Managing Impotence

MUDOver at the Transitions blog, I try and sympathize with our opposition. I try to focus on the numerous challenges they face – short on funding, locked out of the media, and with an unmanageable internal structure, it is a small miracle that they still exist and are strong in opinion polls.

Just for comparison’s sake, look at the Cuban, Iranian, Russian, or Belorussian opposition. Heck, let’s not make the comparisons too stark – our opposition is in much better shape than that of Bolivia, Ecuador, or perhaps even Argentina.

Our problem lies with the crap sandwich that is the opposition’s main task: managing impotence. For, you see, the outcome of the Venezuelan crisis is largely out of our hands.

Many people talk about how the opposition should do this or that to precipitate change, myself included. The problem is that this is a false dichotomy – there is little we could do right now to effect change, other than prepare for the Legislative elections. Yes, protesting is important, and I think pressure on the streets could help, but protests will not bring chavismo down, at least not in kosher ways. And yes, we all want Maduro to resign and pave the way for a transition, but that’s not going to happen because of something that we do.

So, yes, we need to pressure and exert the few rights we still have, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the amount of real power we hold.

It is that impotence that the opposition finds so difficult to manage. That is why you meet so many people who say “it has to be that the opposition is being bought.”

People see the opposition, they see the entrenched government, they see the rage in the streets and the dismal opinion poll numbers … and they conclude that the opposition doesn’t want to unseat Maduro.

The truth is that they can’t. Understanding that is important for the coming months.

Anyway, take a look at the article and let me know what you think.

43 thoughts on “Managing Impotence

  1. Locus de control externo: percepción del sujeto que los eventos ocurren como resultado del azar, el destino, la suerte o el poder y decisiones de otros. Así, el LC externo es la percepción de que los eventos no tienen relación con el propio desempeño, es decir que los eventos no pueden ser controlados por esfuerzo y dedicación propios. Tal persona se caracteriza por atribuir méritos y responsabilidades principalmente a otras personas.


  2. I really like your take on this Juan. The real opportunity lies ahead in framing the discourse and using the crisis as an educational tool on the pitfalls of irresponsible populism, and lack of accountability.

    i would add, preparing themselves for elections, if they can promote and assure Fair , clean (manual ) elections.


  3. Good article, as usual. And I agree with you. Low profile for now, because the hardest part of the job has already been done. To keep increasing unity and ‘evangelizing’ people inside and outside Venezuela is the way to go. Because as you said, Maduro’s current situation is unsalvageable.

    The Venezuelan opposition did a superb job spreading the word outside Venezuela. I lost the count of how many times I saw Capriles and MCM giving interviews to the local media in my country. It seems they were always ready. That was very important, because the absurd situation that is happening in Venezuela is no longer a local cause, it has become global.

    Regarding Maduro’s popularity, I have to point out that his popularity is exactly the same as Cristina K and Dilma.

    Cristina’s current approval rate: 25%

    Dilma’s current approval rate: 23%

    Maduro’s: 22%

    It’s hard to predict whom of them will finish 2015 as president.


  4. “Our problem lies with the crap sandwich that is the opposition’s main task: managing impotence. For, you see, the outcome of the Venezuelan crisis is largely out of our hands.”

    Do you consider that the opposition should campaign for the elimination/reduction of the subsidy of gasoline, seeing that we incur a 12 billion USD loss of public funds per year?

    If you do, could you point out Voluntad Popular’s or even Capriles’ posture on the subject? because I’m not aware of their efforts on this serious loss.

    I mean, we’re having scarcity problems in Venezuela (I point this out because you live in Chile, Nagel) greatly because we don’t have enough USD to import what’s required.

    This is going to worsen as the year progresses and we receive what’s left of our ~90 USD barrels we sold months ago and we shift towards 40 USD/BBL.

    While we’re at it, what’s their posture on electricity subsides?

    Heck, let’s go through everything FRod recommended and double check with the opposition. Do you agree?

    You could even ignore this comment and write an article about at least once.


    • What is your point? What does his position matter (and he’s written on the gasoline subsidy, if not anything else you mentioned)?

      The regime does not care or listen to them at all. Have they offered a solution besides locking up employees of supermarkets or pharmacies?


