The Electoral Fiesta Is On

The Venezuelan opposition finally announced it would participate in the regional elections. Some preliminary thoughts

Pull out your tricolor caps and dust off your flags, the Venezuelan opposition announced that it will officially participate in the November 21st regional elections. Yay (or not). I don’t want to dive today into whether this is a mistake or not. From where I’m standing, at this point, the opposition came to a place in which there was not much of a choice. Although some, I’m sure, have been enamored by the idea of coexistence for a while now. Again, I don’t want to go there right now. I just want to lay out some of the things that happened today:

Three relevant statements

  • Freddy Guevara finally spoke about his role in the negotiations, we were waiting for this press conference since he was released after government security forces snatched him in June. The government had signaled that Guevara was to participate in the Mexico talks, and he confirmed today that he would dedicate the coming months to this task. Also, he stated that “for years, one of the sides has felt strong and has believed it could smash or completely displace the other (…) This dynamic, this vicious circle, has to stop…We need a process of coexistence.” Today, Freddy Guevara is perhaps Voluntad Popular’s most important spokesperson,
  • Another long-awaited press conference took place today in UNT’s headquarters. Henry Ramos Allup spoke on behalf of the unitary platform (of the main opposition parties) confirming that they would participate in the November 22nd regional elections. We were waiting for this announcement since Friday. “We don’t have all the guarantees, but that won’t stop us from participating,” he said. During the weekend, Venezuela’s elections authorities had extended the deadline to register new candidates until Friday the 3rd to allow the opposition to finish deliberations.
  • Delcy Rodríguez gave a statement after Ramos Allup’s announcement from CAF’s headquarters: “In recent years Venezuela has been a victim of political intolerance (…) I hope we can overcome these times of intolerance with the winds of dialogue. We need to find the adequate means of resolution, so we can all win.” Yep, we know it’s hard to buy it. Especially because it’s shrouded in the same tone of her intervention at Fedecámaras, it’s not chavismo’s political intolerance she refers to.

The timing of these three statements leads us to see that there must have been some sort of coordination, which would make sense since there should be better communication between government and opposition since the Mexico talks started…and because clearly they were allowed a couple more days to register their candidates. This, however, doesn’t tell us anything about how chavismo will act in the coming months. Usually, this kind of peace offering is followed by a gun to the temple. We’ll see.

While the participation was conditioned to better electoral guarantees, what happened today should be no surprise. The opposition seemed corralled to participating in the elections since months ago, especially because, on paper, it follows a script that’s potable for the international community. Hardline sanctions are used to have the regime sit and negotiate better elections conditions; the government welcomes the negotiations and sort of gives a couple of small concessions; a reputable international body agrees to observe as long as the opposition participates; the opposition green lights its candidates to register; and so on and so forth. This script could take us all the way to the elections, hold a process the world can swallow, and that’s it. The end of a political crisis that no one will ever want to hear talk about ever again. But what about the next day.

Precedent is a killer in this one.

The other thing that’s perhaps in everybody’s mind is… what will happen with Juan Guaido’s caretaker government? I know that for some it may sound like a joke at this point, but apart from the title, they do control some assets and resources. Once the elections take place, I don’t see how other governments could keep this going without recognizing Maduro. Because, on paper, according to “the plan,” the result of the elections should give way to having something resembling a body, and that lump sticking out of the back of the neck that sort of looks like a second head will start feeling inconvenient for everyone. And there’s no universe where chavismo would incorporate them through some sort of power-sharing agreement. Again, we’ll see.

Thoughts? Comments are open.