The Post 8D Agenda: Winning Ugly

thelma-and-louiseAfter yesterday’s local elections, Venezuela finds itself facing an unusual juncture: the next elections, for National Assembly, aren’t due until the second half of 2015. In a normal country that may not feel like a long time, but in a country that’s settled into a rhythm of high-stakes yearly votes, 18-24 months without an election will feel like an eternity.

To be clear, it won’t be just any 18-24 month period. It’s likely to be a time of extraordinary economic and social dislocation. Bad as inflation and scarcity have gotten this year, there are important signs suggesting that what we’ve had so far is just a little amuse-bouche, a prelude to the real macro clusterfuck.  By this time next year, Venezuelans are likely to look back on 2013 as “the good old days”, a time of (relative) economic stability.

Barring an increasingly unlikely middle-east freakout able to drive a major spike in oil prices, Venezuela looks set to enter one of those periods of acut macroeconomic instability that, as a rule, take Latin American governments down with them. And there won’t be any elections around the corner to help mediate the coñazo.

Maybe the lack of elections is a blessing in disguise, though. Elections generate irresistible pressures towards populist posturing at a time when the country is poised to experience a concentrated dose of the reductio ad absurdum outcome of uncontrolled populist posturing.

Not having an election allows us a bit of space to pose the question differently: if, as we keep saying, democracy has collapsed in Venezuela, then the institutional link connecting “what the majority thinks” with “who governs” no longer operate.

But if popular support is no longer the government’s real base, then what is its real base? How is that real base likely to react to the conditions of sharply higher inflation and much more acute shortages likely to prevail next year? And what can the opposition usefully do to establish itself as a safe harbour from the economic maelstrom that that base can safely turn to?

To me, it’s clear: chavismo’s real base is less and less in the barrios and more and more in the corridors of CADIVI and Fuerte Tiuna: a genuinely parasitary crony elite grown immensely fat on the corruption opportunities the Distortion State affords.

The criminal element – c.f., Cartel de los Soles – is an important component of this Enchufado Elite, but we shouldn’t be too hasty to conflate the making-lemonade-with-the-lemons-life-gave-me component with the outright criminal element. En esa vaina hay de todo, including a good number of one-time “respectable” people who are genuinely conflicted – trapped into a system that forces them into dealings they know don’t pass the smell-test, from the church-going businessman who knows CADIVI is rotten but can’t continue operating without playing along, to the Army Coronel who has to swallow his bile each time he arrives on base and sees the Cuban flag fluttering overhead.

In the post-democratic era, this is the backbone of the regime’s support: the people the governing clique genuinely can’t afford to alienate without placing their own privileges in peril. The real question over the next 12-24 months is how this compromised elite is likely to react to a sharply increased level of macroeconomic instability, and what the opposition can usefully do to position itself as an attractive camp to defect to.

Gradually, as chaos spreads and it becomes more and more evident that the government doesn’t have the minimal level of adaptability it takes to reverse even its most destructive policies, at least some portions of the enchufado elite are going to become more and more desperate for alternatives. Giordani’s death grip over the economic cabinet makes it hard to imagine the government taking a pragmatic turn. That to me spells a window of opportunity amid the chaos, one that the opposition better figure out a way to exploit.

For me, the road ahead is clear: the opposition should try to position itself as a safe pair of hands, the only camp able to bring a minimal acceptable level of macro order. That means speaking directly to the enchufado elite’s concerns. (I told you from the headline this is about winning ugly.) It means establishing your bona fides as having the kind of competence and capacity to effect change the government plainly lacks. And it means extending credible commitments to overlook a whole pile of shit that nobody decent would be willing to overlook…were it not for the fact that the alternative is even worse.

The opposition needs to suit up, in other words. It needs to speak directly to the people with the real power: the guys with the guns, and the guys running the roscas for whom the payoff in terms of privileges will increasingly be outweighed by the costs in terms of day-to-day chaos.

It’s just as well that this is our only option, because the opposition political leadership actually may have the means to pull it off, whereas it lacks basically everything it would need to speak to the people who matter less and less: the broad center of the Venezuelan electorate.

Watching TV stations that the opposition is barred from, listening to radio that self-censors any critical view, basically never reading, the broad electoral center could only be reached through the kind of intensive face-to-face politicking that the opposition has spent the last 14 years telling itself it needs to get serious about and never gets serious about.

And it’s not really a surprise: the oppo activist grassroots is geographically concentrated – one is tempted to say segregated – in middle class enclaves physically removed from where normal Venezuelans live. In the era of Media Hegemony, the organizational challenges to reaching these people face-to-face are daunting, though they might imaginably be overcome by throwing a lot of money at the problem. Except, of course, the government has been brilliantly effective at cutting off the opposition from those who might fund them, leaving the oppo parties chronically broke.

Let’s call a spade a spade: mass politics is a dead end for us.

It may be that the scale of macroeconomic chaos itself renders the government’s propaganda offensive (the economic war stuff) increasingly incredible even for the mass electorate, and that may add further impetus for the Enchufado Elite to look for alternatives. But that’s a process that’s likely to take place whatever the political opposition does or doesn’t do…precisely because the political opposition lacks the media access and the money it would take to communicate with that public.

Now more than ever the opposition needs the cold blood to take an unsentimental look at the regime’s real base of support. These are not nice people we are talking about. These are very nasty people. As the economy deteriorates, they’re likely to add desperation to  nastiness. Nobody can be satisfied that so much now depends on how they react to the intensification of the chaos that has already enriched them.

It will take real political skill to defuse that explosive mix, to turn it into part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

134 thoughts on “The Post 8D Agenda: Winning Ugly

  1. You should not have published this piece. It is confusing for everyone. “Cuban flag flying overhead” – wtf are you talking abot? This is Borges-speak and will get you nowhere.

    Face the facts – until the oppo is on the side of the majority and offers a national plan, there will be a 19th defeat out of 20 national elections looming in two years time.

    %3% of the vore for the opposition? More wishful thinking and as usual, now that you have loast yet another elections, you predict the government falling die to macroeconomic woes.

