The Nicaraguan Strategy

Photo: The Berkshire Eagle

Readers of Caracas Chronicles will be familiar with this story: the Supreme Tribunal, along with the Electoral Council, strips several opposition members of Parliament from their seats. Then, in obviously rigged elections, the opposition is barred from running and only a chosen opponent is allowed to participate. We are talking about Nicaragua.

It’s obvious our leftist autocrats want to repeat this feat in Venezuela. After barring from running for office all of the presidenciables and failing to coerce Borges and the rest of MUD into accepting unacceptable conditions, chavismo just succeeded in convincing political chameleon Henri Falcón to run as the officially-recognized opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

This is the Nicaraguan strategy, and it has two steps. First, the opposition splits into “official” and “unofficial” (also known as “radical”).

Chavismo started this first step last year, when they cheated in national “elections,” then immediately called for more elections. MUD took the bait and lost the wager; even in regions they won in spite of the grossly unfair conditions and a dim electorate, chavismo made elected governors “bend the knee” to the all-powerful Constituyente. Some did, and became part of the “official opposition.” They hold their seats, but have no real power — the state “protectores do. They’re now part of the opposition that barks but doesn’t bite (Anatoly is right, history rhymes). Juan Pablo Guanipa, on the other hand, refused to cave, and was swiftly removed — he’s now a “radical.”

Henri Falcón, also preserving the good graces by not challenging the Constituyente directly (or getting himself inhabilitado), now belongs to that “official opposition”, and chavismo is ready to unleash step two of the Nicaraguan strategy: they’ll be kind to the official opposition; they’ll cede on inconsequential electoral conditions, like the election date. Hey, maybe they’ll be extra-generous and appoint disingenuous Zapatero as observer!

Chavismo just succeeded in convincing political chameleon Henri Falcón to run as the officially-recognized opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

These “gestures of goodwill” change nothing; the election remains rigged as ever.

The strategy favors the government in two ways: first, although this election won’t be recognized abroad, the presence of an “opposition” candidate who gets a few million votes will lower some of the pressure chavismo gets from the international community. It will also put the opposition at odds with its international allies, who have aided our cause in condemning this process even before it takes place. Falcón, whether he wants it or not, is an accomplice of eroding one of the few victories of the past year — the international isolation of Maduro.

Second, the strategy pits the two oppositions against each other, redirecting their anger to themselves instead of their common enemy. MUD has expelled Falcón and rejects his candidacy. Falcón tries to appear as a consensus candidate, but he won’t take long to join his economic advisor, Francisco Rodríguez, in speaking against sanctions, further undermining Borges’ efforts.

We need to avoid the Nicaraguan trap. We, the “radicals”, have to talk to the “officials,” and achieve solid, opposition-wide consensus on whether to run with all our might or to actively boycott. No middle grounds, or we’ll end up with a Maduro coronation.

Falcón and Francisco Rodríguez are going all in. They claim that people are desperate, and they want to vote no matter what. They’re counting on piquiña electoral to keep intensifying. Putting aside the question of Falcón being fit for the job, they have to answer some important questions to us “radicals”:

  • How do they expect to win under conditions that include, but aren’t limited to, the use of puntos rojos (the most blatant and effective voter coercion scheme)?
  • How will they react to Jorge Rodríguez’ ever-changing conditions? What happens if they demand the Carnet De La Patria? We won’t know what they have in store until election day!
  • How will they defeat the illegal, but likely, campaign bankrolling with deep bolichico funds?
  • Most importantly: if they do get more votes, how will they ensure Maduro won’t make up the numbers again?

To try to outfox the chavista regime at a game so rigged in their favor is a dangerous proposition. Falcón would need to win by a huge margin, and earn the respect of his military peers in the High Command — who, realistically, will make the final call. For that outcome, he needs all of MUD. Their maquinaria and heroic witnesses. Their solid international credibility.

Without all of us, Falcón doesn’t stand a chance. Heck, even if we join him, he stands very little chance. He knows this, and if the universal support he’s aiming for peters out, or his military buddies bail on him, he should have the courage to quit and join the boycott before giving Maduro the whiff of legitimacy he desperately craves.

Else, we get Nicaragua — except much worse, because Ortega, authoritarian as he may be, isn’t a total moron at handling the economy. We get Nicaragua, with a refugee crisis and a lot more hunger.

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