Dialogue, Actually [Spot the Difference edition]



A general view shows a political meeting between government and opposition in Caracas, Venezuela October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello

As tempted as I may be to invoke that cliché about the definition of insanity and trying the same thing while hoping for different results (oops), let’s objectively compare and contrast the two attempts at dialogue, with two years hindsight. 

Aside from the obviously worsened social conditions that are ravaging the country today, and perhaps, most notably, Capriles’ reversed position regarding protests, the similarities seem to outnumber the differences: We have an actively repressive government managing the optics and playing peacemaker, a divided (albeit, way more civil) opposition leadership grappling over conditions and bottom lines, schizophrenic messaging over MUD’s overall stance, little-to-no leverage that MUD can bring to the table, and on-the-record breaches of the very promises that the government agreed to keep while this process is ongoing (viejo coño de madre? so much for toning down the rhetoric).

Let’s just hope that we can add “resulted in positive outcome” to the list of differences this time around. 

Originally published April 10, 2014


Happy Dialogue Day, everyone!

Time to put aside all your petty personal opinions and curb your oft-misguided emotions – today is a day for serious, rational discussion on the objective topic of the greater good.

After two months of protests, dozens dead, hundreds wounded, three imprisoned opposition leaders (two of them acting mayors), one congress-woman stripped of her post, one university and several public transport vehicles set on fire, and what seems like hundreds of thousands of hurled tear gas canisters, Nicolás Maduro’s government and members of the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) will sit down in a televised exchange. The debate, mediated by UNASUR and the Papal Nuncio, will be to talk about the Venezuelan crisis, and will supposedly be broadcast live.

The government (you know, the one that everyone was protesting against and being repressed by for doing so) is as happy as can be. They are now the true and only seekers of a peaceful resolution.

Meanwhile, the opposition is ferociously divided. Those who see this government as dictatorial, as evidenced by its gross human rights violations and blatant absence of separation of powers, criticize the MUD for legitimizing Maduro’s sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing charade. MUD backers, meanwhile, belittle the former camp as radicals, and espouse Capriles’s stance of “winning hearts and minds in order to build a majority coalition” as the proper path, one that, inevitably, implies dialogue.

The lead-up to dialogue was just as turbulent as the reactions were to its arrival: amid the violent repression that government forces unleashed against protests, Henrique Capriles, surprisingly enough, was the first to go on record with regards to dialogue in February, stating: “Maduro, you will not use me to wash your face.” He refused any notion of dialogue unless his signed list of 10 demands was met.

After Maduro convened, and the MUD rebuffed, a “Conference for Peace” in early March, the MUD released an official, if scatterbrained, statement detailing the 5 “fundamental elements” necessary for dialogue. These included (but were not limited to) freedom for political prisoners, justice for all victims of repression, disarmament of paramilitary groups, halting corruption, immediate reactivation of national production, repealing the laws that hinder production, fighting crime, fighting inefficiency, fighting long lines, a live broadcast through all public and private media of this dialogue, equal conditions, and transparency.

The MUD later clarified that all but the last bit about the live broadcast and transparency were “not preconditions, but items for the agenda” for eventual talks. Maduro followed by thundering on national TV that he wouldn’t accept any conditions from anyone, and that the MUD had been “kidnapped by a fascist minority.”*

(*more on fascism later)

In late March, a delegation of UNASUR foreign secretaries arrived in Venezuela to engage in preliminary conversations with Maduro over possible mediation, and left behind a scant set of recommendations, which included a “toning-down of the language.” They met with the Magistrates of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the Ombuds(wo)man, members of the Church, HHRR NGOs, opposition and pro-government students, businessowners, and, finally, with MUD reps, who assured UNASUR that they would be open to dialogue with the Government if a “third party of good faith” was present. Maduro quickly criticized the MUD’s precondition of a mediator.

“Está bien, ustedes convoquen a su garante, su mediador y si quieren convocan a su jefe de verdad, que venga, no me importa, yo les voy a poner un garante mayor, que se llame a un notario público para que firmen, y se comprometan.”

