Venezuela’s Opposition Appears Badly Divided on National Assembly Floor

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Julio Borges’s stint as head of the National Assembly is off to a bad start, as successive votes in the Assembly yesterday left the MUD’s an even more schizophrenic strategy than usual: at the same time declaring that the President has “abandoned his post” and beseeching that same president’s supporters to, pretty please, lift the Assembly’s “contempt” measure by voting to “disincorporate” the Southern state deputies.

It’s plain what Borges was trying to do: give a bone to the radical opposition (the ‘abandono del cargo’ shtick) while moving forward pragmatically towards restoring the A.N.’s legal powers (by giving in to the government’s key demand with regard to contempt.)

It’s worth reading Ibis Leon’s excellent chronicle of yesterday’s National Assembly session for Efecto Cocuyo. As it turns out, Julio trató de hacer una gracia y le salió una morisqueta. A carefully brokered compromise plan to carry out the ‘abandono del cargo‘ measure via a voice note fell apart when the most radical party in the coalition,  Vente Venezuela, broke the original pact by calling for a votación nominal, a roll-call vote that would lay MUD’s divisions bare. Avanzada Progresista, Henri Falcón’s hyper-dovish centrist party, did not support the measure…nor did the radicals, it turn out, support the ‘desincorporación’ measure.

Whatever it was the asambleistas were arguing about yesterday, Maduro’s actual ouster was not it.

So a pair of votes meant to preserve opposition unity by giving each fringe some of what it wanted did the exact opposite: lay bare that whatever magic pixie dust Henry Ramos Ayub had that allowed him to keep the opposition voting as a block, Julio ain’t got it.

The procedural aspects of this whole debate are probably more interesting than the despair-inducing consideraciones de fondo. The Abandono del Cargo measure was entirely symbolic — the Supreme Tribunal had already ruled the measure would have no effect several hours before it was voted on — and relied on the kind of ‘forced reading’ of the constitution that surrenders the Assembly’s moral high ground in terms of fidelity to the rule of law.

The foreign media headlines are dwelling on the “AN Declares Maduro Ousted” angle, but that’s fairly silly: the opposition never had the support within the chavista deep state to make it stick, so whatever it was the asambleistas were arguing about yesterday, Maduro’s actual ouster was not it. And the desincorporación measure, though adopted, is plainly doomed to fall victim to chavismo’s constantly shifting goal posts: give them the thing they asked for yesterday to restore the A.N. powers and they’ll of course think up another pretext tomorrow to keep withholding them.

That being the case, what was really at issue yesterday was whether Borges could clear the bare minimum competence barrier: can you strike one of those backroom deals people keep saying you’re good at and at least keep MUD voting together? Borges failed that test yesterday. It looks bad.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. The announcement Maduro abandoned his post isn’t merely symbolic. It can be used at any point in the future to render all decisions with his signature as null and void. This has massive implications, especially when it comes to financing the Chavista state. Anyone who loans them money runs the risk of the debt being declared as political and party null at any time in the future. Any international contract he might sign can be broken by Venezuela at a later date, because the person who signed it wasn’t legally President at the time.

    It’s a matter of debate whether Venezuela could and should use such underhanded tactics. That’s besides the point however – the point is anyone doing business with Chavistas must calculate this risk in the plans. This could massively complicate anything they do.

    • They can raise the ante by voting a resolution to notify the diplomatic corps that Maduro is acting outside the law, provide as annexes several reports which outline the reasons why, and also include an update of the items discussed in Almagros report regarding the hunger, lack of medicines, the narcos within the regime, etc. This can conclude with a clear statement that the Venezuelan people reserve the right to hold all transactions and agreements carried out by Maduro to be null and void.

  2. Kiko, 106 diputados voting for an iffy measure looks pretty solid to me. If you take away the 3 from Amazonas, there were only 3 abstensions from the opo.

