Leopoldo Gives a Boring Speech, Thank God

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In the wee hours of the morning, Leopoldo López addressed the country for the first time since his relocation from Ramo Verde into house arrest. The 15-minute video didn’t exactly break new ground, going back over well understood opposition talking points systematically.

We hear him repeat the demand that the government allow humanitarian aid and free all political prisoners, for the Fuerzas Armadas to reconsider their part in tainting the institution by becoming accomplices in the annihilation of the Republic, and for people to hold strong on the streets. It could feel, at times, like a bit of a box-ticking exercise but sometimes it’s important for political leaders to make sure those boxes are ticked.

Leopoldo closes by inviting us to a 48 hour national strike “promoted by the workers” and to join the Takeover of Caracas, MUD’s own final show of might before the dreaded elections to the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, which MUD is of course not taking part in.

A Leopoldo that sticks to the script is the stuff of MUD strategists’ dreams. Finally!

I’m clearly minded to give him the benefit of the doubt I am a Voluntad Popular activist, after all. But the reality is that even to me the speech sounded a little stale from repetition. By playing it relatively safe, the speech underwhelmed many political activists.  

Not every political speech or press release has to make our bellies tingle. This isn’t the next Game Of Thrones episode.

But, has anything really changed since MUD’s last address? Not really. Yes we’ve had a back-room negotiation brokered by Rodríguez Zapatero, along the rampant conspiracy theory those inevitably give rise to. But the basic balance of forces is the same.

I think Leopoldo did well to stick to an agenda that keeps MUD together. It’s a sign of maturity for a leader too often seen as striking off on his own and risking rifts.

Not every political speech or press release has to make our bellies tingle. This isn’t the next Game Of Thrones episode. It’s real life in the midst of medieval chaos. Amid the stress, we need cool heads reminding us what the goals are.

Following the successful 7.6 million votes tallied at the National Assembly’s popular consultation on July 16th to reject the constituyente and seek a transition, the time had come to begin negotiations behind closed doors. It makes us nervous, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction: nothing is going to get done in a televised circus. Playing to the gallery is easy, negotiating to defend our interests is hard.

By playing it relatively safe, the speech underwhelmed many political activists.  

Leopoldo understands that passive protests like staying home during a paro or refusing to vote on Sunday can never have the impact of an active protest, like the Toma de Caracas.

The watchword in VP has been calle y más calle take to the streets and stay there. And that’s not going to change.

It was good to reacquaint ourselves with Leopoldo now that he’s at home. This wasn’t the last we’ll hear from him. He’s now a party to the negotiations, with a voice and a seat at the table. He’s not an abstraction anymore.

If you were disappointed by his speech, don’t be. We have to start getting used to a more deliberate and subtle movement of pieces. It’s either that, or we’ll have to accept the batshit insane whatsapposphere a cadena-de-la-tia-fueled panic maelstrom as our new normal. And no good can come of that.

21 COMMENTS

    • It could be worse. I am reminded of the late night comedy program that compared Dick Cheney’s non-blinking stoicism with Nancy Pelosi’s non-stop blinking during a GW Bush State of the Union speech.

    • Comes from the psychological torture of having his eyes forcibly braced open for days on end (just kidding–maybe). I thought his speech was great–and, surely presidential.

  1. No other political prisoner under house arrest has released a video in this manner (that I am aware of or can remember). I’m sure it goes against the terms of his house arrest. There are rumors that he’s going to leave his house on Friday to join the protests. Lilian left with their kids to Miami. Good article but I think these crucial point need to be included in the analysis.

    • It’s most hearsay, no way of knowing if he’ll indeed take part. Knowing the guy, of course he wants to, but it’s up to anyone if he takes part really.

          • “Leading” from Ramo Verde wasn’t easy, and it would be even more difficult/impossible under the ANC, although he may be put back in anyway (the “popular will” being mentioned by NM, to exonerate NM/cronies from the even harsher HR abuses to come–the main reason Lilian/kids skipped country, perhaps).

      • But it is true that no other preso político has been able to release statements on video to the public. Perhaps he had a better deal? or is he breaking the rules here?

    • Yes, which I think it’s what needs to be done at this point in time, if we are all supporting the 350 and do not recognize these individuals or their execution of the law, then we shall see a demonstration of this from him too, as others are doing right now…

  2. According to Juliococo, LL told zapatero and the “entreguistas” rosales, zambrano and falsón that no negociation was valid, so the dictatorship will anounce the sunday that 50 million folks voted in the prostituyente.