    We have heard it all before, Quico, and after more tan 11 years, the same garbage is smelling real bad.


  2. You lost me, QIUICO. So, the oppo will wink at the enchufados to let them know that we can run this mess? Then, it will double wink to signify that at most the narco-micos and klelptobureaucrats who run the country will, at worst, be slapped in the wrists? I have a strong stomach, but this scenario is making it churn. If things are really so bad, why settle for so little? Why not let the whole mess implode first? Then, negotiate from a position of strength. A reconciliation policy in the interests of the nation, if needed, coming from this scenario would be a much more palatable option than getting in bed with the whore that runs this regime.


    • “Why not let the whole mess implode first? Then, negotiate from a position of strength.”

      Because, when it implodes, we can fall into the hands of those very SOBs that we’re trying to negotiate with, and unless we have the upper hand, they will and will b*tchslap us to no end


  3. Provocative thoughts. The thing is, these mafiosos get a piece of you, and you become one of them until death or the DEA do part. You can see it in Maduro’s sad sack look.

    It had occurred to me that Capriles might have performed better if he had spent a few years whoring with some militares in Apure, rather than studying tax policy, but I am still not convinced that is where the opportunity lies if the point is something other than simply to gain power when there is a total collapse.

    Maybe there is an important distinction somewhere between not alienating and provoking the crap out of the town malandro, and inviting him into your home.


    • Capriles might have performed better if he had spent a few years whoring with some militares in Apure

      as one journo put it (can’t remember her name): A Capriles le falta burdel …


  4. With a broke, divided, and silenced opposition, I think that your suggestion—while plausible—is quite unlikely. To the extent that government officials believe the burgesia-golpista-parasitaria script and to the extent that they fail to digest the severity of the macro shitstorm, they will be unwilling to negotiate an exit. I think they will fight this out to the very end, whether that means cementing the neo-dictatorship, getting cou’ed out, or giving up office once like 100+ people have died in protests and the country is on fire. Although, if you are right, I see JVR and Leopoldo playing an important role in the negotiations.


    • Claro, claro…my focus here is not on government officials but rather on hollowing out their social base of support. If, at some point, the Enchufado Elite defects en masse, what the governing clique wants or doesn’t want to do won’t much matter.


      • I don’t understand this.
        Aren’t these groups mutually exclusive or only partially interjecting?
        – Social base of support
        – Enchufado elite
        Not sure about that, I would have thought the first ones are the ones you see in Mercal, the second ones people like Arturo’s clan but less loony.
        It would really be interesting to have statistics about the different groups: normal people living in poverty, different shades of enchufados, etc.


      • What is the point of getting rid of Maduro if the Enchufado Elite and the system that supports them is allowed to stay? I venture to state that the enchufado elite is the precise enemy that the opposition needs to fight. These are not entrepreneurs or managers that will know how to develop and grow internationally competitive businesses (the kind that will generate jobs and development). The enchufado elite knows how to steal from the government. That is their core competency and it is what they will continue to do and they will protect their capability to so till the end. I don’t think that it is about having or not the “stomach” to pact with them; I just don’t think Venezuela can both support a corrupt elite and develop itself (there is not enough dough to go around).


        • Bueno, this is about trying to manage a transition in a way that is, if not quite orderly, then less disorderly and chaotic than it might be.

          Just think, though: Chávez kept Caldera’s finance minister for the first two years he was in office. Los tiempos de dios and all that…


        • “What is the point of getting rid of Maduro if the Enchufado Elite and the system that supports them is allowed to stay?”

          Like what happened in Egypt where after all the demonstrations the military got rid of Mubarak called for election but kept the power.


  5. I think you Sir, have named the name of the play. As often in our history, I think we are in hands of the Big Elector, the factic powers that consolidate Maduro’s power. I generally agree with your analisis that the new elite will seek an alternative as a matter of self-preservation and not of goodness or correctness. I have just two differences with the analysis, one is that If the equilibrium of powers changed, I don’t see a dichotomy between electoral and non-electoral exit, the end of the road could well be electoral, if the right coalition wanting an end. If ever occur, a transition will require big compromises that include certain amount of impunity and probably the whitening and legitimization of shady fortunes, not as a political programe, but rather as a fact that we will have to live with. The first is what always, ALWAYS, happens in any transitions with ceratin degree of order, and is what has ALWAYS has happened in past Venezuelan transitions (at least since Gomez). The second is already happening at a furious pace (Bolichicos, anyone?).
    Mind to translate it? I will gladly reblog it


    • the end of the road could well be electoral, if the right coalition wanting an end.

      Well sure, though the difference is more semantic.

      Was the end of puntofijismo basically electoral or not? I’d say it was electorally-mediated, insofar as elections gave concrete expression to the collapse in elite support for the old system. But the real breaking point came when the institutions that were supposed to stand up for the estado de derecho just threw in the towel, allowing an illegal Constituent Assembly to go ahead and so, in Cecilia’s Sosa’s phrase, “la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Venezuela se suicidó para evitar ser asesinada. El resultado es el mismo: está muerta.”

      What would it take for the TSJ to perform a similarly extreme act? It would take a total, or near-total, collapse in support from the Enchufado Elite. Once that happens you might take care of the carpintería through an election. That will surely prettify the transition and make J.M. Insulza happy. But it’ll be institutional window dressing on a process of elite allegiance switching that doesn’t have anything to do with the ballot box.


      • Didn’t something like that happened on April 11? Do you remember the letter by Iván Rincón (then President of the TSJ) putting himself and his position at the disposal of the Carmona government? Or the rumor that several MP members were willing to jump over the talanquera and find a way make the coup legal?
        I guess the breaking point for the new elite is that Maduro radicalizes to a degree that he loses the support of the Army, that will happen if they mess with important interests of the boli-bourgeoisie and the corrupt Generals (Drug traffciking, arbitrage) and the economic policies become so insane that no one think it will last more before a Caracazo style uprise.
        Or maybe just plain old dutch disease will happen and the government will change when oil prices fall significantly y nosotros acá rompiéndonos la cabeza y Terry Karl ríendose de nosotros.


