Other voices

Used to me yet?

After getting our asses handed to us by the Venezuelan people, where does the opposition go from here?

The answer, of course, depends on what you think “here” is.

The more optimistic of us think that “here” is a pretty good place. They point to the growth in the opposition vote compared to 2006, and to the gains we have made in terms of unity and discourse. “We are,” they proclaim, “on the right path.”

Sadly, this is a path to nowhere. After last Sunday, I am firmly convinced that, barring an unforeseeable act of nature, Hugo Chávez cannot be beaten at the ballot box.

Now, if you disagree with this diagnosis, read no further. Everything I write below depends on believing this premise.

The implications of my assumption are not minor. You might be tempted to think: if Hugo Chávez cannot be beaten, what is the point of having an opposition? Does this assume that we will never see the end of chavismo?

Not at all, for I added an important qualifier: “barring an unforeseeable act of nature.” These are basically two: a dramatic collapse in the price of oil, or Hugo Chávez’s premature death. The implications of both of these are obvious.

This implies that the end of chavismo … is really out of our hands. It doesn’t depend on the type of candidate we run, or on the specific proposals that we have. It won’t be a function of visiting small towns, or time, or media access, or even money.

When the end of chavismo comes, it will be dramatic – a collapse of the cult of personality built on the basis of an unending stream of petro-dollars that it has come to embody. After all, wasn’t the drought of petro-dollars the cause of the dramatic demise of the IVth Republic? Could Hugo Chávez have won in 1998 if the price of oil had been $100 a barrel?

The demise of chavismo – and the accompanying heartbreak and disappointment of a majority of Venezuelans that support it – will be accompanied by a collapse in the political and/or social consensus they have built. It will most likely happen in the midst of a deep economic crisis, when people realize that there is no longer enough money to give homes to everyone who needs it, and keep the shelves of Mercal stuffed with goods at the same time. It will happen when Cadivi dollars become extinct, amidst a a dramatic collapse in infrastructure.

When that happens, people will naturally turn to us. What will we say to them? Will we continue promising “misiones” for everyone? Will we continue saying that Mercal will be expanded? Will we insist that the gasoline subsidy can and should be maintained without rationing? Will we continue praising the chavista welfare state that, by that point, will have bankrupted the country? Will we go on promising to “better manage” bankrupt state-owned companies and shun that evil word … privatization?

We might as well be honest and level with the Venezuelan people, and we should start now. The past election has liberated us from the false hope of electability. Now that no amount of pandering will lead us to Miraflores, we should be honest. We need to level with the Venezuelan people and tell them, with a clear head, exactly where chavismo is leading us, and what our solutions are.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Communist Party of Venezuela did not become more “moderate.” It did not sacrifice its ideology for some false hope of being elected. It maintained its positions even though everyone believed they were too “radical” to ever be elected.

Yet when time came, it joined a coalition that captured the Presidency, and now … they have Ministers, Deputies, and even Ambassadors. Rómulo Betancourt could have never seen this coming.

The opposition’s insistence on saying what they think the Venezuelan people want to hear leads us nowhere. No amount of reassurance prevented a significant proportion of voters from believing that Capriles was going to do away with the Misiones. Voters are smart that way, because deep down, a lot of us think that the Misiones have serious problems. It’s not that we need to do away with them, but we can’t promise to “expand” them without coming across as insincere.

On the issue of crime, they perceive a similar problem. Raul Stolk wrote a post in Prodavinci a few weeks ago that has been lingering in my head for a while. He relates a conversation between a hard-core opposition lady and a member of the military. She wonders how he can support this government.

“Ma’am,” he says, “there is more freedom now. Don’t you see? Before, nobody could pee on the streets. Now… well, you can pee on the street and nobody says anything. See? More freedom.”

This type of thinking needs to be confronted head on. We can no longer afford to appear as though this isn’t a terrible problem in the majority’s way of thinking. Because when time comes and the chavista State collapses, what are we going to do? Are we going to allow people the type of “freedom” they think is OK?

Nobody in the opposition paints a picture of what it’s really going to take in order to solve the issue of crime: a dramatic increase in police presence, intelligence, number of prisons, and an expansion of the justice system. This issue is not going to go away with more “education,” or “disarmament,” or even “community policing.” There are thousands upon thousands of murderers and kidnappers roaming our streets. Ridding society from this cancer is going to require quite a bit of that which international “experts” who have never been held up at gunpoint call … “repression.” “Freedom,” as chavistas understand it, will have to be severely curtailed. Solving crime is going to require copying some of the policies of Álvaro Uribe.

Why does nobody in the opposition speak clearly to Venezuelans about these issues? Because, the thinking goes, that would make us unelectable.

Well, guess what … we are unelectable. We might as well throw caution to the wind and be ourselves. After all, isn’t that what voters want … honesty? Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin … all visionary leaders who are/were honest in their belief. Voters know what they are getting when they elect these kinds of politicians. They don’t go around pretending they are “centrists.”

Hugo Chávez can be faulted for many things, but one thing is clear: he is honest in what he offers. In this election, voters knew what they were getting with him: more expropriations, less private property, more giveaways, more “freedom” in this twisted chavista sense. That is the mandate that he has.

When voters finally see the consequences of their actions, they need an adult to tell them: this is what you wanted, and you were wrong, and we told you so. We need to be able to draw a contrast with chavismo, and all its false promises. What this implies for the MUD, I do not know yet, but one things is clear – there needs to be greater discussion about the type of message we want to convey to voters.

From now on, I am going to try to be more forthcoming on the blog. No longer will I care about what is popular or palatable for the Venezuelan electorate, because it really is out of our hands now. We are not going to be elected any time soon, so we might as well cling to our ideas about how to solve the country’s complicated problems.

Yes, having opposition governors and mayors is all fine, but when the Communal state hits us, it won’t matter much. Remember that the communal state and doing away with local governments … is what the voters want! Hugo Chávez has a mandate for this. How can we plausibly argue against that? Does that not put the Regional Elections in a less dramatic perspective?

Maria Corina Machado had a line during the opposition’s primary: “you can’t defeat Hugo Chávez by pretending to be like him.”

Even though Machado didn’t stand a chance in the primary, and would have lost by sixty points in the general election, she was right about that. Last Sunday’s election confirmed it.
Now that we have been liberated from the shackles of false hope, it’s about time we let other voices within the opposition to flourish.

It’s time we get serious about what it’s going to take to reconstruct the country once the inevitable happens. It’s time we stop pretending to be chavista-lights.

132 thoughts on “Other voices

  1. Better than your previous post.

    Real leaders are like fathers, pointing out what is wrong, no matter the consequences. We need to be a real oppo.

    I’m glad Capriles will run for Miranda’s governorship; lessons learned, another one can fill his “candidate” spot.


    • With regard to the recent defeat of the Opposition in Venezuela I make two observations: 1) the people living in the barrios outnumber those who would identify themselves as clase media, therefore unlikely that the Opposition, with its current policies and attitudes to the other half of the Venezuelan population, will ever win a presidential election (two factors will further exacerbate this situation: people living in the barrios reproduce at a faster rate than people who identify as middle class and the middle class have been and are continuing to leave Venezuela); 2) the Venezuelan Opposition will not win power in Venezuela until it cares as much about the plight of the other half of the country as it cares about winning government.

      Just to put these comments in context: I lived in Venezuela for 4 years (1998 to 2002) and left 2 months after the Carmonazo (my wife joined me 6 months later) totally dispirited that Venezuela had botched the one chance it had of getting rid of a populist tyrant, so I am certainly no chavista. However, it never ceases to amaze me that my Venezuelan wife and her extended family can’t accept that the Opposition was beaten fair and square at the ballot box. The inability of middle class Vzlans to understand that for the vast majority of Venezuelans Chavez offers the best prospects of a decent life is its own condemnation and a symptom of the complete disconnect between the two halves of Vzlan society.

      The former Australian Prime Minister said in a speech in 1972 that “we are all diminished” by the plight of Australian Aborigines. When the Venezuelan middle class embraces a similar attitude towards the plight of the people in the barrios, they will have a chance at government.


  2. Man, if this were the lesson for the opposition, I would call it a victory. Welcome to the minority view and be ready to be insulted by those who cacarean about unity.


  3. when i began reading caracas chronicles months ago, juan, you were quite clearly the weakest blogger on the site. but now i can’t wait to read your posts–each more shocking than the next. it’s not that i’ve started agreeing with what you say, but that i respect the boldness of your thinking. few people in the opposition, much less on this site, have shown a willingness to confront the reality of the current political situation, and to re-think fundamental strategy within this context.


  4. “Now that we have been liberated from the shackles of false hope, it’s about time we let other voices within the opposition to flourish.”

    i have to wonder whether these “other voices within the opposition”–those conceding that “we are unelectable”–are not the same voices that plotted in secret to overthrow the government in 2002. if so, then letting these voices “flourish” wouldn’t be anything new. it’d signal a step backwards.


