I am not too surprised to see this morning "cafe CNNe" has a rather negative view on the refusal of the opposition assist the improvised "dailogue" offered by Maduro yesterday. CNNE of all people should know better, they should remember all the "dialogue" offers in the last decade in Venezuela that never amounted to anything and that were ALWAYS a ploy by the regime to gain a few weeks until it could come down slamming again.
But let's not be chavista and delve in the past, let's look at this peace gimmick at face value. Let's start with the picture of the podium. Does this look as a peace conference or some Inquisition-light tribunal? From the tacky flower arrangements so prized in totalitarian states to the three giant Bolivar, two false, this is not a welcoming set up. This is a set up where the regime reminds that they are "bolivarian" and thus holder of the truth. Maduro by himself may not be that bad, but flanked on his right by Cabello who ordered the public beating up of representatives in Parliament and on the left by the vice president who has tried to break down private sector at every turn, there is zero credibility from the start. I let's not go into the attendance which was overwhelming pro Chavez just in case one of the few non regime guests would stray too far and could thus be easily drown in jeers. There was of course a significant sprinkling of olive garb, just in case.
I did not watch it, tweeter yesterday and newspapers today were enough. No serious conference of anything, and even less for "peace" is convoked with a few hours notice, without making sure that all the main parts will attend or at the very least send an observer. No barricade delegate was there. No representative of the UNIDAD/MUD showed up though an extensive communique was issued as to the parameters needed before we could all even consider seating at the same table. That does not mean that the opposition did not send a message, and it was one of urgency. Through the business association, Jorge Roig, and through the head of the main food business of the country, Polar's Lorenzo Mendoza remarkable speech, the opposition underlined that the regime could do all the politicking it wanted but that was not going to solve the economic program and was in fact aggravating it.
The reply of the regime was its usually improvised self, its constant search to gain time until the regime can come up with something, or the other side gets tired: Truth Commissions for everything, including the economy... To start today if possible.....
The problem here is quite simple. The regime in theory controls all. The army. The weapons. The Central Bank. The courts. The prosecution. The Ombudsman. The Parliament. The whatever... The opposition has nothing, three meager state houses, a quarter of town halls even if they include the biggest ones of the country. The opposition has thus nothing to offer. The opposition has no means to make a coup. The opposition can only protest. The regime wants the opposition to stop protesting. Thus it is up to the regime to offer something in exchange, first because it has a lot to offer if it were serious, if it were a democratic bunch of people, and second because it is the one that has to prove to the world that they are democrats. But they are not. How difficult it is to understand that? Starting with foreign press that thinks one can be neutral in Venezuela, that one can be be neutral in a dictatorship....
Just to show that it is not difficult for the regime to do a significant gesture that goes beyond the token, let me suggest a few items.
Call off the Nazional Guard. Have them posted, say, 100 yards away from the barricades and have only them move if the barricade moves. Give the barricades 24 hours to lift as soon as the first session of the Dialogue commission starts, but wait until that time without aggression or attempt at forcible removal.
If you do not want Lopez in house arrest allow him at least extensive visitor privilege until the trial starts. Treat him like a political prisoner and not a delinquent. Wait for the trial outcome to decide whether he is a delinquent.
Announce that from now on each state and city will gets its budget strictly according to the law, without delay, and let local authorities do their job.
Just those three items or similar are guaranteed to bring some modicum of peace as many people will be able to see a palpable improvement in the situation, enough to ask from them patience while a true dialogue can be installed for the other more vexing issues.
I am not holding my breath.
Had I decided to hold my breath until the regime were to BREAK its dialogue intentions I would have fortunately not have had to wait for long. We learned this afternoon that yet another march was brutally repressed in Las Mercedes/El Rosal AND that the second in command in Voluntad Popular, Carlos Vecchio, has had an arrest order emitted against him (and apparently even all the elected mayors of VP are in the short list).
Schmuckalogue it is.