The regime troubles are deepening even if on the outside it seems to have scored a few points. After all, even Assad has good days and some say that he will win the civil war but will never be able to run solidly again over all of the country. Maduro is no Assad but I think he secretly wishes he were.
Maduro has an image problem and that one is not improving. I suggest that you start comparing the images of Saturday fascist military meeting of chavismo at Los Proceres and the ones I took personally Sunday at El Cafetal. Clearly the support of Maduro is in the army, the repressors, the corrupts. The chavista hoi polloi needs to be dragged to pro Maduro marches, or at least fed and paid. The march I attended Sunday was convoked with less than 24 hours notice, had no free food or transport for attendees and was formed by El Pueblo. Admittedly El Pueblo in El Cafetal is not the same as El Pueblo in Catia but the one in El Cafetal is enthusiastic, the one in Catia thinks that voting for Maduro was well enough and that now he should dig himself out of the mess he buried himself. I dare the regime to call for a 2 mile march with 24 hours notice without forcing anyone to attend, without providing any freebie.
Maduro's problem are getting worse. The economic news are catastrophic. Inflation keeps hovering at 60% and the scarcity index is now reaching 1 in 2. That is, you go to the store to buy 2 basic staples and chances are that you will find only one. The launching of a ration card is going to come back to bite chavismo in the ass real soon when the good El Pueblo will realize that having a new piece of plastic in hand does not fill up the shelves with Harina P.A.N. Black market through buhoneros will strive even more once the excluded of the ration card (yours truly) have also to go to buhoneros to eat.
Amazingly in his incoherence Maduro realizes he needs help. So he names Diosdado Cabello to "negotiate" a rapprochement with the guys that have plenty of cheap food: the US of A. Why chose Diosdado who is one of the most corrupt people Venezuela ever nurtured is beyond comprehension. I am pretty sure that the US has quite a file on the guy, from covering up narco activities to good ole money laundering. Then again maybe Cabello wants to sell Maduro for a forgiveness on how he got his own silver coins. Thinking of it, Cabello is now forging documents to attack anyone he feels like attacking. From here to selling folks...
The basic problem here is that if Maduro and the Cubans that control him feel that someone wants to kick them out but they are apparently autistic in that they are unable to understand why people are upset. They thus persist in gimmicks that do not work, even with their own followers. When you cannot understand why the other guy hates you there is no way you can find an appropriate response. Then you are left with violence and weaponry and retaking Plaza Altamira to which you bring your own cleaning squad, making your followers wonder how come you do not use that squad to clean up chavista areas.
So yes, violence and repression keep together a regime that knows surrendering power peacefully is not an option if they want to avoid jail. but me thinks that implosion not only cannot be ruled out at all, but it is likely to happen this year.
And who will cause the implosion? Marches and guarimbas are all fine and dandy and essential but they are not enough. Suddenly favorable poll numbers are good but not enough. To begin with the opposition needs to find a common voice, a credible leadership. And it has not. The one that could do so is in jail. The woman that could do so works alone. The guy that missed his chance is not aware of it and now tries to get the leadership after having criticized those that made possible that wave of genuine popular anger.
Lopez in jail plays the Mandela card, and with some success as people trying to visit him are roughed up. Maria Corina got an infamous video that showed to the world that chavismo has been able to create fascist women that will find nice jobs in concentration camps when the regime opens them. And Capriles confesses that through contacts he is going to debate with Maduro for the sake of exposing the character. Really? Why, we all already know he is a failure, even the bulk of chavismo is ready to admit it and switch to a better chavista prospect.
I am no one to give advice (well, I do it all the time) but let me throw a suggestion here for the opposition. Gather a meeting with, say three students, 3 MUD members, half a dozen of politicians that represent something and a few guests for trade unions to NGO. Then write a "negotiation" document that will include the following:
- Liberation of all political prisoners, or at least sending them home without permission to go out. The US will be glad to provide ankle bracelets.
- Withdrawal of all public places and let the neighbors and mayors sort it out as to allowing people to transit.
- Rein in the colectivos. If you cannot disarm them at least announce the the Nazional Guard will shoot them if they move out of their lairs.
- Demand that before any negotiation the regime has to respect the Constitution in the following points:
- Return all constitutional prerogative to all governors and mayors, regardless of their political bent.
- Stop the comunas or at least allow those of the opposition to be legally registered and able to compete with the chavista ones
- Stop the pseudo constitutional bullshit and make a political pact where you give outright 2 CNE chairs to opposition candidates, 10 judges at the TSJ. This is where true dialogue will start, when these people will be all forced to work together.
- Start fighting corruption by naming a real comptroller.
Tell the regime that unless these are not met then there is no point in talking to them. They can deal alone with the economic and political crisis ahead, it is their baby. The opposition has no intention to help them and even less of sharing the blame least the regime is willing to give something significant in exchange. I am convinced at this point that stonewalling the regime will hasten its demise or at least an internal replacement of Maduro which will be the beginning of the end for chavismo. We ALL know that, it is a matter to have the courage in both camps to proceed.