    • This is a government-pushed lie! There was no one plotting “in secret to overthrow the government in 2002.” There was a group of people who were fed up with the government and marched to Miraflores to demand his resignation.


      • It is lies and manipulation such as you have written that has prevented the opposition getting anywhere near elected in the last 14 years. You (take note JC!) are typical of the kamikaze opposition. Thanks for helping us over all these years!!!


    • because speaking english, while not so popular with majority of venezuelans, is a big hit with a large segment of the oppo. if the oppo is now to double down on its admittedly unpopular core beliefs, why not propose making english the new official language?


        • i am just joking of course. though i am wondering where JC is going with all of this. hopefully it should just be an occasion to talk more openly about ideological issues. at the same time, it doesn’t take a genius to see that this could lead to controversy.

          for example, instead of denying the existence of a neoliberal ‘package’ to be implemented if it were to gain power, would the new opposition (as imagined by JC) embrace ‘privatization’ (mentioned above) and similar unpopular economic policies?


          • Of course it’s controversial. Of course it’s all unpopular, and of course many in the opposition would see it as a step back to 2005.

            But there’s two things from this post I agree with:

            1. The opposition should go beyond imitating Chávez. Why would anyone want to vote for a copy when the other option is the real deal? There’s got to be a more constructive proposal. This doesn’t mean privatization and structural adjustment or just being the antithesis of chavismo. Those from a social-democratic background could at least point at specific policies that sound good to them in principle but have failed miserably (e.g. housing) and come up with something better, instead of going down the lazy “hmm, yes, it’s a great thing and I’ll continue with it” route.

            2. Sorry, but he’s right with respect to crime. People have gotten used to this state of affairs and fixing it is going to require more than education and job opportunities. We’ll need some of that dreaded mano dura and many won’t like it, if not most. Cue in something as controversial as the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes. Is it extreme? Sure, but we are in an extreme situation — we’re in deep poopoo and we keep on sinking and we won’t be able to münchausen ourselves out of it with lukewarm and long-term policies.


            • 1. Do you really believe Capriles or the opposition was imitating Chavez? It is not on the opposition to critique every part of the incumbent’s regime. They should absolutely be constructive and offer a new ideas, but this does not mean they need to focus on critiquing some of the government’s most popular policies (especially since those critiques cause many Venezuelan’s to hear the echoes of the opposition’s ghosts of the past), such as your example of housing (although Capriles did lay out how he would improve the program).

              2. Mano Dura is not the way to go with crime. Let’s focus on cleaning up the police force, improving the prisons, and providing real alternatives for those considering a life of crime. New York City http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory#New_York_City is a much better model than El Salvador. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_El_Salvador


              • 1. Not completely, but in the eyes of the many it did seem like they were. I don’t think there’s an easy way out of it, because HCF could just defuse criticism of his policies by doing what he did during his last days of campaign (“see, I know some stuff didn’t go as planned, but you know me and I promise I’ll do a better job this time”).

                2. Dang, I knew someone was going to bring up the situation in CA (maybe I should’ve used a different term?). I’ve lived in those parts. The situation is a lot more nuanced than that. We’re talking about countries that were immersed in civil war twenty years ago, with economies that rely strongly on remittances these days. That something like MS-13 exists is to be expected, but I digress. In reality, NYC had quite a bit of the kind of mano dura I’m talking about under chief Bratton. We can only hope that that’s enough to deal with things like this.


    • There are some signals of progress made on O-7, but there are still some aspects that must be reviewed properly, given the circunstances.


  5. Long time reader, first time commentator. And I was driven to comment because of how absolutely wrong-headed this strikes me. Juan, you seem to entirely misunderstand Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Vladamir Putin. They were not voices in the wilderness until the conditions in their country happened to magically fit their narratives. They were people of conviction, who met the voter where they were. They NEVER gave up on the electorate despite all of them being underdogs during their rise to power at one point or another, quite the opposite of what you are proposing.

    The opposition needs to constantly be working to improve the life of the Venezuelan people, and the only way that’s going to happen. Look at the precinct by precinct results, http://stanford.edu/~dkronick/vz-elections2012/#, the opposition did not lose because their voters switched sides, they lost because they failed to organize. It’s possible they lost before the election even started given the significant increase in registration in pro-chavez precincts. Anyone convinced by you is only going to be hurting the oppositions ability to organize, mobilize, and win future elections. http://www.wellstone.org/about

    Please reconsider your rhetoric: caring about the more than 50% of the people in the country who believe they’ve benefited under Chavez’s 14 years in power, offering a more compassionate opposition, and pulling away from the old ways of doing politics are not “chavista-light”.

    I get that you’re hurting and looking for a new direction, but chamo, please find a new camino.


      • Right on! However, I can not fail to acknowledge that there are other routes to solve Venezuelan issues than just (I.e) continue with the missions… we all know if current government institutions were working why would we need those very expensive band aids?

        Being true with convictions means not to alienate people who think differently, bringing them closer to why we think they are the path to go…hard to curve a chavista or better said a rentista mindset, but I guess that is what a “camino” should be all about…


        • Paul Wellstone (RIP) was a communist. Do you really believe that people are so dumb and don’t know that your “new” definition of progressive liberalism = communism in disguise? You have to lie about who you are or you would never get any support.

          And why do you always believe people need you, the do-gooder, change for changes sake crowd? Many of us don’t, thank you.

          JCN is RIGHT on in his thinking and I got the feeling you guys are closet chavistas.

          Please go sing Kumbaya somewhere and make yourself feel good in Utopialand, while we support applying granite mano extra dura to fight crime. Appeasement has never worked and never will. But you wouldn’t understand that until you look down a criminal’s gun barrel and pleabargain for your life.


          • Were I interested in engaging in your name calling, I’d say that your comments make you sound like a knuckle dragging crypto-fascist only interested in maintaining the wealth and power of the Venezuelans in the hands of an elite few and never solving the actual problems of most people in the country.

            But instead, I’ll engage your critiques.

            1. I don’t support state control of the means of production, nor do I adhere to Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist/Maoist or any other version of communist doctrine. So no, I’m not a communist. There is also no evidence Paul Wellstone adhered to those philosophies, making it unlikely that he was a communist. I can’t speak to other people who agree with me, but I’ll humbly suggest they do not meet any definition of communism either.

            2. It seems that in you’re support for a complete move away from some of this government’s support (without any good reasons), you’re the one advocating change for change’s sake. Again, speaking only for myself, I’m not interested in either change for change’s sake or being a do-gooder. I’m interested in a government that efficiently maximizes the potential of the country, and protects the rights to life, liberty, and property of all of its citizens.

            3. JCN is wrong in his thinking for the reasons, I, FT, and many other commentators have made abundantly clear. In our allegiance to and support for the opposition, we are by definition not Chavistas.

            4. I’m sure your granite mano extra dura is going to work super well. Addressing symptoms without addressing the core problems always works (wait…that’s not true).


    • No, we tried the chavista-light approach and it didn’t work. The only time the opposition gained power in the past 14 years was through massive, citizen-led protest. Let’s look at the facts and stop drinking the kool-aid of accepting a Chavez-like frame of how to govern Venezuela.


      • the question is how much of this will ideologically left-wing members of the opposition take before they decide it is better to support chavez than fascists such as yourself?


        • Fascist? For promoting citizen-led protest? The only one who actually tried a coup on 4 February 1992 is our current president, so try another one.


    • Tom, you should read about the work of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley who just one the Nobel Prize for economics. What makes an economy successful is an efficient mechanism for matching buyers with sellers.


  6. Your post is a slap in the face of the 6 million and more people that voted for Capriles. You are telling them essentially that if they voted for him, it was because he was a chavista light and, on top of that, you tell them that you will not bother to campaign for the next election because it will be impossible to beat Chávez unless something major happens.

    This is EXACTLY the type of atttitude that got us where we are: the so called inevitability, invencibility of Chávez and the discouragement of the opposition. This is back to 2005 altogether.

    We are here, because we lost time and we lost time because of bad politics and lack of vision.
    Accept that, and we will be heading for Victory in 2015, that is the election that really counts. Refuse that, and in 20 years we will be in the same situation.


      • Well, neither can you, my friend. Juan is proposing to let go, abandon them until something major happens because there is no chance whatsoever in the elections. I am sure that if people thought that way, they would not have waited on line for hours to cast their ballot.

        Well I know people that are still in Venezuela, that have never voted for Chávez and that were mad as hell when the opposition had that type of attitude and abandoned the elections in 2005.

        One thing is for sure, if you keep having that attitude, you will not convince people even with a dead Chávez and a lower barrel.


        • What attitude? I only said that Capriles does not represent me. If you voted for Capriles thinking that it would get you a better government you are in all your right to think so. I on the other hand voted for Capriles because I really didn’t have a choice. My candidate (Maria Corina) lost in the primaries and all opposition signed a pact of unity. Now that, the elections are over the pact is consumed. At this point, my defeat is double. Not only did Chavez win by having more votes, but also I lost at sacrificing my values for what could have been a victory.

