It was an exhilarating day yesterday, culminating in 7.186 million reasons why. But it was also just a prologue. As the clock ticks away from July 16th and inches towards the 30th, how will moods change in each camp?

MUD and chavismo know how high the stakes are: the loser risks annihilation. We may hate the winner-take-all aspect of our politics so often described as the root of our crisis, pero esto es lo que hay. If the opposition wins, chavismo is ousted and its hierarchs tried. If Miraflores wins, everyone who protested ends up in prison, exile or the re-education camps Maduro’s so keen on setting up.

Chavismo has one final hand to play, and despite the huge stakes, all it takes is a well played bluff to buy it a bit of time until it can install its Constituyente.

Back in the day of the Texas Hold’Em frenzy, when even transnational sports broadcasters like ESPN bought the TV rights for a game of cards, I learned how valuable a good poker face is. Hold’Em relies more heavily on deceit and coercion than in the more gentlemanly poker you’re used to. In the game’s jargon, a tight-aggressive strategy is favored. It feels bloody.

Having the stronger hand ought to be all that matters, but in Hold’Em as in Venezuela, it just ain’t so. You’d think that 100+ days of protests, over 90 deaths and a general loathing for the trimardito would be enough, but life ain’t fair.

Time is on no one’s side, really. It just ticks.

It’s been some time since chavismo was dealt a good hand, to the point that movement is likely to implode if sent packing. But they have scraped off meager wins here and there, buying them three years of a presidency that was thought to be stillborn. These guys know how to win on a shitty hand.

On July 16th, the flop the first three common cards— was revealed. MUD has a solid hand that can win in a heartbeat if it were up to them. Maduro’s holding a pair of twos, the weakest of all possible combinations, but good enough to bet on if your life depends on it.

Now Maduro has to keep his poker face on long enough to see the government through July 30th. He has to convince MUD with what Germans call turteln, the whispering of sweet nothings: empty promises of concessions, a scaling down of confrontational rhetoric, caerles a paja pues. Zapatero will be happy; MUD moderates, surprised; and the radicals will feel just empowered enough to think they’ve got the bull by the horns.

But MUD, its supporters and the Armed Forces must be aware that for chavismo, the Constituyente must be at least perceived as inevitable. Just long enough to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If no one thinks the Constituyente can be stopped, nobody can stop it. Anything else achieved beyond that is a bonus.

With so much riding on it, resources will not be spared: CLAP bags, housing promises, pay rises for the troops, intimidation, threatened terminations, physical harassment, locking up a dirigente or two… These guys aren’t going to leave any trick unused in building the myth of the Constituyente’s inevitability.

You’d think that 100+ days of protests, over 90 deaths and a general loathing for the trimardito would be enough, but life ain’t fair.

In the game of turning votes into treason and shit into gold, they have the upper hand. As the clock ticks away from the 16th and nearer to the 30th, people will be waiting to see some concrete results.

Time is on no one’s side, really. It just ticks. Momentum might lead you to believe it beats to the drum of chavismo demise, but does it beat in favor of a MUD that isn’t sure if the ANC is a bluff or not?

There’s still two more cards to be dealt, and it’s up to the losing party to turn the odds in its favor. Two weeks after the popular consultation comes what might be Maduro’s last hand at poker, ever. Or the first of many, if he is duly crowned champion, after cheating his opposition into thinking that lousy hand of his is four of a kind instead of blanks.

People will feel cheated if after so much —and it really has been so much— nothing comes of it. Fighting on the streets will always be an option, even a popular one. But, for how long do we have the numbers to sustain that?

MUD has two weeks to turn —or at least spin— the outcome of July 16th into the beginning of the end. If trickery and bluffing buys chavismo two weeks, they stand to win the pot, remain champions, and keep Miraflores, por más pataleta que haya.

Two weeks in no man’s land is all chavismo needs to buy.

43 COMMENTS

  1. Chavismo is schizophrenic right now. There is the wing that wants a Stalinist regimen, and there is the Orteguista side that finds democracy (however flawed) inherent to Chavismo. I am sure the armed forces reflects the same conflict.

    Now, chavistas military knows that if the democratic wing is going to prevail they are going to have to let the bullets do the arguing. Es que no se van por la buenas.

    • Just to add to my pessimism I just came across this interview in Prodavinci of General Alexis Lopez (whoever he is).

      http://prodavinci.com/2017/07/16/actualidad/alexis-lopez-ramirez-el-estado-dejo-de-ser-unitario-por-hugo-prieto/

      – The military ARE NOT going to rebel against Maduro.

