You say pleito, I say debate

In retrospect, this must have been an awkward moment

In retrospect, this must have been an awkward moment

Henrique Capriles had some harsh things to say about La Salida the other day.

He said the wave of protests unleashed in February, which has since died down, only strengthened the government, and was rejected by a large majority of the population. He heavily criticized its proponents as out of touch with the needs of the majority in Venezuela. His feelings have been echoed by, among others, Baruta mayor Gerardo Blyde, who today says the proposal for a Constitutional Assembly is a bad one.

This has unleashed a torrent of criticism. For example, former Constitutional Assembly rep Alberto Francheschi basically accused Capriles of being in cahoots with Maduro. Friend-of-the-blog Gustavo Coronel claimed Capriles, with his stance, had become “politically irrelevant,” and in a sharp rebuke, now claims that “Aporrea is more in opposition to the government than the MUD.” (Good one, Gustavo)

Personally, I think this is a good thing for the opposition.

There has been way too little debate inside our own ranks as to what constitutes the right strategy. The shifting nature of the Maduro regime (some would call it an implosion) means there are no easy answers. And the issue of political prisoners and dwindling civil liberties requires that we all think carefully about our next steps.

On this blog, we were critical of #LaSalida, but we came around to understanding what was driving it. Any issues we had with the strategy were drowned out by the outrage the backlash provoked in us.

I have also criticized Capriles’ non-stance, which basically proposes sitting tight until 2019 without saying so. I have openly questioned whether he remains the leader of the opposition, and I have been surprised his callous indifference toward those who have been detained for protesting. The #LaSalida folks have no strategy, but neither does Capriles.

In essence, the opposition needs to do some soul-searching. It needs to debate everything – who holds power inside the coalition, what the best strategy is, and how we find out the two. It also needs an urgent restructuring, particularly after the disastrous Roberta-gate (remember that?).

Personally, I don’t think the opposition will split in any significant form. The need for unity is greater than any personal animosity. If this debate leads us to a better outcome, then it is probably a good thing. And the opposition’s leaders understand that any claim to want to lead and unite the country is hogwash if you can’t sit down and talk to somebody inside your own coalition who just happens to think differently.

In spite of my reckless optimism, there is work to be done – lots of it. The opposition needs to re-engage with itself and find some common ground once again. Debate is good, but reaching a conclusion is even better.

Nobody holds the entire truth, and there are no easy solutions. A little humility from all the players involved might help them realize this.

30 thoughts on “You say pleito, I say debate

  1. Juan,

    I have a problem with the way people use the word “debate” particularly on that side of the ocean.
    When they say “debate” I think they actually mean “parallel monologues”. I really haven’t seen any kind of real debate in Venezuela, ever.

    A debate means people are actually addressing the statements of the others, they are getting concrete on that. A debate does not necessarily have to be in the same place and at the same time but this makes things much easier.

    I am all for a debate, a real one.

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    • Just to be clear

      I do not think what Capriles did was debate. But then he could not debate with Leopoldo now because Leopoldo is in jail.

      When are we having primaries or a real debate to define in a MUD assembly how we are going to deal with Madurismo?

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      • That’s a good point. I think the real debate is going on in the living rooms of actual opposition families, where some support Capriles and others support Leopoldo.

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        • But the political debates are not so much for the sake of two people but a forum. That was
          the idea in Athens 2500 years ago. Unfortunately, even Greeks and all people in the Mediterranean seem to have forgotten what’s that about.

          But that is the norm in the rest of the EU and, with differences and in other frameworks, in North America.

          In Latin America? Not much.

          In Bolivia Morales is saying what Chávez and Putin already said: he ain’t having a debate.

          The debate should be in public. It does not need to be for an election time. They can let a set of opposition personalities meet with a moderator and let them discuss things and let’s people, probably Internet viewers, see the whole game and judge.

          If they can do that without starting to throw fists around and without calling names, they would be teaching a lot to Venezuelans…and Boligarchs won’t like that.

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        • There’s no black or white, no Capriles or Leopoldo. My family’s debates are not around those two figures anymore. That’s what must be understood. MUD and its affiliates have lost almost all of their credibility because they stink of the same modus operandi of those in the government.

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  2. There’s the underlying assumption that a lot of Capriles’s supporters make, that we need yet another populist Messiah to make front to the myth of Chávez. To hell with that, this country doesn’t need another Political Dad, and, in my personal opinion, there’s something extremely fascist and just plain creepy about the State filling voids on families.

    Also, there’s the line of “everybody that disagrees with Capriles is a radical”. Come on, there’s a difference between actual radicals like Francheschi, that want another military coup* (his words, not mine), and the position of López and Machado, that want a Constitutional Assembly and to impeach Maduro (that is constitutional, no matter what the regime or Capriles says).

    *Frankly, I believe that any plan that depends on the olive green bastards is doomed from the start, even Diego Arria came to that conclusion.

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    • Ah yeah, I forgot the last assumption from Capriles’s supporters, “Leopoldo deserves to be in jail for getting out of line”. I shouldn’t need to explain why that’s offensive, or why people that says that have no right to ask for unity.

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  3. The regime had no problem supporting Honduran President Zelaya’s plan to create a constituent assembly by referendum. They argued that removing Zelaya for doing what he was entitled to do, was a coup. So now they say creating a constituent assembly is a coup?

