After nearly fifty days of protests, it’s clear that a change of government will require a defection. Someone from within chavismo’s coalition —the Armed Forces, or the moderates who want chavismo to survive Maduro— to take a step to push out Maduro and the radicals who surround him. Without some new actor breaking the stalemate, it’s hard to envision how the opposition will manage to force a transition.

What can MUD do to entice such a game-changer? It can put forward a political plan for transition that gives chavista moderates a reason to defect, and disseminate that plan far and wide.

The opposition knows it needs to divide the regime; it’s the reason many of its leaders have welcomed Luisa Ortega Díaz’ shift, have lobbied publicly for Tarek William Saab to follow suit, and have significantly toned down their rhetoric towards the armed forces. No more insulting rants from Ramos Allup; instead, we get respectul pleas from Julio Borges to the military to take a step forward to defend the Constitution.

But can it do more? Yes it can.

Why a plan?

MUD can put forward an actual plan: a package of political measures that, among other things, offers, the promise of amnesty to chavista figures not directly involved in the worst human rights abuses. There are many ways to do this: it could be packaged in a constitutional reform passed by parliament that re-establishes the AN’s prerogatives, shortens the presidential term and forbids the reelection of the president. This reform would be put to the people in a Yes or No referendum, and if approved, presidential elections would be called.

For chavistas wanting to survive Maduro… this would be a way to get off the sinking ship as politicians, and not as wanted criminals.

The specifics of the plan are not the focus of this post. Whatever form it takes, the plan must be fair, within the constitution, and any deviation from the current legal framework must be put to the people for approval. It cannot be a coronation of MUD; it must enshrine an electoral solution, and be officialized through a fair election.

The plan is not an attempt to communicate with Maduro and his ruling clique of radicals: it’s a message meant for the rest of ruling coalition. It should convey that chavismo can survive as a political party, but only if it cuts loose Maduro, the human rights abusers in his inner circle, and its paramilitary armed wing (the “colectivos”.)

For chavistas who want to survive the failure of the Maduro presidency —both personally and as a political movement— the plan would offer a way to get off the sinking ship as politicians, and not as wanted criminals.

I think a plan like this would find many takers: the unrelenting nature of the protests, the anger shown by many protesters, the harassing of chavistas and their families abroad, the pitiful response by the government in terms of competing street demonstrations, all point to a tide that might be now impossible to turn back.

Unlike past protest cycles, there doesn’t seem to be a way back to “normal” now. The only two possible outcomes seem to be some sort of transition no later than early 2019, but probably before that, or an undisguised dictatorship that will forever put them at risk of prosecution and persecution. This is their chance to save themselves by hopping on the transition bandwagon, and try to steer it, even if just a little. Maduro is beyond saving.

A political plan for transition must make clear that the end of chavismo’s grip on power is not an existential threat to the thousands of PSUV figures who are not directly implicated in the worst crimes. It has to communicate that the transition is not the end of their careers, or of their freedom. If it doesn’t, the potential game-changers and those below them would be better off sticking by a Maduro dictatorship than being marginalised and persecuted by a MUD government.

The Next PSUV

The fight for chavismo’s remains is in full swing, and those fighting for their share won’t go along with a transition that annihilates their movement.

Details about transitional justice, whether we like it or not, will take time to settle. They will likely be part of the private negotiations that will surely take place once the end of Maduro’s government is a foregone conclusion. Other important, but potentially explosive matters will likely be settled then as well. Questions like: What to do with Maduro? And Diosdado, Freddy Bernal, El Aissami and Reverol?

These are tricky questions —but they involve a relatively small number of very high ranking people who’ve behaved very badly indeed. But it’s a mistake to equate all of chavismo with that tiny clique. After all, Luisa Ortega Díaz doesn’t want to join MUD; she wants to claim the scraps of Chávez’ project, and she’s not the only one.

Think of Rodriguez Torres, the military governors, Chavez’ family, the old civilian leftists and Marea Socialista. And those are only the most visible players; below them, there are thousands of minor but important chavista players.

