Saturday, February 04, 2006

What to do with Venezuela: part 2

Part 2: The opposition turmoil

The opposition got a much needed shot in the arm on December 4. But we are now on February 4 and so far it does not look that it is taking much advantage of the situation. Indeed, one could argue that the opposition does not need to do much. After all, from the pathetic virulence of Chavez to the literally collapsing country one would be allowed to think that it is enough to sit down and watch chavismo consume itself in petty rivalries and chronic ineptitude.

But that is not what the opposition is doing. It is as mired in its own ineptitudes and seems to have no idea as to what to do next. There is some talk for some primaries. There is some talk of building pressure in the streets again; after all the January 22 march was more successful than expected and there is a real discontent brewing up as people start to realize that many of chavismo promises were just that, empty promises, just as the first consequences of years of mismanagement start to show up.

But that is pretty much all. Why is it so difficult for the opposition to get its act together? It comes from the very nature of December 4 victory.

The “abstention movement”, to give is a name, started rather spontaneously after the Recall Election because the opposition parties lost the political battle for that election. They were unable to defend what had been sold to us as an easy victory. Along the way lost the trust of their voters. The lack of response then has come back over and over again to bite the opposition leadership in the rear. When the voting machines, a few days before the December 4 election, were shown to break the secret of vote, in front of the international observers, some got the idea that the abstention would now be colossal. Unfortunately the one that got it first was AD, which for all its decrepitude has not lost all of the savvy it used to have. Boldly AD stepped out of the electoral ring and all serious contenders had to follow under threat of passing for chavismo accomplices. Indeed, those who remained in the ring are today not even a blimp in the opposition radar (3).

It is too bad that AD took that first step. The media “resurrection” of its boss, Ramos Allup, probably got AD thinking that again it was the leader of the opposition. It tried to forget that the abstention movement could not be controlled by its bureau. It is finding soon that it is not so. But two precious months have been wasted for AD to perhaps start seeing the limits of its “victory”.

The only other serious opposition movement, Primero Justicia or PJ, fell into a vortex of its own. Wanting to run in December 4 it failed to grasp the revulsion of the people at playing once again the sick game of the CNE. To avoid an immediate split in its ranks, it had to announce a withdrawing, even if its presidential candidate decided to go and vote null anyway. Since them PJ is facing an internal battle. We could draw the basic problem as AD having lost all of its credit but still retaining the pulse of the country whereas PJ credibility is rendered useless by its lack of connection with large sectors of the country. Both of them will have to find a way to work things out, or it will be done above their heads.

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3) The democratic left had been diligently trying to create a unified front, gathering together chavismo dissatisfied, the MAS and others. Pompeyo Marquez was probably the main motor behind this maneuver, which intention was probably to facilitate an eventual Petkoff candidacy. When the MAS and LCR decided to run anyway they might have well sunk the chances of Petkoff though a strategic retreat on this one, a couple of days before the election, still keep him as an option, but now as an independent.

Interestingly Copei, Proyecto Venezuela and Convergencia (who by the way had announced that it would not run months ago) do not seem to have benefited at all from their stepping out of the electoral ring. Seems like PJ and AD are the only two players left!


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