      • His point is similar to what Jose Ramon pointed out in December. The opposition needs to develop a CLEAR ‘plan’ and a NARRATIVE that gives the population a sense (a road map?) of where we should be going, and where we will go when they are in power.

        It is not enough (and quite counter productive) to keep the populist framework while trying to be a bad copy of our last charismatic populist president.


        • Would you ask the opposition to spell out exactly the coming economic hardships and therefore give the government something to work against?
          Who do you know can win an election by promising that things will get much worse before they can get better? It is important for the government to have to own the present disaster and for the opposition to be able to maintain their position as an alternative. The job of the next administration will be very difficult but they will never get the chance to try if all they can say is that the economy has been destroyed and everyone will be substantially poorer for it .
          It may be true but that is hardly a platform to win elections with.


      • My point is that the opposition, specially prominent leaders such as Capriles, Maria Corina and Voluntad Popular, could campaign for the cease of the subsidy of gasoline, as the government *already* does, and educate the masses about the importance of avoiding public capital flight in an importer economy facing >50% income reduction, but chooses not to.

        It’s another point where they reactively disagree with the government in at the expense of Venezuelans.

        Can a reasonable party *ENTIRELY* disagree with everything the other party proposes?

        “The regime does not care or listen to them at all. Have they offered a solution besides locking up employees of supermarkets or pharmacies?”

        You’re evidently unaware of the government’s campaign and Francisco Rodriguez’s recent analysis on salvaging Venezuela’s economy.[0]

        You should inform yourself before we continue discussing.



        • I am aware of some of the more practical steps the regime has taken. IMO, they are akin to bailing out water more quickly on a sinking boat while doing nothing about the hole in the bottom of the boat. They will allow the regime to limp on and meet their sovereign debt payments for awhile longer (and continue to pay their armed forces adaquetely), but are not close enough to steps that must be taken if the economy is going to get back to functioning and meeting the needs of its citizens.

          Furthermore, none of the steps address the rampant corruption, the unchecked criminal violence on the streets, the wage eating inflation, the lack of transparency in government actions (like the deals with China), the business environment which makes business owners and would be business owners fear that their business may get seized for no reason,the labor laws that promote consequence free absenteeism, the avenues by which officials and military officers siphon money into their own bank accounts, etc.

          As to whether a reasonable party can *ENTIRELY* disagree with everything the other party proposes? Well, in most cases no. This is not a normal situation, or a normal democracy with freedom of expression and free media. The opposition must remain united, above all, and do whatever it takes to be viewed as a viable alternative to the regime. IMO, the people who are hesitant to support the opposition due to residual mistrust or whatever but CAN be won over, those people are not going to be won over by detailed policy plans. The opposition should continue to focus on the corruption and failures and lies of the regime, and make few specific policy pronouncements other than ones that are widely popular, emotive, and easily understood (end giveaways to Cuba while we are bankrupt, for example). Whether they are doing a good job of this or not, I am not in a position to judge.


  5. The opposition has no plan.

    There is no plan to reform the military and its 5000 generals.
    There is no plan to reform the judiciary into an independent one.
    There is no plan to negotiate with creditors for an organized default, whether those creditors be China, banks, nations or corporations.
    There is no plan to hire KPMG for 200 forensic accountants to pour over 15 of bizzarre financial transactions.
    There is no plan to investigate the thousands that need to be investigated and no plan for trials when there is enough evidence.
    There is no plan to either eliminate the currency peg(s) or dollarize the economy and to do so without further horrors and shortages.
    There is no plan to allow the gullible but noncorrupt Chavistas into a new government of power sharing.
    There is no plan to disarm and eliminate colectivos.
    There is no plan to lessen crime on the streets.
    There is no plan to restore the functional parts of the constitution but eliminate the bad parts.
    There is no plan to make sure this does not happen again.
    There is no plan to restore independent media.
    There is no plan to restore or maintain the infrastructure.
    There is no plan to return to productive factories or farms.
    There is no plan for the elimination of corruption.
    There is no plan to help the helpless.
    There is no plan to turn whatever oil wealth remains into an independent entity that subsides the poor, pensions or infrastructure.
    There is no plan to convince the population that their food and gasoline and electricity and water can no longer be subsidized.
    There is no plan to decide which expropriations get returned, which get negotiated and which get sold to the highest bidder.
    There is no plan for diplomacy either with their current ALBA allies or with the “empire” and its minions.
    There is no plan on who and what the approach will be, to whomever they beg for aid.