  6. Making deals with the devil will only perpetuate the current state of latin american “democracy,” if you can call it that.


  7. You lost me at hello. The economic collapse is predicted each year and it never happens. We have oil and the electric car is decades away!!!. Then it will be Haiti, sure. But people still vote for these loonies under the simple premise that a TV solves their problems. It’s the people, stupid. One might concoct as many scenarios as one likes. This won’t be solved among the enchufados. An election will need to be won and the referendum is a losing proposition at this point. This will last a while my friends. At least we might have a chance to get it 52-48 when Maduro is completely burned out in a few years and they might have a Chavez humanoid by then. Dios nos agarre confesados.


      • Yeah, I hear Quico’s alarms regarding how it’s going to suck but I don’t really see how it’s not “más de lo mismo”. And by más de lo mismo I’m going back to pretty much 1492


          • Ok I see, what I don’t quite get is how you bridge from things being bad in general to things being bad for the enchufados (or rather semi-enchufados), the whole point of being an enchufado is that you get to fuck over the rest of the country while you’re still living in power and living well. My feeling is that as the crisis deepens, people will strengthen any allegiance to to government. You’re either part of the club or out on the street. So how are you going to convince the people in the club to leave it?


            • When there is only one bottle of scotch for 10 enchufados to fight over, and a mesonero with a ripped suit brings it to the victors so that they can talk about how they can’t seem to find fuel for their broken down jets.


  8. My view is that some people within Chavismo will be unhappy with the way things have turned out. I do believe some of them do care about ‘patria’ (i.e. not being a Cuban colony) and socialism (i.e. not this kleptocracy), I am sure they do exist. And if they are ‘believers’ they will take a page out of their dear leaders book and do what he did best: conspire from within until the moment is right, then hit – opposition in the current context is as capable of regime change as an eunuch is of getting someone pregnant


    • The problem is things are so unbelievably polarized, it is hard for them to support anything other than Chavismo since for years they have so identified with the victories and fights of Chavismo over the opposition. Even if they know Chavismo leads nowhere except decay and low level chaos, to suddenly support something else is not easily done.


  9. As long as the government can keep food coming in (even if people have to wait in queues), the are probably ok. It seems that a new TV and the current state of things are keeping half the country happy. Half the country must believe that the opposition is responsible for the so called economic war.

    The bond market would have to tank and Venezuela will have to run out of cash in order for all hell to break loose.

    Will be interesting to see what happens after the next devaluation.

    Something to think about, is there any difference between nationalization and the government putting price and rent controls in place? How did Fidel handle the transition from private to nationalized businesses?


  10. In fact, yesterday’s results cancel out any possibility of Quico’s scenario. That might have worked had the opposition won the national vote. Maduro would be shaking even of his own shadow. But Maduro won the election. We tried but we didn’t. Game over until the next presidentials.


  11. I wonder if El Dakazo would have happened if it wasn’t for the elections. Maybe 18 months without elections will mellow down the crazy-ass politics so current and expected in Venezuela these days. Or maybe they’re just the new way and El Dakazo (and other such extreme freakness) would’ve happened anyway. This last thing actually worries me a lot more.


      • Yeah. What I mean is if El CaDakazo (what’s the “Ca” for? Cadivi?) was just an isolated, over the top, autosuicido decision triggered by the elections, or the new way of doing politics? Will we see an even more maniac-depressive Madurismo? Is this, illustrated by El CaDakazo, the new way?


        • Just playing on CaRacazo…

          I do think the timing was given by the need to nudge the polling needle ahead of elections. But the long-term impact will be dire.

          Dornbusch’s framework suggests that as the macro picture deteriorates and the government gets more desperate, economic policy making becomes more erratic. Seems like a safe bet with these clowns in charge…


  12. Both China and Cuba have a lot to lose if Chavismo implodes. They could engineer a replacement of Maduro and his circle to ensure the continuation of a saner, more durable, version of the current regime. These are hard-to-measure, but certainly important, factors in predicting what comes next.

    Nemo: Zimbabwe has diamonds and other minerals to sell off to the Chinese, just as Venezuela mortgages its oil revenues. That fills the hole left by his destruction of the agricultural sector. And although Mugabe might still be there millions of his citizens have left for South Africa and other places of refuge.


    • Cuba is a hard case. But as for China I think their disgust at the governing clique’s inability to manage things minimally responsibly is well documented. I think of the Chinese as very much part of the Enchufado Elite we need to woo – God knows they’re sick and tired of PDVSA’s broken promises, of the super-slow progress on the Junin block, and worried about getting back the billions already lent.

      You probably don’t have any option but to fight the Cubans…but you can make a play for the support of the Chinese…


      • I think that what you will find is that China will conclude that they cannot keep doing business with the EEs, but when they compare to the alternative of doing business with business savvy others, they will simply stick to the EEs but stop trying to do business, instead opting for simple apariencia de negocios while sucking our oil dry. That gives them much more long term cash.

        I think you forget the power of the very petrostate model you used to describe so well. So long as the model is there, and someone up top has the hand on the spigot, China will want to deal with the one easiest to control… and they know how these EEs are pushovers for believing that their ideological crap isn’t. How much easier to control can it get?


  13. Fact 1: the momentum favors the opposition.
    Fact 2: Maduro’s tactics are increasingly short-term cosmetic political tricks that will do little to turn the economy around and could backfire if he ever runs out of tricks.
    Fact 3: As things get worse, anything the opposition can do, no matter how small, will be received like a breath of fresh air. The economic ruins will be very attractive to international capital investment and if the various socio-economic classes have figured out that they share a common future and can work together, Venezuela will be ahead of the rest of the world.


  14. Posted it in the other thread. But I think it’s more relevant here. Sorry for the self quote:

    I don’t like the non electoral alternative proposed for the obvious reasons and some practical ones. That is I have objections besides the morality of getting in bed with the average Wilmer Ruperti.

