The Heart of the Issue: Accountability Inside MUD


What would it take for Manuel Rosales to no longer be a front line national political leader? What would it take for Julio Borges to hand over the reins of Primero Justicia? And Leopoldo, and Henry, politicians now so entrenched at the head of their organizations I don’t even have to say their last names for you to know who we’re talking about?

You may like some of the politicians in that list (and despise others), but that’s categorically not the point. The point I’m making is a question of structure: the Venezuelan opposition lacks any credible accountability mechanism that would allow it to show failed leaders the door.

Famously, there isn’t even a proper Spanish translation for the concept of “accountability.” Philologists debate whether we lack the word because we lack the concept, or the other way around, but what’s clear is the absence of an accountability mechanism that’s able to renew the opposition’s leadership with real world consequences.

The opposition has spent much of the last four years stuck in a debate its leaders cannot resolve; it began in 2014 over #LaSalida, and pitted a section of the opposition determined to push for regime change then and there, against another sector that wanted to hold out for the electoral route. Intra-opposition politics since then have amounted to a never-ending, Groundhog’s Day of re-litigating the issue back and forth, never reaching a conclusion.

The Venezuelan opposition lacks any credible accountability mechanism that would allow it to show failed leaders the door.

But distance yourself momentarily from your position in this debate. Just stop, and look at it from the outside. The strategically relevant question isn’t so much “who’s right?” but “why does it never end?” Why is it impossible to draw a line under a debate that has been hobbling the opposition’s coherence throughout our most catastrophic years since the the 19th century? Why is it that, even today, on the verge of Hyperinflation and in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, the opposition’s energy is spent in reaching a position over December’s municipal elections?

The answer, I think, is two-fold: first, because the absence of accountability mechanisms that would allow some fresh faces to take over control of MUD means that it’s literally the same people having the debate today as it was back in 2014. It’s the same dudes rehashing the same arguments along the same lines of thought. Nobody resigns and fresh ideas never come to the fore. Piques, grudges and personal vendettas are given decades to fester. Nothing changes because nobody changes.

Second, nobody wants to rethink the dysfunctional structure of MUD. Founded as a coalition of nominally independent parties, each of which has its own decision-making systems, routines and structures, MUD’s byzantine internal structure is custom-made to guarantee sclerosis.

I talk to foreigners about MUD, often, and one of the questions they always ask is “Why don’t they just fuse into a single party with a single leader and a single hierarchical structure?” It seems like a no-brainer. If there was one opposition party, that party could come to a final decision on the Salidismo vs. Via Electoral, and the people on the losing side would just have to accept it and cooperate with the winning side which even they would have to admit would be preferable to the endless paralysis and division it has sown.

“Why don’t they just fuse into a single party with a single leader and a single hierarchical structure?”

I always struggle to answer when people ask me why this hasn’t happened. And I struggle because the honest answer is too tawdry to say out loud.

These guys and yeah, they’re virtually all guys would rather be a bigger fish in a smaller pond than help build up the opposition into a coherent organization able to really challenge the government. The reason is that AD exists first and foremost so Henry Ramos Allup can be the boss of something; the reason is that Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López had a falling out over a decade ago and because there are no systems in place for either of them to bow out, that private fight keeps festering over the struggle against chavista autocracy.

The reason MUD’s structure doesn’t work is that MUD is designed to shield its leaders from accountability.

There’s no cosmetic fix to that problem. It’s not something you can solve with a pretty new logo or a nice jingle, or a family photo or a press conference. It takes the kind of real rethink that will have real costs for people. It’s a debate MUD has been putting off for, literally, years. One it was never likely to launch until it was clear the alternative was outright extinction.

Bueno, the alternative is outright extinction.

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  1. The reason why the opposition is divided is simple.

    Some of them want to co-govern with the dictatorship.
    Some others want real principles based unapologetic forward looking freedom for our people.