Think of the 28 year-old llanero PSUV municipal councillor who dreams of being state governor, the mid-ranking military officials with troops under their command, or the middle managers in water or electric energy companies who could easily sabotage services.

There’s a whole generation of chavista activists who haven’t killed anyone, haven’t sold any drugs and don’t want an outright dictatorship: this is a plan aimed at them.


Because Maduro already made his offer: a Constitutional Assembly (ANC), with its members elected with rules tailored to guarantee a PSUV majority.

So you can think of this plan as MUD’s opening bid to the Armed Forces and the moderates within chavismo, showing them a clear way out of this mess. Even if they are now willing to break with Maduro, they won’t risk it until MUD lays its cards on the table. The plan would specify what MUD’s goals mean, how we get there, and what the future would look like for chavistas.

Because Maduro already made his offer: a Constitutional Assembly (ANC), with its members elected with rules tailored to guarantee a PSUV majority. Sure, it’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and it got a lukewarm reception even from chavismo, but its implications cannot be ignored. Maduro is offering to solve all of chavismo’s problems: the regional elections, the National Assembly, their inability to issue debt without congressional approval and, more importantly, the 2018 presidential elections.

An ANC controlled by chavismo could introduce Cuba-style indirect voting for presidential elections, and guarantee their victory in an election where their defeat is certain under the current system.

Maduro is thus offering not only to eliminate chavismo’s most important existential threat –votes– but also to solidify their grip on power way beyond 2018. Without a specific and realistic alternative put forward by MUD, this offer can be very tempting for chavistas, even if it means making the communist dictatorship official, and comes at a heavy price in terms of instability.

The opposition cannot afford to allow that fraudulent assembly of soviets ever to sit. It’s time MUD makes a counteroffer. Even if the Maduro’s ANC offer stalls and goes nowhere.

A Political Plan for Transition is not just about luring chavista defections. A second objective is to create a rallying point for those protesting in the streets. MUD’s current offer to its base is also unclear: unrelenting street protests, then something happens, and we restore democracy. A plan would explain to MUD’s base what’s that something, and would coalesce MUD’s four demands –humanitarian aid, elections, recognition of parliament, and the release of political prisoners– around a specific plan, for which people can fight and protest.

A political plan for transition would also show a fair and transparent solution to the crisis to those lukewarm about the opposition –at home and abroad– and even to chavista voters. Whatever the details of the plan, the solution could be distilled to the fairest way to solve disagreements in a democracy: “The solution is for you to vote in fair elections”.

22 COMMENTS

  1. The best offer that could be made to those folks is:

    “You’ll be able to live in a country where your work will be worth something, you would be able to eat like a normal person, you would be able to find access to basic medication, you will have working public services, there will be less than a fraction of the risk from being murdered in a mugging, and you won’t be treated like the shit you claimed us to be while you were in power.

    The only catch is, DON’T YOU FUGGIN’ DARE TO BECOME A TERRORIST MOVEMENT HELLBENT ON GETTING ALL THE POWER AGAIN and don’t even think you will touch any public power with your disgusting communist crap, Venezuela had to endure 18 years of that already.”

    Anybody with working brain cells should instantly take that offer.

    Also, forget about pardoning ANY of the higher heads in the chavista party, no terrorist, drug kingpin, mass-murderer, electoral mass-fraudster, criminal boss nor any human rights violator will get mercy, f**k them thrice, their only exit will be swimming or the jungle.

    The rest of chavistas, the naives, the pendejos and those who pocketed meaningless amounts of money can go away scot free (Because on this side we are not chavistas and thus won’t behave like they did, mind you)

  2. This is the first cohesive, equanimous and common sense proposal that has come out of these pages. It is the only way to offer a viable exit to this regime. More work needs to in this area. Good work, Mr. Rivero.