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  4. I always thought that HCR changed, almost 180 degrees, his original stance towards been the leader of the opposition, right after he met last year with J.M. Santos. Coincidence?…Of course…only assuming…

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  5. The reality is what it is. What the majority want would be useful to know. A plan to get there would be most critical. . However, anything else, like the detainees, internal politics of the parties, etc. are icing on the cake.
    The reality as I see it is that the regime is on an unsustainable course.
    There will be a collapse. However and whenever it may be, that will be the time to execute the plan.

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    • Gordo,

      Sorry, too passive.

      1) It may be possible to push the regime over the edge.

      2) Choosing the time and place of the battle is preferable to letting the enemy do so.

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  6. Capriles has let his true colors show in these last months, it’s now evident that he wants to be the catalyst and protagonist in whatever change may come, no matter the cost or time. He’s also let his ego show with the harsh comments towards #LaSalida, his followers have even have acquired a taste for chavista-type cynicism to criticize Lilian Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina.

    He has been the tip of the spear in the debasement of the MUD. During the tense protest weeks, Leopoldo always addressed his disagreements with the MUD diplomatically and with a clear spirit of unity. Even Maria Corina defended the MUD whenever they addressed their disparagement in interviews. Capriles on the other hand has been going hard on his peers and easy on the government:

    “@hcapriles: Sabemos las grandes incomodidades que genera el apagón,pedimos calma a todos,se espera que pronto sea restituido el servicio”

    Any attempt at a debate would be bound to fail if he doesn’t make a 360 turn, address his and the MUD’s wrongdoings and agrees to work towards solving the real problem, not towards his becoming of the next Chavez.

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  7. I agree with most of what you’ve written here, except with one important thing.
    Why do you insist on calling the street protests “the easy way out”?
    Since when risking your physical integrity and life, getting punched, stabbed, ran over by bikes, or shot in several parts of the body, most grievously in the face at point blank with a shotgun has been easier than what Capriles (And many other within the MUD agree) propose (Just wet the pinky and go back home to wait for the cne’s results)?
    No, dude, the “easy way out” is what they AND chavismo want, to keep people on the track of rigged elections forever and ever, and say, in 50 years it’ll be over because most of them’ll be dead from old age, while most of us in Venezuela had our lives consumed by this cancer that’s this filthy regime.
    I’m against starting the violence on the protests, but come on, those people can’t be asked to sit quiet and let the regime’s death squads to beat and kill them, they have the legitimate right for self-defense.
    The protests are not an easy way out, in fact, they’re the hardest way out, since they have to deal not only with the regime’s homicidal repression and the rejection of the chavistas that haven’t reached their own breaking points, but they have to deal too with the people that oppose the regime but want an easy way out that doesn’t bother their established routine.

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      • You’re right, you didn’t use the phrase here, I was aiming outside the target, mostly because calling the street protests “the easy way out” is the same as dismissing them as just throwing a tantrum with no importance.

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  8. As long as the MUD has it’s galvanizing objective to restore democracy in Venezuela, the dissent is only welcomed. I agree with JCN, it is a show of democratic discourse in contrast to the apparatchik style of PSUV.

    The fight has WWI attrition war feel to it. I don’t think we see categorical victories for MUD, but the cost to Chavismo was far higher. We see the split of the ‘comunistas trasnochados’ with Giordani and his ilk and the adoption of -OMG!!- the berated measures of devaluation, IMF talks by Ramirez, and lest not forget a sallow face that Chavismo presents to the world these days.

    Furthermore, it seems that Chavismo has painted itself into a corner. It cannot criticize the ‘comandante galactico’, so it is Maduro who is left holding the bag for misgovernment. With the internal Chavismo dissent it is likely that madurismo will be seen as some fifth column takeover of chavismo.

    In the meantime the people that care and can make a change in Venezuela leave, leaving an intellectually anemic society which at some point will not care of who runs it, something like Cuba.

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  9. It can’t be much of a debate when one of the leaders who should be involved in the debate is in jail.

    I like that big guy with the beard who has his arms around the other two in the photo. The students are not famous. They know what the priorities are.

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  10. I wish the oppo would put on a pair of pants and put the blame where it belongs; smack on the armed forces, useless, incompetent, gangsters and repressive.

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  11. I have always thought Capriles is a pansy and that’s why I did not vote for him in the primaries. With respect to La Salida, he should have kept his mouth shut. He doesn’t make any new friends by criticizing it.

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  12. There is no opposition in Venezuela, there is Chavismo and the angry Chavistas.
    The non-chavistas have no representation here, Capriles,Aveledo,Machado,Lopez, all of them are in bed with the reds, they’re the same monster.

    Opposition? nah. We’re Non-Venezuelans.

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  13. You’re very perceptive because that’s exactly what will be coming for us sooner or later: a pact for political stability among the PSUV pragmatists, the MUD and (oh yeah) the Armed Forces. Anyone can throw all the shit they want at me for this not being an example of triumph of good over evil but it’s the best way I see to make a go of it given the multiple unfavorable circumstances our country is in. Ask Reinaldo Dos Santos about Leopoldo López because honestly I don’t know.

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  14. As long as Lopez remains locked up by the regime, any intra-opposition debate is a sideshow. First the opposition, including those who don’t like Lopez, should unite to demand his release. Then they can have their debate, in which Lopez can be a full participant.

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  15. Juan, kudos on an excellent analysis of the Oppo quandary; I only feel sorry for Capriles, lost and rotting in the shuffle….

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