  2. Well I don’t think this an exclusive problem of Venezuela. Just look at USA politics. The Bush Family, The Clintons and hundred of congressmen that stay there until Alzheimer claims them.
    Those political parties who don’t adapt and renew eventually collapse. And that is what happened in Vzla in the late 90’s paving the way to a populist messiah.
    Lets remember that the MUD was a desperate attempt, a temporary compromise from the opposition political parties to defeat the regime through ELECTIONS. Unfortunately that has been proven at this point to be no longer an option when facing an outright Dictatorship or rather a narco state, a Castro-Comunist regime.
    Given this circumstances the MUD with all those political parties suddenly become irrelevant for the time being. Specially when they keep insisting in electoral solutions.
    Even if all the opposition parties FUSE into ONE that would solve absolutely nothing.

    The task now is reorganize and renew the opposition leadership around other actors.
    Frankly, after all that has happened I don’t see any alternative left other than international military intervention. The only way to deal with armed criminals.

    • Name one Bush or Clinton that’s still in power

      Senators do stay on forever, but that has more to do with state-level dynamics

        • Wrong.

          Very wrong.

          Both parties made their choices based on valid primaries, where the PEOPLE chose.

          Pretty ridiculous to cry and complain that all of those people were wrong and that you know better.

          Granted, one can complain about campaign financing, but that’s a different argument.

        • Even if Bernie had won the Dem primary, he is still another septuagenarian who has been in congress for decades. This isn’t about primaries being “rigged”, it’s that there is a generational gap in politics (much like in Vzla), due to political entrenchment

          I’d say US parties are slow to renew, not that they don’t renew themselves at all

          • Trump was politically entrenched? Who knew?

            Both sides in DC pretty much hate him today and that’s a wonderful thing in my view. And if he’s successful in bringing jobs back to the rust belt, the donks can kiss their blue wall goodbye if he opts to run again.

          • Don’t know why I can’t reply to MRubio

            Trump is clearly a symptom of that political entrenchment. The fact that he is a celebrity gave him the visibility on the media that young, up-and-coming politicians could never get. But you’re right, let’s hope he scrambles things up

      • Oh, the point is certainly valid.

        You’re definitely going to see a Chelsea Clinton in the U.S. political future.

        The Kennedys have dried up, and I doubt the Bush legacies with $$$ give a shit about public office.

        And you forgot the Rockefellers.

        • Is it? Political entrenchment in the US has little in common structurally with political entrenchment in Venezuela. In the US, big corporations and lobbyists continue to fund established politicians. In Venezuela established politicians fund themselves.

          And btw, the only legacy you mentioned still with a member in US politics are actually the Kennedies (Joe). Jay Rockefeller left congress in 2015.

  3. One of the biggest causes is decentralized funding for campaigns.

    Back in the cuarta, AD and COPEI shared the booty they skimmed off of government funds. They disciplined their politicians with funds administered via clientelistic chains of command. Naturally, it was unlikely anyone would defect.

    Then CAP decentralized the government. Democracy takes a lot of money, and soon, running regional campaigns became another spending item on parties’ budgets.

    For other reasons we are all well aware of, AD and COPEI then collapsed, and all of these small start-up parties started to emerge. The PSUV was the only party that was able to consolidate its brand and its militants, because it had the (stolen, government) money to essentially buy everyone out.

    Why was Leopoldo able to leave PJ and create VP? Simple, he had the funds to do so.

    Why are different opposition parties prominent in different states? Because no national-level oppo party has the funds or the political reach to fund winning political projects in every state.

    In the US, parties still function in unity despite decentralized funding. The PCCC funds different candidates than the DNC. The Koch brothers pick and choose which Republicans they’ll fund. Etc. But historically, that wasn’t always the case. Party bosses during the earlier days of democracy cleaned out the ranks of their parties to ensure united opposition against the other party.

    The new Unity should kick out all those who are just a thorn on our way to take down the government. It should also create a centralized funding org and a whipping system to ensure candidates comply with the party line. We should incentivize plural, competitive politics within the party, but we also need to be able to shut down the bullshit of many half-baked leaders.

