As I was starting this series, events kept unfolding and what I was going to write as to the opposition perspectives is going to be nicely supplemented. The thing is that against all odds, and even against political wisdom, Maduro gathered Wednesday with the newly elected opposition mayors at Miraflores palace.
I am not sanguine at all about this meeting and I am not ready to join those who think Maduro made a brilliant stroke, that the opposition should not have gone there. Nor will I join those of the Munich persuasion that say that we should negotiate no matter what, even if we know that we are going to be skewered. To begin with, Maduro is only a legal president, not a legitimate one and even if the mayors where sitting in front of him, the bullying implied in such a meeting does not legitimize his hold on office. At best he gains some time, mostly for internal usage for inner chavismo infighting. The real question is that with the crisis coming how much "blame" the opposition is willing to take or share with the regime, and hence, the title, as to how much the opposition is willing to lose in the next few months.
I do not want to sound facetious but the paradox is that the opposition has little but can lose a lot. For example, many if not most of the newly elected mayors depend heavily on their budget that the regime delivers in time what by law corresponds to them. The regime's ability to sabotage their work is big and mayors do not enjoy legal immunity as governors do. The only mayors that can afford to be vocal are those of main commercial cities with their own tax base. It is relatively easy for the regime to get rid of annoying mayors. After all, it already got rid of at least 4 opposition representatives which is way more difficult to do than to get rid of Podunck's mayor.
Since technically there is no election until December 2015 the opposition needs to gain time, as much as chavismo needs to. The reasons for the opposition to gain time are multiple. First, the MUD and Capriles strategy to seduce the chavista electorate with a populism light and efficient has run its course. 50% is as much as the opposition will get with that strategy. Which is the right strategy, I cannot tell and it is not my job but even if I were to embrace, say, Lopez and Voluntad Popular strategy it will require a few months for this one to pass through the MUD, to be accepted, decanted, put to good use.
Second, that a strategy upon which Capriles has invested so much, so courageously, so selflessly did not pay off in the end questions his leadership. Whether it is fair or not is not the point: when you fight against a dictatorship fairness is a minor concept. The opposition needs either to renew its leadership (fortunately there are potential substitutes with well known faces) or find a way to re-energize and reinvent Capriles.
Third, in a time of crisis you need to sail close hauled. You need to be ready to pick the pieces and for credibility you need your guilt ballast on the crisis to be as low as possible. But you also need to show that you did not push for that crisis to happen. Those skills require time to learn, trial and assay but fast, just as you tack fast in a regatta. In short, you need to demonstrate that you have a plan out of the crisis which is something that the current opposition plan does have, the consequence of voicing a "populism light" even though your real plan was more serious than what people think.
I suppose that I what I am trying to say is that the opposition is about to pay the price for not telling the truth to the country, for not being anti communist enough, for not insisting in harder ways on the economic mistakes of chavismo, on the electoral fraud, on the violence of the regime. Not that it did not, but it did insufficiently in the vain hope that enough chavistas would be peeled away by not scaring them. It did happen, but it has happened as as much as it would happen. Now something else needs to be tried and as such we do not know how much the opposition risks losing by re-targeting its message until it gets into the winning drive once and for all.
And yet the road must be taken, staying as we are is politically suicidal.