It was a grand announcement, calculated to shake up Venezuela’s political scene in lasting ways. Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly with unlimited powers to remake the Republic was a high stakes gambit aimed at seizing back control of the political conversation.

That was less than two weeks ago and, already, the Constituyente’s moment has faded.

Why? Because the call for a Constituyente has already failed at its most urgent task: dividing the opposition and dialling down the pressure on the street.

For once, the MUD managed to process its initial disarray relatively quickly and reach a consensus that makes sense. The line is simple: no way. Ni de vaina are we going to get drawn into a discussion on a proposal that looks every bit like a trap. Take your constituyente and…

Of course, not everyone on the opposition side is happy about this line. There’s always a bit of dissent just beneath the surface. Elías Jaua, the hardcore commie who heads the Presidential Commission on the Constituent Assembly, could spring a surprise and announce fair(ish) rules for electing delegates to the Constituyente. That could change the political climate quickly, with MUD moderates quickly deeply tempted to participate.

There just isn’t going to be any Constituyente, because there are no bases comiciales the government could trust in this climate.

For the MUD as a whole to consider this, howeverthe government would have to significantly sweeten its offer: putting the call to convene a Constituent Assembly to a referendum, and including in the referendum a specific proposal for “bases comiciales” (electoral rules to choose Constituent Assembly delegates) that give the opposition a real shot at winning.

But let’s game this out: say the government, desperate to get some traction on the other side, does improve its offer. Say it ditches its calls for a “sectorial” election, or at least defines those sectors broadly enough that they don’t matter (Sector 1: 18-30 year olds, Sector 2: 31-64 year olds, Sector 3: 65s and above.) Say it puts forward “bases comiciales” that would allow the 3-to-1 anti-government majority public opinion research shows to be translated into a majority on the ANC and the opposition, seeing this as an “electoral solution”, and decides to go for it.

The opposition would then begin to switch from a protest track to an electioneering track. And it’s this shift that the government sees as the reason for putting a Constituyente on the table. Once the proposal has achieved that, its job is done. As street protests die down, the main reason for dangling a Constituyente would vanish.

Suddenly, the government would just find itself heading towards electoral obliteration, and with no protests on the street to keep it to its commitments.

At this stage, if they called Cilia’s nephews a “sector” Maduro couldn’t be sure to win there.

So what does Maduro do then? Simple. He picks up the phone, hits Speed-Dial #1 (for the Supreme Tribunal’s Constitutional Chamber), and orders up a decision cancelling the Constituyente.

You’re a sucker, Charlie Brown.

The point is that, after the last Parliamentary elections, the government learned its lesson: don’t go to an election you can’t win. Following December 2015, it would take a miscalculation of insane proportions for the government to repeat its mistake.

Which is why I’m convinced the Constituyente is just a tactical gambit, put forward without any real intention to follow through on it. Because in the current opinion climate, it’s hard to imagine any bases comiciales that would ensure a government win.

We’re talking about a government that actually suspended elections for Consejos Comunales’ spokespersons late last year because they were worried they’d lose those.

These are groups it created and stacked with its supporters: the government isn’t sure it can win there. And that’s before you get to other imaginable “sectors” —pensionados, students, union members… all groups where Maduro is widely loathed. At this stage, if they called Cilia’s nephews a “sector” Maduro couldn’t be sure to win there.

Long story short, there just isn’t going to be any Constituyente, because there are no bases comiciales the government could trust in this climate. The question now is how elegant or otherwise the climbdown will be.

The MUD did well to get out ahead of this trampa cazabobos. There’s a clarity now we’ve never had before. It matters.

28 COMMENTS

  1. I’m still sceptical. I see the Constituyente not only as an offer to moderates in the opposition, but an offer to those inside chavismo and the military that might be thinking of looking for a way out. If successful, the constituyente would solve everything for them (at a steep price, of course)