Once UNASUR announced its follow-up visit for a second round of talks in April, the MUD eventually set forth another list of conditions for dialogue, this time fourfold: amnesty for political prisoners, the establishment of a “commission of truth,” reappointment of government officials with expired mandates (electoral council and TSJ magistrates), and internationally sanctioned disarmament of paramilitary groups.

Finally, on Tuesday, in a rare broadcast by State TV, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, flanked by Un Nuevo Tiempo leader Omar Barboza, and Governor of Lara Henri Falcón, announced to the country that the MUD had “agreed to a dialogue,” so long as it was held “in equal terms and in front of the whole country.” In addition to the UNASUR delegation of Brasil, Ecuador and Colombia foreign secretaries, the Papal Nuncio would be present as a “third witness” to the proceedings.

So, there you have it: in order to solve this crisis, or to prevent more deaths, or to “save face,” as Juan put it, the MUD agreed to enter into dialogue with a government it recognizes as unjust, after being forced by idleness or inertia into reducing its preconditions from an initial and legitimate 10, to a questionable 1 1/2. It is a a game that presupposes equal conditions for both players but begins with one player being stripped by default of all its bargaining chips.

What will be the outcome of said negotiation, provided all parts – the abusive father that put on his Sunday best (the Govt.) to impress the fancy foreign neighbors whose membership at the Country Club he endorsed for the sake of remaining on their good side (UNASUR), who secretly hates but gazes fondly at the clip-on-tie-wearing child with the soiled napkin (that’d be our side) who must smile and nod and remain seen but not heard and cute for the guests just so he can enjoy his meal at the grown-up table – behave properly?

Well, precisely the outcome the government will allow the opposition to have, so that they shut up, give thanks, and go back to their daily business of not mattering. They will probably change around some TSJ magistrates, definitely some CNE members, create an umpteenth entity for “promoting national production,” and name some member of Cilia Flores’s family the head of it. They’ll probably make an example out of some GNB schmuck who kicked a student in the head, and hopefully, hopefully release Simonovis.

And then the UNASUR delegation will leave. Venezuela will remain a corrupt, non-democratic state, and if the opposition starts bitching and moaning after all this effort was made to appease them … well, that’s just rude! Except the opposition will celebrate this, just like it did the 2007 referendum (with all respects to the student movement), in which we didn’t really win anything, but rather avoided getting even more screwed than we already were (temporarily, anyways).

There is no such thing as a cuasi-revolution. Authoritarian presidents don’t negotiate. You know, the MUD knows, the government knows, hell, even UNASUR knows … this government is playing a zero sum game.  If someone really thinks that, in the bigger scope of things, dialogue will be anything other than a stalling static/escape valve/waste of time, by all means, drop me a line.

*Oh, and as for the fascists? Well, Jorge Arreaza got a head start on this generous spirit of giving, and admitted that calling the opposition fascist was too strong a word. He will  look into retiring this insult from the government repertoire in the near future. Maybe they’ll fall back on mariconcitos. See?

¡Que viva el diálogo!



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


  1. Emiliana, I agree with your take on el Dialogo, but for our sakes ,I hope we are both wrong. Thus, my hope will lie in a post-MUD opposition, that ACTUALLY listens to the people instead of acting as if they are better than them. Gone or minimized will be the main culprits that destroyed our hopes with this useless dialogue.

  2. 1946: The Papal Nuncio announced today that it will be acting as a “third witness” to the upcoming “dialogue process” initiated by the claims of mass killings of innocents made by one Simon Wiesenthal against Rudolph Hoess as the former commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The three primary participants can be seen in this group photo at the negotiating table.

  3. Is there NO ONE who has any sort of inside intelligence to share? By now, I would think that SOMETHING about what is happening behind those closed doors would start leaking out! Venezuelans just aren’t that good at keeping secrets.