          But we lost. And that’s democracy. I don’t think alienating anyone (I even voted for Capriles) or the chavistas is the way to go. If you think Capriles’ message and policies are the way to go, by all means, get behind his ideas and do as much as you can to support him. I don’t have anything against Capriles nor Chavez. It’s their policies which I dislike.

          I’m simply glad that people like JC are opening their eyes having the vision of what I think we need for the times that are coming. In that regard, we don’t need another Globovision candidate. We need a new right. People who understand economics. People who tell the truth regardless of winning or losing. People with principles, character, and leadership.


  7. Well I just read in another blog that we Venezuelans are too conservative and we do not like changes. So the shit can hit the fence but we only react the shit hits the fence and reach our faces (nos salpica). According to Juan only when Chavez dies or Oil prices drop according to your scenario, the shit will reach the faces of many Venezuelans that do not want to changes because they are afraid to loose the crumbs that under 14-year old Chavista ruling they got. Sadly I agree with this but I also think that when the shit the fence, the democratic alternative need to be prepared and for now that means to win more spaces in the Dec. elections. I rather have for now a Chavista light opposition that the “Chavez vete ya” opposition of the early 2000’s.


  8. It’s fucking hilarious that JC waited until after the election to be honest about what god awful and unpopular ideas (privatization, dismantlement of ‘misiones’) many of those who belong to the opposition actually subscribe to. It’s really no surprise that the opposition never really endorsed Capriles’s center-left policies, and would never have allowed him to make good on his promises to ‘expand’ the Misiones, etc. if he were elected. The Venezuelan people knew this; it was only the opposition itself that was ever deceived. It’s a relief, actually, that we can finally stop lying. I had almost had it when I read Quico’s dishonest “Let’s be like Brazil” argument. What bullshit!


  9. ‘The more optimistic of us think that “here” is a pretty good place’
    Well, if you are living abroad, I’d agree that you are in a really nice place…

    Let’s face. Most of the population have no use for our “petit bourgeois” concerns: human rights, working public services and a reliable judiciary system are meaningless to them. Quoting D. Duquenal: “When you learn to live below standards, the degree at which these standards are affected seems less important”. For the people living in slums and in the countryside the “justice” have always been thugs with letter of marque, running water and electricity are up for grabs and most of the time are stolen and politicians are a bunch of rich people that only come every 4-5 years. What they know is the law of the slums. More or less like the Wild West. And the Wild West do not belong to the lawyer or the nice farmer. It belongs to Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday.

    Capriles came short because, regardless of how hard he tries, he is not one of them. In the end, he was not credible enough. Truth be told, none of our candidates (PP, MCM; etc…) looked the part. And the MUD program was as vague as it came. Even you, a hardcore anti-chavista, had doubts about its feasibility. It looked phoney.

    And that’s, from my point of view, the biggest problem of each and every party of the MUD. What do they stand for? What are their principles? All of them look like personal plattforms, not much different to the PSUV. Leopoldo has VP, Borges has PJ, Ramos Allup has AD and so forth. But beyond that? Nothing. I was complaining to a friend recently about that. How come that our politicians don’t bother publishing a book to let us know what they stand for, where do they stand for? How hard is it to hire a friggin ghost writer for Pete’s sake?


    • And playing a little bit devil’s advocate here, I quote/steal something fromn the webs:

      ‘“In every republic,” Machiavelli says, “there are two different dispositions, that of the populace and that of the upper class.”[5] They differ diametrically in their aims, as “the people do not want to be dominated or oppressed by the nobles, and the nobles want to dominate and oppress the people.”[6] While previous scholars were troubled by this conflict and tried to eliminate it in search of stability, Machiavelli proposes something radical: he says that this uneasy symbiosis and its resulting friction is in fact a healthy and positive thing. Although “the arrogance of the upper class and the licentiousness of the general public”[7] will invariably lead to animosity, “all legislation favourable to liberty is brought about by the clash between them.”[8]’

      Could it be that we are taking the winding road to a better place?


  10. JC, many of your points make a lot of sense but I think there can be some legitime middle ground between embracing irresponsible populism and becoming cold technocrats. Granted, middle ground positions may take more time to get across, be understood and gain support but it’s probably the only way to build a plausible, electable option in an unequal, disparate country like Venezuela. Centrism should not be an electoral campaign guise. It has to be a genuine stance or people will find out you’re just bolony. When centrism is genuine it is it works and people love it. Lula lifted 40 million brazilians out of poverty without hijacking democratic institutions, instilling class hatered or dismantelling private enterprise. He’ll probably go down in history as one of the most loved latin american politicians ever. On the other hand, cold technocracy has been tried (i.e. Washington concensus policy during CAP II) and failed miserably because the arrogant political elites failed to look into the eyes and hearts of the poor. They didn’t even care to explain what they were trying to do and caused a drastic shift in the pendulum that we regret to this date. Tough love is never popular at first glance but it ultimately makes sense to poeple (even to children) when the “love” part of the equation is left in and is genuine. Having said that, you’re right. In the middle of a “borrachera de petrodolores” it’s going too hard to even get the chavista poeple to even listen, but they’ll get sober someday, wake up with a hangover and sweat chavismo out of their blood.


  11. I guess I’ll copy& paste myself to this conversation :P

    “… a kind of democratic dictator. The Greeks had a word for it, a demagogue. But consider what that shrewd statesman and clever demagogue felt he had to say to stir the people to support him. He gave them an ideal picture of themselves. He played on the (…) popular mind, but that mind was democratic and had to be led or misled in such terms.

    Is it about Hugo Chavez? No. It’s Bernard Crick talking about Pericles. Yes, the context of both is entirely different, but the part about “an ideal picture of themselves” resonates with the things you listen and read from the chavista side: “Chavez taught us to love our country” “We were nothing before Chavez” and so forth…

    I think opposition is doing things wrong. They cannot be better demagogues than Hugo Chavez. They cannot outspend the petrostate. They need to improve democracy. They need to turn regular folks into active citizens. They need to use the very own tools that Chavez gave them to defeat him. The opposition must strengthen the consejos comunales as much as possible. That’s the key to the success of the opposition: leave Globovision behind and join the barricades. The key question is if the opposition leaders are willing to give up their privileges to do that…


  12. So….the electoral system will never bring us victory, but system collapse is a long-term likely scenario, and when it happens, “we” will have to be ready with what international experts call “repression”. We’ll have to maintain our core doctrines, and not water them down just to achieve popularity. And the example for this is the success of the Communist Party of Venezuela. I’m pretty shocked by that sort of thinking. It’s not even that realistic. When Poland, Czechoslovakia, DDR, collapsed, were the successors to power imitators of communist ideological
    tactics, or were they more like MUD?


  13. Oh man, I can feel your pain and your frustation, but you should not waver. There are a variety of things that I am not sure if you actually considered at all. First off, there is the fact that the MUD is a ragtag array of different parties that only have one thing in common, their opposition to Chavez. If you have the whole of the oppo veer right you can be certain that the MUD will break into pieces.
    Then there is the fact that you have to appeal to the median voter in order to get elected. Even after Chavez is gone you have to get voted in, and that is going to be anything but a shoo-in. Why would you ever think that after Chavez there will be only one alternative? Most probably once Chavez is gone the hard part will be keeping a unified opposition that is able to compete against whatever these guys throw at us. It will not be easy, and what you propose will only make it harder.
    I understand and may even agree with some of the policies you put forward, and I very much agree with the fact that whatever we do as an opposition we have to be straight forward and honest. No tricks, no lies, no surprises. But I disagree with you when you say that we can forget about winning and that thus we can go all gung-ho on policy and just wait for those damn voters to wise up, learn from THEIR mistakes and finally get our people into office.
    Have a drink, take a few days, and let’s get back to work. There’s a lot to be done.


  14. I respect your opinion Juan. And I agree on the structural reforms proposed as the end-goal our country should aim for. Also, agree on the importante of the economy in the elections. But to say it is impossible to defeat Chávez in the ballots seems too much; I respectfully disagree.
    I believe that we’ve wasted at least 12 of the last 14 years looking for “atajos” and many other mistakes in our seek for power (paros, cacerolas, militares en Plaza Altamira, abstención…). In this sense, we’ve only made things “right” (although there’s always room for improvement) for the past year and a half (political and social unity, candidate elected by the basis, robust government plan, smart strategic campaign, etc.) and that resulted in +6.5MM votes, in the context we all know. Moreover, it was clear that in order to “build a new majority” efforts needed to be focus in the most needed social groups while it’s most powerful way to reach was face-to-face.
    It is now in our hands to continue improving all our opportunities in the right path, achieving small victories in the short term (Governors, Alcaldes, Consejos Legislativos y Diputados) to come better prepared (in process, time, quality, proposal) for the next presidential elections.