  2. FT, I may be wrong, and hope so, but I disagree. I believe the Govt. has every intention of trying, so long as the Military remain faithful, for their (Cuban-replica) Constituyente Popular government. Of course they would win–they: decide the “sectores”, which can easily be construed pro-Govt., as they already have with parallel labor unions/professional workers associations/student groups/even Governorships-mayoralities,etc.; control the CNE election monitoring, which, even with the “world’s best” SmartMatic machines, doesn’t emit its first electoral results bulletin usually until 5 hours after polls close, around midnight, when everything has been fixed to the Govt.’s liking, a time when even governments with manual voting are reporting 90+% of their respective electoral results; impose fingerprint ID machines at electoral voting stations to intimidate often-ignorant voters; have a REP electoral registry with 99.9% of 18/+ yr.-old eligible voters (20mm total) supposedly “voluntarily” registered, a physical impossibility, by far a world record, with probably 2x the real number, but allowing favorable electronic plug-in voting at will, particularly in the many voting stations where the Oppo wont have electoral observers; have immense implicit/explicit voter coercion via 4mm+ Govt. employment, Carnets De La Patria, CLAPS, Misiones, et. al.; and, they have the pro-Govt. military guarding the physical voting ballots/reports, so that they wont be easily scrutinized….

    • I couldn’t agree more. The master plan is to create a Cuban state as fast as they can, whether the opposition is on the streets or not. They are truly that tone deaf. They are drowning in power and won’t stop until the transformation is complete.

  3. I bet Maduro will go on with the ANC plan (even if it does not materialize soon) if he continues to have the support of Pope Francisco, which I believe he will continue to have. Note that Jauja is asking for the help of the Nuncio to entrap the CEV to receive him.
    It is a win-win strategy for Maduro. He already framed it as a “superior dialogue”. This will assure him the Pope’s continued support which translates into no action at all, or in the worst case for him, little action from OEA et al.
    The protests will die down eventually unless MUD takes a leap of faith (and balls) and do something more effective soon.
    Meanwhile the CNE will not call for elections. And the status quo will continue on and on; people will suffer but Maduro certainly does not care.
    At the end I believe the only action capable of stop Maduro’s hold of government is to call for ANC based on the 15% of the electorate with clear electoral basis and objectives with the condition that a referendum be held before it is called and after it is done.
    CNE could not deny that right to 15% of the electorate because it is in the same 348 that CNE uses to approve Maduro’s call. This would disarm the Pope and give OEA et all a basis for pressure on Maduro. And an OEA supervised collection of signatures would be possible.
    Other route could be for the 15% of the electorate to call for a Reforma Constitucional as in 341 CRBV.

  4. And to the CEV be prepared to receive a public “exhortation” from Pope Francisco to receive Jauja. You should know by now that this Francisco is anything but catholic and has his own senile agenda of doing away with the Church, you are part pf the Church that he does not want. So respond to Jauja before Francisco speaks.

  5. Can you imagine a sport game in which one team changes the rules midway once it founds itself losing?
    That is the Constituyente.
    I think the oppo has it clear that the goal is to get rid of the regime by electoral means, if possible.
    The complicated bit is how to break the stalemate?
    Is the regime open for a safe way out of power or are they willing to stay in power until death?
    If it is the latter, then the oppo should focus on lobbying the US and regional partners for aggressive and effective sanctions and never discard a military intervention as last resort.

    • Nonsense. The MUD should never ask neither for military intervention nor for economic sanctions that will make it more difficult for the people.

      • In which way will the economic sanctions make more difficult life for venezuelan people? Less food or medicines being imported? Dude, I guess you didn’t get the memo, but food and medicines are so outrageously scarce because the boliburgueoise stole everything, every single penny that enters the country is immediately stolen by a red swindler through the currency monopoly.

        The only ones that would be affected by the so-called economic sanctions would be the reds themselves, and not even their bases would even notice a difference.

      • MUD asking for military intervention? It does not work that way. Los militares van a decidir esta vaina, activos y retirados. They always do or you forget.

  6. This new constitution gambit is really Maduro’s only strategy other than obtaing a Cuban bus driving license. He will sweeten the offer to get international support and that wont be hard. He could offer to release political prisioners and make just enough other concessions to get the support of the Pope and other idealists who have an endless belief in negotiations with tyrants. He will wait to make these concessions until the last minute when conditions in Venezuela will embarass the non interventionist types at which time they will accept any face saving terms . At that point would be international peacemakers will be panting to win a nobel peace prize for negotiating a peace agreement. I can see Jimmy Carter and a host of others willing to do his bidding in exchange for a shot at international acclaim He will make these concessions in exchange for an international bailout that starving Venezuelans will be grateful for. That will be the carrot for Maduro to gain domestic support in the selection process and to smother cries from the opposition that the process was manipulated. The cries of fraud will be drowned out by the sound of starving Venezuelans surrounding trucks loaded with food and medicine brought about by a new government under a new constitution. The trick for Maduro is come up with the kind of selection process that avoids a straight up plebiscite on his past governance.