        • This to get you started. We’ll post some inside dirt soon:


          El alcalde de Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, informó cuáles son las metas que tiene la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) con el diálogo entre el Gobierno y la oposición convocado por el Vaticano.

          Ocariz, quien también es uno de los integrantes del equipo negociador por parte de la oposición, aseguró que hay cuatro metas generales. “Son metas de toda la Unidad en consenso”, dijo.

          Las nombró una por una:

          1. Una solución electoral. “Estamos allí porque queremos una solución electoral a la crisis que vive el país. Hemos propuesto dos vías: la reactivación del revocatorio o elecciones adelantada”.
          2. Libertad para los presos, que vuelvan los exiliados y el final de la persecución política.
          3. La reinstitucionizacion de los poderes públicos, principalmente el TSJ y del CNE. Además que el Poder Legislativo retome sus funciones.
          4. Atención a las víctimas de la crisis humanitaria.

          Detalló que hay unas metas específicas para el 11 de noviembre, cuando se espera se de la segunda reunión formal entre las partes.

          “Hay cuatro mesas técnicas de trabajo la electoral, la institucional, la económica y social, y la de derechos humanos”.

          En la mesa electoral, el compromiso de ambos bandos – para el 11- es una solución electoral a la crisis en “el muy corto plazo”. Añadió que deben llegar a un acuerdo para volver a realizar las elecciones parlamentarias en Amazonas.

          “Debemos tener diputados en ese estado”, dijo. También indicó que se espera lograr un acuerdo para que el 4 de diciembre, cuando se vence el periodo de dos rectores del CNE, se llegue a nuevos nombres por mutuo acuerdo.

          Además la MUD ha exigido que elimine el desacato a la AN declarado por el TSJ.

          “En cuanto a los derechos humanos, la liberación de los presos políticos y mejorar las condiciones”.

          Por último, sostuvo que se espera la promoción de una iniciativa urgente de apoyo a la población para “lograr apoyo de medicinas”. “Así como un acuerdo nacional para mejorar el abastecimiento en comida y medicinas”, concluyó.

          • Gracias, Emi. Pero, eso no explica la estrategia ni porque la MUD estaba suficiente positiva de buenos resultados de este negociación, que ellos decidieron abandonar su momento de la calle al riesgo de tener dificultades re-arrancarlo. Estoy pendiente mas detalles… 🙂

          • Soooo, you gave us a flower, a button, and a bell, but……Actually, does anyone really know anything yet, with no firm agreements???

        • Roy has a point. I am also a willing and happy supporter of CC, but might as well direct those funds towards buying the political risk report. As at the moment I am feeling a bit like a second class taxpaying citizen. Just food for thought for the CC team…

          • No way! None of this second class citizen nonsense! We LIVE for our readers.
            Seriously, though, the little information available out there right now is swimming around in rumors and crazy conspiracies. As soon as we’re done cutting through the noise you can bet we’ll get it out here ASAP. Trust me, we can’t help ourselves, we understand this is THE critical moment for CC and our readers.

  4. “Dialogue” then was dead-on-arrival. This “dialogue” has a better chance, due to a much-worsened socio-economic backdrop, but, unfortunately, “thugs will be thugs”….

      • Nope they won’t because they lost the leverage and they have backed themselves few many times. Hence, the respect they gained in the last few weeks is now damaged.

        The MUD knows that any benefit for the population will help Maduro to stay in power so getting the country out of the crisis is not necessarily the first (real) point of the negotiation. They also know that a constitutional exit (that is through elections) will kill the leftover of the Venezuelan left for few many years (remember el MAS getting 10% of the votes). A violent change will keep a level of resistance that will make any governability (post Maduro) difficult. Last but not least, very few of them want Leopoldo Lopez out, simply because he is a stronger contender for president than Allup and Capriles and he has the “being in jail card” that none of them have hence he is not on the table either. So, if Capriles and Allup give up their presidential aspiration (or a least allow a level of challenge) they may free up the game to let Asustobulo finish the mandate and have elections in 2018. The problem here is that the military don’t like Asustobulo (he is just too pragmatic) and a change of government may expose them to all the atrocities they have committed (corruption, drug trafficking, kick backs, extra judicial killings among others). Hence Maduro may just stay because he has demonstrated resilience and that is what the hidden powers want.

