The appeasers



Venezuela’s economic crisis is showing no signs of abating, and people are increasingly frustrated – and rightly so. In lieu of this, the opposition umbrella group, the MUD, has called for street protests this Saturday.

That people should take to the streets demanding some sort of solution should be a gimme. No government should be allowed to get away with the type of stuff the Maduro government is putting Venezuelans through without feeling at least some heat from the street. Furthermore, opposition politicians, including those previously lukewarm to using the streets to press for change, have realized they either channel public discontent, or they will be left out of the coming change.

In spite of this natural development, there are still a few who think Venezuelans should keep calm and just stand in line quietly.

Key among these is Lara governor Henri Falcón. Long a darling of the left wing of the opposition, the former chavista has come out saying that Venezuelans should *not* take to the streets, that instead they should focus on “electoral, constitutional, peaceful ways” of solving our problems.

That Falcón equates marching in the streets with unconstitutional, violent coup-mongering is shocking enough. What was even more galling, at least to me, was his use of Chile as an example.

Falcón cites Chile’s Concertación as an example of how to channel public outrage into change via elections. What Falcón didn’t understand in his brief visit to Chile a few weeks ago – invited by a group of Chilean left-wing politicians and activists – was that for many years the Concertación took part in peaceful protests before focusing on the referendum that ended up ousting Augusto Pinochet.

Only when a date had been set, and conditions for participating had been established, did Chile’s Concertación decide to focus on the referendum. Even then, they never left the streets. In using a completely inappropriate example, Falcón is simply showing his ignorance.

Another group that is trying to deflate popular discontent is Unasur. Yesterday, the organization’s chief diplomat, Ernesto Samper, said the group supports Maduro as well as dialogue.

We’ve seen this before – engage in fruitless dialogue to deflate popular anger. It may have even worked the last time around. Samper is delusional if he thinks the opposition leadership is going to fall for this trap again, particularly after showing such biased support for the government. By forfeiting its impartiality, Unasur has lost a ton of credibility with the majority of the country.

Venezuela needs dialogue, that’s for sure. The number one item on the agenda is the transition to a new, democratic government that will provide solutions Maduro is simply unwilling to enact, and free political prisoners. In fact, if I were the MUD, I would name Maria Corina Machado the opposition’s chief negotiator in such dialogue. Let’s see how Samper deals with her at the negotiating table.

Nobody thinks that street protests alone are going to topple Maduro – in fact, I’m not sure that’s even the point. The use of marching to effect change is a debatable point. However, expecting people to simply not protest for what is going on strikes me as hopelessly tone-deaf. It is even unwise to pretend you can put a lid on the simmering anger.

I don’t know how wise street protests are. All I know is that they are completely understandable, and inevitable. Appeasers such as Falcón and Unasur don’t really seem to grasp how dramatic the moment is.

44 thoughts on “The appeasers

  1. Well, the government has the means to crush protests. Maybe he is trying to avoid more blood being splashed around and more prisoners without justice.

    I think the point of departure of these protests is paramount. If they come from Catia, El Valle, then the government will be seriously challenged. If they come from Petare, not so, as they would have to traverse the capital to reach the centre of power.

    Middle class sectors should just shut up.

    Other thing, the opposition shouldn’t be calling to the streets, but let the people go out on their own, as it is happening now.

    A visible, exposed fracture between elite and voters should be more lethal than a military rebellion for the revolution.


  2. Well, if the middle classes go out to the streets, like they did in February 2014, that would play in the government’s favour.

    There may be nothing the government is waiting for more eagerly than middle class protests, so they can play their class struggle game.

    What is reasonable is to let the government fall out with its base. Which is happening anyway.

    Venelondoner, there is nothing more low than someone who sends others to sacrifice while watching from a distance. Your anger and your time are of no interest to no one, so it is perfect you keep both to yourself.


    • If you’re going to bring to the discussion cliches like “if the middle classes go out to the streets, like they did in February 2014, that would play in the government’s favour”, please present a solid argument to explain why that’s the case in today’s particular circumstances. I don’t really see why that’s necessarily the case. Please tell us the specific assumptions you’re making and the logic you’re following to reach that conclusion!


      • I don’t know what Alejandro’s arguments are, but I agree with him, and as a person who has moved in between both worlds (the middle class and the poor) I can tell you this: The only thing the poor HATE more than not being able to find anything in the stores and having to stand in long lines for hours is… (can you guess it?)… the middle class! Yes, the middle class, as well as anyone above that, of course.

        Bring the middle class back to the streets and you’ll bring back support for the government from the poor.

        Let the poor be the ones protesting this time around. Anything else will be counterproductive.


