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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37 COMMENTS

  1. Nicaragua is the closest regimen out there who operate similarly to El Chavismo.

    It isn’t just two oppositions we are dealing with in fact three.

    -The “official” opposition being recognized by Maduro.
    -The “Unofficial” opposition who formed their Front for Venezuela. They only differ from the “official” opposition their stance regarding fairer electoral conditions.
    -The “terrorist radicals” known as Soy Venezuela who actually has international support and actors making moves international to corner the regimen.

    Soy Venezuela, I would wager, is willing to run a full boycott. None of the other political actors would be willing to do the same.

    Even if you get a united opposition to run against Maduro, not enough people will show up to vote.

    The only way to finish off the regimen is with international support at this point. The world has moved on from the opposition.

  2. I am deeply disappointed at this “in depth” piece.

    Trying to round up tactical issues in this strategy you fail to name the elephant in the room and it makes me wonder about your position and intention in writing this piece.

    It has been the same for me and CC for a while, son mariscos o son moluscos? are you guys a literary magazine for well written (in English) dandies to vent off and read yourselves, are you a media company (i.e. Bussiness), are you a propaganda aparatik? etc. Still reading and trying to figure it out.

    The strategy as you name it, in this case the nicaraguan strategy, need to be called out for what it is. We have been over 20 years owned by cuban masters and preyed upon by all foreign interests worth their salt. The nation is been looted and the spoils will fall among Cuba, B=Colombia, Brazil, USA, china, Rusia, Irn and everyone with candle in the wake.

    And you are talking about this election, this candidate, this choices as if they mattered much. I would appreciate a more through analysis in my readings. Perhaps a reason I find myself coming to CC less.

    Anyways, sorry for the descarga amigo, You are at least working for some influence in the public sphere of the diaspora, which is a valuable thing. Do you know your role? Journalist, propagandist, citizen, patriot? need to be clear.

    Falson has been embedded and dormant in the “opposition” for years, cazando bobos con el corazoncito de izquierda who will the dream work this time! . I am sure he has been funded and coordinated with HQ all the time and ready to be used in the next play.

    • As a volunteer contributor, my position and intention is what springs from my thoughts. I have no sympathy for Falcón, but a pragmatic, ruthless duo is running for the presidency. That is the new reality. Has it hit you yet?

      I’m not sure what your quibble with the piece is. I agree that we’ve been infiltrated by Cuba, and I have doubts about where Falcón’s loyalties ultimately lie – which is exactly why I think we ought to stop him, or if we can’t, make him work for us, the Venezuelans, the liberal opposition to chavismo.

      You seem to be 100% certain that Falcón is a G2 sleeper agent. This possibility worries me, but I’m not so sure.

      • Checked your webpage Alejandro. Good work. Cs at USB! cool.
        I am also from the same alma mater btw. but many years older (and wiser).

        The quibble is this, Its nice to have smart people like you write here and express their thoughts. Good intents and all.

        Now, Let me tell you first hand, Venezuela politics is so deeply corrupted, you will never “make any candidate work for you”, besides, there is no opposition to chavismo, there is exile and resistance. And Cooperation. and death.

        Fringe politicians like MCM, DSM movement, etc. can’t bite in to the mainstream official opposition game because the dinosaurios that hold those chairs, know its very profitable to be in the play.

        Did you see the faces of the people on the stage at the frente amplio event? did you see how they reacted to the kid that stood up and went for airtime on the name of the resistencia?

        Not only Falcon is part of the regime, many of the so call opositores are so too. You are swimming in a deep smelly swamp to use trump imagery. Thread lightly.

  3. “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.”

    —————–

    I disagree with this.

    The whole thing is a fucking scam that the whole world recognizes. They’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.

    Falcon, worthy of disgust, is just a dancing monkey in this Chavismo sideshow. His candidacy is irrelevant, and impact on anything one way or the other is nil.

  4. BTW the picture in the post is outstanding! the weathered face of the mom, the scared look on the girl (could be my girl), and the well cleaned and kept battle cap!….

    Even the props and the extras roles have been scripted and produced for us, I fear.

  5. Spot on. Falcón HAS to know he’s playing into Maduro’s hands, so either he’s too dumb to realize no matter what Maduro does to make the election look more “winnable” for the opposition it’s not going be nearly enough for Falcón to win, or he is cahoots with him.

  6. So it’s either voting for Falcon, who has an insurmountable task ahead of him at best and at worst a collaborator and an accomplice of the disaster that this country has become; given he will not back down for any reason, or Nicaragua?

    No. I refuse.