  7. Unless you’re wrong and it’s not a short term solution for these protests but a long term solution for all protests.

  8. Simply put, if the system is rigged against you, the process is rigged against you, the judging is rigged against you, and the final arbiter military are rigged against you, only fools would go to electoral slaughter….

  9. “El representante de la Comisión Presidencial para la Constituyente, dijo que el Papa Francisco, envió una carta a la CEV para que tienda puentes de diálogo en Venezuela “pero están en desacato al Papa Francisco, nosotros vamos a seguir insistiendo, tienen que oirnos”, finalizó.”

    There you go!

  10. Nope, the only way for chavismo to remain in power in the long term would be to have a puppet constituyent assemby with unlimited power for an indefinite period, the “sectorization” it’s just an excuse to unilaterally appoint half the members, it is obvious it will follow 3 steps:

    1. Run an obscenely gerrymandered election in which Cojedes elect 5 members vs 1 for Caracas

    2. Unilaterally appoint half the seats with loyal puppets using wathever illogical criteria we couldn’t possibly imagine at this point

    3. Rule by decree indefinitely and with unlimited power without ever producing a new constitution.

    They would love to have a divided opposition, but theoretically, the don’t need that IF they have a loyal enough army.

    To us the ANC may seem outrageous and impossible, but the only alternatives they have are stalling presidential elections forever or to finnally conclude that they lost and give away the presidency.

    The main question remains the same, is there enough support in the psuv and the army to that project? serious internal or military dissent is the ONLY thing that would make them change their minds, if that doesn’t happen then,the only alternative remaining for the opposition will be armed struggle, now it is almost unconceivable but I would bet Trump would arm the opposition, hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • “I would bet Trump would arm the opposition”
      I though about that scenario too but that would be a bad idea because is not only arming but also training the opposition and that takes time. That could also brings dire consequences long after the conflict is over as history shows.
      Once you start the opposition killing one of the military, we could be risking even more polarization turning the struggle from Freedom vs Dictatorship into Them vs Us, laying the groundwork for a long and bloody civil war.
      Fortunately unlike 2002 or 2014 at this point (2017), the chavistas political capital is over, and the overwhelming majority of venezuelans will welcome and support an US led invasion and that in my opinion would be the best thing to do, letting professionals do their job. The Venezuelan military morale must be so low at this point that just the threat of a regional invasion would be enough to cause terror among chavistas having no option but flee the scene, because the rank and file won’t defend them.
      We just need a little push from the International community, to finally put an end to the Maduro regime.

      • “Once you start the opposition killing one of the military, we could be risking even more polarization”

        And that’s why you specifically leave the message that “only those who turn against Maduro and the castrista invaders will be spared”, because even base chavistas are needed to get rid of the regime.

    • 1 Was done by Chávez in the 1999, that’s why chavismo got 127 from the 131 constituyentes with 55% of the votes, that constitution is a stinkin’ pile of manure fraud.

      2 Was done by Diosdado in december 24 when he put the murderer Mikael Moreno and the other puppets at the TSJ.

      3 Was done by Chávez and by Maduro (Chávez had all the enabling laws he wanted and Maduro will stall the elections forever).

      The most likely course the regime will attempt will be:

      – Coming up with fake opposition parties (aka Min-Unidad, ORA, Puente and those) and say those are the real opposition while denying the existence of the rest of the people as usual.

      – Then they’ll say that they won the constituyente and that we have a new-brand roja rojita constitution that consecrates as legal the most nauseating aspects of chavismo such as allowing any trafficking and smuggling if you are a fat goat, and denying all the basic human rights to any who dares to dissent with the regime, starting with the hunger ID (carnet del hambre).

      – Also they’ll keep killing anyone that dares to protest, hoping that the rest will shut up and either leave the country or return home to sit and wait for death.

  11. If they think they can handle the protests, then they will go through with the constituyente, just as they have gone through with everything.
    The only thing that can make them change their minds is if they think they can’ t handle the protests, but even then I think we have enough reasons to believe they would actually prefer just to get rid of us violently.
    Why not ?
    They don’ t need us in any way. It is very easy to murder l and enslave people if you really want to do it. Who will stop them?

