MUD primaries are happening. Here in Bolívar, my state, the clash is between good-old perma-candidate Andrés Velásquez, and current AN deputy Francisco Sucre.

And nobody gives a damn. I actually feel cheated that these elections even exist.

These are “the big names.” Andrés Velásquez, the one who looks like a Toronto, is “the worker’s candidate”; a former union activist, he has been Bolívar’s governor twice and runs for the post every time he gets the chance. Today, that background doesn’t mean much. Just like in Merida, Táchira, and I’m guessing everywhere else, candidates struggle to get people’s attention. No one I know is excited, it’s actually hard to find someone who cares about this distant noise.

The thing people are talking about is Los Animalitos, not elections.

With this in mind, I wanted to ask both candidates a simple question: why are you running for governor?

Everyone knows the CNE is unreliable and, even if you win, the government will improvise a CorpoBolívar parallel government, appoint some crony to run it, and assign it all the budget that is supposedly yours. That is, if they don’t disqualify or jail you to begin with.

I put this question to Francisco Sucre, after meeting him at one of his rallies. I’d ask Velasquez the same, but he was campaigning at Upata.

It was 7 pm and, between loud music and ladies shouting, we tried to talk:

“What are we going to do?” he shoots back. “Are we giving 23 elections to the dictatorship? We must dare it in an act of democratic rebellion. First of all, it’s our right as written in the Constitution. Now, if the dictatorship sends us to jail tomorrow, or strip our competencies, that will only delegitimize it. It’ll make the world see it for what it is and provoke more economic sanctions.”

Andrés Velásquez, the one who looks like a Toronto… has been Bolívar’s governor twice and runs for the post every time he gets the chance.

He spoke of Pinochet. Opposition in Chile had it way worse than here, with only 10 minutes of airtime. It won by one percent, a tiny advantage that meant everything.

“So is this an election or a protest?,” I ask.

“See, this is part of a fight against dictatorship. The Constitution establishes governor elections, just as it established National Assembly elections and, thanks to that, we have worldwide recognition with deputies that met yesterday with president Macron and today with Merkel. It’s one thing for Julio Borges to tour Europe as a political leader, and quite another to do it as president of Congress. All of the arenas must be conquered, not just the street. We cannot underestimate the power of vote.”

From time to time, we are interrupted by people trying to talk to him or pose for a selfie. The guy is actually popular.

“But, don’t you think” I insist, “that by going to elections, you lose momentum gained by the protest? Isn’t this sabotaging an agenda that was already on track?”

“Absolutely not” he snaps back. “Who guarantees that, after 130 deaths, 4 months on the streets, 15,000 wounded, 600 political prisoners, we’d get out of this dictatorship just with protest? It doesn’t mean we abandoned the street. But every fighting mechanism is concurrent; voting, streets, international lobby and the institutional struggle. The street can reactivate at any moment, and it’s not the same fighting against a dictatorship with three governors, than fighting with twenty.”

If the dictatorship sends us to jail tomorrow… it’ll make the world see it for what it is and provoke more economic sanctions.

He looks at me in the eye, and says “We are a majority today and this majority must express itself electorally. In the possibility that the government steals the election, or cancels it, let them assume that cost. I won’t make it easy for them. They’re in a dilemma, because if they do the elections, we’ll obliterate them, and if they don’t, they’ll steal them or come up with some travesty, revealing themselves as a totalitarian regime. Sooner than later, that will take them out of power.”

Now, for full disclosure, I hate Francisco Sucre.

He’s on Emi’s list of shame and he blocked me on twitter for some criticism, but I gotta’ admit, the fucker makes some sense. In fact, I was never against the idea of going to elections just to screw the government a bit more – for me, it’s a problem when it’s the only strategy they have, shutting down protests for going full on hugging-old-ladies. He says we can’t be sure that more protests will bring the government down, and he’s right. But it feels way closer to the goal than promising stuff to random people over loud jingles.

And do we even need another symbolic act to unmask the dictatorship?

26 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting perspective(s) here and very well written. It so perfectly explains the conondrum, the Catch 22.

    I’m anti-participation, because I think the only path to change at this point is bullets, not ballots, but the article gave me a better understanding of those who feel differently.

    • Totally agree, bullets are the only way to defeat the Castro dictatorship at this point in time. All other options are wishful thinking and unrealistic!

      • All this talk of bullets is puro bla bla bla. Machismo subdesarrollado de poltrona. If you are so keen on violence, then go for it. I hope they catch you and you rot in jail or end up like Che Guevara. The rest of us will look to Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and the Concertación chilena, all peaceful movements which achieved freedom peacefully.