    Boycott him and the sham elections. Name and shame everyone who dares to give even a hint of legitimacy to the obvious fraud. Send hate mail to those calling to vote. Argue with people in the ATM line who still think voting is the way out of this government and shame them for everyone to hear. Mass report propaganda on Facebook, stop reading pages and blogs who advocate for a “cohesive, consensus strategy” that involves anything near a voting center, unless it’s to actively protest and impede the voting. Shun everyone who thinks the way out of this mess is voting.

    But i guess if we do the last option, CC will lose a bunch of it’s readers, since they’ve been going soft on obviously fraudulent elections. They recognize them as such, but still want to participate. I haven’t read such confused rambling since my coming-out journal.

  7. People already wasting time with convoluted theories and surreal speculation about that Chavistoide weasel Falson, ‘mas falso que Klepto-Petro de real y medio’… After losing my own time on a much more interesting, decidedly sinister, exquisitely macabre Horse of Troy conjecture, I’m done with that. Because either way, the mega-fraude goes, and el Tonto Inutil will be triumphantly declared President of all Kleptozuelans, for 6 more delightful years. Chupense esa mandarina, desde ya, y dejen la soñadera. Lo que viene es mas de lo mismo, solo que todavia peor.

    Anyone still forced to live in Caracas’ Carcass should be begging Rex and some intrepid Special Ops team to please come save their sorry asses. Instead of dreaming about impossible scenarios and bullshit ‘frentes nacionales”. Seriously, that’s what they should be doing, praying and begging for the US Marines to have mercy on them and rescue the remains of that hellhole. That, or planning their own exit plans, as thousands do every week, or just getting ready to continue living in much worse conditions than Nicaragua or even Haiti. Because Kleptozuela already is at the lowest African Misery levels, and getting worse every year. I can only think of Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan as even worse places to live, so start packing your bags or start begging the US to bail you out. One or the other. Unless fantasizing about Falcon and Chavistoide ‘frentes nacionales’ is just another type of escape, like going to the movies to get away from Reality.

  8. Great article, great analysis.

    The only issue I see is that you assume goodwill in the part of Falcon. You paint an scenario where he is misguided and could be persuaded to do what’s right for the country. And if understood correctly, you seem to imply that an unified opposition is always best than a divided one, that if Falcon won’t budge, then the rest of the opposition should join him and walk right into Maduro’s electoral trap on the tiny chance we may actually win.

    I feel the analysis is incomplete if you don’t even consider the alternative: Falcon knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s a pawn of Maduro/Castro. That’s, at the very least, just as likely.

    Whichever the case, I disagree with your prescription. As bad as it is to have Falcon sabotaging democracy, I think it’s still best to at least have the remaining “unofficial”/”radical” opposition to hold the line and boycott the election. Even better if it’s an active boycott instead of a passive one.

    • We have to continue to boycott these elections. We all know Falcon won’t win, and even if he does (and that’s a big if), they’ll figure out some “protector” to maintain the status quo.

      Hopefully something comes up that makes Falcon leave the race, who knows….but I see our side losing big if we decide to back Falcon. We also lose if we boycott the election and he stays in the race. Our only chance is making Maduro run against the evangelical priest and pray for the US to cut all the oil money.

      • If Maduro (let…) loses the election, the ANC is there and they have almost one year to do whatever they want/need to change the constitution and anything, making the president probably an ornament. Or they let Falcón win, to oust him as the things turn worse (they will…). And a triumphant return…

    • This is a great point and aligns with Luis’s criticism upthread. Noted.

      How would one begin to research the possibility that Falcón is a Cuban puppet? I don’t think I can write a piece on pure speculation. Help me out.

      • Where do Falcon’s real loyalties lie is unknownable in practice. When both A & B are possible, you can do an scenario analysis. In this case: Let’s assume Falcon is in cahoots with the regime. If that were the case, what would be the best move for the Democratic forces?
        You’re “speculating” but in a good sense. You’re not staying A to be true or even likely, you’re just saying: IF A, then what?

      • “How would one begin to research the possibility that Falcón is a Cuban puppet? ”

        “Where do Falcon’s real loyalties lie is unknownable in practice”

        By his actions he will be known, just take how about the multitude of times he has opened his trap to spew idiocy favoring the dictatorship and its cuban masters? Or the multiple times he outright refused to make the slighest move to support in ANY way or at least TRY to protect the people that was atrociously abused by chavismo in the Lara state?

        It’s absurd and infuriating to see people who still thinks that falsón is any better at all than the triple-coward toad-chicken arias cárdenas.

  9. My opinion as a non-venezuelan, better let the chameleons and proven traitors go their way. They ain’t helping the oposition anyway.

