Venezuela’s Opposition Appears Badly Divided on National Assembly Floor

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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