Sunday, February 05, 2006

What to do with Venezuela: part 3

Part 3: An opposition balance sheet

The problems

The opposition problems are thus manifold. How to resolve the contradiction and rivalry between AD and PJ? For better or for worse they are the only parties with a semblance of electoral machinery left. How to include the different democratic left members? They might not be many votes but they do offer the moral caution for a serious bid against Chavez. How to convince the “civil society” to participate, to take up the political challenge? They are a nebulous conglomerate of independent groups with a significant following but a confused political vision except a knee jerk attitude to favor abstention. How to generate a governmental program that can be not only convincing but understood by at least 51% of the electorate? It would be a mean feat to be able to stitch together a quilt that pleases all the components of the opposition. And, last but not least, how to find a leader to take a stand against the vulgarity and abuse of Chavez?

The strengths

Fortunately, and suddenly, the opposition has considerable strengths.

December 4th 2005 showed that Chavez could be beaten. Indeed many of the “abstentionists” are disaffected chavista voters that will likely either remain in abstention or return to Chavez before voting for an opposition candidate. People do not shift that easily, but at least it was clear that Chavez strength is not as impressive as once thought. Polls are highly contradictory, but the vote, or rather non-vote of 12/2005 was clear cut.

Evo Morales Bolivian victory brought some holiday cheer to chavismo. But the collapse of the most important bridge in Venezuela promptly wiped any smile on chavismo faces. Cruelly exposed was chavismo incompetence, once and for all. And it might drag on and on as more evidence of incompetence and lack of long term planning keeps adding up. People can see that after 7 years in office there are no excuses for not having been prepared for a long foretold disaster. Period.

And chavismo seems embarked in a long line of mistakes due to Chavez hubris and the sycophancy of his followers. Look at the mess of the Social Forum and the irrepressible growth of the personality cult. Look at the continued assault to private property which all polls identify as a losing issue for chavismo. Look at the astounding partiality of the High Court of Justice chanting “Uh, Ah, Chavez no se va”. Look at Isaias Rodriguez restricting freedom of speech and declaring, as if he were on drugs, that “justice cannot be blind” (4). If such partisan words and postures might stir the fundamentalists in chavismo, it can only stir the indifferent into taking a position once and for all: they have no excuse to pretend that Chavez is “just another government”. The opposition should be the logical beneficiary of a “time to chose”.

To that changed dynamic, the opposition also keeps its winning card with SUMATE. It can use this card to settle all of its difference. It has the most competent group in Venezuelan political establishment to help put its act together if it only were to show some backbone to do so. Chavismo would be so lucky to have something half as good as SUMATE to sort its problem instead of having to constantly recur to Chavez.

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4) The now obvious to all lack of independence of the judicial system in Venezuela is affecting all aspects of life, from the organization of legitimate political activity to the freedom of expression and even private investment. Any action undertaken in Venezuela has to consider that confronting any abuse from the executive is almost a certain loss in court. Not to mention that the new chavista court has decided to review the rare cases where the post 2000 court had already ruled against the executive. One does not need to wonder what an independent observer can think when s/he sees the Justices of the high court chant a political slogan. This is the gravest of Venezuelan problems and the one that the opposition can do little about for the time being.


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