  3. “Borges failed that test yesterday. It looks bad”
    I don’t think so. 107 of 109 possible is indeed amazing for the topic.
    But beyond Borge’s performance what it is important is that:
    -Maduro does not have the excuse of “desacato” in the eyes of the international community anymore.
    -The AN did away with any concept of collaborationism with the government and said what the majority wanted to hear.
    -The AN called for massive protests which are the only means to bring down Maduro.
    -The AN session today in the hospital is a call to that and a challenge to the government.

  4. Well, I don’t think we can say HRA had any magic dust to keep MUD’s deputies voting as a block: he simply didn’t bring up any divisive votes such as these two. He didn’t pass the unity test; he simply avoided the test altogether. Like an unbeaten boxer, who’s unbeaten because he hasn’t step up to the ring yet. Had HRA brought these issues to the floor in December, the result would’ve been the same. There’s no magician powerful or skillful enough to bridge the gap between MUD’s extremes.

    • I agree with this — and think that to the extent that HRA had any magic pixie dust at all, it was that he’s OLD — and less threatening to younger politicians with their own ambitions.

  5. Seems the Assembly is leaving the door open to a future legal interpretation (not by this TSJ, at least not with its current allegiance) that Maduro was “out” before Jan 10. Paying heed to the technical argument on “desacato” by expelling the Amazonas deputies might make that future ruling easier to execute. Thus, there might be a legal path to snap elections to finish the term rather than Tareck. Crucial to this scenario would be divisions in Chavismo and the military that see a moderate transition regime as a least worst option. Maybe that’s pie in the sky, but the opposition is at least leaving the door open a crack to a legal path to the type of negotiated transition that would pass the smell test internationally. Seems a worthwhile planning excercise, even if the probability is low, and even if it makes Borges look “less competent” in the short term.

  6. I think that sometimes, you just gotta do what you have to do, even though you don’ t like it and it would not be your first option. The opposition doesn’ t understand that, so it tries to keep many options open, even when there is obviously just one, so the result is that it doesn’ t acomplish anything and it comes up as weak an ineffective. I am not a big fan of the abandono del cargo thing, because it is unrealistic; but I disagree completely with the idea that you can restore the NA ’s legal powers by giving in to the government’s key demand with regard to contempt. That is a contradiction, if you give them what they want, you simply have no NA. Where do you guys all get your slave vibes? That idea is destructive I have said in many other comments, that what we have is a problem of will. We didn’ t have that problem before, it has become a problem since december 2013. If we don’ t want to get rid of chavismo, if we are not driven by an incredible belief that chavismo has to be destroyed as soon as possible, then we will not do it. It is as simple as that. If you could movilize hundreds of thousands with the clear goal to restore democracy, then you stand a chance. I am not saying that it will happen. I am just saying that it becomes at least possible. If you try any other way, you will simply not do it. It is not possible if you don’ t come to that same conclusion and determination.If a man like Borges doesn’ t understand that by now, he never will. But should be follow his path to self-destruction and submission? Tthat’ s my poin. Men like Borges will never defeat chavismo. Chavismo will only be defeated by strong men. If your desire to be in power is no stronger than Maduro´s desire to keep it, then he will stay in power forever. What I am saying is extremely simple, but it is just true. Some men eat to much of that anti-epic, anti-bolivarian crap. Now., I too bought the anti-epic, anti-bolivarian crap, when it was cool. But it is not cool anymore. As I said, sometimes you have to accept the hard true. If you want your country back again, you have to stop playing silly games, and actually understand the need to create a movement and movilize as much people as you can, with the very obvious threat and objetive to overthrow the government and restore democracy. The other options will not cut it. Never.

  7. The approach to “abandon de cargo” is as stupid as it was the negotiation table. Well, not as stupid as this is the second time we got into the negotiation table trap. Now the Chavistas a some of the population would d say the AN is only there to harass Maduro rather than looking for real solutions to our problems.

    About ten years ago I made the firm commitment of never to become Ni-Ni. I felt Ni-Nis are the most pragmatic and accommodating political postures for the ones that never wanted real change in Venezuela. Nowadays I found very difficult to stay put with the MUD. Just see what the MUD “moderates” achieved last year.

    Pacific and cohesive civil disobedience is the way to go.