        • “The rest of us will look to Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and the Concertación chilena, all peaceful movements which achieved freedom peacefully.” Good luck with that, SA, India, USA and Chili didn’t have a castro-communist-chavista dictatorship to battle. Protests weren’t effective for many many reasons, MUD is worthless as an opposition, Chavismo ain’t never ever gonna give up power if they aren’t forced to do. So imho bullets/civil war is the only way forward. You can BlaBlaBla peaceful movements to achieve freedom as much as you like but that won’t tumble this dictatorship EVER!!! Lets start killing rojo rojitos by the thousands and paint the streets red because that WILL topple this regime in a heartbeat. Peaceful, non-violent, freedom of speech, respecting and obeying the constitution and laws, fair negotiations etc aren’t in Chavismo’s dictionary, violence and bullets are. We should start playing their game and beat them at it, if we don’t they will stay for ever!!!

          • How are we supposed to beat them at it if they control 95% of the military, and 99% of the colectivos in Venezuela? You may enlighten me with your complete plan, or come and do it, it wil be my pleasure to see you win.

        • “Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and the Concertación chilena, all peaceful movements which achieved freedom peacefully.”

          Yeah, “Peacefully”:

          http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-nelson-mandela-legacy-violence-20131206-story.html

          “After he founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, Mandela was sent by the ANC for military training in Algeria and Ethiopia. He held a gun for the first time. It felt comfortable in his hands. When he fired at a rock across a river, he didn’t hit it, but he got close enough to raise dust nearby, delighting his instructors.

          Mandela returned from his trip in July 1962 but was arrested soon after and faced trial for sabotage in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb. Police found incriminating evidence about the armed struggle, and Mandela and some of the others tried with him were convicted and jailed for life in 1964. Mandela was offered freedom several times on various conditions, including renouncing violence, but he refused.

          Umkhonto we Sizwe continued its fight, launching hundreds of bomb attacks.

          But just as he had embraced violence without the permission of ANC leaders, Mandela, on his own initiative, wrote to leaders of the white supremacist government in 1985, initiating peace talks. Gradually, he negotiated a peaceful end to apartheid and the release of political prisoners. One of the last to be freed, he continued talks with the white government and persuaded it to agree to free, democratic elections, in effect a surrendering of its power.”

          It was only after the regime actually committed to respect their offers:

          “Umkhonto we Sizwe abandoned its policy of violence in 1990 as negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid and the setting up of free elections continued.”

          Pinochet gave up the power only because he considered that his work was done on Chile, after he repaired the atrocious mess that Allende’s communist regime had left in the country.

          “Protests weren’t effective for many many reasons, ”

          The main reason was that the MUD wasn’t interested (And I doubt it’s interested today) in ousting the regime, so they sent the people to “do whatever they wanted, as long as you don’t even defend your lives”, the lack of direction and training was what destroyed the protests.

          “So imho bullets/civil war is the only way forward.”

          It’s not a civil war, it’s a defense against the invaders.

          “Lets start killing rojo rojitos by the thousands and paint the streets red because that WILL topple this regime in a heartbeat… We should start playing their game and beat them at it, if we don’t they will stay for ever!!!”

          Though I agree that the current “manitos-blancas bailoterapias” where people let themselves be beaten within an inch of their lives won’t affect the regime as they are the same walks that the “damas de blanco” perform in Cuba, I completely disagree with the mindless, unfocused violence of wanting to hang chavistas just because they are chavistas.

          Look, a peaceful demonstration IS possible, the thing is, that it must be made crystal clear that if the regime dares to send their hired guns to harrass and slaughter the people, they WILL PAY for it, double time, and in the meantime, pressure measures in every field must be carried away to force the regime to change and to oust it.

          My gut tells me that according everything Sucre said in the interview, MUD is very likely to continue kiting the resistance and the opposition in general as they have done during the last decade and half.

          • “Pinochet gave up the power only because he considered that his work was done on Chile, after he repaired the atrocious mess that Allende’s communist regime had left in the country.”

            Ah yes. The homicidal dictator who wants to spend more time with his family….

          • Yeah, Canuckle, as much as you hate the idea, Pinochet step down because he wanted to do so, not because he was forced by a bunch of bailoterapeutas or damas de blanco.

            If he was a murderous, genocidal and all around evil as you claim (Not saying he didn’t do his share of atrocities, but his regime pales in that department compared to chavismo), then he could have simply gone chavista on Concertación’s collective asses and have them either locked up or simply murdered by some malandros.

            Still, you can’t deny the inamobile fact that the current structure of Chile’s economy and much of its constutitutional framework were laid during Pinochet’s regime.

        • Maria, Fidel was vastly outnumbered. He didn’t even win militarily:

          The standing army just gave up, threw their arms and uniforms away en masse, because they knew there was nothing worth fighting for. The parallels between then and now in VZ are staggering.

          But in a country of 30 million, and a jungle no less, they can’t seem to muster anyone with ANY fucking cojones to get the ball rolling.