  3. I agree with Ulamog. All high ranking figures that have looted and destroyed the country must be held accountable.

    However I would even go as far as sweetening the deal for all mid ranking officers: provided they bring evidence and foreign accounts/assets of their bosses that can be frozen and repatriated, they get a percentage of all assets brought back to the public treasury. I believe many would turn and Venezuela could potentially recover billions of dollars in relatively short times used to bounce back the recovery effort.

  4. I don’t like going through point examples, but I have to:

    ** “The fight for chavismo’s remains is in full swing, and those fighting for their share won’t go along with a transition that annihilates their movement.”

    No one’s ever talked about forbid chavismo as a political current, communism can be forbidden as it happened in eastern Europe countries, but I would prefer to leave it as a legal movement, after all, they won’t rack even 0,5% in any fair election. Forbidding a political current would be what chavismo did, which was forbidding anything non-chavista the right to exist.

    ** “Details about transitional justice, whether we like it or not, will take time to settle. They will likely be part of the private negotiations that will surely take place once the end of Maduro’s government is a foregone conclusion. Other important, but potentially explosive matters will likely be settled then as well. Questions like: What to do with Maduro? And Diosdado, Freddy Bernal, El Aissami and Reverol?”

    Simple, they can’t be forgiven in any way, people of their caliber have been forgiven too many times, in the pacification of guerrillas at the end of the 60s and then again after the 92 coups, both events having left a trail of hundreds of thousands of murders in their wake, the brains behind them walking free to destroy the country when they finally reached power for what they wanted from the beginning: To plunder the country’s resources and give the scraps to Cuba, they’re the “Boveses” of this century, they deserve only a cell, and that’s because I’m not enthusiastic about the death penalty, which several of them deserve.

    ** “These are tricky questions —but they involve a relatively small number of very high ranking people who’ve behaved very badly indeed.Luisa Ortega Díaz doesn’t want to join MUD; she wants to claim the scraps of Chávez’ project, and she’s not the only one.”

    Luisa Ortega was one of the most vile enforcers of this regime, as she had control of the justice power to send countless people to the torment they’re enduring as the regime’s political prisoners, she should pay for her crimes, she’s the book example for “horror judge” of the dictatorship, she’s more probably thnking she can get off the country to enjoy her precious millions she got from ruining thousands of lives.

    ** “Think of Rodriguez Torres, the military governors, Chavez’ family, the old civilian leftists and Marea Socialista. And those are only the most visible players; below them, there are thousands of minor but important chavista players.”

    MRT is the butcher behind the massacres in the 2014 protests, that criminal’s hands are stained with the blood of almost 45 murders, he won’t get away with it, if he’s given impunity, maybe he’ll get offed later by some vengeful family member of a person he ordered to kill.

    The shiabbe family, the only way they can even atempt to continue outside of a cell is if they are despoiled of every cent they stole, as they took billions of dollars to their private accounts in other countries, not a sligh chance for those either.

    The military governors’ cases vary from one to another, Rodríguez Chacín, Carneiro, Rangel and Gómez are all criminal gangsters with hundreds of murders in their hands and billions in stolen funds, it’s simply impossible to let them go with all that.

    The old civilian leftists and the cretins of Socialist Tide, those cases are varied too, we have imbeciles like Giordani, the one that created the worst monster in chavista history as it was cadivi, media attack hounds like Evans, Héctor Navarro who opely endorsed and supported the communist brainwashing in schools; those cases might get a pass, but hiding what they did would be total impunity, they can’t expect to continue as if they haven’t broken a plate, tough they don’t deserve to be locked in a cell for being the idiots they are (Maybe only Giordani, just maybe); but Cliver Alcalá is a drug dealer, so to a cell he will go, no questions asked.

    The other leftists that simply supported the regime vocally or did just minor stuff can be “justice transitioned”

    ** “Think of the 28 year-old llanero PSUV municipal councillor who dreams of being state governor, the mid-ranking military officials with troops under their command, or the middle managers in water or electric energy companies who could easily sabotage services.”