        • Really? Are you gonna back up a cliche with another cliche? That’s not a serious argument, not even the beginning of a bad argument.


          • A cliche is not a cliche if it is based on experience. I guess you have no contact with poor people in Venezuela. If you had, you would know that a very large fraction of them truly and totally hates the middle class.

            So, you want to begin some actions against the government and you gonna start by denying reality?

            Good luck…


            • First of all, your “experience” doesn’t tell anything. Your experience might be biased or overstated. Give me hard data! Anyways, define “poor” and “hate”. How much poor one has to be to hate the middle class and the rich? What makes someone middle class and hatable by the poor?

              Anyways, if a large fraction of Venezuelans hates the rest of the population, we’re pretty much screwed no matter what!


              • If the holy and sacred “pueblo” rather suffer under Maduro than give anything to the middle class, this country is screwed anyways.


              • Hard data? really?

                What about 15 years of presidential elections, none won by the opposition? 15 years of municipal elections, none won by the opposition in Libertador? 15 years of polling data showing overwhelming support from the poor to the government (changing now, which is why this is the chance to let that happen)?

                Hate? social resentment? I propose an experiment: take a stroll uphill from Av Sucre up to Gramoven, you let me know how much love you receive.


              • I don’t like what Alejandro or Getashrink are saying, but I’m afraid they’re right. “What makes someone middle class and hateable by the poor?”
                If you ask my, jealousy. Resentment. The greatest thing that came out of El Caracazo, the greatest lesson of those years, was the proof that even though Venezuela did well during the 60s and the 70s, the social tissue was progressively damaged. Hugo Chavez took all that resentment against the privileged sectors, or people, and turned it into a banner.

                That IS the truth. And that hate remains alive today. You only have to talk to a chavista, don’t question what he says, don’t try to explain anything, just listen. It’s hate for the sake of hate, hate because “Fuck you, you have more than I do with less effort because I wake up at 4am to earn less than you and my family is poor but we struggle while you had everything there from the get go.”
                Makes no rational sense, but it is what it is.


              • I agree with you, Vic.

                Something like what is happening in Venezuela can only be a byproduct of a hell lot of hate. But let’s not fool themselves, this hate is not out of nothing. Such hate is the result of decades of animosity from both sides.

                Both sides, I said, because whenever we treat waiters like shit or humiliate our employees we play the Chavistas’ game. We do exactly what they expect us to do. And then they preach to the lower classes: “See? Didn’t I tell you? That’s why you have to join my side. Won’t you be happy when we expropriate that dude? Of course you will.” And then ultimately we reach this point of madness Venezuela is facing, where poor people might not even have food to eat and are drowned in sadness, but what calms them is that their bosses lost everything and are unhappy too.

                It’s very important to defuse that hate, and increase “unidad” against the common enemy. I believe that’s already going on, though..


    • Me gustaría pintarte una paloma desde aquí pero se me congelan los dedos (sabes, aquí hace frio en invierno)

      Tu cantaleta sobre la clase media no merece menor comentario. La misma estupidez tercermundista que tiene al país en el pozo séptico hace 16 años. Sugerir que la clase media no tiene nada que aportar dice mucho de lo poco que comprendes el problema del país. Supongo que eres Falconista y piensas que lo que hay en el país es acaparamiento, y que los controles son buenos, y que lo que hay que cambiar es un gobierno y no un modelo. En fin, allá tú con tu ignorancia


      • Yo no entiendo por qué atacan así a alguien que sólo ha dicho una gran verdad. Él no ha dicho que la clase media no tiene nada que aportar; sencillamente ha dicho que no tiene que salir a protestar en este momento, que es el de los pobres. Lamentablemente para la clase media, el país se perdió en 2002. Las clases populares han apoyado tercamente al chavismo, se han creído todos los cuentos, han recogido sus migajas feliz y miserablemente; cuando los chamos salieron a protestar, las clases populares se cambiaban de acera, miraban con desdén. ¡AHORA QUE SE JODAN! ¿QUERÍAN PATRIA? PUES AHÍ LA TIENEN…
        Es triste que el país se vaya por el despeñadero con todos abordo; pero los errores de un país son colectivos y los paga la sociedad en conjunto. La única verdad aquí, más allá de tus cómicos estertores filosóficos desde Londres (donde por cierto, no hace un coño de frío comparado con otros lugares de Europa), es que como sociedad tenemos una enorme división y que no hemos podido zanjar nuestras diferencias.