      “De manera que la Fuerza Armada no va a resquebrajarse fácilmente. ”

      -The military is indoctrinated to be Chavista. Even this general that is parting ways with Maduro thinks like a Chavista and identifies other Chavistas in the ranks as fanatics.

      “Hay núcleos muy fanatizados que defienden a capa y espada al gobierno. Hay un grupo acrítico, en el cual me incluyo, que aceptamos que Chávez nos dejó un legado.”

      -There is a fascist tinge in his speak, words such as ‘centralized’, ‘reigning anarchy’

      • Many within the FFAA perceive this as going against Chavez’ legacy. They’re not blind nor dumb, just more keen on keeping their interests in check, which is different.

  2. What’s next if the government doesn’t call off the ANC?

    Watching chavez TV for clues, they’ve basically dropped their promotional commercials and have guys like Jorge Rodriguez talking about peace, peace, peace. Don’t know what’s up but I think negotiation is in the works.

    • Way to keep us informed on latest propoganda on VTV. Hard to not vomit when watching that bullshit. Hahaha

      I hope that is the case, or at least there are factions in Chavismo going behind others backs negotiating.

  3. Jeez !! Why are you so sure to assume that passing the Constituyente will gurantee Maduro’s long reign?!
    That won’t make a difference because at this point of the game most of us will simple wipe our ass with that one because is illegitimate.
    Is like finally we turn the poker table upside down telling these lying cheating thugs to fuck off.
    The most important part of all this is that the Maduro regime has lost all its legitimacy and support base.
    Now is just a matter of time, this is the beginning of the end for the regime, the real deal was played yesterday and we easily won it.
    Now is all our to lose.
    The difference would be how fast or graceful Vzla transition to Democracy, but nothing is guaranteed yet and a lot of effort has to be put into this quagmire until they are finally defeated and prosecuted according to the constitutional laws.

    • It may mean anything, from the start of a real civil war to the shortest reign of Emperor Maduro the First, appointed by the mayfly ANC, to long, long years of struggle in the clandestinity against a bonafide, no more excuses dictatorship, to watching 40 years later Maduro dying on his bed and a country that doesnt remember anything about democracy.

      What it is will depend on how many actually accept it, with joy, resignation or by being dead or exiled.

      They will do it. The question is how many will follow.

      • Well, it is not only the numbers opposing the regime but the quality of those numbers, the passion and deeply rooted rejection. Now that they have been exposed in and out of the country the only way Maduro can move forward is by force and I don’t see how a demoralized armed force can execute and sustain such operation.
        Also I don’t see anywhere the conditions for a civil war at this point since there are not really two equal sized opposing bands. At best for the Regime is outnumbered 6:1 and I am being generous.

    • “the first hand of many”, and if he gets this to stick , we’re playing his game from hereon. Don’t hate the player…

    • No ANC. We don’t have to oust Maduro by then, but if the ANC happens without any major backlash before, during and after, there’s little to be done. Protesting isn’t that backlash, mind you. I mean hide-your-kids-hide-your-wives-there’s-tanks-strolling-the-streets-and-people-torching-other-people backlash

      • Por mas que quiera, viendo a Diosdi hablando no puedo dejar de coincidir contigo. La carta es sangre pareja y si no hay voluntad para eso, veo el futuro de liu xiaobo para muchos.

  4. I want to see the numbers.

    Reports of MUD negotiating with regimen.. why was Rosales there, MCM arrecho, etc.

    There were more than 40 volunteers at our local voting center in US, the next closest was about 400 miles away. I was stunned at the turnout. For hours people, families, elderly and children, turning up at a hidden hard to find church in north Denver. People brought water and food.. it was like a family outing.. organized, waiting patiently under hot cloudless sky.. women with babies and elderly moved to the front, even younger people with permisos de trabajo allowed to cut.

    There was an annonced 15 break to allow the 2-hour results be sent to Caracas. No complaints.

    Hundreds of cars In an urban neighborhood, only one problem when someone parked in front of a driveway.. homeowner needed to get out, it was announced by mouth, car moved.. no police or problem.

    Again I was stunned and amazed at the number of Venezuelans living here, hundreds, out to vote. It was a beautiful day.

    Ok, my point: those +40 volunteers have the lists and the exact number of votes. I want to see the numbers before more conspiracy theories explode, again.

    • What you indeed saw was history being made. Never have 690 thousand + Venezuelans voted outside of the country. It was truly remarkable, comforting and even heart warming.