  15. Nagel,

    I support your ideas. And yes, we are a minority within the opposition, and we will stay that way. After 14 years, many people believe the Chavez way is the only way, the left,the welfare,the nanny,the police state. People are used to sending all of their problems to the state. It’s sickening.
    I do not want to be a state-dependent person,and i don’t want this country to be. But the damage is done. There is an ideological wall,both in oppo and on govt supporters. I loved Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez because they were straight forward with this,specially MCM,during the primaries. However, people REALLY bought into the whole “Ser rico es malo”. They think business owners are the devil.They think privatization means handing it to the US. It’s all taboo


  16. Strategy from here is complicated, when subject to Acts of God. Short-term, no major changes should be made, with Local elections just around the corner. There is a chance with a demoralized Oppo, coupled with the Chavista attempt to utilize the Chavez Porta-Aviones image and intact local get-out-the-vote machinery, that the Governorship elections could go badly (and, what if, because of these, Capriles loses in Miranda??). The problem will remain in these forthcoming local elections, Chavez or no Chavez directly in play, because the “hidden/invisible” fraud I spoke of on a previous Blog topic could be determinant–i. e., the Venezuelan Vote is NOT VOLUNTARY, and would be seen as FRAUDULENT in any developed democratic country, because it is coerced/threatened/intimidated via:fingerprint machines; worry about loss of State benefits (jobs/Mercal/Misiones/pensiones);a massive State-paid propaganda disadvantage; and massive fraudulent use of public moneys to transport/harass/aid (as in the famous video)/and even pay voters to vote on election day. With this FRAUDULENT tilted playing field, I agree with Juan, until oil money isn’t sufficient or dives, or Chavez croaks, it will be difficult to impossible for the Oppo to win a Presidential election. On the brighter side, Chavez does not seem well: “moderate” Maduro appointment to V.P., and today’s appointment of 6 (?) Ministers via Twitter. I don’t think we’ll see any severe Revolution tightening in the next 3 months or so due to the coming local elections/ Venezuelan traditional laxity at year end, but early next year will be different (barring one of the 2 Acts of God). Finally, I don’t think Venezuelan voters are ready/willing to “hear it like it is” until their day-to-day reality gets measurably worse.


  17. I find your position deeply troubling Juan, if only because it seems to take for granted that my most sincerely held ideals are the kinds of loopy nonsense that sane people only say as a cynical ploy to get elected.

    It’s insulting.

    There is a very, very deeply ingrained consensus in Venezuela in favor of an activist state that mobilizes its resources to alleviate poverty. Probably 90% of Venezuelans believe in that, and that 90% includes me. The opposition would be leading itself up a blind alley by rejecting a stance with the potential to rally us all in favor of an ideological ghetto. .

    I guess a major part of the gap is that I consider both the “acts of God” you sketch out to be very likely within the next 1-4 years. Well, perhaps not a collapse in oil prices, but certainly an unmanageable fiscal crisis that imposes a harsh adjustment. And the oncological angle is out in the open.

    So I don’t think we’re looking at 6-20 years in the electoral wilderness, I think we’re looking at 1-4 years or so.

    This is no time to retreat into a purist ideological bender that leaves us at odds with the median voter. We need to be mobilized to pick up the pieces for the dreadful medium-run train wreck that now looms. And you don’t do that by throwing the vast majority of your voters under the bus.


    • You know what’s insulting? The fact that you think my position is somehow counter to this “very, very deeply ingrained consensus in Venezuela in favor of an activist state that mobilizes its resources to alleviate poverty.”

      But hey, if you think we should continue to promise to fund the Empresas Basicas even when we receive a bankrupt country, fine by me. I know my position is in the minority.


    • What’s really insulting are the comments by FT and savant wannabe Bruni.

      Isn’t one of the innumerable definitions of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result”? Somebody tell me how many more elections do we need to loose to come to JC’s or a similar conclusion?


  18. Dear Juan,

    As this is a follow-up piece from your mea-culpa, I’ll not go about pinpointing previous stances or minor quibbles. You are breave enough to come out and write this blog, so I commend you for this.

    However, and perhaps obviously, I disagree with your proposal, which I understand as forming a center-to-right (let’s call it liberal) coalition, doing away with all the social democrats in the opposition, or leaving them on their own; without abandoning electoral politics, this coalition will lead the way per the coming disasters in the Chavernment. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I have one first objection: the mention of the PCV. If the PCV has been in or near the government between 1994 and today, it is not because they were front and center leading their coalitions: it was because they were part of a larger, more moderate, center-to-left coalition; and victory seldom came because of the PCV. In that case, your liberal coalition should hope to be the most extreme and most purist sector of a larger coalition, hoping to get some political clout under the wing of its most moderate allies. Then, “platform honesty” would be a failure, or a disingenuous facade to “heighten the contradictions”.

    Secondly: do you really think that the opposition held its left-to-center views because it was the way to be elected? Are they all closeted liberals cloaked under and adeco’s guayabera? Not at all: even the most market-friendly elements in our mainstream politics have supported social policies of some kind: both “el Gran Viraje” and the “Agenda Venezuela” tried to maintain important levels of social investment and expenditures. Alas, there was a lot of waste, and, in my view, part of the “new kind of politics” proposed by the Unidad and by Capriles (and, by extension, tried in many of the regional and local governments held by the opposition) was to foster social growth with less waste. Much less waste, much more control, and much less hostility against the private sector. This was a principled stand, and a true difference. And that is also why the accusation against the “paquetazo” were at the same time vicious and vague. Vicious, because they struck an anti-neoliberal nerve among voters, and vague because they couldn’t pin it to the actual program (unless every single thing that does not mean the collectivisation of the means of production is dubbed as neoliberal).

    Moreover, there’s almost an exculpatory tone in your analysis… The reasons for our electoral defeat, and the perspective for out trying times ahead, can be exposed in many parts of the blogosphere. I believe, as do many here, that something’s gotta give: someone should be held accountable for a campaign that came up short of what it goals were. If you say defeat was unavoidable despite the campaign, then no one can be held responsible for dropping their respective ball.

    Finally, there is a role for an organised opposition under an authoritarian regime: first, to give credence to the political alternative; secondly, to develop and foster the cliques and leaders of said alternative; third, to promote a rights-centered agenda; and fourth, to galvanise a response if there is a possibility of government change. No dictablanda becomes a democracy without democrats around.


    • It is obvious that there are people with positions similar to that of Nagel inside the MUD, but for eligibility’s sake nobody dare to talk about them in public. I believe the MUD should be more open. I think there should open debates about economic and social policies. What about an open, honest debate between the different currents inside the MUD? Shouldn’t they bring that up to discussion in front of a larger audience? The MUD is falling short in that sense. If they are real democrats, they should lead by example.

      There’s one thing that Fausto Maso says frequently: politicians seem to be ashamed of their work in the 90s. Nobody bothers to remember people that even the “evil” CAP or the mediocre Caldera during the 90s had social programs. Nobody. Once I tried to explain to a chavista that social programs have always been there, being the main difference oil revenue, and he just refuse to accept it. IMHO, the politicians are making a lousy job communicating with the people…


      • Mr. Barreda: the MUD has run twice a program of ideological and platform discussion. Hundreds of academics have worked there selflessly, in different areas and with different backgrounds of expertise. The programs produced by it are a testament to that. I must say that some major public intellectuals declined invitations: I cannot say if this was due to a ideological disagreement with the MUD or with the working arrangement.

        As for communicating with the people, there is a socialisation and media grip from the government’s mindset, especially in important rural areas. The young lack memories of the so called “IVth Republic”, and this is still fairly demonised by many upper-class professionals. I have worked in non-MUD efforts to counter that, but I believe it is even a matter of controversy among our political leaders.

        (I must add that I have not worked for the MUD, beyond a meeting on social networks strategies in 2011. Fearing nepotism charges, which often come my way, I did not become further involved, and I’m ashamed for it).


        • I have nothing but the utmost respect for the academics and experts that prepared the MUD’s program. However, there were two problems with that approach. Academics and experts are not exactly common folks. Their views and ideas might be right and sound, but you need to make it palatable for the vast majority of the electorate. And that’s were politicians come in. They should be able to dumb it down for Juan Bimba. Unfortunately, it seems that they did not do their job right.

          The program never reached out the guys whose vote they were after. That made things easier for the chavismo when they came out with allegations of a hidden economic agenda. Only then the experts came out to explain the MUD’s economic program, but the damage was already done.

          Even economists like Mr. Nagel were skeptical about the feasibility of the MUD’s economic plan, and the guy was a fervent supporter of Capriles. And he was not alone. Several non-gov economists have been talking about the need for economic reform and spending cuts since forever. It was really hard to believe that the hidden economic agenda was not a possibility. I voted for Capriles crossing my fingers and hoping that the MUD’s program was viable, but I also knew that, given the dire state of our finances, severe economic reform should come sooner than later…


          • The MUD’s program meant gradual reform. A different macroeconomic situation would speed up said reforms, surely.


        • Even the people that lived under the IV edits their memories.

