MUD Understands There'll Be No Transition Without Amnesty

MUD knows it needs regime defections if it wants any hope to lead a transition, and that means it needs to offer amnesty. This week, the National Assembly announced its plan to do precisely that.

Just this Tuesday I wrote calling on MUD to present a political plan for transition, describing it as a roadmap with clear goals and steps on how to transition to democracy, with incentives for chavista officials to drop Maduro and his inner circle.

Little did I know, MUD was already working on it.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly installed a commission charged with “building guarantees for a democratic transition”. The commission includes heavy-hitters from the four big parties –Julio Borges from PJ, Freddy Guevara from VP, Stalin González from UNT, and Dennis Fernández from AD— and one surrogate from Henri Falcón, and another from María Corina Machado.

From the statements of several opposition deputies, you can easily infer that the commission is tasked with drafting a transition plan to entice defections from the regime, and that it will include some sort of amnesty for defectors.

Guevara said the message from the Assembly to those that keep backing Maduro was that “they don’t have to sink with him.” He added that they would build mechanisms so that these people –both civilians and military– can “side with the people”.

For her part, Dinorah Figuera from PJ said the commission would not “guarantee impunity” for human rights abusers, but rather build bridges to both chavista civilians and the military for a transition. Carlos Valero from UNT said they wanted a peaceful and orderly transition, and mentioned they were fractures in the government’s coalition.

There’s lot to chew on in this news, but let’s focus on three issues.

The truth is everyone in the opposition is willing to negotiate with chavistas, as they should be.

First, this commission confirms what we wrote on Tuesday: the opposition knows it needs defections from the regime to be able to break the stalemate. Protests alone won’t be enough against a united regime. MUD is trying to break up regime cohesion, even if this means having to welcome very bad people into the transition bandwagon (like a certain Attorney General, or a former Ministry of Interior and Justice).

Second, let’s discard the notion that the opposition is divided between those who want to negotiate with evil chavistas, and those who, from their moral high ground, refuse to even consider it. The truth is everyone in the opposition is willing to negotiate with chavistas, as they should be. They differ about with whom to negotiate, and about what to negotiate, not about negotiating.

The commission includes people from VP and Vente; the two parties that refused to sit down with the government last year. They refused to attend those meetings not because they’re unwilling to talk with people from the regime, but because they believe negotiations should be about a political transition. Guevara reaffirmed their willingness to negotiate on Tuesday, and Machado has been saying the same thing since last year.

This shows that, even if many people from MUD’s base consider treasonous to even sit down with regime figures, the opposition understands they’ll get nowhere without negotiations. And that, yes, they’ll have to make some concessions.

Any type of amnesty will be deeply unpopular within MUD’s base, but we better start to get used to the idea.

Which brings us to the third issue: the opposition believes that some sort of amnesty is necessary and unavoidable if we want to get rid of this dictatorship. Speaking on Tuesday, Guevara listed “all of those in the second level, such as, Supreme Court justices, the military high command, police forces, prosecutors, the comptroller (…)” as valid counterparts to a negotiation.

Any type of amnesty will be deeply unpopular within MUD’s base, but we better start to get used to the idea. It’s going to happen, with an explicit amnesty, or with an unofficial one where the new government simply doesn’t bother prosecuting many of these criminals, especially those wearing green fatigues.

It has happened after every modern dictatorship –all of them, including after the fall of Nazi Germany, all the communist dictatorships in east Europe, and with every dictatorship in Latin America (including Venezuela’s.) Some high-ranking officials usually get prosecuted –and we sure hope in Venezuela it’s a lot of them— but many others, especially mid and low-ranking ones, simply merge into the new system. The one recent example where a point was made not to do this? Iraq, after 2003, and we know how that turned out.

What should give us some comfort is that there are also many examples of both official and unofficial amnesties that are later repudiated or ignored (ask your friends in Argentina), or the criminals are tried in other countries or in international courts.

MUD is now working on its offer to the Armed Forces and the chavistas who want to survive Maduro, and who want chavismo to survive as well. The coalition has never been very adept at coming up with far-reaching agreements or plans such as the one they have to prepare now. It’s good at coming together for elections, but everything not related to elections usually takes them a lot of time and infighting. We hope this time they can do so, and quickly.

Pedro Rosas Rivero

Pedro Rosas Rivero is an Economist living in Caracas, with graduate studies in Economics, and Politics. He wishes we could talk more about policy than politics. News addict, and incurable books junkie.