Transitions Suck But You Wish Venezuela Were Near One

An answer to Quico’s “¿Y tú qué propones?” could be that wishful thinking, inaction and having doubts about the true nature of the monster are not the answer.

Photo: Nueva Sociedad

Quico recently argued that we should abandon our dreams of a dignified transition and embrace Henri Falcón’s pragmatic-consequentialist approach, and he’s partially right: peaceful transitions to democracy suck balls. They are wretched, morally ambiguous affairs that leave open wounds haunting countries for decades. In spite of this, a fraught transition is our best-case scenario and, despite Quico’s pleadings, it’s also the least likely.

We live under an authoritarian regime. Maduro’s government is a deeply unpopular dictatorship that remains in power through a blackmail-for-food scheme, a paranoid control over the Armed Forces and the destruction of all democratic institutions, Hugo Chávez’ sole legacy. Their incentives for giving up power are null. It’ll be suicidal and stupid for them at this point to allow for a transition.

Our only hope is a crack in their grip of power caused by Maduro’s ruinous mismanagement. The thing is that the very same people inside the government that may force a transition are themselves severely compromised; most are involved in serious crimes ranging from run-of-the-mill corruption, to drug-trafficking and crimes against humanity. In order to get them to defect, you need to make trade-offs that involve very unsavory bargains, as Quico rightly points out: letting killers off the hook, allowing looters to enjoy stolen money and securing a quota of power to people like Miguel Rodríguez Torres. It’s revolting. It’s also our best shot at stopping people from dying of hunger and lack of medicine.

Most folks who really hope for a solution to our catastrophe must grow up and come to terms with the fact that any negotiated outcome will be morally conflicted and underwhelming; we’ll have to supress our gag reflex with the hope of recovering our country from the sociopaths holding it hostage. Our fantasies of retributive justice won’t become true.

Their incentives for giving up power are null. It’ll be suicidal and stupid for them at this point to allow for a transition.

But that’s where my agreement with Quico ends.

Henri Falcón doesn’t have the power or credibility to negotiate what eventual defectors would request in Quico’s hypothetical scenario. He doesn’t have any direct line of communications with Donald Trump to assuage the valid concerns in the top military brass of prosecution in the U.S. for drug trafficking charges. He cannot promise to lift the individual sanctions imposed by the U.S., Canada and the EU that made impossible for them to enjoy their stolen money. These guys know this. We need a better reason to believe that they’ll let him win because they like him better that some catire from Voluntad Popular.

Quico is right, political action should be driven by consequentialism. If there was a chance that a transition could be negotiated after May, it would be suicidal not to participate. I know the marines fantasy won’t happen, but the international community is ratcheting up the sanctions front — even freaking Switzerland is joining the bandwagon. PDVSA production is at the brink of collapsing. There will be a point when the government literally won’t be able to extract a single dollar from public funds and will be completely shut out from the international community. At this point defections become more likely and the prospects of transition become real.

But the success of this strategy is contingent to boycotting the elections; running in rigged elections will have the “consequence” of easing international pressure, legitimizing the government and, ironically, lowering the incentives for defection among chavismo honchos.

I don’t have a neat answer to “¿y tú qué propones?”, but naive wishful-thinking is not a substitute for strategy — and caerse a mojones about the true nature of chavismo will yield the same “good results” it did in the past.

And what is the Frente Amplio doing, anyway?

César Crespo

Evil corporate lawyer. Amateur adult person. Political news junkie. Economics dilettante.