16J: Putting the Oppo Radical Wing’s Agenda to the Test


When the opposition announced they would hold today’s don’t-call-it-a-plebiscite, the usual suspects in the opposition twittersphere went bezerk. “Why are they asking for our permission to do what we elected them to do?” some screamed, while others claimed it was a delaying tactic from the supposedly boliburgeois-backed moderate wing of MUD, to calm the protests for a couple of weeks and stabilize Maduro’s government.

I know it’s not a great idea to stress out too much about hyperstrident Guerreros de Twitter. But nor are these views entirely negligible — their views clearly resonate with some people.

What’s funny is that, in their strident hyper-vigilance about being sold out to “dialogue”, they get it exactly backwards: today’s vote is a victory for the new Voluntad Popular-Primero Justicia alliance that has been driving the protest agenda since March, with support from smaller parties like Maria Corina Machado’s Vente Venezuela.

For its part, the crew that pushed for dialogue ahead October 2016 —Un Nuevo Tiempo, Avanzada Progresista and Acción Democrática— is quietly sitting back and hoping for the vote to flop. 

Let’s take a step back and look at what’s really at stake here.

The real split between so-called moderates and so-called radicals inside MUD isn’t about whether to negotiate, it’s about what to negotiate. Moderates want concessions from the government —who runs the elections council, the validity of the National Assembly’s opposition majority, freedom for political prisoners, what have you— so cohabitation can be made stable as we wait for presidential elections at the end of 2018. Radicals also want to negotiate — but what they want to negotiate is the terms and conditions for an early transition.

If enough people turn up today, MUD will have a clear mandate to seek a transition in the short-term.

In fact, the initiative was championed by the most radical wing of the opposition: the VP-PJ alliance now pushing for transition. But that’s not what matters: what matters is its effect.

This vote could settle the debate between moderates and radicals, and it’s clear for those without analytical myopia that the vote could push MUD to the protest and civil disobedience agenda, even against the wishes of some rather large political parties.

If you have any doubts, just read Question 3 of the consultation:

¿Do you approve the renewal of the Branches of the State according to what is established in the Constitution, as well as holding elections and the formation of new government of national unity?

This question seeks a mandate for MUD to replace the board of the regime-controlled National Elections Council and Supreme Tribunal. In effect, it calls on the National Assembly to create a new, parallel set of state institutions able to hold credible elections.

It’s the very agenda pushed by the radicals who hate this vote. It’s the route they’ve been calling for since January 2016 and they can’t see it.

I can’t guarantee that MUD will not make the same mistakes of 2016. But if enough people turn up today, the organization will have a clear mandate to seek a transition in the short-term: that’s bad news for players looking for concessions to establish a stable cohabitation with the government.

Furthermore, this exercise is exactly what the government has been trying to avoid since they lost the elections of 2015. Not only did the government kill the recall referendum and delay regional elections: their fear of elections runs so deep that the Supreme Court suspended even the vote for new leaders of the Venezuelan Boxing Federation.

That is not a joke.

If turnout is high today –I’d put a symbolic marker at the 7.5 million Maduro votes of 2013– it will not only force MUD to follow through on the actions they proposed, but it’ll also raise the political cost of engaging in any dialogue along the lines of October 2016, when we settled for tactical concessions and were left hanging when the government failed to deliver them.

It rarely happens in life and history, but we have a real voice and a real vote on the future today. Even if they don’t agree with “plebeian actions”, the best way for critics to push back against “the passive MUD” is to vote. It’s the one thing they can do to make sure MUD becomes what they’ve always wanted. It’s funny how the only obstacle they must overcome is themselves.

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  1. Really? PJ is now a radica party? Since when? Yesterday? Give me a break!!!! You must be associated with them, that’s it, it’s got to be the reason.

    • In PJ, like in any party, there are different groups with different ideas. There’s a very important group that has been driving this protests in an alliance with VP. There are others groups inside the party that don’t agree.

      Gather your thoughts for a second and think who has really been the face of this agenda from MUD: you’ll come up mostly with the names of politicians from VP and PJ, and barely any or no names from UNT and AD.