    Plurality is beautiful if it can be organized, deadly if it pits us against each other

      • I agree! Bringing down the ANC and Maduro is priority #1. In addition to the military, there is political work in this too – organizing boycotts of chavista-owned businesses and those willing to still do business with the government, consolidating the diplomatic work done abroad, integrating La Resistencia into a bigger Oppo movement, creating local-level resistance cells, etc. We need to be united for all these things to work.

      • In Chile, Ii took Augusto Pinochet to begin to straighten out their country. I noticed in today in Niki Soto’s article,

        “According to figures by Chile’s Immigration Department, the amount of Venezuelans who have requested resident visa in the first six months of 2017, is bigger than the entire records for 2016 (31,949 requests,) representing an increase of almost 2,000%, ranking first in foreign petitioners”.

        Venezuela has many underutilize soccer / baseball available to clean house.

        I’m From US (L.A). (I lived in VZ from 1995 until 2001) I would like to volunteer many of our politicians to come take part (from any part of the political spectrum) to house cleaning.

        By for now. I got to go and watch the seventh game the World Series (Altuve is playing)

    • That’s the most interesting comment I’ve read here in a while. I’ve always wondered how Venezuelan opposition parties are funded, and wondered if that explained why the opposition is what it is. And I say that with a lot of respect for many of the opposition’s representatives. You’d think that oppression would foster discipline, but no.

  4. Nice article. Just in the middle.

    The budget of the parties depends on the alcaldia o gobernación that feed them (BTW that’s the reason psuv it’s so big: national budget=psuv budget and even psuv has en-debt the country to fund its campaigns). Public funds are used to back the next step in any politician’s future. Form concejal to diputado, from alcalde to gobernador and so on. When a politician landed an alcaldia, inmediately becomes the”next” candidate to gobernador. Similarly, when they leave the seat, they disappear. Salas Romer, Enrique Mendoza, Rosales, Andrés Velázquez, Claudio Fermin, all of them were presidential candidates. All of them basically disappeared once they left the gobernación. That’s the reason one party=one person (the so-called leaders). The party belongs to the one who controls the budget (ask Maduro about it!).

    The result is the MUD, which is a join venture from smaller budgets (gobernaciones y alcaldias) to compete against the big budget (psuv) which wants to erase the rest from any budget. It’s very difficult to have a voice in the MUD without a “espacio” (budget). LL has kept his party alive against the odds so far. But how long will it take for LL, PJ, UNT and others before they disappear? That’s the reason HRA give a s*’t of what people say about him now, in weeks his four gobernadores will make him prevail while the rest will fade. The same calculus Rosales is doing in Maracaibo. For a politician is a matter of survival. The bigger the gobernación, the bigger your position inside the MUD.

    Using public funds to sell an image has the problem that once the gobernación that funds them are gone they are gone. If a road is repaired, we must thank al gobernador. If a scholarship is grant, thanks to el alcalde. Un columpio en un parque: mil gracias mi presidente (el resto del parque abandonado)!!!

    P.S: The money used in propaganda are hundred times bigger than the money invested in the columpio that the propaganda is showing. But at the end if you don’t hold your gobernación the game is over. And that’s the essence of the politics in the country.

  5. In recent years at least two helpful initiatives were pushed back: CAP’s initiative to decentralize authority by allowing direct election of governors (Ramos Allup was able to get CAP impeached), and legitimate primaries (to once again be replaced by backroom deals which were notified as “consensus”).

  6. I loveeee this article, this is the best article in a long time in your site. This is the heart of the problem the same people trying the same strategies from 2014 and before with the same sad results and always claiming that the fault is on the people not on them!

  7. So, you mentioned twice in this article that you struggle to answer questions. I have been asking a single question for several weeks . Do you still believe, Quico, that the PSUV legitimately won a majority of the vote in the Oct 15.?

      • Why do you refuse to answer his question Quico? Or are you saying you’ve already answered it once and won’t answer it a second time?