    Once burned, twice shy
    Juan Carlos Caldera though he was getting an overture from a prominent boliburgueois. It was a set up: he was stripped of the Petare nomination, kicked out of MUD, was close to being expelled from parliament, and remains a political pariah to this day. Going in conspiracy mode might be just what the government wants from MUD.

    I doubt it will succeed in getting Chavismo out of power
    In 2002 the non-electoral route was THE opposition strategy. I don’t think we’ll have more soldiers, money or businesspeople than we did back then, and we certainly won’t have the same leverage over PDVSA. It didn’t work. It helped Chavism close ranks around newly victimized Chavez. It tainted the opposition for more than 10 years in the eyes of several domestic and foreign groups. If we get that taint a second time, I don’t think It would be shaken easily.

    Even if we get Chavismo out of power, democracy is not guaranteed
    Say, the opposition embarks in a conspiratorial drive, so that de facto power brokers (bolibourgeois, military, y otras especies) withhold support from Maduro, a crisis erupts and a junta, transitional government or national unity government is formed. Nothing guarantees MUD would be in control of said coroto. We might end up involved by association in all sorts of corrupt affairs, while they arrange judicial exculpations or pardons for themselves. Only to end up like the ADecos in Octuber 1945. They legitimized the young officers, then those officers threw them a coup.
    A russian transition from Communism to Kleptocracy-Oligarchy is a very likely outcome.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same
    If the power brokers will remain the same, then we will be just be changing masters. They won’t back an end to CADIVI, to foreign loans for military purchases and all the arbitrage opportunities our country has to offer. In that case, what’s the point of doing it at all? Going from 2007 Zimbabwe to the african average of governance?


    • 1-One thing you’re right about, nothing is guaranteed. For sure. I just think this strategy has a 10-20% chance of success. It’s sad, but that’s the best we can hope for in current circumstances.

      2-It’s not about conspiring. It’s about addressing the needs and concerns of the connected elite. You can do that publicly.

      The point missing from your ditty is the climate of sharply heightened macroeconomic instability. In that climate, you’re going to have a seller’s market for people offering macroeconomic stability and predictability.

      You just need to add some dog-whistles to signal that you’re willing to be forgiving for people who are willing to jump ship early…and you don’t need to do any of this face to face.


      • I think what you propose is more likely to get us a Chinese reform than democracy. A Deng Xiaoping if you will. (Think Merentes, Arias Cárdenas, Vielma Mora).

        Granted, Venezuela looks more like North Korea than PR China these days, and PR China is way better than North Korea. I’ll take PR China before NK any day.

        But that shouldn’t be OUR goal. OUR goal should going the way of South Korea (democrcy+economic growth). Chinese reform should be the Chavista contrarreforma answer to our pushing to go South Korea.


          • But after regime collapse.

            MUD should be wary of breathing fresh air into Chavismo just as it is about to collapse.


  15. What about doing both things, i.e., continue working on the political front, and also talking to the power brokers? This is not an either/or set of strategies. We just elected dozens of new mayors, and hundreds of local council members, who are very keen on getting to work and convincing voters that joining the opposition is a viable way. What, you expect them to stay home and not do their job?


    • Me personally, I expect them to continue doing the mellow version of Chavista blood-sucking they have shown to be all about these past 14 years. Or is it that the govt. sucks their money for them? Either way, I don’t expect them to do their job.


  16. What I find missing from your argument here is the how. How do you get regime change? DO you convince the power brokers to do the dirty work for you? How do you not see that this is going to blow up in everyone’s face? Not to mention that it’s immoral.

    The electoral way may be flawed, but it’s simply the only one we have.


    • I think Quico hasn’t thought it through, really.
      He mentions “the social base” and the elite enchufados. Which one is he targeting, actually?

      I haven’t been able to see the PDF he linked to (it hangs here) but I wonder if the populist cases he mentioned also including one where a big part of the leaders are extreme left and supported by a regime such as Cuba (Cuba is not Gorbachov’s Soviet Union: without Venezuela, Cuba’s regime is gone, at least the Soviets didn’t see Cuba as something they needed to cling on to)

      Of course, it is also immoral. And knowing the extreme left as we know it, we know they woud Calderize anyone.

      So: it is in fact better to have an upfront stance. Francisco talks here about the possibility of being open. Open about what? “Hey, Diosdado, if you join us, we will give you a golden, very Bolivarian handshake?”


      • How about a lifetime membership to a secure, Bolivarian-certified facility with a pool, a disco and lots of drugs? How about that incentive for a power-sharing deal? Better than most people get!


    • That’s the thing I don’t think Quico’s plan means enchufados doing our dirty work. I think it will be the other way around.

      Like it happened in Zimbabwe. Who dollarized the economy? Tsvangirai. Who cleaned up the economic mess? MDC. Who is no longer neither the governement nor sharing power? MDC. Gracias por sus servicios

      MDC ended up giving ZANU-PF (Mugabe) much needed oxigen in economic issues, so he can continue ruling until death (and beyond, maybe).


      • That is what it sounds like to me. I’ve had a hard time understanding what Quico’s scenario looks like. Because if the opposition flaunts that they have the know how to solve the economic crisis but they flaunt it to the enchufados and flirt with them then the enchufados are going to try to pull those oppo gurus and recruit them to solve the crisis for them. Thank you very much.

        Getting in bed or negotiating with the enchufados is always the wrong strategy. The opposition would only end up giving them oxygen to survive longer in power and damage their own image in the process, the only thing they have going for them. The enchufados are the cancer we need to get rid of we don’t want them to metastasize into the opposition instead. If some of the enchufados want to jump the talanquera welcome them with reservations. But to promote an internal rojo coup and offer our support to the ensuing government would be wrong. If it happens the opposition should stay away from it and demand a return to democracy after the dust settles.

        The opposition certainly needs to flaunt that they have the know how to solve the crisis but they should offer it to the people not to those in power. And don’t tell me there is no way to reach the people with 50% of popular support against all the abuses of state.


