Write a list

checklistIn 2002-03, when we entered a “strike of no return” that went bust, we found ourselves in search of an exit strategy. I remember that time that a “bailoterapia” was convened in January at the Altamira highway overpass in order to close the strike. It was … embarassing.

So, as we head into another prolongued period of unrest, with student leaders pledging to stay on the streets until the regime falls, my advice would be to set your sights a little lower and give yourselves an exit strategy.

For example, you can set as a goal the end of SICAD and Cadivi, as a pre-condition to ending scarcity. Or you could demand the government shelve the Law of Fair Costs. You can set as a condition that it begin publishing official murder statistics again. You can also demand they lay off the students and political leaders currently being persecuted. You can demand that colectivos be disbanded. In fact, you can demand all of these things – make a list of things you want to see done in order to call off the protests, and see what the government comes up with. If they say they are open to negotiating, call their bluff.

If you believe your actions will cause the regime to fall, then by all means go on. But for those of you burning tires who have a sliver of doubt that this can be achieved in the current climate, think of alternative demands, things within your reach, stuff that puts the ball in the government’s court.

As I wrote in Foreign Policy, the difference between these protests and the ones in 2002 is largely demographic. Most of the kids out in the street today were too young to protest back then.

This, however, does not provide them an excuse to not learn from our mistakes. Think about it.

53 thoughts on “Write a list

  1. Hola Juan

    El link a tu artículo no funciona y el último artículo en la página web es el Audrey. Gracias por CC que me mantiene informada y los artículos y comentarios me dan otra perspectiva.

    Saludos,

    Linda

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  2. One of the main negotiation laws is never threaten if you are not able or willing to perform your threat because you will lose all your credibility and negotiation power. As protesters, opposition, and even as a country we need to clearly define goals and threats if we want that all stakeholders paddling to the same side.
    Sounds simple but it is not. Interpretation is the source of misconception and my understanding of a rhetorical phrase can be very different that the guy sitting on my side.

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  3. How I miss the real “Caracas Chronicles” of yore …. as opposed to the watered down, bland alum powder and water version.

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    • I think that we all miss Quico. His writing was simply great, and he had a knack for controversial points of view. Having said that I think that Juan and the rest of the gang are doing a superb job. Of course CC is now different, as it should be. I don´t think ayone here is trying to fill Quico´s shoes, and saying that he was important to CC and its readers would be a gross understatement. But then again, CC is free, these guys and gals put very hard work into this so that chaps like you and I can enjoy their writing, get important, updated information while at the same time we have a chance to have our say.

      I bet my ass everyone here welcomes constructive criticism, but simply dissing them? that won´t cut it. You know the door is open, you can leave anytime you wish!

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  4. Well, while it is (probably) a surreal objective, what fuels many people to go to the street is the hope of kicking Maduro out right now. Without that hope, or with a lesser (even if more realistic) objective, I doubt that many people would be out now.

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  5. JC, your position on some recent issues puzzles me. Just weeks ago, you heaped praises and well wishes on a young couple who left Venezuela to start a new life in England. Now you criticize those who remain in Venezuela and choose to protest by saying that their “timing is off” and they lack the “right strategy”. What I get out of this, as a reader, is that you actually believe that emigration is better than staying in your own country and doing something. Please tell me I’m wrong. None of my relatives that were in Venezuela in 1999 have left, and they don’t intend to, but they don’t want to sit around and watch everything fall apart around them just so that they can have the satisfaction of saying “I told you so” afterward.

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    • No no, I didn’t heap praise on a couple that left, I heaped praise on the post! Not the same thing.

      As for doing something, are we sure that people who are protesting are actually accomplishing an objective? If so, what is it? We need to ask ourselves these questions.

      Look, I understand why people are protesting. What I fear is that protests will die down and we’ll end up with a disillusioned student movement and important leaders in jail, right about the time when the economic crisis starts kicking in and we might be more effective. The whole thing just seems premature to me, as well as unfocused.

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      • Thank you for clarifying this for me. I think, if nothing else, the current events only help to expose the situation in the country that much more. The one thing that irritates me the most is the lack of attention that the international media is giving to a situation that has become a crisis. Here in the States, the only thing I saw about the tragic events on Wednesday was a few minutes in the international segment of Univision news. CNN and Fox News seemed to provide no coverage at all. All of my information came from relatives and websites. I expected to hear nothing from Venevision and the “new” Globovision. What I didn’t expect was for the international media to ignore it, something which literally disgusted me. Is NTN24 the only media outlet that pays any attention to events in Venezuela at all?

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        • CNN Español has been giving a lot of coverage to the situation, but I get your point about the Main Stream, In English, Media in the US ignoring the situation.

