For the past few days, I’ve been pondering why Quico’s post blasting the guarimba protest movement (here, and in The New Republic) grated on me so much. I think it goes back to Quico’s assessment of last December’s local elections.
Back then, Quico, along with thousands of opposition voters, couldn’t be bothered to care about local elections. The thinking was that the opposition was political roadkill, simply unable to leverage its significant size into exercising power of any kind. The idea of convincing people about our views seemed utterly pointless. The outcome of chavismo was simply out of our hands, more a function of complicated power plays between the Cubans and the military, the product of what happened in the oil markets.
Quico named us “the gimp.” Here is what he wrote:
So far, I’ve resisted the urge to write much of anything about Sunday’s election, largely because I didn’t quite know how to put words to the feelings of utter futility the whole exercise inspires: this sense that Sunday will be remembered not-at-all, a non-event on the road to outright dictatorship notable mostly for having distracted us with an illusion of agency for a few weeks.
Now, it seems as though a helpless opposition can do something – it can screw up even more!
With its image increasingly defined by its least appealing members, it’s little surprise that the protest movement has failed to build meaningful alliances outside the opposition base. People in working class neighborhoods, whether urbanizaciones populares or barrios, see the protest movement as something alien, different, not about them, not by people like them and certainly not for people like them. (Yes, there are exceptions, but again, they’re only that: exceptions.) People in the towns and villages see nothing at all, because a concerted blackout has disappeared the peaceful side of the protests from the TV and the radio. (Yes, there are exceptions, but again, they’re only that: exceptions.)
Quico, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the opposition is powerless, and at the same time say that they are hurting their cause, that their actions are turning off hearts and minds. Either they should focus on convincing people, or this doesn’t have a point.
Ultimately, unless they are affecting your day-to-day existence, complaining about guarimbas is a bit like complaining about the weather – they are there, they cannot be controlled, and they are not going anywhere. Might as well ride it out.