Sunday, January 20, 2013
Memo to the Venezuelan opposition: deer in headlights
The thing is that since October 7 2012, and even more since December 16 the Venezuelan opposition looks much more like a deer looking at bright headlights than a gazelle dodging lions. And the amazing thing is that chavismo is not doing too well and yet, the opposition remains, we should put it charitably, uninspired....
Thus let's start that the opposition is unable to take any initiative to counter directly the coup mongers now in charge, so to speak, at Miraflores palace (or is that Havana? I am so confused...). Thus it can only try to get prepared as soon as possible for whatever comes but without letting that whatever paralyze it. If it is difficult in general to face such a situation we must say that the whatever is in fact rather simple: there are going to be elections soon, at least one on May 26 and one as early as March 17. In fact, I am starting to think that chavismo may indeed plan to risk elections after May because the PSUV has started floating the idea of doing primaries for the council elections of May 26, primaries that should be held early March to leave plenty of campaign time. Thus my guess is that March 17/24 are as of now discarded for presidential elections, chavismo seeming to expect they can keep alive Chavez a couple of months longer.
Thus, dear opposition leadership, odds are that you have a full month as of today to put your house in order. No more. That Maduro is already hard in electoral campaign, doing what chavismo does best, i.e., buying the electorate with an indecent mix of Chavez sorrow and pretend social advances, tells you clearly that elections are coming in June at the latest. Or not at all for a variety of reasons that are beyond this text.
I have two suggestions for you.
The reality based solution.
Tell the people of our country that it is going down the drain and offer a president that will promise not to stay more than 3 years in office and not to run again. In other words, offer a transition regime that will restore democracy and economic stability to Venezuela even though it cannot restore prosperity in three years. Three years, with a promise of real elections in a new work frame may even attract a lot of the chavista that cannot stomach Cubans and/or Maduro/Cabello.
In other words you need to offer a constitutional change to tame down the Constitutional Hall which obviously is going to sabotage whatever you try and allow for a new 5 year presidential period that will start in 2016 at the latest, once the country is in better shape. The argument can be made that the 2016 elections will be truly competitive for all, but first Venezuela needs to put its house in a minimum or order (stop giving money away works in such a plank).
An example of political brinkmanship is to tell that there is no enough money with the debt Chavez is leaving us and as such you will cut the gas subsidy, sell gas at its cost value and put all of these savings strictly to salvage what can be salvaged of the Misiones. Or you can explain that only the private sector can offer the jobs that the country needs and that there will be no more expropriations. Tell them that Ramirez is lying and that PDVSA is broke but that you will make a national commission with chavistas and non chavistas to take the measures to recover PDVSA.
Of course people are unlikely to vote for that but at least you will force Maduro into such an outlandish campaign that if he wins he will crash land even faster. Within a year or two his situation will simply be untenable and then you will have your real opportunity with a tough program that now will be endorsed by the population giving you a chance at success.
In short, you need to seek a true mandate as the only way to have a chance to rebuild the country.
Your only task in this scenario, besides assuming a principled position, is to find a scapegoat president and there are some willing to sacrifice themselves: Ledezma comes to mind if you consider that Arria is out of the question or that Capriles should be preserved for the elections of 2016. But even Julio Borges could accept the thankless job and he would not be bad at it.
The wishful thinking scenario
This is the one that I am sure you will chose anyway. Let me suggest a few things to at least give it at chance of success.
In this scenario you believe that through chavismo light you can actually gain votes within chavismo even if you failed to do so twice already. Your scenario really aims at hoping for an internal collapse of chavismo so the razor thin victory that you will eek out at best does not end up in a Caracazo II.
I am afraid tat you will take back all the failed strategies of October and December and hope that since chavismo is divided they will work this time around. I doubt it because chavismo's survival instincts may be greater than its division and chavismo can change laws and Constitution at a later date to sort their problems through, once they are assured of at least 5 more years in office.
But let's assume that there is a possibility of success in that scenario since I am 90% sure at this point that you guys are going to go.
Your first problem is your presidential candidate. Capriles's hour seems to have passed as only Primero Justicia believes in him (and maybe not all inside as Borges latest positions could let one entertain such ideas). But still, he has advantages: he has the best name recognition in the opposition right now and also, if you think that you are going to lose anyway, might as well get rid of him politically by the same token.
If you think that another candidate is better you have no time for primaries although I am sure some idiot will propose to redo opposition primaries when the PSUV does its Mayor primaries... No, I have a better idea.
The thing is that calling for primary elections while Chavez corpse is not quite cold yet is going to be used against you. Necrophilia will be the least of your new adjectives. Be bold, tell the country that in view of the lack of information on Chavez health you are going to constitute a committee to elect a presidential candidate just in case. That way, in 48 hours of Chavez announced death you have a candidate. That committee is composed by, say, 50 representatives of the different political parties based on their October result, plus all the primary candidates elected last February even if they lost their election for governor. That way you have a group small enough to come to a quick decision and large enough to give it a democratic hue that chavismo cannot have since Maduro has already be named. The obvious candidates are Capriles, Ledezma, Falcon. The optional ones Machado, Lopez, Perez. The final choice depending on how the PSUV manages the national situation and whether the odds of an opposition victory are realistic. If you are going to lose, send a message through Machado or Perez. If you think you are going to win, Capriles or Falcon are the choices. And if things are really messed up, might as well go with Ledezma or Lopez and let the chips fall as they may.
Whatever it is, the program really does not matter much since in a 3 weeks campaign it is going to be more of a personality contest than anything else. Besides, if Capriles campaign themes are repeated and you happen to win we are headed straight to a new Caracazo, a massive popular revolt lead by chavismo as soon as it is convenient for them. The fact is that in this scenario your victory will not be a mandate, the mandate was voted on October 7 when the rather morally miserable electorate of Venezuela voted to retain money grants as a way of life. You can only get a mandate in something like first scenario above but you are, I am afraid, way to chicken to become Churchillian this late in the game.