    • Juan Cristobal Nagel: “How do you get regime change?” … What do you get when a regime digs the economy into a hole and never stops digging? It will probably be a nightmare, and as I have been saying, the need for investment and the need to remove the obstacles of investment will continue to grow, and the laws of thermodynamics must eventually apply and something somewhere has to “give”! Does what it is have to matter?


        • But see this really irks me. Wasn’t the coup on April 14th? Do you take your candidate’s claim seriously or don’t you?

          I guess I could re-phrase my entire annoyance at the PJ strategy since april pretty simply: do you take your own claims seriously or don’t you? Because it sure doesn’t seem like PJ is willing to act on the implications of its own arguments.


            • I think that is what he is saying. The problem with that is that the coup would be executed by the enchufados, some faction of it against the other. The winning faction of enchufados will have the power, and we want the opposition to get in bed with them? How long will that faction be in power? How is their government going to be like?
              Is too shady, too messy. And the oppos that get into that are only going to be tools in the new dictators hands.


            • While some are arguing about “form of government”, I’m thinking about economic forces, which are less subjective and less visible, but are nevertheless powerful and will be driving politics to a large extent..
              The law of thermodynamics states that “heat” flows from that which is “warm” to that which is “cold”. The same things should apply to economics, such that investment capital should flow to wherever there is the greatest investment opportunity! 21st Century Socialism has deeply depressed domestic production while creating an unsustainable reliance on foreign imports. Turning this around will be an investment paradise! I strongly believe it will be economic realities that eventually win the battle, and however history unfolds over the next year will only be incidental.
              The historic events in Venezuela, in retrospect, have been on an extremely predictable trajectory. I’ve been following this site for about seven years now, and almost everything that most have predicted has come to pass with remarkable accuracy. The regime’s end game has been the only thing open to question. Everyone saw that the policies were destined to fail and that the rise in oil prices kept them in power this long.


            • It’s like getting on a high horse decrying Boris Yeltsin in 1991 for climbing on top of a tank and grabbing control of the soviet union because tank-mounting that wasn’t provided for in the Soviet constitution…chamo how much more papista que el papa are we going to get here?


              • Is not about purity, is just that is inconvenient. Those in the opposition that play that game are only going to be tools of the winning faction.


              • Not quite. It is in the Venezuelan constitution that it is not only our right, but our duty, to reestablish democracy and constitutional norm if we see either one disrespected by government. If the time has come, then tank-mounting would be constitutional in Venezuela.


      • In plain words then, the regime is doing a good job of destroying itself, why would you want anything to get in the way? A regime change too soon could have a crippling effect if polarization continues and prolongs the recovery. The economic disaster will be a nightmare, but it creates an inviting environment for recovery.


        • “When your enemy’s making mistakes, don’t interrupt him.”
          Mix in opposition mingling with chavismo and you get a shift in the blame-game, which could be highly capitalized by a Big Brother government who controls the media.

          Personally I think the non-electoral route should be contemplated if the opportunity arises, but we had one months ago, and quite simply, the MUD leadership didn’t wanted to take those chance (whatever reasons they had).

          The game is to win hearts and minds. Put forth a better alternative than the government, and when the shit hits the fan, the rats will jump from one ship to another, and then we will have a better power position to negotiate the terms and conditions of the transition.

          It is a long journey, but hey, no hard fight ever is.

          BTW the above quote is from the film Moneyball (2011), which we could learn from a lot, specially in a deeply-rooted baseball culture country such as ours.


            • Well, that quote actually comes from the movie Moneyball, good thing to know the original source.

              As in regards to my previous point, what i meant was that sleeping with the enemy, is a high risk strategy that could very well backfire spectacularly, since there’s the whole communicational hegemony. Don’t underestimate people’s capacity towards ignorance. Most of the people in the streets that I have talked to, agree that the especuladores should face sanctions from the government and that prices should be controlled (Sanare, Lara and Petare, Miranda).

              Imagine if something like Caldera happens again…

              That’s my point of view, and I respect yours Kiko, but if you’re going to use ad hominem arguments, I highly doubt it that we are going to contribute in adding value to the public forum… But hey it’s your blog!


  17. Quico, before you start thinkging on the post 8D agenda, I think you have to first evaluate how the whole MUD thing went, from the election of the candidates to yesterdays results, and then we can start thinking on what to do next.

    Im on Juan with this one, if you want to venamiquetengoflor-eate the “factic powers” you might as well venamiquetengoflor-eate Juan Bimba, because in the end, both want the same: more money to buy things and more things to buy with money.

    Different strategies may be used for the different groups, but limiting the strategy to just one group is a rather incomplete plot.

    Now that there are no elections for a long time, might be the opportunity to be sincere, we tried populismo twice and it didn’t work, so we have to make sure that everyone understands what kind of peo is brewing and that we are clear on how to fix it, without pajaritos preñaos. We have the opportunity to actually educate the floor and the elite without the need of the quick vote gathering that an electoral campaign forces you to do, so we are fully set for when the time comes.

    Lets follow your idea, we make a treaty with the factic powers, we have 18 months to convince them and the 2015 AN elections will be the shifting point, tell me how it does not benefit us by using the honestly strategy.


    • The truth is that we don’t have the resources for a Juan Bimba venamiquetengoflor-ification (LOVE IT) strategy. We don’t have the access to media. We don’t have the money or the activist base to do it without media. All we have is twitter. And Juan Bimba ain’t on twitter.

      We have extremely limited resources. And we’re heading into an extremely volatile moment in our history. We need a strategy that grasps both those facts.


      • Yes, but money/resources can not be an excuse, because if elections were as dependent on money as you say they are, then we should have lost 99 to 1.

        True, the oposition can not run a nationwide campaing, but it should focus on,say, the 100 largest cities, that those, more likely, will be urban centers and more probabilities to find people to do that kind of job.

        Add to the fact that the more juan bimbas you venamiqueate, the less rotten apples youll have to accept in order to make your idea work.


  18. Venezuela is dictated by that which happens in Cuba. It therefore seems logical that the Venezuelan solution will be Cuban based.