          I have a friend, two years older than me, that seems to have lived in a different country, that does not fit either what I remember or the newspapers from that date. Absolutely nuts.


          • It is nuts…

            But we should also bear in mind that both media and Academia tried, then, to compete against the system.


  19. Look, Chavez has been phenomenally successful at shifting the political centre of gravity to the left, and the opposition has no coherent response to that.

    Capriles played the Lula card, but it didn’t ring true, partly because people didn’t believe he was sincere (and with good reason), and partly because everyone knew he couldn’t carry his coalition with him even if he were.

    Why would that situation change? What evidence is there that the neo-liberal right wing will quietly go away? They remain a significant and powerful force which demands political representation. The idea that they can be persuaded to limit their ambitions to being cheerleaders in periodic Lulaesque versus Chavismo showdowns is fanciful.

    You cannot build a long term political strategy based on a Lulaesque coalition led by a fake and comprised of those who pretend to believe in it, those who refuse to believe in it, and a few starry eyed idealists like Quico who actually believe in it. It would be inherently unstable, internally at war, and the public wouldn’t buy it. As an electoral machine it has already proved to be a failure.

    Yet a shift to the right would merely replace one set of problems with another. The opposition activists might be happy, but as Juan concedes, the voters will desert them in droves. So you are left hoping for “acts of God”. The problem is there is no convincing evidence that Venezuela cannot see out even quite wide fluctuations in the price of oil. But if there were to be such a crisis, Juan is right. The choice would be between radical state intervention and neo-liberalism.


    • “Capriles played the Lula card, but it didn’t ring true, partly because people didn’t believe he was sincere (and with good reason)…”

      Expound on the lack of sincerity and your “with good reason”, Calvin. Specifically. Meaning, no airy-fairy generics.


      • Look, syd, it is simple. The majority of voters did not believe the Cpariles Lula card since they know – as everyone with dos dedos de frente – that Capriles is a right wing neo nazi with neoliberal ideals. Who is going to believe him when the first thing he did when he became governor of Miranda state was to start both closing down and weakening the missions and in the campogn proposes a law to protect them? It was such BS.

        You have been living in California so long that you have no idea of the Venezuelan mentality these days and that the mass of voters are not as stupid as you think in your bourgeois mind.

        JC is right in his desire for an act of God but generally it is defeatist and smells of demoralization in a very objective sense. He even admists that the opposition is not honest but Chavez is. On that basis the opposition will NEVER govern again to corroborate what Chávez has said many times.


        • Arturo, is your name Calvin? I thought not. So, butt out. Your intellect doesn’t come close.
          Second, you’re way off when you keep connecting me with California, you ignoranus.


        • I totally agree. The closing down of missions is the main argument against Lula that I hear from chavistas. Not certain it is true, but I believe it is.

          Now, the problem is, if Capriles really is pro-misiones and Lula inspired, hoe can he prove it given the current politically abusive context against oppo governors? Because that is what will be needed. Not easy.

          Three years ago I was sure that private sector destruction would have caused a big economic crisis by now, but I didn’t take the huge new loans into account. Could the government run out of money as productivity continues to fall apart within the next 6 years? El Venezolano es leal, pero no le gusta que le ven la cara de huevon. If, after 20 years in power Venezuela is neck deep in shit, it will be much harder for Chavez to divert blame from himself. On the other hand, if Chavez continues to make the majority happy and better of, then we cannot compete with that anyway, given his media control.

          I, for one, believe that there is a real chance that Chavista mismanagement can cause real trouble within this presidential period. After all, almost every economic wisdom is violated in his policies, and eventually reality catches up. I do think that in the short term, one of several opposition strategies should be to warn voters of the consequences of Chavez policies, which, after all, is much worse than what has happened so far.

          Also, I think that la oposicion disociada (that segment) should open their eyes, and stop thinking that politics is about having your class segments win. The disinterest for poor Venezuelans, which must be focus number one for the nation is just too omnipresent. Many opposition people don’t even understand that chavismo up until today (ignoring bad consequences of his policies) has been a clear advance in the lives of so many.

          It is total madness to give in to the bitterness of not being able to reestablish the IV republic bubbles many people lived in. Like a neighbour of me here in Chacao lamented “antes los pobres eran honestos”. Most oppposition people I talked to did not vote for Capriles because they thought he would help D and E more than Chavez.

          When D and E are 80% it is wrong and extremely wasteful to not have it as priority number one to help them. That is the country we have, and that is what we should deal with.


          • Nice post, I think that this is the crux of the problem for most of the opposition people. They see it as a ‘us against them’ battle, thus buying into, and validating, the Chavez promoted class warfare.


  20. I can’t stop thinking you are completely forgetting what the opposition talked about until 2004. They were everything but Chávez’ like, they stood up against the regime and they claimed for freedom and democracy. Those were the darkest days of the movement and I hope not to see those guys ruling the opposition never again.
    There is a difference between having conciens, worry for people’s needs and being socially aware; and what you describe as being like Chávez.
    People like María Corina, the one that signed the Carmona Decree and went visiting Bush just for a picture, don’t have a clue about the country they are living in and about the people they want to rule. They live in their bubbles, where political rights are important and having food served in the table is not an issue. It’s time for those Venezuelans to open their eyes and understand that what they live has nothing to do with what the majority of the people experience.
    I couldn’t des agree more with what you are saying in this post but I understand your call for debate. I think you are very wrong about the direction the opposition shoul take and the electibility of its project. If Chávez dies, a Capriles’ like opposition will probably win the elections while a Machado’ one will probably have no chance. Anyway we will see what happens soon or in six years tops. I think and hope that you are wrong.


  21. “a dramatic collapse in the price of oil”.
    When oil went around 150USD a barrel, it caused the 2008 financial crisis. The sub-prime hoopla was just a side show since Europe also got caught in the storm and how much loans did they have in suburb America. Obama had to bail out the big three, they were not selling cars you see. Why? Gas was too pricy for a lot of folks. Then oil goes down to 57USD per barrel, a price unthinkable a few years before but now a relief. Pretty soon it goes to 100USD with the spigot wide open and Arab spring still not yet in the picture. Why? Competitive demand from China and India. If it goes to 200USD per barrel, it is likely 2008 all over again. So 100USD appears now a comfortable zone given the competition to secure oil. Forget a dramatic extended collapse. A short collapse won’t matter anyway, it will bounce right back. That leaves only the second scenario. Start sticking needle pins in a doll.


  22. Juan, I have issue with some of your logic.

    You mention “a collapse of the cult of personality built on the basis of an unending stream of petro-dollars that it has come to embody”. I see a flaw in implying that it “is really out of our hands” to end that stream of petro-dollars. I do not expect you to support the following method for achieving the end of the stream, but I hope you are still open minded enough to realize that so long as there exists at least one method in our hands, then perhaps there are others.

    It is in the opposition’s hands to force a referendum to impose a constitutional article that requires the distribution of the unending stream of petro-dollars to the people, which would achieve the double effect of taking the money out of the cult’s hands while getting the distribution of it associated to the opposition.

    Regardless of whether you would support such action, the above proves that your premise is too fatalistic.

    My second issue is with your expectation of getting people on board with the new “we should be [unpopularly] honest” by applying a logic based on the lack of alternatives, yet, you yourself won’t get on board a proposal such as the one above despite having no alternative.

    My third is issue is that, instead of getting on board, you deny the existence of an alternative that’s been jumping and waving its arms right in front of you for years. :)

    Just remember, the people are right in voting for what brings better life for themselves; that’s kind of the basis of democracy. The key is to come up with something that brings them a better life, short term *and* long term. The more educated ones cannot expect the less educated ones to think in more educated terms. It’s the other way around. The more educated ones have to come up with solutions that work for both groups. The larger the group of less educated ones, the more short term the solutions need to seem.


  23. Just heard a story: a friend of my aunt purchased an airplane ticket for her maid so that she could travel to her hometown and vote for Capriles, whom she allegedly supported. The maid arrived to work on Monday and expressed to her boss that while she waited in line to vote, some Chavista offered to give her a rather insignificant amount of Bolivares if she voted for Chavez. She said that she had no other choice but to vote for the comandante and in retribution received the money.


    F’ked up society. With 55% of Venezuelans easily bribed by a bag of rice, chances are Chavez will continue winning elections over and over. Juan is right. Economic collapse or Chavez’s death are the only ways out of this mess.


  24. The maids stories are becoming true urban legends because the only contact some people have to the other part of Venezuela and its harsh reality is through their maids.

    Before the election, everybody thought we were going to win because the maids were saying they were voting for Capriles and now the maids ended up being paid to vote for Chávez.

    This is a maid complot.

    You know what? Maids are employees, they would say anything to keep their job if it is a good one and they will vote as they wish , live anybody else.


  25. Can Capriles beat Maduro? After Sunday, I am not so sure, If Maduro has the money of the state and the machinery to get the vote out: Watch out!


    • But in a scenario where Chavez is dead there is no guarantee that Maduro would run or even that PSUV would remain united and strong. Chavismo forces would need to democratize (even if only a bit) and by doing so the’ll get weaker.