      An exact number wasn’t really the end game here: it was a show a might, and it was indeed mighty. Conspiracies will come and go, but there’s no way to deny two things:

      1- It was MASSIVE, and no photo lens has been able to discredit that statement yet.
      2- It was logistically impossible to absorb an even larger number of votes with that amount of voting booths. To put things in perspective, the average amount of votes per booth DOUBLED what a normal election is designed to handle with 75-80% participation.

  5. The current ruling cliqué of chavismo has no other option but to go ahead with the ANC. Like a mix of the Roadrunner and the Coyote, they have painted a tunnel on a wall and they need to believe it is the way out and charge ahead and hope that if nobody else wakes up from this folly, it is the path out.

    All the current efforts are focused on getting enough of the supporters they have to say no, I’m not driving there, thats a drawing on a wall, not a tunnel. Specially the ones in olive fatigues.

    Because after the 30th, either they have the power to open the tunnel with the bodies of the rest of the population, or they will hit that wall.

    • Thus the Texas Holdem: they’re all in buddy, and they might not even have the stronger hand. All they can do is bluff their way out of this one.

    • Yea, but the problem with the poker analogy is that poker ends. The hand is dealt, played, and you won with a pair of two.

      Say the ANC goes on, but they get about 2 million votes (and protests everywhere) Oh, they are going to want to tell you that the hand is dealt and played… it is anybody else going to buy it?

      • Sí.Si contra la voluntad de la mayoría la pueden aprobar, también la pueden hacer cumplir. Es obvio y es lo que quieren demostrar.No sé de dónde carajo sacaron algunos que ser mayoría te habilita mágicamente contra una dictadura militar. Una sociedad con hambre bajo la.amenaza de las armas se vuelve.muy pronto indefensa y dependiente y bien puede aceptar la constituyente como cualquier otra cosa. Por eso, en vez de movilizar a siete millones de personas a votar, hay que movilizar siete millones de personas a Miraflores. Esa es la única respuesta lógica, porque nuestros votos no valen ni van a valer nunca para ellos. La única fuerza que tenemos es esa, la fuerza de la gente en la calle. El voto no tiene ninguna fuerza y es hora de que los imbéciles lo acepten, porque la única manera de vencer es asustando a los militares en la calle con protestas masivas bien organizadas dirigidas a Miraflores. Debemos mostrarles que no están en control y que la violencia iría en su contra y no a su favor.

  6. Chavismo has two weeks to reveal their hand. I see no signs that they will give up their Constituyente. In fact, if they did give it up then Chavismo would never recover. However they are in a rut now. The Cuban-Chavismo propaganda machine has stated strongly that a new constitution is the only way to peace–Yet they are making threats of violence or starvation against those that oppose a new constitution.

    The Cuban handlers appear out of touch with Venezuela. Communications with WhatsApp and Twitter prevent Maduro et al from allowing only one viewpoint. This is not Cuba and the Cubans do not know how to react. Forcing unconstitutional changes on Venezuelans is not that easy anymore after months of protests and an overwhelming plebiscite vote for the opposition.

    The military are also keeping their hand private. They hold all the cards and can beat Maduro at any time.

    • It’s a radical move. And I bet you that if you survey the spectators of the Holdem match, at least half would disagree when a player bets all in. The risk/reward line is barely drawn.

      • Good piece, nice analogy to make a point about a bluff. I just take it as such, but to continue with the analogy, I don’t think the regime has ANY hole cards. They don’t have a pair, and they missed the flop in a bad way. There is a reason professional poker players can be professional, and that is that they know the game, know the odds, watch the pot, watch the bets, watch their stack. If you’ve spent much time watching Daniel Negreanu, you know he has the ability to tell another player what he has in his hand.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEcfQXQ-3PU

        That’s not the best video examples I’ve seen, but it is pretty amazing, and apparently those are just three hands at the same tournament. Good for those not familiar with Texas Holdem

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euu1H130J84

        The last one isn’t as good quality video, but Mr. Negreanu calls hands exactly. These are professionals he’s playing against, btw, not chumps or “fish”. Like one says to Negreanu, “You’re a sick human being.” (Intended as a compliment, in the poker world, “sick” means “good”.)

        Maybe MUD is reading Maduro’s hand?

  7. Okay, watching Jorge Rodruguez, it’s obvious their strategy now is to paint yesterday’s vote results as deeply flawed. They even followed a chavista mole from station to station filming him as he voted at each one. These fuckers are lower than whale shit and they’re going forward with the ANC.

    • They can preach as loud and long as the want. The pictures tell a different story to theirs. Catia alone can upset whichever theory, argument chavismo throws at 16J. It was truly spectacular.