    There’s a whole generation of chavista activists who haven’t killed anyone, haven’t sold any drugs and don’t want an outright dictatorship: this is a plan aimed at them. ”

    That depends on what they have actually done, but most if not all of them won’t get more than a couple of insults in the future, nothing to die or to kill for.

  5. The large amounts have been lost to Cuba in all kinds of fraudulent schemes, to Spain, Rusia and others in overpriced weapon system purchases, and to China in Technology licenses and mortgaged out future Oil production.

    Every large deal, commanded % in $$$ commissions to the Venezuelan traitors and agents of the said foreign interests. These $$$ have been spent wildly in queridas, Ferraris and blow!…

    I agree in demanding and enforcing justice and punishment for all HR violators, for all criminals and some sort of Golden bridge for “minor” offenders, but I would not hold my breath for expecting mayor repatriation of funds.

    Too many hands on those funds already! testaferros hoping to turn their backs (ladron que roba a ladron…), Corrupt bankers going for unreclaimed funds, and a myriad of others waiting to seize their opportunities in the demise of Chavismo.

    The scale of the destruction is such, that the whole society has been shattered.

    Reconstruction must be entered around education and lessons learned. Exemplary punishments and Justice for the responsible ones and a long road to recovery.

    Keep it simple I say.

    Lets aim to avoid a fratricide escalation of conflict first.
    lets focus our weapons and efforts towards the common foe of the foreign occupation of Castrista forces and drug cartels (mismo music con distinto cachimbo),
    and educate for rule of law, personal responsibility and prosperity, and start anew!

    We will be lucky if we come out on the other side with a country, territory and resources to rebuild.

  6. Sí.

    Pero la oposición no tiene poder para crear una estrategia parecida a la de Maduro.
    La oferta de la Constituyente (o cualquier otra oferta similar), sólo se puede hacer desde la centralidad del poder.
    Desde nuestra posición marginal es imposible formular estrategias. Sólo disponemos de recursos tácticos (las tretas del débil).

    Lo único que une a la gente en este momento es el espíritu libertario, de lucha. Si se hace una propuesta que revele una comunidad con el poder, se va a perder ese espíritu libertario, de lucha. O ese espíritu va a crecer, pero ahora con un nuevo enemigo.

    No se puede estar contra el poder y con el poder al mismo tiempo.
    No se puede protestar por un lado y por el otro lado gozar de la comunidad con el poder.

    Me parece a mí que la gente no quiere en este momento un plan político que implique continuidad ni que premie a las élites. La gente quiere una ruptura pura y dura con el statuos quo y eso implica entre otras cosas una verdadera limpieza y renovación de las élites. Esto, por supuesto, pone en crisis no sólo, digamos, al PSUV, sino a la MUD también. Es lo que ha estado en juego desde hace tiempo ya.

    ¿Por qué la MUD hasta ahora no ha presentado un plan? Pues no porque carezca de uno ni porque sea incapaz de formular uno, sino porque simplemente no le conviene hacerlo, pues el riesgo de poner en evidencia su desconexión con la población (y su comunidad secreta con el poder) es muy grande.

    Yo creo que hay que dejar un poco que las cosas sigan su curso natural.

    Si hay una transición, ésta no va a durar mucho, lo que vamos a presenciar en el futuro es el surgimiento de nuevas fuerzas políticas totalmente impensables para nosotros ahora mismo y la desaparición de otras, con todo lo que esto implica para bien y para mal. Es imposible decir si eso será para mejor o para peor.

    No es un buen tiempo para los profesionales de la política, sino para la filosofía política.
    No es un buen tiempo para los burócratas, sino para los guerreros.

    • Agreed.

      Tiempo de enfocarse en contra del enemigo y no caer en guerras fratricidas. Los militares venezolanos están siendo controlados por intereses foráneos.

      Guerra enfocada contra el enemigo nacional.

  7. Forget a “plan.” VZ is way beyond that now. Totally destroyed.

    The only way to get Maduro and his cronies out is violence.