    • For the first time you have written something simple, strightforward and probaly true. There is no guarantee that Capriles will bet Jaua either in the Miranda state election either.


  26. Completely agree with Juan. In fact it’s a rather refreshing post indicating that it’s not as bad as it seems. For those who still don’t get it, Chavez is unbeatable in his world of democracy. His world of democracy is completely in tune with the vulnerabilities of the Latino mindset.
    Ask Fidel, he designed it and is still in power.
    Someone said on a previous post that “Betancourt would be turning in his grave” – something like that. Well you are wrong, as wrong as those who thought they could vote Chavez from his seat of power. Betancourt’s reason for being, after ship jumping, was because shitheads like the Castro’s existed. And if he is turning in his grave it’s because Venezuelans democratically voted Chavez to power. In other words Venezuelans should look at themselves and not Chavez or some other dark horse.
    But as I agree with Chavez’s death and oil prices as pivot points I would also add in that the death of Castro himself would be a big factor. Cuba and its left wing international evil form of power and control exists because of fear. Fear alone. Castro’s death may be the likened to the crack in the dam. And as Venezuela was always fidel’s goal from the early sixties at it may also be the first to break free once the devil himself is rotting in hell.

    And if you still think a democratic transfer of power from communism to a democracy is and should be the only process I fear your Venezuelan minds have become befuddled with education beyond your cerebral limits. But that’s another story that probably gave rise in part as to why we are where we are today.


  27. Juan
    I actually applaud your disposition to speak your mind from now on, I think it should always be that way. I’m always suspicious and distrustful of ‘special circumstances’ that require people to act different to what the norm should be.
    There are many many examples of this from everyday trivial stuff to national crises:
    – Opinion makers that cannot be objective because the government is spreading lies
    – Suspension of constitutional rights because of special circumstances
    – Those that advocate violence because we’re in a dictatorship
    – Those that call for special powers because is raining too much
    – Censorship because there’s a coup attempt
    – Those that ask people to ignore their problems because we need to save the fatherland
    – Those that ask to quiet down every dissent in the name of unity
    – Those that close their eyes to a murder if the victim is a criminal
    – Those that think that terrorists shouldn’t have the same rights to due process

    This principle applies also to personal live:
    – Those that drive too fast because they’re in a rush, or don’t buckle up
    – Those that mistreat others because they’re angry
    – Those that ask others to work overtime because they really need to finish before the deadline
    – Those that have no time for their family because they have to work

    I’m sure you can think of many more examples.
    Don’t get me wrong sometimes circumstances are really special and require behaving different than the norm (think of an ambulance). But when this ‘special circumstances’ last too long or are too frequent it’s a good indication the circumstances are really not special and the special actions are not justified.

    So by all means, always speak your mind, respectful debate can only make us better.


    • More examples:
      – Those that insult the majority of the population because a candidate won
      – Those that would’ve praised the majority of the population had another candidate won


  28. I have one word to say: algae! (a 17% drop in demand for oil -just from the US could have a significant impact on global oil prices) have a look at this video from the US Department of Energy
    The end of a global network of non-democratic regimes (regime change) could be more effectively (cost/benefit) carried out by R&D into these types of technologies. It makes for a wonderful allegory: The light of Science freeing up the oppressed! (or something like that) :-)


  29. i sense bloggers on Venezuelan topics are exhausted. The result of last Sunday makes them feel as if all efforts, all articles, all criticism is pointless. In fact, why keep going at it if criticism to Chavez’s regime and raising our voices about all the problems the country is facing is completely worhtless?

    MIguel Octavio and Daniel already wrote that they are going to dedicate time to writing on other topics. They threw the towel, as they say at home and rightly so, shit, writing takes time and effort. Why write if the message only circles among the spiral of the few opposition voters and never permeates into Chavistas?

    i agree with Juan, time for a change. Time to write stuff that will generate discussions and commotion in our little circle.


  30. You have to lie to get support? Wtf? I understand you agree w Juan but that doesn’t mean everyone has to agree w him or you. That is why everyone keeps saying fascist and similar description to right win oppo. Now, really trying to capture the good things in your argument: Not denying that enforcing what is written on the laws is priority number one (whatever you said about granite…) but sending people to sing kumbaya ( alienating anyone?) is what got us here in the first place…is that so hard to grasp?


  31. I feel that this is only the result of a severe depression due to the Chavez victory. It is sad, is not only the fact that they, is that they won in almost all the states.
    Believing that an oil prices plunge is going to end Chavez regime is innocent, on the 2008 crisis the World experienced the worst crisis since the 1930 Great Depression, and the Oil prices plummeted to aorun 35-40ish per barrel and the government and Chavez popularity survived. I don’t see Demand for oil diminishing in the short term, until a new alternative takes over. (Something that is going to take quite a while given the political and economical interests sorrounding the oil industry).
    On the other side, to me Chavez cancer is not as dangerous as people wants to make it believe, and even if so, I’m not sure if opposition will hold their ground together in the case of a Chavez demise.
    Finally, I don’t see such a traumatic scenario. I believe Chavez is defeatable, in my opinion we did got to the election day in a technical tie, but people forgot that on the ballots day Chavez always performs around 5% of expected. I always said to my father, firm Capriles Victory believer, if we doon t go to the election day with 10% advantage on the polls we are done. This phenomenah apparently responds to the PSUV machine, their ability to drag votes, using different methods (Including the not so pacific ones).
    In the long term, Opposition should think a way to capitalize a higher percentage of their vote intention by developing a fit net contacting lazy oppo supporters and putting pressure on them to go to vote, pick them up, etc.
    Don’t lose hope, people is slowly moving towards opposition, the worst thing we can do right now is throwing the towel.
    P.D. A social government is economically possible in countries with huge natural resources, think of Canada, Norway, etc. Promoting maintaining the social benefits of the Chavez government is not a mistake!


    • You compare Canada, Norway, etc. with Chavez social benefits. There is no comparison at all. In one case there is close to 100% accounting, in the other it is a mishmash of handouts, missiones, whatever. When there is money, open the spigot, when there is less start reducing expenses, at election time such flood the whole social scene. In addition original missiones such as barrio adentro, now a lame duck, had a social value, the new ones such as mi casa or whatever it is called are just a lottery and perhaps the most unequal way of making a “social government”. There are two expressions, sustainability and pissing money and they are mutually exclusive.


  32. Though I regularly read your blog, I rarely if ever comment but I feel the need to do so now. Your last couple of posts seem to me to be the most realistic analysis of Sunday’s defeat I’ve read. Keep it coming.


  33. Juan,

    Great blog post. You have articulated what I have been thinking for a while. I hope the opposition is humble enough to at least consider these ideas.


  34. i agree with Amieres in that you should openly speak your mind, Juan, regardless of what the majority in your circle thinks. This is what blogs are for and what enriches the discussion.

    In this particular post, I think that there were three issues that you clumped together:

    1.- Should Capriles have promised a chavismo light that he would have had difficulty in sustaining?
    2.- Was the fact that the proposal may have been perceived as a “copy” of the real thing to the people of Venezuela what made Capriles lose?
    3.- Since Venezuelans won’t change their perception until there is a major crisis, we shouldn’t bother to seriously contribute to the electoral process.

    My problem is with point number 3, and the reason is because you have the false premise that when everything else fails, the people of Venezuela will naturally be driven towards your idea of opposition-in wait.

    Nature hates vacuums. If you do not occupy your space, someone else will. This is exactly what happened with Chavismo. AD and Copei left a vacuum, and that was occupied. If the opposition is not perceived as a serious contender for power, someone else, maybe even worse than Chávez, will.


  35. I don’t think that even with a “natural or biological disaster” we are going to overcome chavismo.

    An economic atom bomb level event will get rid of everything, leaving a fresh field to plough and a chance to win, but even if Chavez should die tomorrow I would be leery of thinking “Problem Solved!”

    When you are up against things like this:


    There are serious doubts in my mind that anyone can beat that. The opposition has nothing even remotely similar, and nowhere near the resources to pull it off.

    As long as any successor to Chavez manages to articulate that get out the vote machinery, and the opposition fails to counter it we are doomed to decades of boliburgues thievery.

    Were I in charge of the MUD, I would focus on getting governors, mayors and congressmen elected to try to counter the power of the executive, but if Chavez’ plans get executed they will render even those centers of power toothless. We will have a token representation, like Blanca Marmol de Leon on the TSJ, for appearances sake, but no real say in what happens, or to whom, or why.

    These past few days for me have been a seesaw of pessimism and tempered optimism. On this seventh day since the debacle, and having thought long and hard about what went wrong, and what we can do better I come to no other conclusion, that barring some form of economic natural disaster, we, those who think differently from Chavez, are not going to wake up from this bad dream we are having.

    I will continue to do what I can to illuminate people, to help them see for themselves the mistake that Chavismo is and to counter wherever possible it’s unsavory aspects.

