When Monsignor Emil Paul Tscherrig, the Pope’s special envoy to Venezuela, announced yesterday that a national dialogue had started in Venezuela, both opposition voters and leaders threw up in their mouths. Even for those that want a true dialogue that leads to a peaceful transition, the timing could not have been worse. A dialogue would pour freezing water on MUD’s new protest drive. The rebuttal by MUD that followed later at night is the most relevant thing that happened yesterday: that MUD, and very likely the Vatican as well, got played like a second hand fiddle by the government and their foreign middlemen.
It doesn’t really matters whether Chuo was fully authorized by MUD (and it looks like he was). We should ask instead whether the opposition had actually agreed to the full text read by Tscherrig, who said that it was drafted jointly by all sides.
Lost in the hoopla about Chuo’s remarks yesterday is what this says about MUD and the Vatican. MUD’s reaction and communique, and the mauling of Chúo, more than a rebuke of their spokesman was a rebuttal of what the Vatican’s man had just said: that a dialogue had been opened, and that there would be a meeting in Margarita next Sunday.
It doesn’t really matter whether Chuo was fully authorized by MUD (and it looks like he was). We should ask instead whether the opposition had actually agreed to the full text read by Tscherrig, who said that it was drafted jointly by all sides. Judging by MUD’s reaction, it’s possible that they didn’t agree to it, or were very incompetent in realizing how it would be understood.
Part of the confusion might be because of the weird phrasing of the text. It opens by saying that “National Dialogue has started today”, a phrase which everybody understood as the start of a process of negotiations. But a couple of sentences later it specifies that the dialogue is about the conditions for a single meeting. That’s a very narrow scope: they didn’t announce the start of wide ranging talks about a way out of the crisis; their current meeting was about a future meeting.
So let’s shelve any talk of negotiating a transition.
That second disagreement is more telling: whether they agree to that next meeting in Margarita. MUD’s communique put a kibosh to that, as did Henrique Capriles last night during his radio show.
Capriles’s eye-popping “suggestion” was that the text looked like it had been drafted by Zapatero, and that the Vatican shouldn’t let themselves be used by him.
When discussing the dead-on-arrival dialogue, Capriles focused mainly on the contents and authorship of the text. He prefaced his complaints by saying how much he respects the Pope and his envoy, warning them to be careful in dealing with these “devils”, and then proceeded to throw Tscherrig under the bus, albeit indirectly.
Capriles objected to almost everything in the text –including the heading “Mesa de diálogo”, which he said does not exist– and complained about what it didn’t include (i.e. mentions of the crisis). He warned Tscherrig to be very careful with his words. His most eye-popping “suggestion” was that the text looked like it had been drafted by Zapatero, and that the Vatican shouldn’t let themselves be used by him.
That’s a strong, if rather oblique, rebuke of Tscherrig and whoever from MUD agreed to that text, implying that they were played by the government’s middleman.
Capriles’ complaints, and this morning’s interview of Henry Ramos Allup and Chuo’s radio show, all point in the same direction: that what Tscherrig said was, at most, something they had been talking about with him, but had not agreed to any of it.
Both Ramos Allup and Chuo said that while they had been in discussions with the Vatican about a dialogue, the talks started before the killing of the referendum and the assault on the National Assembly, and that yesterday’s meeting had been set before as well.
If this is the case, then Chuo’s blunder wasn’t really in what he said – he was actually bland and non-committal – but in what he didn’t dare say.
Furthermore, Chuo’s statement yesterday, and today’s, both paint the same picture of the meeting: MUD simply explained their conditions for any dialogue and future meetings.
So it seems like MUD had not really agreed to anything of consequence.
If this is the case, then Chuo’s blunder wasn’t really in what he said – he was actually bland and non-committal – but in what he didn’t dare say: “We have not agreed to any meeting, to any true dialogue”. Apart from the reference to an agreement to avoid violence during protests, Chuo didn’t really confirmed anything said by Tscherrig, but he didn’t push back either.
MUD finally got their chosen and trusted mediator, and they both got their clocks cleaned by chavismo in the first round. The government got the mediator to say exactly what they wanted, at the exact moment they wanted them to say it.