    Why is imposible to say: that’s is what we want:
    – Estado de Derecho (rule according to a higher law)
    – Free and fair election of the independent powers
    – New TSJ
    – Reduction of the corruption
    – Accountability and transparency of the government
    – Free market with social protection and the improvement of chances for all the people.
    – Reduction of crime

    Maybe some more specifics details about what they intend to do if they are government.

    Then parties and people are free to join or not. If that don’t get support, well, that was. Otherwise I think I would be reading more or less the same in 10 or 20 years…

  10. Alejandro,
    There seems to be a continued consensus that Maduro plans on winning this election by hook or by crook. As I have suggested before, the alternative scenario is that he is planning on losing to a chosen puppet candidate who has pre-committed to certain positions and actions – the most important of which is non-prosecution of the military and civil leadership for past crimes. In exchange, he wins the presidency. The new president’s commitment will be fully secured/guaranteed via compromising material – staged in its importance so that it does not become a single-use M.A.D weapon.

    Consider the two scenarios as “options” for the current oligarchy. If Maduro “wins” the election, nothing changes. His win will not be recognised by the international community, nor by any honest individual with an IQ above moron level. Sanctions on future debt will continue. Commercial sanctions may be increased. Either way, the economy will continue its downward spiral. Violence and famine stalk the land. The situation becomes more and more out of control, less and less predictable. The threat of violent overthrow/anarchy/civil war increases. Maduro remains in his political straitjacket with the distinct possibility of it being converted into a physical form in the near term. Under this scenario, where do the enchufados enjoy their gains and for how long before the breakdown of regime control results in their facing the short-term threat of arrest outside Venezuela or attack inside an anarchic cess-pit? A Maduro win and a handover to a new VP would have the same result.

    The second option allows Maduro to step down as a dignified “democrat”, demonstrates the impeccable democratic credentials and impartiality of the CNE, and sets up a new-broom president. Superficially, he is a member of the opposition to Maduro. He will have far more latitude than Maduro to try to secure some easing of new debt restrictions, to accept foreign food and medical aid, and perhaps to loosen some of the structural nooses which are killing the economy. Foreign leaders, even if they are suspicious, will be forced to give him a honeymoon period. In reality, he is a puppet to the same puppet-masters responsible for the slow agonising death of the country.

    Of the two “options”, it seems to me that the second is better for the regime leaders – including Maduro himself – than the first. If Maduro wins the election, they know that they are still walking along a short plank. While this second option may seem Machiavellian, it is certainly not beyond the creative powers and ruthlessness of players like Jorge Rodriguez or Padrino Lopez (c.f. the political sophistication of the plan hastily put together in December 2015 to neuter the AN).

    So I see the forthcoming election rather like one of the old witch-trials. If the witch floated, it proved she was a witch and was burned. If she sank, then it proved she was not a witch but she ended up drowned. Similarly, if Maduro wins it proves that the opposition candidates were not preselected for collusion, but they don’t get the job. If an “opposition” candidate wins, then his puppet strings are already well and truly tied to the regime.

    Whether the above analysis has any merit or not, the election is already a parody of democracy. Voting in a pre-rigged election does not help. Abstaining in a pre-rigged election does not help. If a boycott means standing outside with a placard this also does nothing to change the result. The only appropriate response which remains is massive disruption of the voting process itself by millions of committed individuals. It requires Venezuelans to get off their knees and show that they won’t stand for this any more. This will not happen spontaneously. It would require organisation, publication of intent, a clear set of common goals and a plan for the day after. Above all else, it would require courageous leadership because reprisal is likely to be targeted and brutal. Sadly, I can see none of these elements in sufficient abundance for me to be optimistic about the future.

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful analysis. I fully agree with you.

      The question then becomes: how do we beat the piquiña electoral, that uncontrollable urge to vote that gets more appealing by the minute? How do we provide an alternative to the electorate?

      Like you, I feel the national mood isn’t conducive to mass protests, but perhaps we can start making it so.

    • Your second option is the Troy Horse sinister scenario a few of us presented before, including Gustavo Coronel on his blog. Highly unlikely, yet plausible. Too refined and Machiavellic, would require delicate planning, precise cohesion among MUD and Regime forces (which neither have), approval of the corrupt military and Cuba. Chavistas in power are too greedy, too sloppy, too divided for such refinement. Ain’t gonna happen.

    • kribaez, your two scenarios are plausible but I actually hope the second does not come about because it would involve only very marginal improvement within the country over a long period of time and those responsible would walk free.

      There are lessons to be learned from this disaster and one of those lessons is that those responsible must pay for their crimes.