  19. Here is the thing. I agree with you that we will have to give “some” an exit strategy. To defect to somewhere else, but to our camp? Then why all the effort? To have a country with pseudo macro economic stability with all kinds of disparities? Would you and your family like to live there? I would not and completely disdain the idea. If they are to defect, let’s give them a nice retirement somewhere else. That we will have to stomach.

    I would still prefer to pursue a more righteous route. One, in which the oppos can actually portray some kind of moral standard, and Venezuela that they would like, and a plan to get there.
    You argue “the broad electoral center could only be reached through the kind of intensive face-to-face politicking that the opposition has spent the last 14 years telling itself it needs to get serious about and never gets serious about.” Why are you dumping this? Specially now when we are starting to see an new ‘untainted’ political elite flourish? All those kids born the 80s which where active and leaders in the one and only civil rights movement of these last 15 years are actually in office.

    What your are suggesting is going backwards.


    • And with your lack of resources… There are a fucking 1 million Venezuelans living abroad.

      A crowdsourcing approach can be a lot more effective than having prominent figures ask from some foolish banker.


    • The reality, Rodrigo, is that a la oposición le cuesta una y parte de la otra to reach people outside the middle-class heartland districts. Even in places like Antimano – a quick metro ride from Altamira – we lost 70-30 yesterday.

      We may wish we had the money/activist base to do retail politics in Parapara, or even in Antimano or towns like Acarigua or Punto Fijo. But we don’t. Last year, ahead of 7O, the conditions were all there. We didn’t manage it then, we sure as hell aren’t going to manage it in the MUCH tougher circumstances of 2014.


      • Having risked my life canvassing Petare on a motorcycle yesterday, I have to take issue with this broad generalization. But more on that in a further post…


      • Francisco Toro, no es por falta de recursos, sinó de mensaje. Sit 20 chavistas down for 20 min and explain the platform, and you won’t convince a single one. Heck, sit 20 ni-nis down for 20 min with the current platform and you won’t even get them motivated to go vote! Money would only make it more obvious that it’s not about money; you need to have something to sell before you go making an advertisement.


      • It is not about the money. It is about finding the people to do it, that I concede. If the efforts are going to be led by people who have only interacted with the poor while eating hot dogs in Plaza Venezuela, we do have a problem.
        If the leaders in Caracas are not willing to make regional leaders from the interior become also national leaders, go around and mobilize people, we have a problem.
        It was nice for Capriles-López-Machado to visit other places, but if the leaders of those places – and there are – are not trained, encouraged, to go to yet other places and become real vectors, we have a problem.

        Money? The extreme left and other groups elsewhere have been able to do it with little or no money.

        But as someone else said here: we do need to have a real message. Do we?


      • I am very aware of the challenges, but like I said, a new generations of politicians is rising. Also, I remember something an old copeyano told me. You have war time politics (election times) and peace time politics (in between campaigns). We have always been at war time. This is the time for us to go to Parapara, Carayaca, Agua viva, Caja Seca, etc and do that. For that, resources will be also needed.

        I am not saying it will be easy, all I am saying it is a better path to take.


        • I think we need to set up priorities. As I mentioned already: although Parapara is a nice to have, the key is to conquer metropolises such as El Tocuyo, Quíbor, Guacara, Boconó. These are all urban centres with more than 100 thousand people.
          How? It is good that the Trio has gone to many of these places and contacted people there, but there should be a way to create vectors in those places who at the same time become vectors not just in their little region but in some other places around.

          Example: you go to El Tocuyo. You organise there a couple of “workshops”. You don’t do that in a fancy place, you don’t even use slides or the like. You simply go with some flyers, you invited a couple of dozen people from the place, you talk there about basics on pluralism, on sustainable development (at economic, social and environmental level, stressing economic and social as we are not Swiss). You give some easy introduction to ideology wars. You do need an inkling of world history (what you should have had if you had paid attention to 1r de bachillerato). You talk about debates, real debates. About how life is outside Venezuela and what Chavistas will retort when they hear about that (preventive strike to what they might say). And you explain the importance that they fight against caudillismo, that they also try to do the same thing. The guys from El Tocuyo should be able to do something similar not only in Quíbor, but perhaps in Acarigua.

          Do you need money? You need what I used when I was a teenager and young adult: you need to take a lot of odious buses through Venezuela’s terminales. You need flyers. You need to go in 3 or 4 and inform other people where you are going.

          This is not for changing the regime now. But it is for making its basis weaker.

          You also need to promote among those locals the desire to become better orators, to learn on their own.


          • We in FuturoPresente did this a lot. I am no longer a wanderer speaker, but the organization continues to invest in youth with its program Lidera. And the programs (with the newly elected council members and mayors) are paying the first dividends.


            • Well: kudos to you. I hope to see a day when El Tocuyo and even Sarare or Lara’s Guacara become places where the caudillos and the PSUV are rejected and people go for pluralism, cooperation, tolerance and sustainable development.
              We need to be carrying out these actions and we need more promotion about them. It wouldn’t hurt if you would also know how the extreme left organised itself and infiltrated groups through history. This is not precisely to imitate them but to be aware of them.


          • This is what’s known as “community organizing.” And while I agree with everything Kep says, the one thing missing here is the most important: you listen. You don’t just share your info, you also listen closely to what issues really matter to people in each city and town and find ways to include those elements in your national agenda, to help people make alliances (hey look, Cotumare needs a sewer plant and Picopico just got funding a sewer plant, maybe they should talk!) and basically make yourself indispensable.

            All of this ends up giving you a level of communication that you never had before. Not Facebook groups and Twitter profiles, but phone calls, in-person meetings, personal e-mails, BBMs, text messages. With all that, you can start to really organize useful actions (be it a river cleanup after an oil spill, defense of a small business being intervened, you name it) and build the sort of movement that eventually gives rise to leaders and power.

            The people here who talk about a coup as though it were any more legitimate than raping a baby make me sick. And Quico, you know we’re pals, but none of what you’re saying makes any sense to me. There’s no electoral politics without real organizing.


            • I’d say there’s no electoral politics without some sort of semi-operative approximation to the rule of law…which we don’t have.