    What happens later…who gets punished and at what levels…is going to be messy, and it surely won’t be 100% just, for either innocent or guilty.

  8. I am sorry Pedro but I don’t follow your argument. Your proposal is based on the expectation that defection of chavistas moderate will cause the capitulation of the regime by “pushing out Maduro”. That is hopeful thinking indeed. Don´t forget that the ruling clique is in fact ruling.
    You also mention a “political plan” that includes amnesty as a promise. I suppose such an amnesty would never apply to common crimes of corruption, peculation, drug trafficking and the likes. That is precisely the amnesty they would like to have but for obvious moral, legal and political reasons cannot be granted at all. Thus, what kind of amnesty are you thinking about? Besides, you don’t tell who would be the guarantor of such a delicate promise though you go to the extreme of suggesting a constitutional reform to be processed in the hectic current conditions of the country. Doesn´t sounds too realistic, does it?
    You say that you are not dealing with the specifics of the plan but the specifics are the medular matter of the solution. Remember the famous quote from Mies Van Der Rohe: God lives in the details.
    A plan like what you sketch in your post would never serve as a “rallying point” for the masses out in the streets for seven weeks who have the clear goal and hope of causing the regime to crumble. If at all, it woud disappoint them dramatically with unpredictable consequences.

    • Pedro, is right on line to my thinking. The political leaders need to be above the fray, and by laying out a plan forward as Pedro described is by far in the best interest of the country.

      Make no mistake Carlos, that it may indeed be “hopeful thinking” that there are any takers, as you pointed out, but that will only strengthen the future government position, when the “war crimes trials” do occur when the regime collapses. A hand was offered, but denied, is far more damning to the accused, than his/her response of “I feared that I would be persecuted so, I stood my ground”

      Amnesty for those who have caused so much pain and destruction, is obviously hard to swallow. Especially for those who have been damaged, but it is a necessary component in any successful transition, as ostracizing a large population base, will cause massive future problems.

      Inclusion in a future Venezuela is the successful and morally correct path.

      And finally, I believe amnesty will be offered by any future government anyway, so why not offer it now. Further, offering it now will increase the chances (if even slightly) of regime change.

      By not offering it now, you are betting that regime change WILL OCCUR, and that is a bet that I believe the VZ people are not willing to make.

      • “Amnesty for those who have caused so much pain and destruction, is obviously hard to swallow.”

        It’s not “hard to swallow”, it’s the direct cause of the pain and destruction, the chavista big heads are the same criminals that backstabbed the country during the cuban guerrilla invasions in the 60s and the same folks that murdered hundreds of people during the 1992 coups, they were even the same ones that rallied the imbeciles that burned and demolished half of Caracas during the caracazo.

        And if freakign THREE examples of amnesty don’t prove that granting it to the criminals is a SUICIDE for the whole country, you can take a look at Colombia, where the Santos peace treaty is actually the SECOND time the farc bosses got their amnesty for the crimes they committed.

        You think you will have “peace” in the country when you are denying justice for about 80% of the country? Think again, man, because that’s absurd.

    • Carlos, I completely understand where yo are coming from, and believe me, I feel the same indignation, but if we are realistic, we must understand that even in the best possible outcome, some people are going to escape justice. A broad-but-specific amnesty can help to make sure that only the smaller ones escape justice.

      Just for kicks, this is an outline of an amnesty tat, while I would find hard to swallow, i would support:

      1- Cannot apply if directly involved in human rights violations
      2- A hard cap on the amount they stole – I would go for a large number, something in the 5-20 million range. This way you can attract big middle level fishes, but close the gates for the really big ones.
      3- Detailed and public confession – the amnesty only apply to the crimes you confess, it is not a blanket immunity from prosecution. It should be public, that way it will bar them for life (I hope!) from being a factor in future Venezuelan politics.
      4- Must present evidence of corruption from other parties; we can sweeten the deal offering a percentage of all the money they help recuperate.