          It has always seemed to me that US MSM will cover a fart in the Middle East sooner, and more in depth, than something more significant elsewhere.

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  6. I hate to say it, but people should read Trotsky’s Transitional Programme. It distinguishes between immediate and long-term goals, and suggests how to place intermediate demands.

    Of course, jujitsu is required to make it about the transition away from communism, and toward capitalism, but he’s thought about the tactics, believe me.

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  7. Juan, you are forgetting three big differences between these protests and those of 2002/2007

    1. The economy is in shambles (more so than in 2002/2007)
    2. Chavez is not the President.
    3. The protests started in Merida but they quickly caught on nationwide. I remember the 2007 protests being more Caracas – centric.

    I agree that the students should set specific demands, but let’s not compare this to El Paro. I think the playing field is different.

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    • It’s hard not to find the parallels when one of the highlights of the day was a “marcha a la sede de la OEA en Caracas.” I mean, la OEA? Really? So 2002. What a waste of shoe soles.

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  8. oddly enough, there a protest march going by below my office building in Vancouver right now as I type…weird to be hearing all the “Venezuela” and “Maduro Out Now” chants in the great white north

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  9. OH SWEET JESUS!
    I can’t believe yous still think they’re willing to talk, to negotiate.
    This is a dictatorship carajo

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    • They obviously don’t want to negotiate, but the list suggests that students do. It’s about calling their bluff. (Don’t play poker much, do you?)

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      • It’s not a good idea to negotiate with the government. For them it would only be a delay tactic, a way to cease the protests and let things cool down.

        I agree with Juan that protests should not be framed as a strategy of no return. To see who can outlast the other. That is putting all the eggs in one basket. Most people place too much faith in what protests alone can achieve. A protest is not a ransom situation where you can force the government to do something or else. That is why I disagree with “the list of petitions”. A protest is a political act, a demonstration of discontent and a show of force. But rarely can you strong arm the government.

        The purpose of protests (like any other opposition act) should be to gain a swell of support from the population in general, to demonstrate that many oppose the government and want a change. In that sense they must be limited in time and should have no specific objective except to call for attention. As such it should be followed by other acts of a different nature, like strikes, localized demonstrations, specific protests, they can’t be open ended otherwise fatigue would set in.

        When fatigue sets in the government can call for negotiations and the protesters will be very grateful to get an out, any out, and will quickly sit down with whomever. After a couple of months the push would have dissipated. The short term strategy would have failed. A long term strategy should be to keep the nonviolent struggle (with different kinds of tactics not all street demonstrations) focused on a few clear messages that everyone can support.

        Having unrealistic expectations leads to disillusionment and disappointment.

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        • The analogy in American football is you don’t go for a touchdown every play because you only need 10 yards to keep possession. You don’t even need to get your ten yards each play, because you have three (four in CFL) chances to make 10 yards. So every play is about small, varied, measured objectives (to keep the other team off balance) move the ball down field towards the goal and every player has a part to play, quarterback, receiver, blockers etc.
          Eventually the break will come and the offense will break through.

          The government seems to understand baseball strategy really well, perhaps they don’t understand American football.

          Reminds me of classic Start Trek – The Corbomite Manoevre “Not chess, Mister Spock, poker. Do you know the game?”

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  10. That list, should exist, and should have been presented as our political programme.

    We should have a list of things like:

    – Set this years public college budgets as: (last year’s budget + last year’s additional credits) and then adjust for inflation.

    – Transfer all assets held by appointed viceroys (Capital District, CorpoMiranda, South Valencia Authority, etc) to the democratically elected political authority (Metropolitan District, Miranda State, Valencia Municipality, etc)

    – Assign a programming hours quota on AN TV (and maybe other TV stations) to all factions in the National Assembly that is proportional to the seats each faction holds.

    – Publish tax declaration of every elected official.

    – Open a transparent competitive examination to allocate all job openings in the public administration, starting with judges and teachers.

    etc.

    But we don’t have that, because MUD has lot’s of principles (tolerance, more education, more security) and few actual proposals (how to achieve those principles).

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      • What???? What kind of negotiation tactic is that?

        You start big and then you compromise.

        If you start low and the government agrees, and then you proceed to scalate, that is a sure way to lose credibility.

        It’s the government who should start lowballing us…

        I agree that releasing the students is a valid ending agreement, because it solves a current grievance.

        But let’s be clear, that would only achieve a reversal to the status quo we had around january 1st 2014, before student protests about crime began, minus the dead students whose situation is irreversible. So it’s a net loss on our side.

        And if you meant that we can protest later on, for different reasons using other demands, I’d tell you that you have to take into account that this protest will have taken its toll by then. There will be protest fatigue, disappointment at the results, newfound government legitimacy for solving the conflict and some other factors that will make it harder to make bigger demands later on.