              But that would be churlish. Because, really, I get where you’re coming from, Setty. And I know you’re right, in one sense. It would be much better if the opposition had the activist base and the money it would take to put together a Real Organizing campaign on a nationwide basis. We don’t. And we won’t.

              Let’s-get-real-about-retail-politics is the opposition’s version of the new year’s resolution to lose those stubborn extra 15 pounds. We pledge solemnly to do so every damn year, and we prove every year that we don’t really have the means to make good on that pledge, (at least beyond a handful of special cases like Tachira and Petare).

              Certainly, we’re in a much weaker position to manage it now than we were 2 years ago – and if we didn’t manage it then, I just don’t see any reason to think it’s realistic to think we can manage it now.

              The disparity in resources we’re facing – not just money, but control of the means of communication and contols of the means of violence – has reached a kind of obscene level that you know *all* about. And this is all happening in the context of a government able and willing to stuff ballots to the hilt if that’s what it takes to keep power, and unlikely to pay any significant price for doing so precisely because they have all the money, all the media and all the institutional control, as we saw just six months ago.

              Them’s the lemons, buddy. They don’t make for real good lemonade, I’m fully aware. #EsLoQueHay…


              • Dude, you make it sound like people are really, really trying to do community organizing, but there’s a lack of resources, communications, and violence. Spare me. I literally saw not a single window sign in this election, for either side. In the Capriles-Chávez campaign, I saw more window signs in the most violent, contested areas at the foot of the El Cementerio ghetto than I saw in Los Palos Grandes. Too much of the self-proclaimed opposition is made up of whiners who think banging a pot with the lights out is a courageous act. This isn’t a disparity in resources, it’s a total failure of imagination. I asked people in Caracas why they don’t at least hang a window sign, and the most humiliating, pathetic thing I found was fear of phantoms — people seriously think that because one time someone’s apartment was burned after hanging a window sign, therefore it could happen to them. In their nice building in Chacao.

                Maybe there are good reasons. Maybe the background fear of the Venezuela war zone is so overwhelming that nobody wants to risk another stress. Or maybe this is the result of the Venezuelan anti-Chávez folks spending so much time playing victim and so little time thinking about what they actually want (not just for themselves but for all their neighbors, of all classes). I think a lot of people have told themselves the “Cubazuela” metaphor to the point that they really think there are Cuban-style firing squads.

                If you think I’m taking this too personally, it’s because of this:
                In that ad, still published as a news article on the web site of El Nacional, Cesar Batiz, Alek Boyd and I get accused of being sinister international agents. There’s a list for you. And what of it? I’m probably on lists in the USA (organizing Critical Mass, an IWW local and anti-war actions) and Canada (Earth First! activism during university). At some point you realize it doesn’t make a whit of difference. If someone doesn’t want to do business with you, it’s probably not someone you want to do business with either. The other day I had a very anti-Maduro young lady tell me she wouldn’t do anything to expose her political views. After all, a friend of her sister’s had failed to get a government credit for being on a list. “Un crédito,” I said to her. “Puede perder un crédito. Estás perdiendo un país.” It’s the sort of cowardice that makes me think Venezuela has exactly the government it deserves.

                As far as actually winning elections or not, I guess I lived most of my adult life under the Dem-Rep duopoly in the USA and stopped caring a damn about national electoral politics. Sorry. I think much more can be done at the local level, and then let that impact spread to the nation and the world. If you can do some stupid local thing like start a recycling program, you will have a group of people who can later stop a war. You start by promoting bicycles, and you end up redesigning the city under the nose of the government. That’s just the way politics works. You don’t start with some central-planning model and impose a plan on other people. You know well that doesn’t work.

                Just because you are trying to affect a state doesn’t mean you have to See Like a State. In fact, it works best to do the opposite.


              • Ah, I see what you mean – we’re sort of arguing past each other. I just take it as a given that the opposition doesn’t have and can’t develop the activist base it needs and work from that premise…you’re asking about something prior: “well why the fuck not?!”


                It’s a hard question…I think I have some sense of the ingredients that would go into the answer (path dependent political cultures, the chilling effect of the conviction that you will never get a fair hearing from any representative of the state, and a polarization that goes beyond the political to become a kind of social-class apartheid that creates enormous psychological barriers for people trying to organize outside their class) but don’t really have a full sense of how they fit together.

                It’s worth writing about, though, for sure.


              • The lack of a grassroots electoral base is probably a result of all those things. But I’d put the blame most heavily on the excessive number of elections. Nobody can do good community organizing during an election campaign, because a campaign is about yelling, not listening. Organizing is best done during quiet periods, when there is no chance of electoral revolution and change has to come from below.


            • Well: I also agree with you. As with “you listen”: this is not the first time I have written about this, I simply forgot to put the “and listen, listen first”. But I agree: one needs to listen first and to get to know the community one is getting and that goes from learning a little bit about its history and economics from whatever pieces one can find to finding out about the power struggles, the caudillos, the main problems, the jobs, the pollution sources and the potholes.

              Also: is there one thing that has sickened me is the lack of curiosity of Caraquenos (Valencianos and Marabinos) for the rest of the country – at every level. They live in their own cocoon. Only in the last couple of years have a bunch of politicians gone to those areas and done as if they want to listen – some listened -. But we need their entourage to do the same, we need the people who support them do the same…and somehow contribute.

              I became depressed by the amount of energy all those politicians living in El Hatillo were giving to the elections there. These were not just the mayors but national politicians just living there and going for one or the other zonification-vendor – I mean mayor-. If they had got their act together to support the MUD campaign in El Libertador…I wouldn’t have said we would have won with a guaro there, but we would have probably got better results.

              I would add: no Twitter or Facebook but old old flyers…on very cheap paper, photocopied a thousand times…distributing on buses around the country, with content that has been previously well thought and aimed at those areas.
              And doing this for a whole estado doesn’t cost more than organising one silly workshop or any party event in El Hatillo.