          It’s something Venezuelans should feel really ashamed of.

  2. Venezuela is living under a dictatorship partly because of the infighting and lack of discipline among rank-and-file opositores as evidenced by this blog post. Emi’s and Carlos’s haughtiness and berrinche are, frankly, pathetic, childish, and counterproductive. To vanquish the monstrous and metastasized dictatorship we need to be fully united and marching in step all the time, not just when we happen agree with our leadership. It doesn’t mean that we must all agree 100% about everything. But there are DEMOCRATIC mechanisms within the MUD to reach, at best, consensus, and at worst, majority decisions. Democratic mechanisms means primary elections, consultative assemblies, and, yes, politiquería. It was decided to go to regional elections. Then, guess what? We should all go out, mobilize, campaign for our candidates, and vote. If we don’t like who’s elected, it doesn’t matter. We support them with our all. If the election is a sham, so be it. If it turns out to be a mistake to have gone to elections, so what. If you don’t like the MUD leadership, then deal with it or rise through the ranks to be a leader yourself, but you have to step out of the way if you are not going to advance the cause. American revolutionaries didn’t win independence because they were they were great soldiers. Washington and his commanders made plenty of mistakes and lost battles all the time. The American soldiers didn’t desert the cause when the leadership made one mistake or another. They fought on, until they were at the right place, at the right time, and fighting the battle that turned out to be crucial. It’s the same case here. We need more discipline and less quejadera.

    • “DEMOCRATIC mechanisms ” and “It was decided”

      I’m only gonna point out out this GLARING contradiction in your post. Just like MUD’s contradiction taht we somehow are going to weaken a dictatorship through democratic means. LOL.

      • Not as big of a contradiction as the people who are pissed at the MUD and don’t vote in primaries.

        if this guy hates Francisco Sucre so much, why doesn’t he vote against him in the primaries?

        If you want the MUD to become a real movement, not just a bunch of politiqueros, then vote in the primaries. Like it or not, these leaders will be the ones to lead our fight against the dictatorship in the future. It’s the only way for the people to get to decide

        Want to stop guys like Sucre from becoming the eventual presidential candidate of some hodge podge personalistic party in the future? Vote against him in the primaries!

        Want to punish Ramos Allup and AD for impulsively forcing us into this process? Then vote against them in the primaries!

        We’ll never become a democracy if we don’t start acting like one, even if we also need to topple Maduro to get there

        • Ok so I vote nulo for these guys and that achieves what exactly??

          But when I do vote in these elections I am effectively legitimizing the CNE and by consequence the ANC. So when we ask for outside help how can we say that we live in a dictatorship when the so called opposition participated in elections. It’s ridiculous and it’s this type of thinking that has led us to the position we are in today.

      • That’s how the sausage is made sometimes. No hay que ser ilusos ni creer en pajaritos preñados. Berrinches are fine for 3 year olds. The rest of us adults have to take a break if we need to, but then go back to the fray mas unidos que nunca.

    • I enjoy a good rant and will not begrudge an author who is skilled in the form the occasional opportunity to shine, but I agree with a lot of what Pierre here is saying.

      Way back, I was an amateur enthusiast in Czech underground literature and political commentary during the communist period, and it seems to me that the level of infighting and backstabbing in that movement, that ultimately succeeded, along with similar movements in Poland, East Germany, and Romania, was not significantly less than what we see within the Venezuelan opposition.

      The difference I suppose, is that all the infighting in the example I was familiar with was by necessity, out of public view, given that no public opposition was tolerated within that system. And that high level of repression made something of a virtue of necessity, the virtue being: discretion.

      In other words: you bicker furiously, but understand that there is a time and place for it, and a time to come to agreement, make the necessary compromises and adjustments, and move along with the common cause.

      I believe in opposition on multiple fronts, without violence, because in my lifetime it has worked in a consistent and sustainable way. The thing nobody seems to talk about in these comments sections that quickly jump to violence as the only option is: organized labour.

      And so, like a broken record, I raise it again here and pose the question: is your man that looks like a Toronto still connected to organized labour, or has he only maintained the appearance?

      Because if he is, I think he merits serious consideration at the ballot box, because he holds a key insight into what the opposition has to date, only hesitatingly understood, which is that no totalitarian regime – from Louis XVI to Nicolae Ceausescu- can function and continue without the cooperation of skilled workers, and so the number one priority must be organizing them and mobilizing them, again and again. And if your political leaders are not appealing to them, you should swallow whatever reactionary impulses you may harbour in the interests of regime change, and consider some leaders who are.

  3. Unless you have more guns than the government you will not dislodge them. So it comes down to non violent resistance which boils down to exact a moral cost (shaming) of your opponent every time you can. So I agree with Mr. Sucre.