  8. I once had an argument with someone else , you might call it a business argument , I took a position which I knew was not logically sound but made it with a lot of thrust ,energy and self confidence , the other side ultimately gave in and gave us what we wanted , (they later tried to backtrack but couldnt because I had had them sign a letter ) I learned that its not the best logical argument that always brings the best results , that how you deliver your argument helps a lot …..!!. Dont say it works always , its just a gamble you take knowing that in all likelyhood it will gain you nothing inmmediate , but that just maybe it helps you along the way…..!!

    The regime has in the past used legal arguments which were much weaker against the opposition and simply because they controlled the TSJ got what they wanted (at a certain cost which will come back to haunt them later) …….

    Sometimes you raise a lot of dust in one direction just to throw off the attention of your adversary while really preparing to attack in a different direction ……., you might even raise the appearance of an inner division to make the other side miscalculate how strong you really are ……there are infinite number of plays where you advance your position not by presenting the best logical argument but by doing other things which have a greater weight even if they appear less rational…..

    I do agree however that greater thought has to be given to a Plan B, to a plan of actions which perhaps arent so tame or polite as they have been so far……!! Do believe that such Plan B is already in the mind of many of those advancing the oppos agenda!!

    • Źzzzzzz Sometimes you raise a lot of dust, and then end up covered in dust…forever. The reason we can’t achieve anything is a terrible lack of focus, we are too disperse, we are wasting valuable energy and resources. We lack a clear purpose.That happens because we are not honest with ourselves and with the people. If we were honest, if we had some coherence…but we don’t. We have one idea, say something different, and then do some random shit that makes no sense.. Why is that happening? It happens because we fail to accept the reality of the situation and because we overstimate our inteligence and our silly plans.People is prepared to protest, that’s what they want. Politicians, who are no more than puppets, conducted by obscure economical powers, want otherwise. It is as simple as that. What we are seeing is no more than a sad, perverse, show.

      • So what you are saying is “All is lost, save yourselves if you can, abandon everything and leave with your lives.” Which is exactly what the regime wants. Whose side are you on?

        • I do believe we have a chance, but we need to focus. We will not advance until we accept that the only way out of this is through, massive, organized, protests, whose clear goal is to restore democracy and overthrow the current government. That should be the basis for national unity, not Chavez’s corpse.Right now, we don’ t have that, because our politicians waste all their energy and resources, creating self-destructive propaganda and saving their own interest. They simply don’ t want to go through that path, and that is why I say they have to step aside. As I said, it is matter of will. They have to say: we have to go through this difficult path, which we didn`t want, but we have no choice (which is true)”. But they will never say that, because it is not in their nature or in their education or perhaps in their interest. to make that choice.So, it is just a matter of personal choice. The abandono del cargo thing, even though I think is absurd, could work, but only if they were willing to fight, to stuck with it. Since they are not willing to fight, it is just a disgrace, a show. Si ellos dicen que es simbólico, entonces es simbólico. Y la gente recibe ese mensaje y no le gusta. Obviamente
          .Maduro no tiene ninguna dificultad para tomar sus decisiones, porque su mejor aliado es la naturaleza pusilánime de sus enemigos. SI la oposición quiere sobrevivir políticamente, va a tener que entregar a a los “radicales”algunas de sus vacas sagradas, porque la verdad es que los líderes que quedan no van nunca a generar un movimiento de masas, especialmente después de lo que pasó en el 2016. Me preguntas de qué bando soy, te digo, estoy en contra del gobierno. Siento un rechazo visceral a todo lo que tenga que ver con el gobierno y a todo lo que contribuye a su permanencia en el poder,Eso es todo.Me parece a mí que detrás de la MUD hay algunos intereses financieros, que quizás prefieren que Maduro siga entronizado: Es la respuesta más sencilla, y por eso la más probable, a por qué la oposición es tan incoherente y negligente. Por eso, las personas inteligentes que están en contra del gobierno, tienen que empezar a ser más duros con su liderazgo, y a crear alternativas.