        The only way to regain the initiative (that is to force an undesired outcome to the powers) is to go back to the streets assuming the MUD can gather some of the momentum lost. I don’t think so with December around the corner…and something is telling me that there are some invisible strings being pulled from the US to cool off the thing until the Colombia peace process is wrapped up.

        My take (reading the tea leaves as Mr. Net. said on a different post) is that February (Venezuelans favorite month to get pissed off) is when enough force will be regained to go back where we left a week ago.

        You know the idiom.. “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me..”

  5. I tried to make a sentence with the word MUD, Maduro, government, CNE or TSJ together with“mamagüebo” where the use of this last word was gratuitous, and I couldn’t. In all sentences I came up with, the use of that word was fully justified and non-gratuitous.

  6. They won’t do what they don’ t want to do. It is a simple as that.It is time we accept that we simply can’ t trust them.They defend only their own interests and their own agenda, which happens to be a complete disaster for everyone else. They never even believed the RR was possible. That’s why it took them so long to actually propose it (even though they knew they were short on time), and that’ s why they accepted everything the CNE said (even though they understood the consecuences). It is known fact that some PJ geniuses actually think that it is best if we don’ t do anything. Best for them, of course

    It is obvious that we are dealing with a very corrupt and decadent elite, and that includes a lot of people from our side, including journalist, artists, businessmen, etcetera. Basicaly, everytone that ever said “¿ Tú qué propones?”, or “no queremos una guerra civil”, o “tú eres un radical”, o “hay que evitar un chorrero de sangre”. Desde Capriles, hasta Leonardo Pedrón, desde Garcilaso Pumar, hasta Luis Carlos Díaz. Los maestros y sus voceros, comprados o ingenuos. That is why I say that any kind of transition, is simply doomed to fail, There is no governability pact on this basis, so the MUD will actuallly, by default, be even more demagogic and violent than the PSUV. Welll, they already are. You just don’ t want to accept it.

    The only thing preventing you fine people from realizing this, is the fact that either you are or want to be a part of that elite that feed you, or simply that you are on denial. Obviously, I am not writing for the former, but for the later. Wake up

    Chávez destruyó todas las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, y la oposición no ha hecho nada para restaurarlas. ¿Por qué? Porque no les conviene. No hay sindicatos, ni gremios, que defiendan organizadamente sus derechos, sólo hay partidos políticos que son tan corruptos como el sistema mismo del que forman parte. No es sólo que son populistas, es que, al responder a la estructura que existe, no pueden ser sino autocráticos por definición. Si queremos salir de esto, tenemos que empezar por la creación de sindicatos, organizaciones civiles, de gremios, y por democratizar realmente los partidos. Esa es la verdadera revolución: A pesar de toda esa retórica vacía de “somos ciudadanos”, no se ha hecho nada para empoderar a las personas. Cada quien tiene que defender sus derechos. No hay lugar para que los ciudadanos defiendan sus derechos en nuestro sistema, en nuestros partidos, en la PSUV y en la MUD.

  7. Es facil identificar los troll cuando todo lo que dicen y repiten usando casi las mismas palabras cada vez es para desacreditar hasta el ultimo gesto conducta y miembro de la oposicion , no creo que a estas alturas nadie caiga en la trampa de creerles ………!! El liderazgo de la oposicion cometera errores pero satanizarlos hasta en la manera de pararse suena a troll tarifado , ah y tampoco son mandrake , juegan contra alguien que usa cartas marcadas y hacen lo que pueden con lo que tienen …..!!

    Ninguna negociacion que se respete puede hacerse con las puertas abiertas, incluyendo a todo titere con cabeza y complaciendo a todo el mundo , esa es una bobada de quienes nunca han participado en negociaciones de verdad , los resultados nunca son 100% los deseados por que las fantasias nunca funcionan en la realidad !!