  3. What we need is to mobilize as much people as we can, and the only way to do that is to ask for Maduro’ s resignation. People will not fight for any other reason. That is the truth. If the people think that this will all conclude with Maduro in charge until 2019, no matter what we get in return, no matter what the “elite” says, the people will simply not fight. Nobody will be happy with the regional elections. If Leopoldo goes through that path, he will lose all his capital. We know the story.
    If Maduro raises the odds, maybe we should raise the odds too. That’ s basic negotiation.So Leopoldo’s speech was not effective in doing that: it was more of the same. I think that if we needed to mobilize as much people as possible, the speech had to be radical. Radicalism is the only way to go simply because there is absolutely nothing you can do without the people, and the people will only fight to overthrow Maduro, the people will not fight for a political system ot for political parties or leaders that they don’ t care about. If you take the people out of the ecuation, if you try to solve this any other way, you will lose. Maduro knows this and that is why he always raises the odds. He is the better negotiatior. Sometimes in war you have to retreat, and sometimes you have to attack, Sometimes you have to think and sometimes you have to act. Right now Leopoldo is mistaken. He should be more radical than never, if only to ensure that at worst, the constituyente is suspended, and at best, Maduro is overthrown. But if he stars asking for elections, the only thing he will accomplish is to give Zulia to Rosales.

    Our elite is dogmatic, they only went to the best universities in the world to learn dogma, not to think for themselves. That is what they are failing,

  4. With all due respect to Leopoldo, his judgment shouldn’t be trusted but his courage admired.
    I wouldn’t trust any person judgement after gone through that psychological trauma of jail and torture for so long.
    I think he wouldn’t be able to think cool and rationally, at least so early from his release.

    As for negotiations that is a futile exercise.

    Quoting Hugo Chavez 1999 “We Revolutionaries don’t Negotiate”
    Quoting Maduro 2017 “What we can’t do with votes, we will do with weapons”

    Is that clear enough or people need a diagram ?

    Any engagement with criminal psychopaths is a waste of time and lives.

  5. I Can’t believe you’re actually arguing in favor of backstabbing 7.5 Venezuelans who went to the polls determined that the time for negotiation was over and a final show of strength was needed, dialogue or negotiations were not included in any of the 3 questions Venezuelans approved, in fact, the whole plebiscite was sold under the promise of an “hora cero”, which means, giving it all on the streets the day after, and i quite literally heard Freddy Guevara explain the plebiscite in these terms.

  6. Leopoldo is loved because he represents the struggle against a much hated regime , that hatred is founded in the absolute abhorrence ordinary people feel against the regime and Maduro for the degradation and suffering its brought into their lives ….the more the regime is hated the more they love leopoldo ……., the speech doesnt have to be fiery for people to love him if the hatred of the regime has become a habit of the heart, the regime by repressing the protests has made that hatred deepseated and inerradicable , Leopoldo just has to ride that tsunami of that hatred to remain on top …….

  7. I am confused by this article. Last fall the MUD lost the people by entering into a “dialogue”, that produced nothing. Even through the insanity of the new BF’s being announced and all the confusion the streets remained empty. Only the TSJ, in their own bit of galactic stupidity brought the people back out to the streets, not the MUD. Elections were “delayed”, the recall killed. Now they, the MUD, are considering going back to the table? I can understand the hope to reduce the pain and suffering of the people but what do they really expect the outcome to be? A PROMISE, not a guarantee, to hold Presidential elections next December? Sorry but I do not the see the people on the streets accepting this. The MUD will lose popular support if they take this tract. The TSJ gave them a gift by reengaging the people this spring, sometimes leaders need to put into words what their followers want to here. Not a single person outside of the regime benefits from negotiations long term, at some point the MUD has to ask the people to take the poison pill and force the regime to hit rock bottom. (I do not mean this to sound callous to those whom have given their lives during protests, nor those beaten or imprisoned. Their memories should be the battle cry along with those whom have died needlessly from a lack of nutrition or medicines.)

  8. Can the protests by themselves alone topple an entreched regime without any help from the army ?? if the answer is yes then no negotiations ( except total surrender negotiations ) will be necessary and people can joyfully stick to those protests as the epic manifestation of their bravery and discontent …..or are protest a means of making life so difficult for the regime that its willing to open spaces for the opposition to use as a firm foot hold to later advance its agenda of replacing the govt with something more acceptable …..??

    If there are negotiations which result in advances which allow the organized oppo to advance towards its goals then the street protesters will have to be talked to and persuaded that such results are acceptable ..for the time being……..that means giving a person of great prestige and credibility the job of doing that explaining …..tough job of course ….but it can be done …..many years ago France was in the throes of a civil war between those that wanted to abandon Algeria and those that couldnt countenance that , General De Gaulle gave a 10 minute speech and at the end of it , all threats of a civil war had gone and …France gave up Algeria…….!!

    Of course we are talking of negotiations that yield concrete verifiable results, or enforceable commitments while protests are kept at red hot intensity ………….not just of empty ‘dialogue’ or of elliciting promises from the regime that it can later backtrack from without consequences…..!!

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