    Shit, they cannot even plan on who the next caudillo is going to be in the hope that the government collapses before it truly becomes Cuba.


    • Yes, Venezuela is truly f*cked, and all our intellectual pirouettes on this Blog cannot easily-if ever-solve its problems….


      • Your observations of the situation in Venezuela reminds me of the apocalyptic state Peru found itself in 1990 after Alan Garcia Perez was in power (hyperinflation, economic pariah, Shining Path insurrection), and here are my points:

        -Vargas Llosa ran for president announcing all the traumatic IMF sponsored measures he would have to apply to rectify the disaster. He scared the people and lost the election to ‘say-nothing’ Fujimori. He, in turn, applied the same measures which were nicknamed the Fujishock by the press.

        The problems you list are as unavoidable as death, but there may be no need, as a politician, to make yourself unpleasant to the electorate while the Chaverment wallows so publicly in its muck.

        -Things did get better for Peru. Twenty five years later Peru did improve, and lifted more people out of poverty than any thing Fidel or Chavez did with their time and time respectively.


        • Then there’s CAP 2, who was president during that election.

          He ran under a Saudi Venezuela comeback, applied the same kind of measures but refused to abuse his political power. He sponsored reforms to elect mayors and governors directly, have a more independent (from him) supreme court and did away with the stick foreign exchange controls represented for the media.

          Result? He was ousted in a plot by (or under pressure of) the old left, the military, intellectuals from the era before the trienio adeco, the top brass in AD and COPEI, etc.

          Fujimore survived imposing measures he campaigned against, because he was willing and able to launch a self coup, AKA Fujimorazo. Not precisely something I would use as a model.


    • The reason there is no plan is because their strategy is not to provide an alternative. They do not want to be an alternative to the government. They want to become a transition before the real alternatives and plans.

      The role of the opposition should not be to discuss what are the “better ways” to govern, but rather its role has to be to attract as many people as they can. They need to attract those on the left, on the right and the anarchists too because what they are offering is not a new government, but rather a transition. They are trying to sell themselves as a middle step between this shitty government and the real alternative, and the only way of becoming the transition is by not dividing themselves on the micro and macro policies.

      Once the “transition” is accomplished, new alternatives -and plans- will raise. That is the only way of beating the government and it is about time that people get it.


      • There is probably lots of sense in what your saying , you dont come out with all you have if that may be used by an unscrupulous regime to distort what your saying and use it against you . Im quite certain a lot of planning is going on , specially on the HCR side , he has teams working on all the subjects , not dogmatically but pragmatically but you dont reveal your thoughts more that strictly necessary because the important thing is to allow the govt to tear itself apart through constant mistakes that only makes it all worse for everyone including many of their former followers . The first thing is to gather more popular force without necessarily revealing all and step by step move closer to a regime change , then you unvail your plans and work hard to convince people of their rationality and necessity . Thats why the emphasis on transition is important . After the govt has changed then you can work methodically on the difficult task of restoring a destroyed country.

        In litigation strategy there is a golden maxim , dont volunteer information , dont tell the court or the other side more than absolutely necessary , as you go along you choose which information is in your best interest to reveal and the most appropiate time , but not before . Im quite sure this tactic is also valid in politics . !!


  6. I largely agree, we are impotent right now, and I believe that regarding what the opposition can do, they couldn’t agree about what to do, so they probably decided that doing nothing was the best thing to do right now.


    • In decision theory “doing nothing” is not only a valid option, but the best option is a number of cases. In the Cuban Missile Crisis the decision to ignore Khrushchev’s latest ultimatum was the best decision for all of those who cared about the existence of the human race.
      A different case is when “doing nothing” is the only decision under consideration, which seems what Juan implies by impotence…but he should be thinking about some sort of political Viagra.