  4. Fuck him. Sucre is a piece of shit that never gave a fuck about doing anything besides getting to be Governor. I also happen to live on this state and the only reason that is not Rangel AGAIN is because Rangel pissed off all the other mafias that rule the state (the regular criminals, the public syndicates and the illegal miners) and the regime had to repress them.

    With all those mining contracts to China, there’s no way that the next governor isn’t chavista anyways.

  5. Too many professional politicians. Not enough people of integrity interested in stepping onto this lowest rung of professional career “virtue”. You sully yourself just by identifying as a politician.

    Why bother? To get elected, you have to sell your soul and become a professional snake oil salesman. God forbid if you were honest, and told an ignorant constituency the truth about their “favorite” government program… you might as well cut your own wrists. (Try telling the United States “oldsters” the truth about their favorite government freebie, Social Security and its ACTUAL insolvency, and you might get tarred and feathered!)

    I am of the opinion that most politicians are narcissists. And only by being elected to public office can this character defect be assuaged.

    • “Too many professional politicians. Not enough people of integrity interested in stepping onto this lowest rung of professional career “virtue”. You sully yourself just by identifying as a politician.”

      Pretty much sums it up.

  6. Some points to clarify the Chile comment:

    1.- The “No” won with an 11% margin (not 1%), with 97% of all voting age adults casting a vote.
    2.- The Concertación was, unlike the MUD, a truly united front of parties in the run-up to the plebiscite. Leaders such as Patricio Aylwin, Ricardo Lagos, Enrique Silva-Cimma, Gabriel Valdés, among others, despite representing a wide spectrum of political sensitivities (Christian Democrats, Allende-style socialism, Social-Democrats, etc), knew they all had to row in the same direction in order to succeed. Even if that meant playing under the junta’s rules.
    3.- The junta allowed not only the presence of international observers for election day, but a truly independent electoral service/tribunal. Even today, votes are cast in a closed booth, behind a dark curtain.
    4.- Unlike Chávez, Pinochet himself never created any kind of transcendent political movement behind him.
    5.- After Pinochet’s defeat, he lost backing inside the junta. Its members (most notably Air Force Commander Matthei) would’ve not accepted any sort of self-coup. He accepted to play under the rules of the constitution he’d created, strictly following the laws. His supporters and ministers framed it under the lens of “honour”.

    • Pinochet was no angel, but, he was not in the same class of swamp that we see in VZ these days. Not even by a long shot!!!

      Whether that was by his own admission or through the pending defeat he faced, the fact remains, Maduro & Chavistas bring a whole new meaning to “gutter politics” and the worst in Latin America.

      Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      Washington knew that if the US was going to enjoy freedoms that soldiers had died for, he needed to leave office. He didn’t want to leave, but he knew it was the right thing to do. Pinochet was no Washington, but, lumping him in with Maduro is plain ignorant.

  7. “And do we even need another symbolic act to unmask the dictatorship?”

    No, but you need to keep the dictatorship from putting the mask back on. If chavista governors lawfully win elections, even by default, that legitimizes chavista authority.

    However, it really should not be an issue. The AN should not have allowed the ANC to meet in its space, or conceded anything to it. The AN should declare that the ANC is illegitimate, that Maduro is a traitor for asserting that it has power, and that no police or armed forces should obey any orders from Maduro or his subordinates. The establishment of the ANC is a self-coup, the government is illegal, and Venezuelans should resist its actions. Unfortunately, the opposition is not even slightly prepared for a conflict of this nature.

    If they were, they could defeat the PNB and SEBIN. Most of the colectivos would attack; there could be widespread gun battles. The regime would have to order the armed forces into action; and the generals or the troops might very well balk or defect. But the opposition is not prepared to fight.

    Here is the kernel in the nut: AFAICT, no one in the opposition has an actual plan for removing Maduro and the chavistas from power. No one has any real idea of how that would happen.

    There is a system for project planning, which counter-intuitively works from completion backwards. First, define what the end state of the project will be. Then infer the immediately previous required steps to reach that state. Then for each of those steps, infer their previous required steps, and reiterate, back to the beginning state in all paths. Now the planners know what to do first. Without this analysis, they can only guess. Experienced, well-informed planners may guess fairly accurately, but even so delays and extra costs may arise from unanticipated conflicts.

    The project in this case is the overthrow of the chavernment. The end state is the assumption of power (over the FANB, the PNB, PdVSA, BCV, and the rest of the executive branch) by opposition figures: i.e. Capriles or Allup or Lopez sits in the President’s office in Miraflores, and gives orders that are obeyed by everyone in the government.

    For the opposition to achieve that, they need to define what must happen before that, working the steps backwards to current conditions, then start on the first steps of the defined process.

    Until they do, opposition activity is mere flailing about. It may strike occasional blows, but it is very unlikely to achieve any significant result.

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