Dialogue and Freedom

I viscerally hate the concept of dialogue with this thuggish regime. And yet I see it setting free some of the people I care most about in the world: our political prisoners.


The Venezuelan crisis is not black and white. Last night, I learned the meaning of ambiguity, a los coñazos. Because a lot of my friends are political prisoners. And dialogue, it seems, will set them free.

I’d spent the hours since Sunday night in a state of near terminal “I told-you-so”-ness. Those of us who always knew that a MUD-backed street-level resistance was wishful thinking, were right all along.

How in God’s name did MUD agree to squander its golden opportunity to assert itself just to take part in the Nth doomed dialogue?

As a political activist and staunch critic of MUD’s insistence on institutional conservatism, the images VTV broadcast of Maduro casually chatting with the people who supposedly represent me made me sick to my stomach. Seeing Maduro’s hand casually resting on Chúo’s shoulder, my gut knew it before my brain did: “we’re stuck with this government for a good long while.”

How in God’s name did MUD agree to squander its golden opportunity to assert itself just to take part in the Nth doomed dialogue? Who decided it was a good idea to leave the optics up to SIBCI? Couldn’t MUD have waited until Thursday afternoon to call off its only credible threat, the march to Miraflores? Are they amateurs, or worse?

But as Emiliana, friend of Pancho, friend of Yon, friend of Marco, I was secretly betrayed by hope. Hope that some of these people can gain their freedom as part of the negotiation; a sign of “good faith.”

For the political prisoners’ friends — and all the more for the mothers, fathers, siblings and children of people like Marco Trejo and Alejandro Moreno, who were released last night — “good faith” has a face. The living, breathing face of loved ones who’ve had months or years of their lives stolen from them.

I get angry when tech support steals 15 minutes from my busy day. Imagine being deprived of your life for who knows how long, for reasons that don’t matter, over which you have no control.

Take a second to digest that: I get angry when tech support steals 15 minutes from my busy day. Imagine being deprived of your life for who knows how long, for reasons that don’t matter, over which you have no control. Imagine someone close to you in that position, at the mercy of a nonexistent justice system and subject to the whims of a government like the one we have.

Rosmit Mantilla is one of those someones, and if you can’t place his name, don’t feel bad.

I didn’t know it either, until my recently released friend Pancho told me about his plight. Rosmit has been a political prisoner for over two years. He was legitimately elected as a member of the National Assembly last December 6th, a fact that ought to have indisputably won him freedom. (It didn’t.)

Yesterday, Rosmit was taken to the emergency room after his doctors repeatedly insisted he needed gallbladder surgery. This video shows SEBIN agents forcibly removing him from the ER, while his mother tearfully wails. But there is dialogue. We are dialoguing now.

There are over one hundred Rosmits still in jail. I hope he and all the rest can get out soon.

Caracas Chronicles was fortunate enough to get an exclusive first interview with Francisco Márquez after his release. All throughout his jail time, I worked the (échenle bolas) goodwill of the very government that made him a prisoner. It was the only thing left to hang onto.

…the loathsome conflict that arises when you want to see someone close to you freed, but you know full well that in freeing him you empower the dictatorship that deprived him of freedom to begin with.

Pancho was categorical in his desire to bear witness to the suffering of political prisoners in Venezuela.

Though I can’t remotely claim to understand what he has gone through, I want to bear witness as well: to the loathsome conflict that arises when you want to see someone close to you freed, but you know full well that in freeing him you empower the dictatorship that deprived him of freedom to begin with.

I hope that many will come forward soon enough, to bear witness as well. I assure you these people despise the government just as much as you do, probably more so for having been forced to applaud it this week.

And yet I can’t help but find this dialogue repugnant. It’s morally reprehensible and downright stupid on a pragmatic level. But if it succeeds in granting freedom to one more political prisoner, then count me in as one of its unscrupulous defenders, a scabby victim of its degenerate extortion.

Still, vamos a Miraflores el jueves, coño.