  7. Oh please…. What they need to do is leave, they are no good. They should let younger generations (really let them and not just use them for media purposes) take over.

    How much time you want to leave them to sort themselves out? 5 years more perhaps? Hasn’t 15 years been enough already?

    Why do you state as a fact that the opposition can’t rise to power? They haven’t done se because they have been poor at execution (even in times where most people would think thay they have done well i.e. reforma constitucional). If someone like Chavez did it pre-1998, there is no reason why anyone can’t do it now – they just need to attract a critical mass of voters. For this you need: 1) good execution 2) credibility and 3) funding. Funding can be found, it is less critical. But good execution and more importantly credibility? Not that easy to build overnight, especially if incompetent dinosaurs such as Ledezma, Ramos Allup, etc. etc. keep hanging out around opposition events. Who do they represent?


    • The oppo’s strat this year, easily verified by looking at their campaign:

      – Take notice that Oil drops.
      – VP joins Socialist International and other activists firlt with socialism/chavismo (Tintori and “chavez’ legacy”; HCR also digs the commander).
      – CC and other fronts (Thor Halvorssen incuded) drop meritocracy bull.
      – Opposition play new found “socialist” to oppose the cease of subsidies every fucking economist knows are necessary.
      – Opposition says do nothing as protesting could play into gov’s campaign.
      – Social unrest as part of the population is unaware of the necessity to cut subsidies and have bought the oppo 2015 campaign’s populist stance on subsidies.


      • The real issue in Venezuela is that everyone is a socialist or claims to be. So you get nonsense such as the Chavistas accusing Ramos Allup of being from the “extrema derecha” when what twit is a VP of the 4th socialist international. People think they get what they want when in fact they get what they deserve and, boy, does Venezuelan ever deserve what they get with more coming their way. Until some real right wing formation starts fighting for power, this country is doomed.


        • “Until some real right wing formation starts fighting for power, this country is doomed.”

          I prefer worrying about much more trivial short term things like avoiding ’92 all over again when the government inevitably cuts subsidies and there’s a party that doesn’t care about the human cost of achieving power.

          See how I don’t need to suggest right or left to address the most important of problems like an eager ideologue that seizes every opportunity?


          • Also, the fascists from Italy came from the “center” or the “third option”
            So, I guess the right would do better than those crackpots.


  8. Popularity polls that show a support of 22% assumes the other 78% automatically support the opposition. That is very far from reality because, like it or not, Chavez left a huge void that neither side of the current history has been able to absorb.
    If you go to elections today, more than 50% will not vote and the rest will be 50-50 split which based on the current electoral conditions will benefit the government.
    At this point I don’t see an exit without convincing that undecided portion. Forget about convincing chavistas, if they still are is because they have reasons above rationality and will be impossible to convince. I am talking about the old chavistas disappointed by Maduro and it will not be easy.
    Trying to force Maduro out of power will be impossible, he has the entire military with him. Many are too dirty to take the chance with the opposition and many are too comfortable with their power.
    The only solution goes through elections but will require a lot of organization and disposition, not only by the political parties but also by all of us. A doctor can cure cancer but it needs the patient collaboration and will.
    Today the govermnet announced the new FX, this is a good meat bone for the military who will get Sicad and then will go to the new system and sell for huge profit. How many “opposition” members will play the game? I already know a few


    • Pepe Trueno, spot on! But wait, perhaps we should give the opposition 15 years more to convince those people, they just need more time!!!!


  9. Nobody gets elected on a program of austerity. Promise sunshine & roses. Get elected, say” whoa, I had no idea they had made this big a mess of things” then do what is necessary and manage the fallout by blaming the other side. If you can’t lie to the people, you have no business being a politician.


  10. In a few select countries it is possible to win campaigning for austerity and responsibility: Germany, Finland, Netherlands… you see the point.

    Campaigns in Venezuela need to be positive and unrealistic.

    If the government is now forced to increase the price of petrol, devalue the bolivar and in general try to do with a barrel at less the fifty dollars, well, the opposition should look “the bulls from the barrier ” and enjoy the show.

    When the moment comes, present a united front and a campaign like that LHC did decades ago “We fix it” (Luis Herrera arregla esto”).