    There is no room for honest businessmen in Venezuela anymore.

    Just about everyone I know is working some scam or other based on CADIVI or SITME or loans never to be repaid to BANDES or similar. Actual productive work, paid for honestly and according to sound business principles is less and less the norm. For us it is an uphill battle, we try to play by the rules and watch as our peers get rich by scamming while we idiots do the right thing.

    Like us, many small to medium industrialists are targets of kidnapping and or extortion. Radical workers get carte blanche from the Labor Ministry to do as they please and file baseless petition after baseless petition in an effort to get the company expropriated. Video evidence of weapons displayed on company property, against other employees, is dismissed without a word.

    A committee has approached us and asked one of my partners to be the “padrino” of the local militia, whatever that entails it also means he would have to join the PSUV.

    The worst part of this whole thing is that Venezuelans were fed up with the so called 4th republic, desired a change and voted in Conan the effin Barbarian into office thinking the change would finally come.

    Chavez and his MF’ers are ten times worse than CAP on his best day.

    Venezuela, you are well and truly fucked.


  36. I like the fact that you suggest a mid-term perspective for the opposition Juan. However, its role can’t be as passive as what I understand you’re suggesting. The opposition needs to continue pushing in order to force Chavistas to keep exposing their true nature. Chavez’s voters know they’re being manipulated and resent it. Go check their comments at Aporrea or other forum -just not this month; they’re still ecstatic about election results.
    Venezuela is in bad shape (crime rates, infrastructure, electricity, inflation…) and relatively soon will be in desperate need of a credible option.


    • Please clarify, Cristina.

      Chavista voters know they are being manipulated and resent it, but they’re ecstatic about the vote?

      What are you saying, that they are masochists?


      • For months there’s been intense debate at Aporrea and I’ve been reading. Lots of people question the true nature of the government and even the existence of a revolutionary process. Big handouts go to a few Chavista leaders and the rest get crumbs only before elections. They see what’s going on.
        Those who dared to express their doubts were bullied and laughed at. The level of violence at Chavista forum is intense; to some participants Chavez is a kind of God and to others is a fake.
        After election night the dissenters have been quiet and the bullies have been ecstatic (se los dije…) but I’m sure in a week or two they’ll resume arguing.


  37. Venezuela is addicted to Chavez. I suppose we can say it is a Chavez junkie. The people know it is bad for them, but they just gotta have it. Like most addictions, this one will not be cured until after the junkie hits rock-bottom. In this case, that translates into complete economic collapse, and utter civil chaos.

    Maybe there is a Ten-Step Program for it. Try it: “My name is Venezuela, and I am a Chavez addict.”


    • Roy – people like you have be calling for an economic collapse for at least a decade and there is no sign of it happening. It is more likely in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and otehr EU nations that operate on the system you so idiotically support. The writing is on the wall and then you say that economic collapse will come in Venezuela? So pathetic.


      • So the EU goes down the tubes, and the U.S./China/India/Asia and poor little oil-dependent Venezuela are not dragged into the morass??? Boy, this really is Chavez-think at work!


      • Arturo,

        There is a difference between predicting something and calling for it. If I see a train heading at high speed towards a bridge that has collapsed, I can predict a disaster, without being for, or against it. In this analogy, the oppostion has been warning of the consequences of Chavez’s economic policy for years, yet the train keeps heading for the chasm. If you want to, you can keep thnking that the train will somehow fly, instead of crash. You will anyway. And when the train does crash, you will blame it on someone else. But, if you really believed in your own BS, you would be on the train, instead of in the peanut gallery.


    • This is key for any hope of recovery. I am with J Nagel on this one too, make sure the narrative to explain how we got hooked on chavez, and how his regime ruined the country (during the largest petro bonanza in history) is in place. Educate and repeat ad nauseum, so that the learnings can be reached.

      This is not for eelctoral purposes clearly so, the populist offers are a necesary devil if you want to run on this market though. But then again we fail to see that ACTIVACION is not the same as VOTING. and democracy is a larger thing than elections…



  38. “Capitalismo del Siglo XXI”

    I really wished Maria Corina, Yon, Diego, Emereterio, Anibal Romero, and several others would form a party, say Capitalismo Popular, and spread the notion of a new and improved form of Capitalism. If they move quickly they have a chance to create a credible alternative in the next six years.  A new party with a clear ideology could enrich the discussion and also organize the spectrum.  

    Good luck to them.

    However, I do resent that the most confrontational side of the opposition feels they can derail the opposition from their steady and continued growth considering they did not receive support for their more extreme positions during the primary. 

    Hay un Camino coño! 


  39. Why is nobody taking the coercion factor into consideration? Is it irrelevant in this discussion? I think that chavismo’s abstention would have been a lot higher if direct coercion had not played such a big role.

    The more I find out about “what really happened” on Election Day the more it sounds like they had a giant “express kidnapping” operation going. If your name and CI was on any of the misiones and you had not voted by 5:00 pm, which they found out thanks to the captahuellas, they would round you up and force you to vote for the comandante to come free. If this is true, it would mean that at least part of the Venezuelan population that voted for the comandante did not do it out of thankfulness, loyalty or a battered-wife-syndrome situation, but would tend to feel more like a hostage. You can call this an effective “maquinaria chavista”, but it is bound to generate resentment on the part of the victims.

    If done on a significant scale, this might have ruined the use of the misiones for chavismo in years to come, as they could be perceived as the “tascón list” for the pueblo. The “chantaje” that Capriles talked about would have become immediate, real and concrete for at least part of the electorate that the opposition does not usually reach. The abuse of the misiones might have helped the comandante win this battle, but it could also be a big reason for him to eventually lose the war.


      • Perhaps not so, but dependable and irresponsible they are. They allowed the dependancy to grow stronger, and now may find themselves hostages to the monsters they helped create.
        …At some time, even the abused wife takes up her fight and breaks the cycle. Some times.


  40. Nagel,
    I commend you for the heartfelt tone and everything but I’m afraid I could not follow logically your argument. Let me try to reconstruct what I understood of this post, first “we are unelectable “, that’s a fact, and our intrinsic unelectability “doesn’t depend on the type of candidate we run, or on the specific proposals that we have”, so we should move further away from the median voter, to a more honest-but-even-more-unelectable place because, well, an act of nature can also happen and “When that happens, people will naturally turn to us”…and then you illustrate your point with the PCV story…
    Well I believe the PCV experience proved exactly the opposite of your point, they condemned themselves for decades to the political irrelevance because THEY PROGRAMATICALLY AND EXPLICITILY BELIEVED THAT THEIR WAY TO POWER WAS NOT ELECTORAL…even after the pacification process, they never abandon the thesis of social rupture being inevitable due to social class contradictions “When that happens, people –the working class- will naturally turn to us” they believed
    So I guess my point is that unless you are advocating the abandoning of the electoral way as the only way to grab power in Venezuela, which I believe you are not, being in a more-honest-and-unelectable place could be a good recipe for dealing with our tormented-enguayabadas souls right now, even a good way to go for the editorial line of this blog, but a very unpractical and suicidal advice for our political leadership.


    • Agreed, even when the PCV finally got into power it was only by hitching a ride to an apparently much more moderated version of their ideology. At least that’s how Chavez sold himself. Who has not seen the video where Chavez says ‘I’m not a communist’?


  41. Where should we go from here? Stop being naive.Put the truth always on the table.Realize the situation that the Venezuelan people are in….that’s where we should go.Fraud has to be discusses.It should not be tabu.Nothing should be tabu in a discussion that leads to some degree of truth.

    How can people ( in a dictatorship )act like they live in a democracy?


      • while you’re at it, you may want to correct your “Stop being naive” routine. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s inaccurate. And if you did not provide specific solutions, long before now, then you, too, are naïve, if not, once again, condescending.
        That goes, as well, for any *political experts* who did not accurately determine the threats, well ahead of time.


        • Syd,

          I think it better we not speak to each other so keep that in mind.

          Naive is the key word here, and yes, both Eric and I right from the start to the finish found it unlikely that Capriles would win, despite the fact that he was overwhelmingly popular and both Eric and I have been saying for years that fraud is the name of the game.

          The solution is simple:


          Let’s put it another way:

          In a dictatorship are we allowed to hold free and fair elections? Does that even make sense? Of course not.


        • Firepigette:
          1. If you did not want to communicate, you would not have replied.
          2. When you repeatedly floated the “naïve” label in an accusatory tone towards a Venezuelans, without any back up explanation, and with every intent to distinguish yourself in contrast, you came across poorly. Not that I was going to give much weight to comments from someone who has been found out to have significantly embroidered personal history.
          3. Most of us visiting these blogs have fully examined concerns, every which way until Sunday — for years,more recently, through a filter of hope, which evidently you’re incapable of understanding. All the while, we’ve allowed you to regale us with your psychology phase, then your mystical phase, oh, and there was a poetry phase. But never was there any attempt from you to zero in on the political post at hand.
          4. I would examine your little insults for the reasons I earlier mentioned. And I look forward to more precision from you — before a vote, and not than as a Monday morning quarterback.