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  1. Your two points of view are not contradictory. You want dialogue, you just want it to be real. At least that’s what I can read from your message: you like the consequences of the dialogue, the things the government is forced to accept, but you don’t think the government is actually willing to accept anything. That is why your other point of view matters even more: the reason the gov’t is FORCED to do these things is because of the pressure we and the MUD have applied. We HAVE to march to Miraflores unless we see some REAL sign of willingness to negotiate (such as liberating 100-200 political prisoners). We won’t have, like some people say, the date for the recall and the liberation of all political prisoners, but that is just plain logic: why would we need to negotiate if we have those two things?

  2. The problem I see with this dynamic is that by putting people in prison the government is effectively creating its own leverage. Political prisoners are currency created by the government to cash in when the same government needs to undermine the only leverage the oppo seems to have (the threat of all out street chaos). Como dice el poeta, este peo es chess, not checkers…

    • Bingo!

      This is the dialogue that is taking place:

      The opposition: “We demand A, B and C.”

      The government: “Oh, really? Well, we’ll take D from you. Do you want to have D back? Then stop asking for A, B and C.”

      The opposition: “All right, give me D.”

      The government: “Great! Nice talking to you. I feel so happy for reaching a satisfactory agreement.”

    • yes! truly!

      but I think that this article is fantastic because it shows the HUMAN COSTS of every action and inaction

      I feel that this approach is more accurate because it admits the complexity of reality — so many variables are at play — it really shows that every step taken has not only a benefit but also a cost

      benefit of NO dialogue – no legitimization of the govt., cost – no prisoners freed

      benefit of shitty dialogue – prisoners freed (even if only 2!) , cost – legitimization of govt. (awful optics, hand-shaking, amicability)

      freaking difficult chess indeed, with very high stakes for every chess move made!

      Their perverse system is quite effective, it is hard to justify not to choose to cash in that currency, even at such a pricey cost because that would override the few for the many, and I think that most of us can’t really fathom what the few have to go through while imprisoned…

      maybe it can be described as a chess game played between wildly unequal adversaries: the player that only follows the rules vs. the bastards that cheat and cheat and have lots of different strategies, resources and massive disregard for the rules!

      • That is because you dont have stonach for this. Sorry but liberty in any case has cost less than blood. Until comeflores dont understand that youll have shitty negotiations y una metida por detras como la que paso hoy. Y antes que lo digas, no soy guerrero del teclado, es simplemente obvio que el camino es ese y no el de dalai o de ghandi como quiere paco aca.

  3. Hoy liberan a algunos y mañana encarcelan el doble. No hay nada que celebrar. Peor que estar en la cárcel es que te usen para sus propósitos.Entiendo que uno quiere ver a sus seres queridos libres, es algo humano,pero no hay que olvidar nuestra meta. Todos sabemos que no hay futuro para Venezuela si el gobierno no cae, todos sabemos en el fondo que no es posible un gobierno de transición, que cualquier intento de convivir políticamente con estos malandros no tiene futuro y que eso va a causar una crisis peor incluso que la actual. Si la sexta república nace así,va a durar incluso menos que la quinta, y va a terminar peor. Es obvio. El gobierno forzó el diálogo para negarnos la lucha no violenta, que es lo último que nos queda. No podemos aceptar eso. No podemos seguir el camino de la MUD.

  4. The pressure for the dialogue came from the Pope.
    This Pope would like to see the implementation of Socialism of the XXI century. He is not hoping for the coming of Christ in his second coming to establish the kingdom of heaven. He believes that the kingdom of heaven is supposed to be built by ourselves; that is his theology and his politics are directed to pursue its implementation.
    The Pope’s heart is closer to Maduro’s ideology than to Leopoldo’s or Capriles’.
    He is betting on Maduro’s survival. The CEV knows this and it should say it.
    This dialogue is a farce. The freedom of some political prisoners and some is a little price that Maduro is willing to pay to get the farce going.

  5. Bottom line your gut was right ” we are stuck with this government for a long while” …. it’s human nature to rationalize a hard truth and thus the next thing is to feel happy about the release of political prisoners (which the government will keep using as currency when it needs to) In it of itself it is a good thing that political prisoners are being release within the larger context of things …. not so clear.