    • “If the government is now forced to increase the price of petrol, devalue the bolivar and in general try to do with a barrel at less the fifty dollars, well, the opposition should look “the bulls from the barrier ” and enjoy the show.”

      Enjoy the show… wow.

      Do you live in Venezuela because you’re talking about capitalizing historically violent social unrest.

      What causality count do you estimate, based on ’92 or even La Salida (failed insurrection is still expensive)?


    • Jajaja. Did LHC run on that slogan?

      That’s so poetic. “Luis Herrera arregal esto” turned into Black Friday and RECADI.


  11. No darling, I don’t live in Venezuela. I actually have the competence to work and live in a developed society. I was never chained to Venezuela, like many a looser who claims they stayed to fight for freedom or whatever, but are unable to compete outside the Chacao municipality.

    But anyway, what do you suggest? never to take painful decisions? live in fear of “social unrest”? What about explaining honestly what the problems are and execute policy accordingly?

    I actually don’t think casualties are necessary. If people simply see the stats and understand the mistakes made by the government since 1999, I reckon they will find the strength to reform and change the country. And truth is salutary, anyway, it is this mesh of lies that keep people blind and listless.


  12. “And truth is salutary, anyway, it is this mesh of lies that keep people blind and listless.”

    what the fuck …. What the fuck


    • Language, language, one should never lapse into vulgarity if proper words are available to convey the message.

      What do you prefer, Dspur, to live in darkness, without knowing what the inflation rate is, how much Venezuela owes abroad, who has Swiss bank accounts among the ruling elite or even how expensive a dollar really is?

      Do you prefer to live a lie, or to know and understand the truth?


      • Thou are right, Alejandro, for truth and darkness cannot coexist, hitherbe, nor can one look on abyss in ’92 without abyss glimpsy oneself.


        • Yes, on this I am right.

          The first thing a President of Venezuela needs to do is to appear on national TV and describe the financial position of the country in detail, followed by poverty, crime and literacy stats.

          Tell the truth.

          Then, I think, Venezuelans will finally grow up and stop sucking the oil breast that has driven them into secular uselessness.


          • In your experience, what other oppositionists place ‘truth’, as you’ve described, above social stability surrounding the necessary reduction of subsidies?


  13. What happens to an addict when he canno longer get enough of the drug his addicted to, he gets convulsions and goes nuts , people accostummed to subsidies and freebies are like drug addicts if they are to survive their habit they have to stop their drug use , that can be done either forcing them to go cold turkey or easing them slowly to a situation where they can understand their situation and collaborate in getting rid of their drug dependence , Right now the regime is attempting to go softly in tellling them the heyday of their addiction is over because their habit canno longer be afforded but in practice its forcing them to go cold turkey and blaming someone else for their situation . I suppose the opposition will have to do something similar . Whatever tactics are used the days in which the state could shower them with subsidies and freebies is over because the oil revenues will no longer be enough .

    I wouldnt understimate the boiling anger thats steadily growing in former chavista followers with all thats happening , some of them are taking a different view of opposition messages because they ve had it with Maduro . The tie in between Maduro and Chavez is loosening and losing force same as little by little people remember the dear departed leader less and less . Time passes and what most inmmediate in their life starts occupying their minds . The thing is that these things happen slowly and dont show themselves quite dramatically in the public eye . I once had to convince my neighbors about closing down our street to make it safer , of some 30 odd only one person followed my lead , we went from door to door to peddle our idea and most people politely let us known they didnt like it , the first neighbors meeting it seemed as if the idea was dead , then the next meeting something got through our neighbors heads and they came round to supporting our idea ( all but one gentlemen who was already planning to move somewhere else) .

    You keep a message on target and keep at it and when you least expect it people start listening to it . Every day that passes gets the oppo closer to its goals , that s why you are starting to hear regime voices talk of advancing the date of the elections , they know for surce it can only get worse. !!


  14. What the hell is “impotent” about being the titular leaders of at least 70% of the population?

    They are only impotent only because they think they are and are acting like they are.


  15. Celebro la vuelta del pesimismo realista y el abandono de ese optimismo metido con forceps en su cerebro con el que quiso comenzar el año. La cosa no podía tardar y ya llegó.


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