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    • Having slept on it, a great demand to make would be the dissolution/disarmament of every paramilitary group in 23 de Enero.

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  11. Este es el texto del documento que entregaron los estudiantes ante la OEA

    En horas de la tarde de este viernes los estudiantes arribaron a la sede de la Organización de Estados Americanos, OEA, para consignar un documento contentivo de peticiones ante el organismo de Estado.

    A continuación el texto íntegro.

    PLIEGO DE PETICIONES DEL MOVIMIENTO ESTUDIANTIL VENEZOLANO

    Las protestas desatadas en los últimos días son producto de una crisis profunda que sufre la sociedad venezolana. No vamos a ahondar en describirla pues la vivimos en carne propia en la destrucción progresiva de nuestra estructura social, política, económica y ética generalizada.

    La respuesta a nuestras protestas por parte del gobierno venezolano ha sido la más brutal represión, no sólo directa a través de PNB, GNB y SEBIN. Adicionalmente, como lo han hecho gobiernos autoritarios y criminales, han utilizado a estos Colectivos del Terror como escuadrones paramilitares que se hacen pasar por organizaciones sociales, aun cuando se conoce su carácter delincuencial.

    El movimiento estudiantil venezolano ratifica que seguiremos en las calles de forma pacífica y democrática hasta que se cumplan nuestras demandas inmediatas, y solicitamos la intermediación internacional para que recomiende al Gobierno de Nicolás Maduro y Diosdado Cabello que cumpla las siguientes exigencias:

    1) Libertad para todos los estudiantes detenidos y cese a la represión de manera inmediata y que los juicios queden sin efectos, además de borrar los antecedentes amañados de nuestros compañeros.

    2) Exigimos que cese desde el gobierno el estímulo a conductas delictivas, ya que no puede haber “paz y convivencia” si el Estado promueve, apoya, estimula, financia y protege a grupos que cometen actos delictivos.

    3) Que se conozca a nivel internacional que hubo torturas de las más bárbaras contra nuestros jóvenes, como constan en todas sus declaraciones, por lo que exigimos justicia contra quienes ordenaron y cometieron tales delitos y protección internacional contra las víctimas.

    4) Exigimos constituir una Comisión de la Verdad paritaria, técnica e independiente que investigue los asesinatos acaecidos el día 12 de febrero, con participación de abogados que designaremos para tal fin.

    5) Exigimos respeto a la autonomía universitaria por lo que exigimos el retiro inmediato del cerco policial y militar a nuestras universidades en todo el país.

    6) Exigimos respeto al derecho a la protesta pacífica de todos los venezolanos, establecido en la Constitución. No más criminalización de la protesta legítima de los venezolanos.

    7) Exigimos la Libertad inmediata para todos los detenidos por protestar y cese a los juicios a ciudadanos que no son del movimiento estudiantil.

    Firma todo el movimiento estudiantil
    Caracas, 14 de febrero de 2014.

    Fuente: Últimas Noticias

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    • That’s a succinct list, which is a good thing. Unfortunately most of its demands are post 12F, and make no reference to demands pre 12F.

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      • Yeah, that’s confusing. Whatever happened to #LaSalida? Still, it’s a step in the right direction. Thanks firepiggette.

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    • These requests all seem to point only to issues regarding situations that arise in the midst of protesting per se (save perhaps for the colectivos thing), so where is all the fuss that I see in my facebook feed about “protest until his demise”, is that the objective or is it this list?

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    • Talk about starting low…. These are pretty lame demands… The country is falling apart for Gods sake! JC’s list is the right one…

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  12. Yes, clearly they have no plan. They should have started with one simple demand and held firm until that was granted or at least the regime said they would open ‘dialogue’. Then a few months later pick another one and do the same. Easier said than done though to organize that some sort of thing

    This #salida thing is utter nonsense and foolishness. I do applaud the bravery of the students, but their fearlessness and resolve should have been channeled into something more productive. For that the blame falls firmly on those like Lopez, Capriles, MCM, whomever. All this #salida thing is does is give the regime faithful another ‘victory’ to savor, which will make dealing with the shortages, crime, and inflation a little easier since they licked the imperialist yet again. Also, the #salida is also not the best optics internationally.

    At least Venezuela is in the news worldwide though. All articles, even though that refer to violence in a neutral way (as in not saying clearly who is responsible), mention the inflation, crime, shortages, and economy. The carefully crafted ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ continues to collapse under it’s own incompetent, tyrannical, violent, corrupt, bloated weight.

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  13. About #LaSalida, this wasn’t ever a student demand, was it?