  2. Anybody has any idea where we can get whatever coverage is possible about the day? I mean, I know TV stations are going to have a lot of trouble covering the thing they cant mention but…

    • Tal Cual has it live, if you can get that. News is that everything is smooth and well organize, and a massive turnout by 9:00 ~ 9:30. The places in Spain, Rome, Budapest, NYC and all have lines. Como disfrutar de las colas sabrosas aunque no viva en Venezuela. La Candelaria, Catia, Chacaito, everything calm and sunny. In Antimano apparently the PNB showed up to tell everyone it’s all illegal, but the people there weren’t buying any PNB bs today and told them to flake off. Otherwise, no sign of any cops anywhere, no facemasks, no motos, no protests – just colas sabrosas. Looks like anywhere else in the world, just people lining up to vote. One report from London said the line was a two hour wait. Somewhere in El Centro (Caracas) reports everything smooth, quick, easy, well organized. The London turnout may have taken them by surprise there.

      There really isn’t much to see. Just lines, and a few interviews. Long day for the poll workers man!

  3. Radical, shmadical–those thinking “cohabitation” is possible with a Criminal/Thuggish/Narco-/Communist- (controlled) Regime should listen to NM’s speech yesterday at the “elevation” of leftist guerrilla Argimiro Gabaldon to the Panteon Nacional, extolling the “Barbudos” of the 60’s, and their “glorious” “democratic” movements in Central/South America fighting the imperialist/non-democratic/repressive governments of those areas at that time. The Communists will accept only their single-party domination in the end, which is why, when offered, they did not join the Pacto De Punto Fijo, which is what gave Venezuela its first/only real short-lived taste of democracy in its entire history as a nation.

  4. Something I’ve not yet heard discussed is the “what-if” there is a low turnout today. Government intimidation is well underway and the are taking names. Many people are concerned for their jobs and benefits. If the numbers are less than the 7.5M you quote, what next? The government will latch onto the “less than a majority” number and use to further underpin the justification for 30 July.

  5. The turnout appears to be very high, in spite of the intimidation from the narco regime.
    The opposition will have real numbers to strengthen their international standing.
    I do hope that this triggers the split that is so desperately needed in the military.
    The regime is threatening pensioners, employees and CLAP recipients in an effort to get a large turnout on the constitutional replacement. The voters today will outnumber the regimes supporters at least 2 to 1.
    Bringing in outside observers is tempering the repression.
    The MUD has made a brilliant move. Quite a while ago I would have been more apt to start putting bullets between people’s eyes and slitting their throats. I do hope that I am proven wrong and that the non-violent resistance realizes the needed outcome.
    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

  6. A report from my humble pueblo:

    Honestly, I wasn’t even sure we’d have the opportunity to vote here until I overheard conversations yesterday. I’m happy to report that this morning there are a dozen volunteers with several tables and a tent set up in the plaza. Turnout is EXCELLENT with many well-known former chavistas arriving to make their voice heard.

    The volunteers told us that many people from pueblos even smaller than our own are arriving to vote. Pueblos this size normally represent chavismo’s backbone. If today’s turnout is any indication of the state of chavismo, that backbone has been broken.

    We were so excited by what we saw that we retuned with sandwiches and softdrinks for those who are volunteering. It’s a great day here in rural Venezuela.

  7. Cabudare has a line at least two blocks long one dozen people wide (I counted).

    In La Urbina they have what looks like 6 officials per table, and it seems each table is taking two voters at a time, everything done in one step – signing their name, cedula, probably adddress in the register, voting, thumb-print, ballot to the ballot box – that’s what it looked like to me, there (video from Miami shows separate voting booths, then the ballot is dropped in the ballot box, so the video from La Urbina may not have shown the whole process). I tried timing the process, but the camera was panning the area, so it didn’t work to try to time it, but my guess is it takes about one minute per person. Very crowded, but very orderly.

    One interview from MUD said turnout was above what was expected (e.g. London, with a two hour line).

    • Chacaito has 50 tables. They say that since 7:00am to 8:30am 2,000 voters were processed, so that’s
      2,000 / 50 = 40 per table in 90 minutes
      90 / 40 = a little over 2 minutes per voter.
      They said in El Bosque that they would keep the table open as long as there are people waiting to vote.
      Catia turnout is very heavy, the crowd chanting against the constituyente.

  8. Er, I thought radicals said that dictators are not ousted by votes. Now this voting is their idea? Legs pulled much?

  9. “For its part, the crew that pushed for dialogue ahead October 2016 —Un Nuevo Tiempo, Avanzada Progresista and Acción Democrática— is quietly sitting back and hoping for the vote to flop. ” what?


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