    • But deep, deep inside they are very afraid and know that they do not have the numbers and need the thievery/trickery of the CNE and voting machines. Even if, kamikaze style, they go through with the ANC, the People and World are not going to accept it. Are they willing to apply repression in a major scale? How long can they sustain it? That move is too risky even if you are desperate.
      Again, we can not let this cool down, the pressure has to be sustained!

    • Setting up a Chavista mole to scam the plebiscite shows a complete lack of integrity for the Chavistas. They are the ones who are dishonest. Trying to blame the opposition for trouble started by the Chavistas is just blatantly wrong.

  8. Pressure has to be sustained. After a way is found to oust the regime, we should prosecute these criminals to allow the healing to continue. We are way past the point of “passing the page”.
    What a privilege it would be to witness the first trial in Venezuela for government crimes!.
    Visualization of that event might help, but a lot of ground work is still left.

  9. Once more, we are dealing with shameless criminals. They may lose sleep on the 7.2M but it is just a confirmation of what everyone knows (even them).

    As long as they have the unrestricted support of the FANB, it won’t matter if you got 14M votes against. I kind of agree that the ball in on the MUD and this vote is basically telling the moderates that “La Salida” is the way to go. That will serve to shield the MUD from the fracturing forces that screw all us over last September.

    To illustrate it better, hereby Fabula con Loro

    A la fuerza bruta del toro quiso
    oponer el loro.
    “La desarmada fuerza de la idea”
    y apenas comenzando la pelea,
    aunque vertió sapiencia por totumas,
    del loro no quedaron ni las
    plumas.
    Así muy noble, justa y grande sea,
    si no tiene a la mano algo macizo,
    por si sola, lector, ninguna idea sirve
    para un carrizo.

    Aquiles Nazoa

    • Excerpt:
      To keep its hold on Venezuela, Cuba has embedded a Soviet-style security apparatus. In a July 13 column, titled “Cubazuela” for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba website, Roberto Alvarez Quinones reported that in Venezuela today there are almost 50 high-ranking Cuban military officers, 4500 Cuban soldiers in nine battalions, and “34,000 doctors and health professionals with orders to defend the tyranny with arms”. Cuba’s Interior Ministry provides Maduro’s personal security. “Thousands of other Cubans hold key positions of the state, government, military and repressive Venezuelan forces, in particular intelligence and counter-intelligence services.”

      Every Venezuelan armed-forces commander has at least one Cuban minder, if not more, a source close to the military told me. Soldiers complain that if they so much as mention regime shortcomings over a beer at a bar, their superiors know about it the next day. On July 6, Reuters reported that since the beginning of April “nearly 30 members of the military have been detained for deserting or abandoning their post and almost 40 for rebellion, treason, or insubordination”.

      • The Castro regime has now lasted into the term of 11 US Presidents. Simply because they have never held an election and have been able to get welfare first from the Soviet Union and then Venezuela. The living conditions in Cuba deteriorated rapidly after the fall of the Soviet Union and Chavez was the one that stepped in and propped the Castro regime back up.
        Oh how great it will be to see the Castro regime bankrupt with no benefactor once Maduro is gone.
        The Irony will be delicious.
        This is what also makes this fight for freedom so tenacious. Castro, just like Maduro is fighting for his life.
        Deep down I still feel that the Trump administration and the Tillerson State department will not allow Venezuela to turn into Cuba. I am certain that there is much activity going on behind the scenes. The US has authorized funding to support regime change in Venezuela.
        If our covert operations run correctly, the story will be confidential for a long time.
        There is no doubt that Trump despises the Castro regime. Tillerson has been personally cheated by Chavez when he was CEO of Exxon Mobil. There is a lot of incentive there to assist the opposition. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
        Chavez, just like Castro, made the US out to be the enemy of the people.
        The people nodded in agreement as long as the freebies kept coming.
        Isn’t it interesting how so many in the Chavez and Maduro regime bought houses in the US? They use US banks (fortunately), vacation here and seem to spend a lot of time and money in the country that they so despise.
        Castro’s Communism is the true enemy of the people. All of Latin America and the Caribbean will be more stable with the Maduro and Castro regimes relegated to the dustbin of history.

        • John, will you marry me?

          But God forbid a Gringo president try to take action against a regime that is allowing its people to starve, die from lack of medicines, and is throwing democracy into the garbage?

          What the fuck is it with Latinos and their “anti-imperialist” mindset when it’s only the imperialists to the north that can SAVE the fucking country?