        Your stance is kind of bizarre.

      • if by that you mean you made a mistake when you wrote that the PSUV won legitimately, just state it and we can all move on. my concern is merely that any such statement hurtss efforts internationally to remove the psuv. we all can agree that the psuv is ruining venezuela and should be shown the door. you are an important guy and a clear understanding of yoyr views are important and i mean that sincerely.

      • Even you refuse to be held accountable for your lack of consistency and half assed analysis.

        Now you are basically screaming accountability for everyone but not for me!

    • Indeed psuv-govt is NOT majority. I have answered to this question in different comments with more and more evidence. There is no way a government rejected by at least 75% of the country can get 54% of votes and 61% of participation. There is no motivation to vote for them but too many reasons to vote against them. From any angle the numbers (polls, results, abstention voters registered that left the country, etc., all point to a massive fraud in order to match the votes announced by CNE-actas.

      One of the lies spread out is that the people were forced to vote for them. But this is only effective if the people forced to vote indeed at least does not dislike them but again at least 75% (remember the number!) does not like them, so if you force them to vote most of them will vote against them.

      Basically, the fraud changed the results in a way that psuv won 18 out 23 states when it was supposed to win only 3-5 states (only the less important like Delta Amacuro, Cojedes or Portuguesa).

      Now the problem, and some people do not realize that yet but you pointed it out, is that the idea that the government has the support of the people (which is a massive LIE! don’t let them fool you!) closes any possible way out to remove the government from power. And that’s the frustrating part, when you see most of the media and journalists ironing this wrong idea which completely shuts the door to end the nightmare.

      Actually, if you see it the other way around, that the opposition had had won the national vote 5M vs 3M (as it should’ve occurred) then today instead of talking about the MUD and its disaster we were discussing the date of the presidential elections and the end.

      The consequences of not calling out the fraud by the MUD and the media is not only near term but long term for millions of people, and because “nobody” wants to address it the cost is the country itself. And that’s the reason that not only the four gobernadores are the colaboracionistas that has paved the road to perpetuate this govt but part of the MUD and the media has been accomplice of that as well. The rest is bullshit to defend self interests of a lot of behind the scenes enchufados.

  8. Or perhaps “choose a number” would be more palatable?

    1) Yes, the PSUV legitimately won a majority of the vote on 15 October.

    2) No, the PSUV did not legitimately win a majority of the vote on 15 October

    3) I do not know the answer to the question you’re asking and have formed no opinion

    4) Fuck off, I do not wish to be held accountable

  9. There was accountability back when MUD had a Secretary General. But due to accountability hey got rid of the position altogether 🙁

    • Bueno that’s debatable. The MUD SecGen was more like a paga-peo — he was accountable for decisions that weren’t his to make. Which never entirely made sense, either.

  10. “Famously, there isn’t even a proper Spanish translation for the concept of “accountability.” Philologists debate whether we lack the word because we lack the concept, or the other way around, but what’s clear is the absence of an accountability mechanism that’s able to renew the opposition’s leadership with real world consequences.”

    I’ve seen this play out here over and over again. I call it never accepting responsibility for one’s actions.

    Every time I have my mechanic tear apart one of my tractors to fix something, I ask, “was this normal wear and tear or operator-error”. My intent is not to beat down my operator, my intent is to know how to avoid such an expense if it’s operator-error, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And 9 times out of 10 the mechanic will say it’s normal wear and tear. That one time recently he said, operator-error with the operator standing right there, the operator swore on his mother’s grave he hadn’t done anything wrong.

    Later one of the guys who works on the crew told me the operator’s son who was working that day with the crew climbed up on the tractor at one point and did just exactly what the mechanic described in order to cause the damage. So, I guess the operator himself hadn’t done what the mechanic said he had done, but he knew nonetheless what had happened and wouldn’t admit it.


    • Or they think you’re a jackass of a boss owning a farm, sitting at your screen doing god knows what all day, and not knowing the first thing about the inside of a tractor.

      Master servant relationships.

