What We Need For A Political Change

Turns out there are several requirements in order for chavismo to crumble and there’s only one thing we’re missing. It has proved to be the hardest of them all.

Photo: MercoPress retrieved

In my opinion, the possibility of a political change in Venezuela rests on a three-legged table: We already have two of them, and they’re strong, but the third’s missing.

The first leg is international support. Evidently, that’s present. The international community would sigh in relief with a political change in Venezuela. A new government in the country would have the diplomatic and humanitarian support of every country in the region, European governments, important Asian countries and powerful international institutions. There’s no doubt that financial aid would come abundantly and quickly from great multilateral bodies and those states capable of facilitating it. Not to mention avid investors ready to fuel various areas where Venezuela possesses enormous resources. Practically the entire world would smile with joy with the perspective of the Venezuelan suffering coming to an end.

The second leg is the desire of change burning in most of the population. The desire of every citizen, of common men and women who want change, who know or feel that what’s coming is going to be hard and that we must all cooperate, but that, only if we manage to remove this government something much better is waiting for us.  The desire of most of organized society: the business sector, unions, universities, academies, non-government organizations of all kinds, business associations, churches… Some elements in this list aren’t at their best right now, of course, but all of them together constitute an impressive mass.

If the national democratic opposition fails, all of that tremendous national and international demonstration against the country’s ruin lacks the required political leverage.

And then there’s the third leg, which seems to be missing: A civic, democratic, articulated opposition capable of governing or co-governing the country. The absence of this third factor weakens the presence of the other two. If this leg is missing, there’s not much the other two can do. Pensioners may take to streets to protest every day in the world, thirsty and blackout-scourged Zulians may block the Rafael Urdaneta Bridge for days on end, nurses may perform the greatest feats of courage, bus drivers may reject the census, Venezuelan emigrants may prepare the best aid or return plans, the Lima Group presidents may lose their voice speaking against the Venezuelan tragedy, Mrs. Mogherini from the European Union or the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights may raise the loudest alarms or the most heartbreaking complaints, Luis Almagro may move tirelessly… If the national democratic opposition fails, all of that tremendous national and international demonstration against the country’s ruin lacks the required political leverage.

Getting that leg to work shouldn’t be this hard. There are willing leaders—if only they wished hard enough—there’s an abundance of experts, international connections, there are well-thought programs in the drawers for the recovery of the main aspects of the country’s life,  the entire country’s crouching like a tiger waiting to jump on itself seeking its own freedom.

So what’s the problem? Lack of high vision, incapacity to leave mistrust behind, incapacity and unwillingness to truly find the formula that will make the leaders raise their eyes, overcome petty grievances, go beyond competition. With everyone entrenched on their side, believing themselves to be the embodiment of national unity, we’re not going anywhere. Apparently, there’s an inability to understand that neither parties nor aspiring leaders will have the chance to exercise power right after the regime falls. It would be the time for a united transition government, whose goal would need to be pulling the country out of the pit. Once that task is fulfilled, then parties and their leaders can prepare the scene for a democratic competition in people’s favor. The goal of parties, leaders, organized society and citizens is to reach a consensus about a transition program: the kind of people that would carry it out, the kind of leader that would head it provisionally—redundancy intended—the contributions each sector will have to make, the ways to design the relations between that government and organized society, parties and citizens. They will also need to announce it to the country and the world, so that everyone knows that the third leg is steady in place.

With everyone entrenched on their side, believing themselves to be the embodiment of national unity, we’re not going anywhere.

It’s quite possible that something like that would require an instance with rallying power and no political agenda, to make everybody see the need to take those steps, and discard anything that must be discarded in the circumstances. It’s usually difficult for those in the heat of events and all their interests in the game, to rise above the needless, endless back-and-forth struggle and negotiation.

The way I see it, that should be the third leg’s plan. So, a demand, a national call: What are you waiting for? What’s wrong with you? Can’t you hear an entire country shouting for leadership, all those actors, to do what they must do? Is it so hard to be up to the task? Will we have to resort to a badly thought solution, ignorant of where it could lead us?

That’s the only agenda there is. There’s no alternative. While we wait for them to come through, let both the organized and disorganized population keep fighting, resisting, condemning. Let the international community impose sanctions, denounce, accuse. Let everyone keep up the pressure, demanding political and social leaders to do what they’re supposed to.

Once the three legs are in place, we would’ve done everything a democratic society can do to remove a government like the one that’s ravaging Venezuela, and it would be a historical, universal injustice if all that effort doesn’t get the reward it deserves.

Diego Bautista Urbaneja

Lawyer and political scientist. Founder of the School of Political Studies of the UCV, Individual of number of Venezuela's National Academy of History. Visiting Professor at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Since 2000, he has been conducting the radio program La Linterna at RCR.