        Lo mejor que puede hacer la clase media venezolana en este momento es seguir intentado comprar un gift card con el cupito electrónico de $ 300, soñar con pasajes baratos y ver las fotos de sus viajes por el mundo gracias a CADIVI, porque para eso fue que quedaron.


        • Chama, yo no sé tú, pero para mí caribeño irredento… cualquier vaina por debajo de 15 grados es burda de frio
          En cuanto a lo que dices, bueno, razón no te falta en cuanto a culpas de la situación (si bien para mí la clase media tiene más culpa de lo que le gusta admitir) Pero decir que la clase media no debe protestar… hacer un Henry Falcon a estas alturas del juego, de pana que no me parece.
          Todavía mas si consideras que los grandes cambios sociales han sido históricamente impulsados por las clases medias (Baby boomers, Chile post Pinochet, Venezuela años 50-70!!)
          Además, que ladilla el estribillo de que si eres del Cafetal o nunca viviste en un barrio o si cuando piensas en Venezuela no se te viene a la cabeza ningún joropo-musica Llanera eres menos menos Venezolano que un tipo que vive en un barrio. Eso es todo, que ladilla


  3. “…opposition politicians, including those previously lukewarm to using the streets to press for change, have realized they either channel public discontent, or they will be left out of the coming change.

    I don’t know how wise street protests are. All I know is that they are completely understandable, and inevitable. ”

    “Other thing, the opposition shouldn’t be calling to the streets, but let the people go out on their own, as it is happening now.”

    *Wasn’t the “spontaneous street protests” what was called La Salida? I remember that LL and MCM (The so-called masterminds behind radical salidistas) decided to support the protesters only a while after they have already begun.*

    “…I think the point of departure of these protests is paramount. If they come from Catia…”

    *And that’s why the regime has armed the murderous bands known as “colectivos”, to blast the face of anyone who dares to say a peep there.*


  4. Dont know if you guys saw this tweet last night on the topic. For me its a sign of how dire the situation is:

    Off topic: anyone think that there is a chance Maduro quits on Wed? I give it a 20% probability.


    • Ask Alejandro, I understand he advocates for the “dejalo que esto se cae solo” stuff. More or less what Capriles is saying since he “won”


    • Maduro will not quite. This is, however, his Rubicon moment. The world spotlight is on him tomorrow night. If he fails to make sense, the domino’s start tumbling. Where this will lead to no one yet knows.


    • Maduro just ruined his new Armani rolling on the floor while laughing at us.

      He wont quit. He doesn’t need to. The military will cover his ass and will kill whoever dares to protest. 2014 was a “beta testing” of this procedure, quite a succesful one.

      Apaciguadores know this, hell, they even DO business with government thugs just as Thor Halvorssen said last week. Then won’t move a finger to steer this boat from course unless it strenghtens their pacts with government.

      There is simply too much at stake.


  5. To all the middle class warriors commenting in this blog:

    By all means! get out and confront the government on the streets! who can stop you?

    Know however, that your gesture will land you in prison (or worse) and will also play into the hands of the government, as they will present you as evidence of class war.


    This is what recent history tells us: the middle class in Venezuela does not change regimes. Listen to a clear example: what brought down the Pact of Punto Fijo was not Chavez; it was the protests of Feb 27 1989.

    The fact that the AD’s electoral base went out to protest massively against CAP effectively put an end to the 1961 constitution.

    As you may remember, 4F1992 and 27N1992 were widely backed by the middle classes, but not by the lower and working classes. Both attempts failed amongst the silence of the poor.

    However, Chavez only became a viable alternative when acquired a narrative in 1997 and appealed to lower-class voters. For years before he called for street protests uselessly, much as LL and MCM did last year.

    AND he only came to power winning by a landslide, capitalising on the anger expressed back in 1989.

    The opposition does not have a narrative and certainly can’t summon massive protests now.

    What we must hope for is a divorce between the government and its voters that can be translated into electoral support.

    But hey, don’t worry, you can always count on the opposition to waste another chance to become the government.


    • I think you make good points, if not framed particularly tactfully. For the long term good, it may not be a bad idea to let things get even worse and force chavismo’s hand. Let them replace Maduro, only to see things get even worse. But I’m not the one standing in lines for milk or going without medicine, or avoiding leaving my house at dark…so easy for me to say.