      • Quico is absolutely correct that the opposition must solidify. Agree on a list of 3 to 4 major points and present that to the people. Discuss and agree on what you have in common, restore democracy and the economy and stop worrying if someone is too left or too right. It requires compromise and the end of name calling and personal insult. Once democracy is restored you can return to the left versus right arguments. So what are three or four broad themes that you can agree on.

      • That is very possible. The loyalty of the poor class has been worn thin by all these years of Chavismo, an inherent sense of entitlement I’ve never seen anywhere else I’ve ever been. Bred into a few quick generations of the poorest people, You have and I don’t, how can that be? Everyone is a beggar, from policeman to politician, selling their specialty to the highest bidder. That being said Mr Rubio, in that specific case it seems to me that father/son protection is the major factor, and your workers showed loyalty in the end by making you aware of exactly what your mechanic suggested. Good mechanic and good worker. Hard to blame the father. I would suggest you’ve put yourself together a pretty good team.

  11. Perhaps CC can start a conversation about how the opposition could unite. One way to do that is for CC to offer up a platform, a suggestion of ideas that the opposition can agree to. It isnt sufficient to say unite. Unity means agreement at least at some broad level. Quico, what are your ideas?

    • Apparently his proposal is to stick with the same MUD that’s full of treacherous backstabbers and continue blaming everything on the “1% of guarrrrimbero crazies that screwed the elections”

  12. So it was about time the official line of CC to start shifting to be less apologetic with the opposition and his jarrones chinos.

    Even an article on “accountability” which is one of my favorite words in english, one would suspect you guys are taking notice of me, except my point of view is hardly original and millions of us have been really screaming this stuff about the MUD for years.

    At least it reduces polarization in the opposition that this is more mainstream. One thing is being insulted and abused by Chavistas ruling in their seats of power but another is to be offended by your very own side and being call a radical and all sorts of things for simply being informed and being used and abused by a political leadership claiming to be operating in your name while simple functioning as profit organizations run in an hierarchical plutocracy scheme for their own benefit.

    Me and a lot of people like me are not ultraderecha, are not nazis, are not radicals nor warmongering, nor terrorists nor contrarians . We, as people who have given everything and have put all in the table want a REAL fucking leadership who can be accountable, and guide the civil coalition of huge and different oposition forces to stand up to the historical context with ACTIONS and a PLAN based on reality and not on party politics and technicalities.

    Rosales, Falcòn and Allup can go fuck themselves y se pueden meter sus camionetas ultimo modelo y sus apartamentos en Miami por el culo

    • Vero, have you noticed the opposition never comes up with a formal plan to restore sanity to the economy? Chavismo has fucked it up beyond all reason and I’m sure any plan that anyone can come up with that will actually begin a meaningful recovery will also cause some terrible hardships…….they (the opp) seem scared to death to talk about it even though we’re already living under terrible hardships.

  13. Is not RESPONSABILIDAD the word you are looking for? Anyways, I think that you are right, that word does not exists in MUD’s lexicon…

  14. This strikes me as seriously misguided. First, lumping opposition leaders together has never made any sense, unless you’re a Chavista. The fair thing to do is to acknowledge that we are looking at a broad range in terms of good faith, courage, intellect, ideology, ego. Second, the opposition has dealt with an impossibly tilted playing field for years, with some successes along the way. That the opposition hasn’t succeeded in toppling an oil giant narcostate is evidence of…just how hard that is to do. Other leaders — now revered — in their countries took decades to topple corrupt self-dealing states, even in the absence of drug and oil money and outside help from Russia, Cuba, China. Third, the barriers to entry in opposition leadership are actually fairly low…all the parties are looking for charismatic young leaders who are willing to run for office. I see party leaders constantly looking for new talent, rather than suppressing it (in some parties more than others, sure).

    MUD is a mess, sure. No more so than other political coalitions in other countries. The messiness of MUD is not the problem. The problem is the shameless drug lords who control the guns and the power in Venezuela.


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