    And although this is a different thread, you actually realise that hating 49 or even 51% of the population is not a way to get into government. You seem like an eminently sensible guy JC. I would suggest Venezuela needs more of you.

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  14. Even if I agree with the post there are some things that also need to be addressed. We need a list – I agree, but we also need a strategy. The colectivos are now going out at night after they were photographed and filmed on Wednesday. The government (or at least the colectivos) are adapting. We need a protest strategy no only in content or demands but in how we are going to do it!

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    • It’s Leopoldo’s call now, isn’t it? There’s an arrest warrant out for him now. He could check out Terence MacSwiney perhaps. I said this wasn’t going to be easy.

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  15. I don’t know about a list of ideas, but one very interesting list gives me an idea.

    With a nice slogan to boot : ” Where’s the money ?!? ”

    Venezuela is a very rich country. Or least, it should be a very rich country. Yet, it isn’t. Why ?

    Ask Maduro to account for all the money that was received and distributed since Chavez came into power.

    Don’t even bother asking on how it was spent. Just ask for the ledger of all public and para-public institutions.

    Ask for the Mother of All Lists : receipts, expenditures, debts and receivables.

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    • The Venezuelan disease will only be cured the day people in Venezuela start to see oil money as THEIR money, money that has to go DIRECTLY into THEIR pockets, not through the whims of whoever happens to run the government at a given time.

      If the government and the politicos who run it want to do something and need money for it, they’ll have to get it the same way every other government does it: by raising taxes and convincing the population that it’s money well and honestly spent.

      The day everybody in Venezuela understands that, the government will no longer be something you can get stuff and things from it if you plead and beg enough the right people, but an institution to which you give money through the taxes you pay, an institution that works for you and an institution that had better do a good job of it.

      And you know what ? The people ? They will take the dollars directly, the dollars as … in dollars, thank you very much. The government can shut down SICAD and Cadivi and keep its funny money to play Monopoly with itself.

      Now, if you can convince people to go that route, that would fuck up Maduro and his friends something really good :-)

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    • “Where’s the money?” Would allow the regime to characterize the protesters as soulless capitalists. A slogan that punctures the regime’s pretensions would be better, as in “We want milk! We want bread! We want medicine! “

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      • ” We want OUR money. ” is the next step.

        Yes, the idea is to get in the mind of the population that oil money is THEIR money, that they alone get to decide what to do out of their share of the money, not some incompetent, corrupt crony somewhere in the government.

        And I think the time is exactly ripe to promote this idea.

        But, right now, the best way to achieve that is to show that the government has absolutely no idea what they’ve done with the money by forcing it to open the books.

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  16. The chavernment cannot concede anything to the protestors. To do so would call into question their authority as the elected representatives of the Venezuelan people.

    If the demonstrators could muster numbers sufficient to represent a majority of the people, the chavernment could concede that the people had shifted or developed their views since the last election and the state should go along.

    But their numbers are far short of that. Unless the demonstrators were demanding some limited goal related to their personal situations (i.e. removal of some official of the university system or the associated ministry, or withdrawal of police from “autonomous campuses”… I’m just making up possibilities) the chavernment will not comply. It would be submitting to intimidation to abolish Cadivi or rescind the Just Price Law – however good these actions would be.

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  17. Bravo! I completely agree with you. Choose to demonstrate for something that everyone agrees with is a desirable goal and will bring tangible results quickly.

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  18. Eso es sencillo. Bastaría con que todos se dejaran de sueños tontos de constituyentes y nos decidiéramos, tanto movimiento estudiantil como MUD, a reclamar por un CNE y TSJ independientes. Se supone que de algo iban a servir los 65 diputados de la MUD en el Parlamento y no han servido de mayor cosa.

    Dejando claro que hacemos eso para hacer luego un referendo consultivo en el cuál se pedirá la renuncia o de Nicolás Maduro, más referendos revocatorios de cuánto diputado chavista se pueda. Sería una salida constitucional, aunque antes de ceder en ese tema primero el gobierno se empecinará en sus trece.

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  19. Pompeyo Marquez said that his own party disagreed totally with AD and Copei on policy matters, but as long as they were divided they could make no headway against the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez.They decided not to discuss policy points because in these circumstances there is a limit as to how extensive a list of goals there can be and the resisters lived in a practical world and decided to agree on one goal which was getting rid of the government and Calling for honest elections.Once this goal was reached negotiations would be held on steps to be taken.

    I think the only thing we could all agree on from the start is a call for honest elections that are under fair conditions.
    Under Maduro’s dictatorship nothing can be negotiated in reality.No concessions at all will be made to the demonstrators.Just like the Castros would never make any concessions either.To them giving in , even one inch is admitting fault.Their response would be repression , then more repression.

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