  8. Bill Bass, no creo que sea suficiente llamarme troll para cubrir todas las mentiras y engaños que están saliendo a la luz pública y que ya no pueden ocultar. Lo que yo estoy denunciando es un pacto de gobernabilidad creado a espaldas de los ciudadanos. Ese pacto va a tener consecuencias trágicas. Es un suicidio político, y va a causar un derramamiento de sangre . Y hablo de sangre de verdad (de la que ya se derrama todos los días)y no de la que sólo existe en la mente de los chantajistas de oficio cuyo interés es desmovilizar a quienes están dispuestos a iniciar una resistencia no violenta. El cambio de gobierno este año no era un capricho de los “radicales” sino una necesidad de la población y la única garantía verdadera de estabilidad a futuro. La gente respondió positivamente, fue a votar en diciembre y fue a firmar cuando se le pidió firmar. No se puede sostener ese pacto de gobernalidad si no se atienden las causas de fondo que generan la crisis, y por eso, para mantener la “paz”, tanto el PSUV como la MUD, van a a tener que recurrir por igual a la represión y a la demagogia el próximo año, que será mucho más duro que este. No les queda otro camino y hay que decirlo sin miedo. Ya basta. Al tomar esa decisión, se están poniendo oficialmente en contra de la gente, y por eso acabaron con su futuro político y con la posibilidad de ser algún día un gobierno digno, una alternativa decente. Lamentablemente, crearon nuevamente las condiciones de desconfianza en los partidos que causaron el auge de Chávez. ¿Acaso piensan que se pueden enfrentar todos los obstáculos venideros sin una reserva moral? Prefirieron apostar al caos y la miseria, cuando había que apostar por la verdad, como han hecho Leopoldo López y María Corina, a quien tratan como si fuera una loca. Da asco ver a Capriles decir cualquier cosa, cualquier mentira, para seguir conectando con las masas. Se siente eso, es palpable. El caos no lo generan quienes protestan, sino el sistema corrupto en el cual vivimos. Así que pueden silenciar a todos los guarimberos, si es que todavía existen, ilegalizar a todos los partidos pequeños para que la MUD funcione exactamente como el PSUV, y nada va a mejorar por eso. Entiéndanlo. Maduro dijo hoy claramente que las negociaciones no van a dar frutos de aquí al 11 de noviembre, y fue más allá y dijo que la oposición nunca iba a llegar a Miraflores, ni con votos ni con balas. ¿ A quién le voy a creer? ¿A él, que tiene el poder, o a Chúo Torrealba? Yo sé que puedo ser insoportable, pero no lo hago con mala intención, y sé que me repito, pero por lo menos repito mis propias ideas y no hago eco de la doble-talk de los factores de poder. Intento argumentar en la medida de mis posibilidades. Recientemente perdí un familiar por falta de medicinas, y es triste, porque en cualquier otro país, no digo ya del primer mundo, sino de la misma región, eso no hubiera pasado. En el post anterior hice referencia a que hay que crear movimientos civiles,de trabajadores y de gremios, que empoderen a los ciudadanos, para que éstos puedan defender sus derechos realmente y no dependan de una alianza de partidos corruptos que operan en un sistema corrupto y que sólo sirve como plataforma electoral. Es algo que, por ejemplo, dijo Claudio Fermín en una entrevista, y la verdad es que tiene razón y su planteamiento es mucho más sensato y constructivo que lo que han dicho tipos como Borges y Ramos Allup, También lo ha dicho Julio Coco. Yo me fui del país y por eso a veces hablo con libertad, porque no dependo de nadie en Venezuela, no tengo que arrimarme a ningún circulito de reyes tuertos en un país de ciegos. Me parece que algunos no quieren comprender la gravedad de lo que pasó la última semana. Obama out.