  10. MUD has numbers to support their position. Real concrete numbers. Supported by video. Supported by testimony. More importantly, the numbers are being accepted by countries throughout the world.
    MUD needs to act to install a transitional government. The new government needs to be recognized as the legitimate Venezuelan government by other countries. The UN should accept the transitional government’s representative as the legitimate Venezuelan ambassador.
    With Al-Assami as Vice president, it is not a long step to convincing the US and the EU, along with other countries to designate the PSUV as a terrorist organization. Taken one step further, the PDVSA could be sanctioned for funding the PSUV.
    The repercussions of these actions would make it impossible for the regime to access any money, sell oil or buy weaponry. Except for what can be garnered from Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. I don’t think Russia or China would want the hassle of supporting Maduro. To much risk for no return. The billions these countries are already owed have made them leery of any more credit being extended.
    People are all waiting for the military to make a move. When the regime can no longer pay, feed or equip the military, they should not have much trouble deciding what to do.
    The bankers have political influence. Goldman Sachs proved that they don’t have any ethics, but they still have influence. If these bankers feel that the best way to recover their loans is a regime change, international recognition will come to the MUD. Maduro knows this. That is why he starved his people to pay the bonds. Announcing a concrete economic agenda to pull the country out of this crisis will be needed to get the bankers to use their influence.
    Shutting off all inflows of money to the current regime is critical.
    International recognition will bring aid. If need be the MUD may need to create, train and arm a security force. This may encourage military defections.
    The immediate post Maduro challenges are to get food and medicine into the country and restore the rule of law. The corruption that has infected so much of Venezuelan society is going to make it very problematic when it comes to destroying the collectives and making the country safe from criminals. The police and guardsmen do not have the respect and trust of the people. International assistance may become critical for the short term, until these entities can be rebuilt. Possibly retired officers will need to be asked to serve during this transition.
    The MUD needs to maintain and build on their momentum. Right now all of the international leaders are supporting the MUD and the people.

  11. Tiempos interesantes. The nation must Gai momentum and use every single day n the coming two weeks to regain independence. No hay mañana.

  12. The winning strategy that the government has is Leopoldo out of jail and receiving Zapatero in his house.

    Capriles said that Zapatero opposes the ANC. Even Freddy today said “if the government does not back up”. So, Zapatero is making MUD believe that Maduro might negotiate and this will make MUD not go full blast with the “Hora Cero” while the clock ticks and 30J comes.

    This needs to happen: Leopoldo walks out of his door and gives there a press conference where he reads from a statement repudiating all further contacts with Zapatero or anybody else until Maduro accepts publicly the content of Parolin’s letter while MUD goes full blast with “hora cero”.

    Leopoldo goes back in and let Sebin come for him in front of all the people gathered there and the national and international press.

  13. The ANC was never a bluff, it was, however, a last stand, and the flop (16J) has given the all-in bet to winning democracy. Pre-ANC, the post-bet results depend most on still-standing LOD and her pragmatic Chavismo backers. Post-ANC, if it comes to this, the results will depend on the efficacy of U.S./international economic sanctions and the amount of blood let.

  14. La constituyente. Un bluff. Sí. Why?

    El gobierno no tiene ataduras. Desconoce a la AN. Mete presos alcaldes y diputados. Suspende pasaportes. Premia públicamente a policías luego de cometer delitos registrado en vídeos. Nombra y quita gobernadores. Enjuicia, a usa, encarcela y tortura. Entra en vi iendas privadas, destruye, roba, mata. Elimina elecciones. Decide quienes votan. Quienes son candidatos. Destruye el arco minero. Pide dinero para él y endeuda al país.

    Hay algo que no se le permita? Todo lo puede hacer. Es lo más cercano a una monarquía absolutista. El Estado soy yo.

    Entonces para qué necesita la constituyente? Qué poderes adicionales les da? De qué le sirve en la práctica?

    Entonces es un bluff. O una carta para negociar.

    Obviamente que mantenerse en el poder es la intención. Pero por qué jugar adelantado. Por qué no esperar hasta el 2019?

    IMO es que se equivocaron. O que pensaron que la situación de apoyos nacionales e internacionales es mejor ahora. Fidel pasó. Raúl entrega pronto. Correa se fue y Evo languidece. Se fue Obama y se fue Lula.

    Internamente los apoyos se desmoronan. Sólo los grandes empresarios (tipo ministro y su suegra) apoyan abiertamente. Otros se esconden. Otros cruzan la calle. Nadie cruza la puerta para entrar.

    Alguien menciono que el gobierno tiene un par de dos en sus manos. Y quizás es así. Pero en Febrero tenía un par de Ases!

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