          • So you think we need to focus on “massive, organized, protests, whose clear goal is to restore democracy and overthrow the current government”? This has been done again and again and again. And what is there to show for this? Venezuela is much worse off, Chavistas are further entrenched, the Oppo is beat down, disjointed and humiliated, and the country’s basic systems of governance, justice, commerce keep crumbling under the incompetance, corruption, lies, willful destruction, and sheer greed of those in power.

            It could have been argued in the past that Chavismo was destroying Venezuela. Now it is clear to see: Chavismo has destroyed and broken Venezuela and is willingly leading it to its funeral. I don’t know much, but I do think the time for organized protests is long gone.

  9. The National Assembly declaration is “symbolic”, says Quico . Why not say that the Supreme Tribunal of Justice invalidation of the action by the Assembly is symbolic? Which institution is more genuine?
    I find the action by the assembly carries a very powerful political impact at home and abroad. However, you can take the horse (ie: Luis Vicente Leon) to the river but cannot force it to drink.

  10. I think that this declaration has a far greater impact than Quico is giving it credit for. I understand that it doesn’t have such impact domestically. Here, it is just one more in a series of political games. But, abroad, it has much greater impact because it shrouds any financial or diplomatic dealings that Maduro and the entire executive branch are involved in a cloud of doubt. Maduro will be unable to commit the “full faith and trust” of the Venezuelan government because of the National Assembly’s declaration.

  11. The AN should announce the world that the constitution declares that they are the lawful body that approves the budget and financing for the Republic and that they will not approve any new financing by a government headed by a President that abandoned its post, as they declared yesterday. Therefore, any new financing that comes forward will not be considered legal and will not be paid by a future transition government.

    That I think is the best weapon the AN has, and it does not imply trowing people to the streets to be chewed by the butchers of the government. Of course, the government will blame the opposition for the default and everything else, but arent they doing that already?

  12. Twiddling your thumbs, bitching on Caracas Chronicles and Dolar Today is not working.
    Hoping someone else risks their life for you is a cowards response to tyranny.
    The Egyptians won because they stayed in the streets, Maduro will not get any support like Russia gave Assad in Syria.
    Negotiations are fruitless and just waste time. All of the time the negotiations went on the people grew weaker, the opposition fractured and Maduro seized more control.
    Maduro will stay in power until the people love their families more than the government loves power.
    People scrounge for food like animals. They watch their children die. They are afraid of being attacked by the gangs that are in collaboration with the government. The people of the country with more oil than any other country endures, food shortages, power cuts and intermittent water shortages while the powerful live like royalty.
    Fear of death should not stop you from rebelling against this tyrannical government. Fear of what the future holds for your children should be the incentive that makes you fight.
    Maduro may control the media, but he doesn’t control social media. This gives an organizational tool to the opposition that has worked very effectively in other countries. Leopoldo Lopez is more effective in prison than the self serving politicians that make up much of the opposition.
    Use social media to constantly reinforce a message to the soldiers that their job is to protect the Venezuelan people and the Constitution, not the illegal government. Let it be known that any soldier that fires on or attacks a demonstrator will be held accountable for his crimes.
    The person that finally steps up and leads the resistance against the narco-criminals that have stolen democracy from the Venezuelan people will be the true hero of Venezuela. There does not appear to be any leader of the opposition that has the courage to do what must be done.
    Your liberty has been stolen. Your wealth has been stolen. Your family’s future has been stolen. Your lives are being stolen. The Church has said that the government is illegal. The national Assembly has said the government is illegal. The government and the Supreme Court have shown by their own illegal actions that they are corrupt and not in compliance with the Constitution.
    Everyone needs to ask themselves these questions.
    If not me who?
    If not now when?
    Take a long look inside yourselves and answer those two questions. Do you want your children to remember you as a coward that did not fight for their own family? Do you want to be remembered for doing what was right?
    The people of Venezuela will get the government that they deserve. Prove to yourselves and to your families that Venezuela deserves better than this. Do not wait for intervention from another country.
    This is Venezuela’s problem and it is up to the Venezuelans to solve it.

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