I am going to come right out and say it: trying to dialogue with chavismo is the stupidest idea that has crossed some of the opposition minds in recent history.
The only one that is bound to gain something from any dialogue right now is the government who could find a way to deflect part of the guilt from the economic mismanagement that is now coming to haunt its nights. The only thing that any national “bipartisan” measure will contribute is to split the political costs of the hard measures needed to be taken. The government is the sole responsible of the consequences of any economic trouble that might or might not be coming our way. As such it should be the only one suffering the political consequences. Any dialogue will shift part of that burden to whomever is foolish enough to discuss with Chavez ministers, and that is exactly what these officials want, in case they ever sit down to a discussion table.
As such any “discussion” that takes place should be done under strict conditions. After all, since the opposition is infinitely more democratic than chavismo, we have it in ourselves to believe that frank discussions can actually solve some problems. But since we deal with bandits, then our “discussion” should be no more than a fair warning to chavismo of what is coming their way and how they can amend themselves, being careful to distance ourselves from any decision the government takes on this respect.
There would be two levels of discussion.
At the “social level” groups such as the business owners associations, or medical associations, or engineers associations, or agricultural groups, or such professional group should be willing to sit down with the government to tell them all that is wrong, and suggest only the very basic decisions that could be tried (devaluation, gas price increase, property rights, better security). Then withdraw and let them solve their mess on their own. That is all, never should we even accept to form part of a bipartisan research group unless some political conditions are met first. (1)
And this brings us to the second level of possible discussion. At the “political level” any discussion should be undertaken ONLY AFTER the government finally recognizes the gains the opposition did in November 2008. That implies the central administration to return all the illegal seizures it did, to compensate for all the sabotages the new leaders suffered from, to allow them to fulfill the function they were elected for with equivalent resources as the chavista elected officials benefit from.
Only after the above conditions are met should the political opposition accept to discuss serious issues with the government and only through official channels such as the Counsel of State which in 9 years has yet to be called for its first reunion. Private “tête a tête” with Chavez or some of his acolytes should be avoided at all costs.
I will say it point blank here: any leader of the opposition that accepts on his own to “dialogue” with the government will only lose any meager prestige it might be carrying with him or her, become the laughing stock of the opposition voters, and will not even be able to become a “designated” opposition as were some of the tolerated parties in Eastern Europe such as were found in Poland until finally Solidarnosc swept away all that hypocrisy. Because for Chavez the only good opposition is the one he names himself.
Fortunately I am counting enough on Chavez hubris, on his idea that with 55% of the country he can force the other 45% to do as he pleases, to derail any possible discussion that some of his followers who know better are trying to get before a Tsunami of bad news risks sweeping them away.
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1) It is to be noted that certain productive groups do have occasional meeting with some chavista officials, in particular in the agricultural sector. Chavismo is able to dialogue if it wants to. But it does so only when it cannot help it.