              • And the fact that people are happy to keep fighting over El Hatillo shows that things really aren’t that bad for the privilegiados. Change isn’t going to come from there as long as they have their Cadivi, their cheap fuel and their condos. And when those things are gone, they’ll either go to Miami or seek this “non-electoral route.” They have no sense of real politics, how things really work. A hundred people, each giving out 100 photocopied fliers, has more reach than the best Facebook campaign. And photocopies remain cheap in Venezuela. But most people are happy waiting for their saviour or leaving. So it goes.


        • “I am not saying it will be easy, all I am saying it is a better path to take.”

          Bueno, sí, soñar en efecto es gratis.


      • “Last year, ahead of 7O, the conditions were all there.”

        1. Chavez himself was on the ballot. That will never happen again, and neither can they use his ‘dying wish’ for people to vote for Maduro ever again. There are millions in this country who would never take to the streets or vote against a government with him at its head but with him gone their loyalty is drying up fast.
        2. The economy was not near as effed up as it is now. The boom Chavez manufactored to bolster his popularity was ongoing. Of course, we have been living with the utterly predictable after effects of that artificial boom since then but on 7O it had not yet happened.
        3.Why will thecircumstances much tougher? Because Chavismo will no longer even pretend to be somewhat fair? Or Globovision isn’t around? I think ppl will be more open to different messages after prolonged economic malaise


      • I hear that MLK said the same circa 1956. That’s why he dropped this whole “nonviolence” schtick, started a militia and went the “non-electoral route” as your charming commenters refer to it.


  20. Francisco, a prominent chavista (the head of “Globoterror” in the net) told me a few years ago that they tolerated some corruption (e.g Cabello in Miranda) to allow revolution go on…..We can not do the dame thing…


  21. If I lived in Venezuela, I would be looking at the various collapses of Eastern European Communist dictatorships to get a general sense of how “the fall” is likely to occur. And among the points of interest would be the total collapse of revolutionary élan among the Leading Parties. Being a participant in a socialist revolution is exciting, and motivating. Going through the motions isn’t.


    • I’m not sure how instructive that will be. Those dictatorships were very different than the one here, as were their societies. Also, this regime still holds some popular support which surpasses the pro regime support held in most of those countries.


    • Jeffry,
      When I was a child-teenager, I kept an intense correspondence with young people in the East: in Czechoslovakia, in Bulgaria, in Russia. I followed every single event I could through them and through the media – from there and from the West.
      Theirs were (plural) very different societies. The most critical thing is that I don’t see even our elite are very aware of the fundamental differences. They are not aware of the differences between Czechoslovakia and Ukraine (and why the first succeeded while the second is still in such a mess).

      We can learn some lessons, but many of them are about how things differed.

      For one thing, each one of the East European countries was ethnically more cohesive than Venezuela – with the exception of Yugoslavia and Romania, and we know where those ended. They knew about their history. Venezuelans know shit about theirs.

      The leaders were not so different, they did not have relations with corrupt officials as in the case of Eveling Trejo and if they were of some “elite” origin, it was not what Venezuelans understand by elite- which is basically money-based. They were the Vaclav Havel and his friends and the intellectuals in Eastern Germany, the unionists not close to any entrepreneur as in Poland.


  22. some accomodation (hopefully, only temporarily) may have to be made with some of the EE when the time comes, but I believe the economic/social crisis should come first, to allow a proper cleaning out, and to establish a firm footing for future economic/sovial development of the Country.


  23. My point is really pretty simple: esta vaina no aguanta hasta el 2015.

    The pressures the chavista state system is going to come under in 2014 are going to be pretty extreme. Things that are not imaginable today are going to become not just imaginable but necessary in pretty short order.

    Are we going to be ready? Or not?


    • Of course, feelers are out (JVR advocating house arrest for Simonovis), and there are signs (3 Baduel-linked military disappeared in last 3 weeks, presumably by State security forces), which should intensify in the coming months


    • My point is really pretty simple: esta vaina no aguanta hasta el 2015…. Are we going to be ready? Or not?

      Now I understand you. (Why couldn’t you just have said that, instead of taking us down the rabbit hole?)


    • With oil money, this can go for a very long time. These guys have a budget from oil as big as a healthy nation’s income tax budget, even with zero income tax. In theory, it’s enough to run the nation well. Just because they are incapable of running it well does not imply that it’s not enough to stay in power.


      • Let me put it another way, if I were on their side, I would not be feeling that I’m either at the end of the line, nor out of options.


  24. “it becomes more and more evident that the government doesn’t have the minimal level of adaptability it takes to reverse even its most destructive policies”
    Totally disagree.
    This regime knows nothing about how to govern, that is painfully evident. But they DO know a lot about how to stay in power. The “guerra económica” was exactly what Quico describes as a “minimal level of adaptability to reverse ( in the immediate scope) its most destructive policies.”


  25. When will the opposition get its head out of the “chavez vete ya” mentality that has caused all of our mistakes in the past?

    The reality is that to govern Venezuela the opposition first needs to become an overwhelming majority, which we are not. Taking power without a clear majority will only prolong the shelf life of Chavismo. They would come back stronger, as they have after each shortcut we have attempted.

    We are so addicted to elections that we seem to be freaking out because there won’t be one in the near future, so we need to invent one with a Constituyente. We keep criticising the MUD for just being an electoral alliance yet they now have the chance to expand their government presence with added alcaldias and we can’t seem to focus on this opportunity. Let’s keep in mind that alcaldias can raise taxes.

    I also think that Capriles should hand back the mantle and focus on governing Miranda. Same thing for Falcon.

    Let’s build an alternative.


  26. I would like MUD to take the road in another direction (almost opposite in spirit). I would like more transparency and more legitimacy, less backroom dealing.

    Next elections are for parliament in 2015? Let’s get ready for that. Parliamentary elections have a very opaque component in them: voto lista. I’d like a primary where hopeful nominees run nominally and the N most voted candidates (where N is the length of that list) are put in the list in the same order as they were voted.

    That way we’d see how representative of the Oppo people are leaders like Ramos Allup, who never go nominally in the ballot but through voto lista.

    Let’s cease 2014 to clean up the house.


Comments are closed.