    Their intention was always to destroy the Republic and to replace it with a totalitarian state. They have absolutely no intention to play the institutional game, That stage of their plan is over. In fact, that phase of their plan was over a long time ago.

    You have to recognize their intention and accept that you can’ t change their nature.

    I understand that you are are always looking for a way to outsmart them in their own game and to solve this peacefully and institutionaly, but you can’t . Not because you are incompetent, but because it is not in their nature, to play the game you want them to play. They have a plan and they are going through with it. Their plan is the end of the Republic. They want to destroy all institutions and replace them with their own totalitarian state. So it does not make any sense to expect that they will respect a constitution that they don’ t believe in. It is very clear.

    We can convince some chavistas to join our fight, but then those chavistas will be in the same situation we are. Completely powerless against monsters.

    You will never force Diosdado to play a game he does not care about. He has no respect for the law or for the institutions. Don’ t expect him to change or to back down. He has to be defeated, not convinced.

    My point is I don’ t think it is an empty threat at all.

    I don’ t know if they will be able to control the protests or not.
    I think we can win, I think that we have a chance.

    But if we fail, they will go though with la constituyente and then the game is completely over. It will take many years to revive hope.

    • That’s the cold hard truth. But the world can help a bit too, Venezuela shouldn’t go through this hell alone. For instance, the Chavistas’ blessing, and curse at the same time, is that their only business is oil export, and if they have no place to export to, they can’t pay the guys who protect them from the ire of the people, easily dismantling the whole repression apparatus. If the US stops buying Venezuelan oil right now, and the neighbourhood ceases making business with Venezuela, the whole Chavista system would collapse in just a few hours, as no one can wage war without money/resources.

      Naturally, we would need a strong US naval presence/fighters to work as deterrents, as the lunatic Chavistas might go full Saddam and throw some rockets in places where they (Roy Chaderton) have already said openly that they would like to destroy ‘when the time comes’, like Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, and also to stop them from the urge of genociding people as one last diabolical act of their macabre opera, which they (Ernesto Villegas) have also said that they would do.

      All things considered, I believe it’s not that hard to depose those criminals They are no Iran or North Korea either, more like a Cuba in revolt without ‘El Paredón’ and USSR behind.

  12. These last two weeks have convinced me that the people, the young people of VZ, will overthrow this dictatorship.

    By violence, the only way to do it.

    It’s about time…I’m at a loss for words that it’s actually happening…but damn:

    I feel good about the future prospects for VZ for the first time in 18 years.

    Fuerza! No para!

  13. There is news of Maduro having succesive meetings with congregated members of the military top brass promising that there would be universal secret open and free elections for president in 2018, and same for the ammended constitution ……..can anyone confirm this news and what was actually said ……!!

    If confirmed is he trying to ‘appease’ a troubled military element ?? thus defusing the effect of continous street protests…??

    Meantime oil production keeps falling as are oil prices !!

    • I can disavow this. They are actually very worried about the military but it’s not something they can do something about. The die has been cast and it’s a matter of time

  14. The only thing that will change anything is a default on the debt. After that happens, that’s it, the game’s over.

    • Once the Bolivar Fuerte hits 8000 or more after a default, ball game over.

      Fasten your seat belts. Prepare for the storm. There will be more looting and unrest. These guys will not go easy but their ship is sinking and they know it.

      However, this has to happen this year!!!

      The only wild card that can save Maduro and his merry band of malandros is ironically Donald Trump.

      If Trump starts another war in the Middle East oil prices could go through the roof again. Israel and many of the Neocons in Trump’s cabinet, as well as within the Deep State and military industrial complex, are gagging to go after Iran. And though an Iraq style invasion is not feasible. I think there is a high chance that Israel (with US/UK support) will go for a rematch against Hezbollah in Southern Lebenon as well as for a land grab in the Golan Heights. This is all about geopolitics and Israel needs to build a pipeline through Syria as well as complete their “Greater Israel Project” of destabilizing the entire Middle East through proxies (mainly Wahibbist/Salafi Sunni mercenaries).

      So the bottom line is, we have to keep the pressure up and force through changes this year. And if Trump does start a war, hopefully he does so when the opposition is in power and Venezuela will greatly benefit.

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