Photo: Efecto Cocuyo retrieved

If the Plan País is the picture of the country we want to have instead of this economic and social catastrophe, the Transition Statute that the National Assembly approved yesterday is a political sketch for transition. 

A sketch is a fast drawing, a study: for an artist, it’s not a work of its own, but a tool, a part of his method which essentially needs further elaboration. A sketch most probably will be altered many times in the way to the finished masterpiece. It’s something a painter must do first to clear his ideas about the subject, choose a scene, and just then be able to prioritize his next steps, to organize the bulk of work that will follow. Although it can possess beauty and reveal artistry, a sketch is a plan, a route to somewhere else.

In the case of the Transition Statute, the task is way harder than painting Tovar y Tovar’s “Batalla de Carabobo” in the ceiling of the elliptic hall at the Venezuelan parliamentary building, or even Velásquez’s masterful La rendición de Breda: nothing less than turning a dysfunctional dictatorship into a minimally functional democracy.

We can read the statute like a sequence of events that should occur in some order. First, the tasks that belong to Points 2 and 3 of the Guaidó catchy mantra: transition government and free elections.

If the Plan País is the picture of the country we want to have instead of this economic and social catastrophe, the Transition Statute Law that the National Assembly is the sketch of what’s supposed to happen, in political terms.

The new law sets out a mechanism to form a provisional government of national unity in the absence of an elected head of state; it brings the Armed Forces into the transition; renews public bodies such as the Supreme Tribunal and the Elections Council; looks after the humanitarian and economic crises; deals with securing the country’s assets abroad; ratifies international treaties and; most importantly, sets out a plan for calling free, transparent elections.

Some of these processes have already begun, others can only really begin after regime change.

The elections are the end of the path that we are calling the Transition and the beginning of a new political era. But at the other extreme of the route, the present moment, the canvas is still white. Because all this can only start with something that is still to happen, the mantra’s Point 1: the end of the usurpation, meaning that Nicolás Maduro ceases to act as de facto president. Once Chávez’s dauphin is forced to abandon or quit, the Transition Statute can aspire to become a practical reality.

However, I think that its mere existence is another powerful sign that what’s happening at the National Assembly since January 10 is a real, organized, serious struggle to restore Venezuelan democracy, and in that sense, even when it’s just a piece of paper at this stage, the Statute should help to assemble the chain of events that lead to Maduro’s outing and, therefore, the own Statute’s coming into effect.

It can be a self-fulling prophecy of some sorts, and also a vehicle for political reeducation, which Venezuelans desperately need. By placing the center of decisions in the AN, and not at Miraflores Palace or Fuerte Tiuna barracks, the Statute invokes the ancient spirit of the Roman Republic and assumes the parliament-based form of modern democracies, where Congress is the natural space to negotiate consensus and organize political life. After 20 years of falling under the asphyxiating equation strongman-army-people, to embrace a model with the parliament as its core is a radical reorganization of Venezuela’s logic of power, from vertical to horizontal, from one man’s tyranny to cohabitation of diverse political forces.

The Transition Statute should be understood as wonderful news. Maybe it doesn’t look as spectacular as the fantasy of the Marines descending on parachutes, but it can be remembered as a document as relevant as the Independence Act.

We can’t know today how the situation will end up evolving or, to follow my metaphor, how similar to the finished painting this sketch will be. Many hands can alter it, from the military men who after betraying Maduro will want to be portrayed in the painting, to the current allies (and mentors!) of the young caretaker president who are waiting to jump under the spotlight, and the inherently uncertain economic and social factors that will taint with dark shadows what today it’s been sketched as a luminous landscape.

However, the Transition Statute should be understood as wonderful news. Maybe it doesn’t look as spectacular as the fantasy of the Marines descending on parachutes like Angels of Extermination, but I think it can be remembered in the future as a document as relevant as the Independence Act of July 5, 1811.

I don’t think I’m being carried away by enthusiasm by saying this. And I’m sure I’m not alone in seeing this Transition Statute as version 1 of a difficult and slow, but outstanding, masterwork.      

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