        • Thanks, between now-daily power outages and the theft of Movistar’s transmission equipment (next door to the local National Guard Checkpoint station), we’ve been without internet for the better part of a week.

          Movilnet also collapsed here locally somewhere along the line so there could have been a nuclear war on-going and I’d have probably not known about it. Having said all that, I did watch a lot of ChavezTV. TPTB may not fear a military intervention but it’s pretty much all they talk about. Red meat for the faithful I’m guessing. Oh, and for every time they mentioned the name Maduro, they must mention Chavez 25 times.

          Crystal had a setback so they undid a bit of her surgery until she can gain more weight. SIL made another trip to Colombia to find needed medications. Food and cash more scarce here by the day. I’m buying gold from the south. It’ll be interesting to see the end result when I can get it assayed in the States.

          • MRubio, I’ve read many of your comments and I know you feel you’re to old to start over again but I can’t help but wonder why you would try and sit this match out. It’s going down the drain and you know it. If you are in a financial position to do so get the hell out of there and take your family with you. Venezuela is going to be a shithole for at least the next 15-20 years. I have new Venezuelan friends that arrived here about 6 months ago, they brought with theme their Nona. That sweet lady just calibrated her 93th birthday. Its never to late to start over again. Furthermore I hope and pray Crystal gets better soon, seems to be yet another innocent victim of this dictatorship.

  11. Alejandro, you lost me at “called for more elections. MUD took the bait and lost the wager”. No HRA was paid to take the wager, dragged the rest of coruptos into it and lost as always.

    A start for change would be what I grew up with.. calling a disgraced politician/leader a disgrace and removing themselves from public life. Unfortunately in over 15 years I have not seen that happen once in Venezuela.

    Does quico not see the negative vibe thru most of these threads? CC once stood for something called Venezuela. I have no beef with Alejandro, we love Naky, where is Gaby? But the complete lack of criticism of the “opposition” including the disgusting hra, and falcon, or suggestion where to go, to lead, that this blog used to have has disappeared. Which is why I’ll read but not support financially anymore, as I think quico has already been paid.. until he becomes more transparent.. something I asked for personally from him months ago.

    • I can assure you that we the writers aren’t under pressure to NOT criticize HRA, Borges, or anyone else in the opposition. In fact, we are open! if you have something to say, pitch it to the editors. I have never been paid nor would I take payment by the Venezuelan opposition, the CIA, or whoever, to stop speaking my mind.

      I don’t like HRA or Rosales as politicians. We all deplore how them and others succumbed to the temptation of keeping their party relevant, whether they were paid by chavismo or not. But what you suggest, “calling him a disgrace and removing him from public life” is far easier said than done.

      Come on, pitch away.

  12. “Most importantly: if they do get more votes, how will they ensure Maduro won’t make up the numbers again?”

    That, detective, IS the right question.

    PS: They’ve been doing that since 2004.

  13. The problem as I see it, and have seen for a long while, is that there is no real opposition. There’s only chavismo and chavismo-lite. The latter will never rally people to the degree they need to be rallied to oust this regime.

  14. Nothing will happen in Venezuela, for those desperate in finding a sign or a way out of the current situation, I can only suggest you read the history of the former Soviet union (USSR) especially the Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev days, it wasn’t until the latter arrived to power, that minor changes began to take place and even with that, it took some 20 years more until Gorbachev arrived to power that real changes took place there that lead to the dismantling of the Soviet bloc.

    My point is, no change took place in the USSR until the late 1980s (bare in mind that the October revolution took place in 1917) so after approximately 70 years and from within did communism come to an end in modern day Russia.

    The so called Bolivarian revolution is barely entering its 20th year and there are no voices (that we know of) of changes within Chavismo/Madurismo or however you want to call it, bold enough to turn things around, at least in the economic front…..

  15. In the end it doesn’t matter if Maduro is trying to pull a Nicaragua on us (with or without the help of Falcon). Because the main problem is not the sanctions. The main problem is that even WITHOUT the sanctions we’re broke and there’s no hope that we won’t be in the near future.

    So:

    – If Maduro wins his rigged election. We collapse in April/May. We have major bond payments by then and literally the government either makes the payments or feeds the Military.
    – If Maduro “loses” to Falcon, he MIGHT earn a month’s worth of respite, but, that’s it. As I understand it the PDVSA 2034 bond holders are already considering legal action. So, either way we collapse.

    SO, again,

  16. Can we get an analysis of the possibility/outcome if Maduro claimed to fall ill allowed El Aissami to become president? Have not seen this discussed anywhere.

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