  6. You have not considered that the strongest rejection of the dialogue comes from those who are in prison. And the reason is simple. They are the ones that have most courage and firmer principles. That is why they are in prison. And this also why they reject a dialogue which is immoral and is being carried out by the worst members of the regime, the Rodriguez brothers and by some of the most wishy washy members of the opposition, Zambrano and Falcon, refereed by three parasites from UNASUR and by a Papal envoy who has strict marching orders from the Pope and Obama to delay the game, to freeze the game, so that the regime can continue in power, making some small sacrifices like letting Maduro and his wife go in quiet exile to Panama or Cuba, with a guarantee that they will not be touched and that their nephews will have a minor sentence.

    Elections? Probably by the end of next year. Shannon is also in the mix, looking over the shoulders of Monsignor, who does not seem to have much on the ball.

    • Thank you Gustavo for clarifying the facts. A few details left out but right on. Narcotics is the monkey wrench but also the key. Sailing into the sunset only possible if potus allows. The US has a big say in all of this. USG is holding trump cards close. Elections next year sounds good. The problem is what to do with the narcos who continue to ship dope north. They have doubled volume this year.

  7. A crucial point left out is that they arrested 13 or 14 people just a few days ago and released just a few yesterday. This isn’t progress. There are more political prisoners right now than last year or even last week. Overall this isn’t progress. Some people are arguing that this is the government recognizing that they have political prisoners. They haven’t recognized anything they are just stalling. “Realizar el RR2016, el derecho a protestar por Venezuela y juicio político a responsables de esta crisis valen mas que mi libertad.” – Antonio Ledezma

  8. Totally agree with GC.

    Other things not-considered here are:

    – Yes, the criminal regime releases a couple of political prisoners. But what do they get in return? Superb deal for themselves! They buy tons of time to steal a lot more, and find hiding places. They acquire international ‘recognition’ as a ‘democratic’ ‘government’. Instead of being recognized as a bunch of dictators and narco-thugs.

    – Yes, a couple of lives were spared, What’s the price? Ask Lilian or Lopez.. Ask the millions of Venezuelans suffering for continued lack of food and medicine. Or the kids dying in precarious ‘hospitals’ every day, not to mention those who die from crime and assassinations on the streets everyday.

    A deal with the Devil?


    I didn’t expect anything less putrid from the putrid Vatican or the despicable Unasur. Or the other lamentable parties involved on this awful little ‘reunion”. What a shame. Again. Not to metion the bribes that surely flowed under that dreadful “negotiation” or “reconciliation” table.

    Results? A few guys go free, Hundreds of crooks keep stealing, and Chavismo gains some recognition. While 15.000 people get killed every year. While millions live in our dreadful country, looking for aceite or arepas.

    Pathetic meeting.

  9. Maybe we should listen more to the actual political prisoners. Pancho Márquez: “Ningún preso político puede canjearse por el Revocatorio” Entrevista para @RunRunesWeb

  10. After reading this piece one gets the feeling that “we’re stuck with this government for a good long while”

    Are we suppose to be ok with the death of the recall in exchange for the release of prisoners that shouldn’t have been jailed. We are dealing with criminals, this apparent consession will last until january 8th, after that they’ll use the vatican flag as toilet paper and will jail another lot of activists to regain their bargaining capital. Does anyone seriously believes the regime will minimally consider the possibility of anticipated general elections 2 weeks after killing the RR? hostage liberation will be of no use if they are gonna jail another group of political prisoners, if anything useful comes from this dialog I will be very very surprised.

    At some point we will have to draw a line and will be force to say enough is enough, the date has just moved. Put yourselves in the mind of Maduro and the clique for a moment, deben estar bailando en una pata incredulos.

  11. I don’t get the opposition. You heed the advice of the Vatican, who says you must avoid violence? What violence? Isn’t the plan just to march, peacefully, to Miraflores? If there is any violence, it would be from the Bolivarian Government. And sorry, but you have to be willing to face tear gas, if there is to be any. Your leadership just suspended the best chance you have, for 5 people, none of whom is Leopoldo Lopez. Did you have any clue at all how to play the game at this level?

    You’re amateurs. Get a clue. Do some homework.

  12. Going kinda off here but does anyone else care about the complete disregard for secularity in all of this? I feel like a weird person because it’s what’s at the forefront of my mind when thinking about the Vatican involvement.

    Maybe it’s the fact that pretty much everyone in the opposition has been in a really bad cultish sort of way when talking about how “They completely trust them and will do what the Vatican says”


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