in evoking change? Depends on if you want to be looked at as August Kranti, or FARC.” I don’t know who’s Kranti, but the drug cartel full of pedophile kidnappers farc, who are about as the same brand of garbage than ISIS is, is seen as a bunch of “charity sisters” thanks to the millions they’ve spent in PR, millions they’ve stolen for decades.

            “It is easy to talk of action when you have yet to bleed.” And it’s easy to talk about waiting and wasting your entire life when you are most likely either not in Venezuela (And thus not having to endure this shitstorm) or you have over 800-million Bolivars in net monthly income to comfortably spend in whatever you want.

  7. tubechop doesn’t work in firefox… the ustream video works but it is not “chopped” and I don’t know when he speaks about Chuo… apart from that, the situation in Venezuela gets more and more interesting… hopefully all will end well but unfortunately nobody knows when it is going to happen… (by the way, a ver surprising word was used by Capriles: “maula”. I was born in a small village in central Spain and I only heard it there. It is a surprise indeed to see it alive in Venezuela)

  8. My impression as a total outsider is that everyone in Venezuela is waiting for someone else to take the lead to get rid of this government, lots of followers, very few leaders. That is not meant to be critical because the government holds all the power, financial, political, media and the military and whoever takes the lead is likely to pay a heavy price. Dont look to MUD for your salvation, look in the mirror. This mediation is just part of a long grinding process, a game that has to be played. Sorry for all your trouble.

  9. It is a f*ing DICTATORSHIP !! Dialog, Protest Rallies the Pope or International pressure are not enough.
    The Maduro Kleptocracy has basically declared WAR.
    All Venezuelans has to Organize in and out of the country and come with Plan Z.
    The MUD and the AN are not enough either.
    I know of many Venezuelans abroad that want to do something but there isn’tt an organization that can direct our efforts in time or money to get rid of this Cancer. So basically we have been passive spectator all this time. Forget the international organizations or our neighbors, they have been useless so we are on our own. Ask Syrians! or the Turkish people.
    Complaining all day about the Chavistas doesn’t do much has it?
    If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
    The AN and MUD has achieved at this point all they can possibly do.
    Waiting for the Impeachment or the Military to act or to Maduro to step down is an act of self delusion.
    The time is now or never.
    Venezuelans has to gather in the biggest concentration in the history of our country and ACT.
    Do we want to live in oppression and misery or live with dignity, prosperity and freedom ?
    Until then, let me know when how and where can I contribute my humble $500 to form a true force that achieves something.

  10. We are not at war, like Colombia. Se we don’ t need any negotiations. We should never speak about violence, or about a civil war. That is a mistake. This is just another case of citizens against the dictatorship. If we agree to negotiate to ‘prevent violence” we are in part saying that we are in fact capable of violence, which is not true. Any kind of negotiation goes against our own interest. We have to sell the idea that we are defending our rights. That nonsense we did two years ago, speaking ill of the protesters, calling them radicals, we can’t do that shit again. We can get away with some rioting if we sell the right narrative. That is my point.

  11. Anybody saw Padrino Lopez???? wow!!!
    Quico, please do not say that Chavismo is divided, because they are closer than ever, the top at least is glued together carne-uña style. My guess is that everybody has a corruption file on everybody and they cannot break away

  12. How can the Opposition negotiate to prevent violence? They have nothing to offer that furthers that goal other than submission to the dictatorship, but the liberty of the people does not belong to the Opposition leaders to negotiate. The regime is the one that has the monopoly on violence. They, and ONLY they, can prevent violence.

  13. The presidential Airbus FAV1 left Lisbon about 5 hours ago and is currently passing over Dominca. Should be back in Venezuela at about 1:30/45 pm Caracas time today, unless they go to talk to Raul.
    Wonder what happens when the driver returns?

  14. The other disappointing part of yesterday’s display is the apparent ham-handedness of the Vatican and its envoy. If you are truly there to resolve a crisis, rather than just try to appear relevant for your own self-interested motives, you don’t invite one side over the threshold of a public relations bear trap like this…to start things off. Absolutely, the opposition cannot say no to the Vatican, so that means the Vatican has to proceed with extraordinary caution and care if it is going to wade in.

    Caution means, for example: Spare the photo-op and the lofty self-important declarations at the front end. Make sure both sides have people in place with authority to engage in the task . Save the pomp and circumstance for when you actually have produced something of substance. Save your platitudes about the good will of the participants for when they have actually shown some- after all, what lever does the Vatican have except its approbation?

    The envoy may have fine intentions but a display like yesterday suggests they have little idea what they are dealing with or how to deal with it.

    • Too much deference to the Vatican (but then again just listen to all the populist religious posturing bs in the oppo ‘el tiempo de Dios’ and all the rest). What is this the freaking Middle Ages? FFS a theocratic statelet, expert at covering up sexual abuse of minors for decades as our chosen intermediator? WTF

  15. Nada mas poderoso que el “Poder de lo Moral”, cuando se sabe que se hace lo correcto. Gandhi lo supo, Madela y Martin Luther King también.

    La oposición se expone a que les cambien las reglas del juego de aquí al fin de semana –tal como esta sucediendo ahora con las declaraciones del Gral Padrino acompañado del Alto Mando.– cuando un día dicen una cosa, mañana otra.

    El tablero de juego esta a favor del regimen y si para atornillarse en el poder tienen que liquidar a media Venezuela, no creo tengan la menor duda en hacerlo. Para eso tienen la asesoría externa de los cubanos, por nombrar uno.

    La oposición tiene un solo juego a su favor: hablar abierta y francamente sobre lo que desea hacer y mantener su posición hasta el final.

  16. Emiliana Duarte, get out of Francisco’s head!

    This post is so unlike Franisco’s last 10 posts, that it’s amusing. For the first time in a long time, I agree with you and Emiliana at the same time.

  17. As M Rubio rightly said above, negociación is one thing and the content and objectives of said negociación are another. Chuo, who I only know through referAls ( very good ones btw) I see playing his role, I want to think within a sound strategy, and he is being good cop, and accepting to “negotiate”
    Others in the opposition- now formally resistance- spectrum have other roles to play. The proof is in the pudding of what objectives and leverage and credible threats his cohort will bring to the table and will demonstrate in the streets.

    Throwing him under the proverbial bus serves no one in the opposition, if again, there is a coordinated strategy.

    My recomendation to the other players, keep chuo empowered,and keep him in the loop. You will need to keep someone talking with the regime all the time as the dynamic is now officially transitioning to a resistance/ dictatorship one. Stakes are up, la jarra de culei ( duarte dixit) is back, and the regime’s FAB has clearly sided with the piratas del Caribe and their continuing occupation and pillaging campaign.

    Dios bendiga a Venezuela.

  18. After listening to Chuo’s radio show from Tuesday, it’s clear to me that all the opposition leaders that said on Twitter they had no idea about the meeting with the Vatican are simply full of shit and were doing those tweets to appeal to their hardcore Cafetal fanbase because they couldn’t explain properly the reasoning behind having Chuo attend that meeting.

    He was clearly pissed at them but he’s still on the job. Good on him. The Vatican in Venezuela will be needed to negotiate once all the actions the opposition are staging (street protests, congress and international support/OEA) are in full force.


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