Last Sunday morning, MUD was in the driver’s seat of Venezuela’s constitutional crisis: riding a wave of popular discontent and international condemnation as they pushed for the kind of tough-minded street agenda that, alone, seems to really worry the regime about its grip on power.

By Tuesday afternoon it had surrendered all of its tactical advantage. Opening a negotiating track stopped the protest agenda cold. The president’s sort-of-impeachment? Shelved. The March on Miraflores? Postponed. The momentum? Gone.

And all that in return for…well, basically nothing. The release of a few political prisoner (even as fresh arrests were made), together with a vague promise to negotiate in front of a gaggle of priests. That’s it.

How worried is Nicolás about his grip on power now? This worried:

The launch of dialogue threatens to demobilize the opposition grassroots entirely. It has driven a toxic wedge between MUD and its most committed supporters, opened a visible split between VP and PJADUNT, enraged the activist base and left Maduro…well, dancing.

 The demobilizing, time-wasting, unity-splitting, momentum-sapping potential of entering into negotiations with the government have been the very first thing every single observer has noted about any proposed dialogue all year.

All of this was foreseeable…and foreseen. The demobilizing, time-wasting, unity-splitting, momentum-sapping potential of entering into negotiations with the government have been the very first thing every single observer has noted about any proposed dialogue all year. The people now participating in the dialogue were arguing along these lines just days ago.

So I do not take seriously the notion that they were unaware of it somehow.

In fact, Henry Ramos Allup told us explicitly he saw it coming when he said he was willing to “pay the political price” for launching negotiations.

Look, I know. I know, people love to ascribe olympic levels of stupidity to MUD, but this is beyond that. It’s fun! But think for a second: it isn’t minimally believable that they don’t understand the critique they’ve been making all year.

There has to be something we’re not seeing.

But what?

As I see it, it has to be one of two things:

  1. MUD leaders have received a credible commitment for a major, meaningful concession (with the emphasis very much on the ‘credible‘ bit), or,
  2. MUD’s leadership has been compromised (it’s being blackmailed and/or has been bought off.)

It’s easy to see why the government would want to promise unicorns-and-rainbows in front of the priests and hard to see why MUD would be inclined to believe any of it.

I keep trying to work out how 1. might work, but I struggle. It’s easy to see why the government would want to promise unicorns-and-rainbows in front of the priests and hard to see why MUD would be inclined to believe any of it.

Any commitment the government makes today it can costlessly renege on tomorrow, simply because they retain total control of the Supreme Tribunal. That tribunal is not even a little bit shy about ruling that war is peace, ignorance is strength and we have always been at war with Eurasia.

That being the case, the government has every incentive to make commitments it doesn’t intend to honor. You want a promise of early elections? Have it. Want a pledge to seat the three Amazonas state members of the AN to restore MUD’s 2/3rd majority? No problem! A new CNE board? Yes!

With that TSJ Joker in their back pocket, who can believe they will follow through?

Again, I find it inconceivable that MUD leadership hasn’t thought about this. To posit that MUD is just naïvely falling for insincere promises at this stage in the game is to make heroic assumptions about their idiocy. Everybody and their cat sees this, it isn’t minimally reasonable to think that the only people in the country who don’t see it are the people actually dealing with it day in and day out. Asserting that they’re this dumb amounts to analytical laziness.

The problem is what it has been all year: the TSJ. The government cannot make credible commitments until it gives up its chokehold on the Supreme Tribunal. 

That points to the move that could really destrancar el juego. Appointing a new, credible TSJ would allow the government to commit intertemporally. And what MUD needs most of all is a reason to believe a commitment arrived at today won’t be clawed back six months from now

Trouble is, the tribunal doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. General Elections? Yes. A new CNE board? Yes. The tribunal? Not so much.

So either the TSJ negotiation is a very well-kept secret or…

2-The Twitter Crazies are right, and an important chunk of MUD’s leadership has been bought, or is being blackmailed, or both.

To me the Corrupt MUD hypothesis not just far-fetched, but analytically lazy.

To me the Corrupt MUD hypothesis is again so far-fetched it smacks of analytically laziness: a guerreros-del-teclado talking point that amounts to a slur on people who put their life and their liberty at risk day in and day out to represent us.

Temperamentally, I’m very ill at ease with this interpretation. The scale of the conspiracy needed would just be too vast. I think we’ve seen what a paid former-oppo plant acts like. I think Hermann Escarrá and William Ojeda, not Timoteo Zambrano or Chúo Torrealba.

Occam’s Razor is very seldom kind to convoluted tales of sprawling conspiracies. Like the Dumb MUD hypothesis, the Corrupt MUD hypothesis is just loathing masquerading as analysis.

But I have to admit that, if push comes to shove, I’m more likely to believe MUD is corrupt than to think it’s this stupid. The former is at least a possibility, the latter I think we can reject outright.

 

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.