    • Eric not only is promoting fraud as the explanation of our defeat, he suggests that the MUD, or many important leaders in the MUD, are a part of the fraud. Wow!


    • Fire, thank you very much for the interesting videos, Eckvall’s and Salas’. The fraud in the RR is clearly demonstrated in the one-year jump in REP from 6 to 9 MM voters, so that the original 3.5MM requesting the RR “couldn’t” be a majority. The visible wire connection from Cedula ID machine to fingerprint machine to voting machine in 2012 obviously made most voters think their vote wasn’t “secret”, and, undoubtedly scared many of those dependent on Government employment/handouts to vote for Chavez. As Eckvall says, Venezuelan voting fraud is a virus, constantly changing to fit the circumstance. The poorly/virtually unaudited REP has millions of virtual non-existent voters. The non-complaining MUD, and even endorsement of the REP and voting process, shows tremendous ignorance on their part, and probable conspiracy on the technical (Marquez/Bello/et.al..) level And, Briquet should be fired for being incompetent..


      • NET:

        I’m going to jump in here and ask the following:

        If the MUD impugns the REP, and the CNE says, no it’s fine, then what?
        What’s the next move?
        Can’t go to court, right? What judge is going to back the MUD? None.
        Complain to the Human Rights Court?, the OEA?, the UN? Sure that will do it.

        Abstain? we tried that before, didn’t we?

        The fraud, again, is much easier than what Eric Ekvall suggests, and it happens before the polls when you have Mision Vivienda and its database underpinning a massive get out the vote operation complete with cash payments on the day of, cash in the pension account the Friday before and “assisted voting” volunteers at the polling place, plus la bendita captahuella del CSM.

        You don’t need a virus, you don’t need 3.5 million ghost voters. KISS always wins.

        During the voting process you have to identify yourself to the voting table, use the captahuella, vote, place your thumbprint next to your name and sign and ink your finger.
        Voters are counted as they leave the center by both sides and some are asked to participate in exit polls but ALL are counted.

        So you think that 3.5 million fake cedulas were issued, some number which must be large of dual or triple voters voted more than once, and no one, not one person spilled the beans? Complained they did not get their due? Boasted to their girlfriend/boyfriend? The number of voters exiting a voting center exceeded the number of voters registered there and no one said anything?

        IF that’s the case, then Chavez et alia are umpteen million times better than the CIA, the KGB and MI6 rolled into one, chamo.


  42. I have so many things to say, but so much has already been said. Let me point out some of mine.

    (1) From the election, it is apparent that there is not the communication space available to reach enough Chavez voters, and they would not be very receptive anyway. Well, maybe the opposition can establish some PR programs like “Habitat for Humanity” where opposition volunteers begin to build housing projects for the poor on a scale that demonstrates compelling reasons for the Chavez electorate to take a second look at the opposition.

    (2) If there were a future strategy for the opposition, it would be one that is both “non-violent” and portends effective consequences to the Chavez government without harming members of the opposition. A Chavez government that is bogged down in a continuing liquidity crisis has vulnerabilities that expose it in many ways. Note, the government has been milking domestic private enterprises even while using them as scapegoats. Private enterprises need a defense strategy, even one that is only temporary but available at opportunistic times, i.e. “the mouse that roars!”, that works like the sharp spines of the porcupine when the hungry wolves come.

    (3) The opposition needs a recovery plan ASAP! They should be working on it now! The opposition needs to stay in communication with every resource available that can be ready with available resources, coordinated by the opposition, and with a compelling financial opportunity that is aligned with the entire Venezuelan population.

    (4) The plan must have immediate impact!


    • We might as well throw caution to the wind? Let me point out that the Chavez government doesn’t mind importing products from foreign bourgeois factories and farms, while placing anti-competitive price controls and onerous employee protections that reduce the profitability of domestic production. That means that companies that move away from Venezuela (after they establish an importation channel for their goods), might be able to protect themselves while regaining their profitability. Obviously, that would need to be studied. However, that is the kind of strategy (if it’s economic) that I am talking about.


    • As usual, I try to write between patients! I don’t have much time, and I get lots of interruptions. However, companies that produce products, can move production outside of Venezuela after they establish importation channels for their products back to Venezuela. These can be done in a variety of ways. For example, you might be able to develop a relationship with an Venezuelan customs agent, and a relationship with a foreign producer and become a domestic agent. This gives the company a back-up plan and an optional business plan.


  43. JC i think you are just the kind of guy that when gets depressed, starts ranting on everyone who they can reach so to achieve some catharsis… some of us really believed and cherished what capriles proposed (and i am a “doña del cafetal” on chavez hating mathers)


    • You can’t call someone cantankerous and then call yourself a doña del cafetal!

      It’s like the pot calling the kettle gray.


  44. Democracy can fail. A plurality of German voters supported the Nazis. And that was without massive corruption of the process, as seen in Venezuela. (Not outright vote fraud – but massive use of state resources to prop up the ruling party. And one-sided restrictions on campaign activity that apply only to the opposition.)

    In the U.S., there were city “machines” which had total political control through similar tactics. Sometimes the “machines” stole votes, but many pundits have commented that a machine which needs to steal votes is rotten and dying.

    I live in Chicago, one of the most notorious “machine” cities; here, “machine” candidates were (in general) sufficiently popular to win elections without fraud. The “machine” had two colossal advantages:

    1) Plenty of money for campaign activities. Businesses gave to the machine rather than be on the wrong side of the government, or in return for contracts and favors.

    2) Legions of doorbell-ringing precinct workers. Every government employee was expected to canvass his neighborhood, to cultivate the acquaintance of every voter, to dispense government services as if they were political favors, and to make sure that every supporter voted on election day. Opposition volunteers can do that too – but it’s a lot easier to get volunteers when not volunteering costs one his job.

    Sometimes, the scandals would get bad enough that the opposition would win a few elections. The “machine” would dump the most notorious bad actors, clean out lazy precinct workers, run some allegedly clean types, and take back those offices the next time out.

    The Chavernment has both those advantages – plus ownership of much of the national media. (In money, far more, because they can take directly from state funds.) Also, unlike the American city “machines”, it controls the entire system of justice, and never has to worry about its members being indicted or convicted. (The “machines” controlled the local courts and prosecutors, but were still liable to Federal prosecution.)

    The Chicago Democratic “machine” fell under three major stresses:

    Multiple Federal convictions of its members (by Federal prosecutors under Republican Presidents).
    A Federal court ruling that city workers could not be fired for not doing political work.
    The alienation of blacks, hispanics, and “social liberals” (the latter being also offended by corruption).

    After a period of disorder, the old “machine” has returned as a loose “organization”, which no longer seeks to pick every candidate for office. Blacks, hispanics, and (for instance) homosexuals are not excluded from power, but have been co-opted. Even some former rebel leaders hold office unchallenged. All are united as Democrats anyway.

    Underneath, much corruption continues. It is less blatant than before (any stooge who is foolish enough to take cash bribes goes to jail, regardless of party). But insider dealings still move large sums from the public to their friends.

    And it is practically impossible to fight. There is no chance in the foreseeable future of a “reform” movement defeating this hydra, this octopus. The “reform” Democrats are lukewarm;’ the Republicans are reflexively despised by the blacks, hispanics, homosexuals, and Jews.

    I’m afraid Venezuela is even worse off. The history of elitist, “criollo” rule under the Fourth Republic (and before) has deeply alienated the mestizo masses. They will never trust anyone who is not “one of them” over Chavez, who is. Much of the intellectual and professional class, who elsewhere fight for honest government and the rule of law, has embraced chavismo instead – on the grounds that honesty and law are trivial, compared to “social justice”. They believe that the Fourth Republic was corrupt and abusive, and profoundly socially unjust – and that any opponent of chavismo wants to bring that back.

    As to the maliciousness of people who predict an economic debacle for Venezuela under Chavez: there was an underground anti-Hitler and anti-Nazi cabal in Germany, including some of the top generals. They opposed what Hitler was doing and thought he was leading the nation to disaster. But after Hitler’s triumphs in Austria and at Munich, it was politically impossible to challenge him or act against him. Then came the triumphs over Poland and France. One of the generals formed the “setback” doctrine: until there was a major setback for Germany, the cabal could do nothing. They didn’t want Germany defeated, but that was their realistic view.

    There is a parallel with Chavez. His policies are obviously ruinous in many respects, as are his methods. (Even if every cent of FONDEN has been spent wisely, it’s wrong for any government to spend without accountability.) But as long as circumstances (such as high oil prices) sustain current success, Chavez will stay in power.


    • When Benford analysis was applied to the Venezuelan RR, some people claimed that Benford analysis was not appropriate for electoral data. It was then run on electoral data of other times and other nations. Oddly, Benford’s expected results showed up for all electoral data, except the RR and, you guessed it, Chicago elections.


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