  9. Hay otra cosa que quiero decir. Ramos Allup y Capriles han dicho en varias oportunidades que ellos asumen el costo político de sus acciones. Pues si de verdad lo aceptan, que se callen o que renuncien. Eso es lo que haría alguien serio. Pero claro, para ellos asumir el costo político significa cualquier cosa menos aceptar las consecuencias y la responsabilidad de sus fracasos.

  10. Tanto trillado cliche junto atosiga , la melosa nocion de que la masa inumera de los ciudadanos libres puros y valientes, empoderados al unirse en grupos totalmente espontaneos para marchar contra de los malvados, van a poder arrasar el regimen que nos oprimen sin necesidad de organizarse politicamente es tan quimerica como infantil, Es mas quizas necesitamos politicos con un poco mas de burdel y manas para habernosla con los malandros del otro lado …….!!

  11. My sense of this is that basically, we are looking at negotiations between two fractured parties, neither of which has much power or leverage. The Chavistas have the putative support of the military and some of the security forces so they can still repress dissenters – but they have little to no money, and in fact are highly leveraged by pending debt. MUD has little center and the suffering populace has little faith that they can effect effective change over the short term. How would anyone ever enforce whatever compromises the Chavistas agree on, if indeed they do. Standing outside this power void is Leopoldo Lopez. He has no power IN JAIL, but out, he possibly has what physicists call “potential energy,” and in this case he could consolidate and rally a public uprising greater than the Chavista’s ability to contain or control. That is why the Chavistas will do anything to leave LL off the table, and why MUD should use him for their principal bargaining chip. The problem is that if they do, Capriles and everyone else has to abandon their presidential hopes because if LL ever got out he would immediately be thrust onto center stage and both MUD hopefuls and the Chavistas would be left out in the cold.

    We’ll see….

  12. It´s been 14 years of wait and see, of hopeful slogans and wishful thinking.The opposition has been in a loop for a very long time now, and will remain in that loop as long as they act as a scolded dog.

    What the article says of dialogue being like a dinner party where the regime is the stern father and the opposition the unruly child who is allowed to sit with the adults is spot on, it illustrates perfectly what the oppo´s attitude has been all these years: on one side they´re paladins for justice and freedom but on the other they really don´t want to terribly inconvenience either the regime, the Vatican or whoever, so it´s like the little child who fantasizes while in the playground but then becomes very obedient and quiet when called to the dinner table by the adults.

    Venezuela´s tragedy has not been only the rise of Chávez and his cronies, it has also been the absence of a true democratic notion on the part of everyone else, selling out to chavismo when money was plentiful, Cadivi was in full swing and everyone was making business with their government buddies. The willingness with which so many people joined in the massacre of Venezuela´s economy was staggering, so many tolerated Chavez´s tyranny because he made sure everybody had their own bozal de arepa. But the attitude of venezuelans has always been “pan pa hoy y hambre pa mañana”, even though we were living on one of the (potentially) richest countries in the world, and the results are clear as day now. But it´s all spilt milk today.

    The “guachafita” is now followed by the hangover.

    It´s obvious why the MUD has no idea how to handle this regime when they don´t really believe in democracy themselves, it seems they´re perfectly happy to wait and see if sometime in the near future, by sheer stroke of luck, they may find themselves in government. They call off protests, attend secret dialogue sessions with the regime and change their plans constantly (even when they have the upper hand) and without giving even a heads up to the people who follow them.

    This is not people you want representing you, they will sell you out in a heartbeat, just look at how fast Torrealba sat at dialogue after there were reports of him maybe going to jail, same with Capriles, Allup, etc. And you think Timoteo Zambrano will fight for you?Leopoldo Lopez is a wild card for them, that´s why it´s better for them to keep him in Ramo Verde, but even in there he´s still a thorn on their side. Such cowards cannot face a regime made up entirely of malandros and unless venezuelans choose better leaders to spearhead a real change of regime, they´ll be doomed to go around in circles until things collapse by themselves, which may take a very very long while.

    No love at all for those who sold us out on April 2002, they´re just as guilty as chavistas and maduristas.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here