      • Both Alejandro and you Rory are entirely correct. I have heard and read most of the uproar caused by Poleo’s declarations, now Falcon’s, and leaving aside Samper, who is playing a different game here, I think they are offering the best strategy at the moment. Maduro and the regime need to announce whatever is they are going to announce, and then see what reactions will look like among the poor. The reality is that all opposition attempts, since the failed coup of 2002, have failed miserably, strengthening more and more the government.
        The government set the trap in motion again, as Chavez did when fired PDVSA workers, infiltrating a fake national strike call among the opposition. Thanks God, no one felt into the trap. That’s what they want, “sifris” on the street again, so they can make a stark contrast between protesters and poor, and gain once more on the classist front.
        There’s no more loans, no more strikes of luck like skyrocketing oil prices. I, for the first time in more than a decade, feel the end is nearly around the corner. It will be a difficult year though.


    • “… it was the protests of Feb 27 1989…”
      It was the cuban-planned-riots-and-plundering of feb 27 1989…
      There, fixed it for ya.


  6. Middle class protests can detonate working class protests, especially when the issue is the impossibility of obtaining food for one’s family.

    It doesn’t happen every time, due to all sorts of historical and practical reasons. But sometimes it does. No one should be on the sidelines when it starts.


  7. I see the point. The usual suspects might have cried wolf one too many times. Taking the streets now might do a couple of things; trivialize the scope of the current crisis (“éstos escuálidos siempre protestando por cualquier cosa, igualito que el año pasado.”) and make it very easy for them to infiltrate or encourage road closures and store vandalism, giving them an easy out on the lack of products on shelfs (“los escualidos estan saboteando la distribución de bienes para el pueblo mesmo!”)

    Pero así es la vida, dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t…


  8. I think Alejandro is right. The middle class protested in 2002-2003, last year, etc and never got anything. It is only when the protest reach the lower classes that something happens.

    I for one agree on his statement “you can always count on the opposition to waste another chance to become the government.”

    I wrote a new post about what seems to be the opposition strategy, become “chavismo light”, that I think it will backfire on them. Here’s the post


    • “el legado de Chávez”.

      Vamos a ser claros, si legado hubo, no fue positivo. El hombre utilizó la más grande lluvia de dinero que le ha caido al país en toda su historia para asegurarse que sería re-elegido hasta la muerte, sin importarle en nada las consecuencias para el país. El legado de Chávez fue la destrucción de las instituciones, la politización de todos los ámbitos de la sociedad, la destrucción de la capacidad productiva del país, la militarización del gobierno, el armar a la sociedad civil sin tomar en cuenta las consecuencias, el despilfarro de los recursos de Venezuela para ganar popularidad personal, la utilización masiva e impune de los recursos del estado para fines partidistas, la persecución política a gran escala, las listas negras, el discurso de división irresponsable, el insulto como manera de hacer política, la deshumanización de cualquier adversario, la manipulación de las leyes como justificativo de medidas anti-democráticas, la incitación al odio en las ondas de los canales del estado, el abuso de poder…..El legado de Chávez es, además, el mayor éxodo de talento que ha existido nunca en nuestra historia.

      Bruni, that is golden


  9. If you are to face an electoral battle towards the end of the year you have to movilize people , start kindlnig their passions , for that protests can be useful , not as violent and challenging as those of last year (at least not until conditions make them spread to the barrios ) but enough to make the oppo rank and file start arousing their resolve . The apathy and dissapointent of the Chavista follower helps the oppo because it has then stay away from the polls and as the crisis deepens it can shift their sympathy towards the opposition. But the apathy of oppo followers is really very harmful , so a bit of fireworks is not necessarily useless. Timing is everything.!


    • “Timing is everything.”

      Exactly right. To think that protests by the middle class can never work because they have not in the past is to ignore that circumstances are very different now and that makes all the difference in the world.

      “protests can be useful not as violent and challenging as those of last year (at least not until conditions make them spread to the barrios )”

      They should not be violent under any circumstance. That only would help the government and/or create anarchy. The other thing, they should not be terminal, meaning they should NOT be all or nothing propositions like #LaSalida.


  10. “That Falcón equates marching in the streets with unconstitutional, violent coup-mongering is shocking enough.”

    But he doesn’t.

    BTW, tell Thor he/you are never going to make it into Globovision/Venevision if you keep this anarchic bullshit routine you’ve cornered yourself into.

    According to CC just about every opposition politician is corrupt. They only like LL because IT’S THEIR JOB.


  11. The protests serve many purposes:

    1. To show the protesters themselves that they are not the only ones willing to declare their opposition publicly. There is is strength in numbers.

    2. To show the non-protesters that there are many people willing to publicly oppose the regime.

    3. To demonstrate to the regime that they are not unopposed and that they cannot do anything they wish without public backlash.

    In a climate in which the news is so biased toward the regime, this may be the only way to demonstrate publicly in a way that cannot be dismissed that those in Opposition are indeed the majority. Without any public protest, the individuals’ will to resist withers.


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