      I really think this type of immunity deal would break the government really quickly, and would facilitate the recovery of some of the stolen money, something that will help a lot in the reconstruction.

      More importantly, I think this unmasking will help a absurdly large percentage of the population that still believes in the Bolivarian dream; we will be vaccinated (again, I hope!) by showing everybody th large corruption that has happened in the last 18 years, without any doubts that this actually happened.

      • hay que bailar y mascar chicle!

        An offer of amnesty in clear terms must be drafted, one that is enforceable and communicable, AND at the same time, violent resistance is needed. Also non violent resistance, also international diplomacy, also education…

        This group in power has no more legitimacy left.
        They support themselves by force and by drug money. Drug and oil money that pays for cuban know-how and labour. Mercenaries that will carry on their job while they get paid. period.

        As long as cuba and Farc, (and many other foreign principals) can profit from Venezuela they will continue to do so.

        No Venezuelan should pay taxes this year, no Venezuelan should expect to go back to “normalcy” until this regime is neutralized.

        No politician should offer dialogue, its only a negotiation for the terms of surrender. There is no further room for acomodo, if the resistance is broken, expect the new Caribbean North Corea. (ie. cuba 2.0).

        If the resistance continues, we can aspire to Syria or Mogadishu scenarios, which unfortunately as hard as they are, at least save som grace for the gentilicio and show some level of pride and self respect in fighting the current regime.

        Perhaps we get lucky and they are feed up stealing and looting and they decide to back off! (not likely!)

        Castrismo-Farc-Chavismo. mismo grupo! enemigo nacional.

  9. Easier said than done. Might appeal to some Chavistas light (Rosales/Falcon-just kidding, maybe). Problems: disincentivating current street protests (only successful Oppo gambit to date); MUD guarantee cannot bind future Oppo Govt./base with sufficient credibility to those potentially “pardoned”; selection of those “pardonable” a sticky wicket; those really in power/calling the shots are not “pardonable”; Cuba will fight to the death of many more Venezuelans to keep their Venezuelan colony/prevent a new “Special Period” at home; Maduro isn’t the problem, Chavismo with any strength is, and, any substantial remnants of it will only seed future Venezuelan subversion/terrorism. Needed ideally, but not practical, but perhaps in some form: a Venezuelan Nuremberg-type tribunal for major human rights/murderous abusers; IMF-Marshall type plan for economic recovery; Weisenthal-type major illegal wealth/punishable people international search effort (many private illegal wealth search firms exist, such as Kroll, et. al., and are effective). Never in the history of SA, few times in the history of the world, has a country been sacked/pillaged/now savaged by its rulers, as has Venezuela, and those responsible at major levels MUST BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE!

  10. My last comment was rejected. So I will write another.

    The truth is that it makes no sense at all to offer them anything. It makes no sense because we don’ t have anything to offer. Only those in power have the privilege to offer deals.

    You can offer them anything you want. Try it. They don’ t care. As far as I know, the oppo has always been desperately trying to cut a deal with them. But they have always refused. That’ s why we had to take the streets.

    If anything, some day they will call us to ask for a way out. Not the other way around, believe me.

    Some of them would rather die than to call us.

    And there is also of course the problem of governability.

    I don’t think the people will buy the sort of transition the author of this piece is proposing.

    • Correct, and correct–but, there’s always the chance of horse trading–i. e., you give me that, and I’ll give you this–=”dialogo” (just kidding). This will only be decided by a major Ven. military defection, or by a major international (read EEUU) intervention. Meanwhile, more blood will be shed….

    • One thing is to offer amnesty to people that were simply idiots like Evans who limited himself to be one propaganda agent of the regime, and another much different is to offer any kind of safewright to Diosdado.

  11. Best Venezuela read of the week.

    I’d add into the deal an amnesty and some kind of incentive for police and national guard who defect during the current protests. After reading the WSJ and NYT articles that just published today, I think you’d have more takers than you expect.

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