On January 5 the opposition loses its last legal toe. The constitutional mandate of 5 years for the National Assembly elected in 2015 expires and as of that day all the opposition representatives will lose their seat and immunity. Not that it makes much difference, the list of those already in exile or in jail is quite extensive. The difference now is that a ruthless and vengeful regime will have no need to make up charges to arrest those still free.
The regime by itself has stopped worrying about its legality long ago. Maduro and those elected last December have not been recognized by democratic countries for quite a while. They are used to it. But at least the opposition in its quixotic quest could pretend to represent the lone legal and democratic institution left. Now in Venezuela everyone is out of legality. Quite a feat it is.
What road ahead for the Venezuelan opposition? None really. In the immediate they came up with some scheme that I did not understand well. The Venezuelan assemblies out of normal sessions seated a "comision delegada" which is a small group of representatives that can exert some activities during recess approving minor details so the country keeps running smoothly until normal session resume. This time around a commission is established with Guaido as its head for a non specified time unil free elections are held. The excuse is to extend the mandate of the 2015 assembly since no elections could be held. The legality is dubious. Its potential actions problematic. The repression certain as it can be presented as open rebellion. But to boot, the unanimity was not reached inside the opposition.... The immediate reason for this scheme, me thinks, is to allow a certain number of representatives time to hide or leave the country before January 5 while a handful of representatives sacrifice themselves.
This done, what next? Let's start by putting on the blame of the opposition failure to unseat Maduro. The opposition is now divided in three groups. One is the radicals whose better known figure is the very disappointing Maria Corina Machado. Their sole strategy was to wait for a foreign intervention to get rid of Maduro. Indeed, that may be the lone solution but meanwhile that restrictive attitude sabotaged the efforts from the other groups. At the bitter end Trump is leaving office and the Marines never came. We are waiting for a mea culpa from the radicals. I am not holding my breath.
At the other end there is the caved-in group. Those ones decided to placate the regime and negotiated at disadvantage. The theory went that it was better to go to elections knowing that the results would be bad but good enough to be a base to rebuild a more competitive opposition. Kind of taming the chavista beast. As such they cautioned the election last December. Yet, they received nothing for their compromission: they got a handful of seats, two of their leaders seated through a post electoral break of rules (read: they did not have the votes, Maduro gave them what was missing). They have nothing to show for their betrayal of the opposition except for whatever funds they received for said betrayal. Never mind that they probably lost the little support of those who followed them. And of course, as happened with previous betrayals, they will be dumped when needed. People never learn.
The third group was Guaido. Certainly they made mistakes but at least they tried things. If that group was and still is the very large majority within the opposition it was formed by the G4, the 4 largest parties. Thus internal rivalries made it very difficult to decide actions and do what it took to make them work. In the end all hopes were impossibly put on Guaido who now will be the sacrificial lamb, guilty of all and more.
In front of a ruthless dictatorship certainly it was difficult to find a way without breaking a few dishes. Yet, for whatever little was achieved, a lot of people paid a heavy price. However would have it worked better had Guaido and the G4 leaders marched to Miraflores, bare chested waiting for the first bullet? The thing is whatever they tried a section of the opposition would sabotage it. Negotiate? Maria Corina Machado would curse them until the seventh generation. Boycott the election? The cave-in accuse them of forgetting about the suffering of the people and blaming the G4 for international sanctions. As if el pueblo voting for these unsavory collaborators would have solved anything......
So? What is next?
Nobody has an idea. The only thing we know is that with a pandemic the regime preferred to use for political purposes rather than a show of caring for the masses, 2021 looks like being the worst year in our history since the devastating civil wars of the XIX century. The only thing the opposition can do now is to learn from its mistakes, tune down failed egos, try to meet on basic points and hold to them. Only that way can credibility be maintained and reconstruction of some political apparatus started.
That is all. The rest is not in our hands. Really you may say? Yes I reply.
The international community has much to be blamed for, just as I blamed the opposition above. They have been told long ago. They have seen the stream of migrations perturbing in many cases their economy and welfare system. Now credible reports of Venezuelan mafias following are coming up. Surprised? Think about the Russian mafia spreading out with the collapse of the USSR.
Sanctions were necessary but not enough. The Lima group was the wimpiest of all. They let US, Canada and Europe take sanctions but themselves took very few of those. It did not help them against their critics: the left is on the rise again in those LatAm countries who are the ones suffering most of the consequences of the millions of Venezuelans streaming out. In fact the group of Lima has been a huge disappointment, a collection of empty declarations.
Europe did better. At least they took some sanctions and is actively trying to track down money launderers. But like the Group of Lima, they hid behind declarations and wishy washy wishful wishes of free elections to solve the crisis.
The problem with Europe and LatAm is that they are afraid to call a spade, a spade. Venezuela is a narco-military dictatorship. That is, a criminal organization and it should be dealt with as such. At least the Trump administration used the right words on that. It took big sanctions. It spoke loudly and menacingly. Yet in the end it did not dare to confront who it really needed to confront on Venezuela: its supporters, Russia, Turkey and China (Iran it did but that is another story). (1)
So now we are paradoxically left with a blank page and the incoming Biden administration has to fill it up, bring all the other players in. Does it has a plan, a strategy? During Obama they failed on Venezuela and Cuba, I have little hope.....
Whatever is decided the bottom line is an either/or/and the below observations:
- a military action. Does not need to be a full bodied one, but at least it must include actions such as blockade of harbours, expulsion of chavistas hidden outside, etc.....
- a way out for at least 100 top chavistas and their families. A place of safe exile with enough of the stolen money for their dolce vita and that of their children and grand children.
1) no, I have not forgotten Cuba. But with the wreckage of the Venezuelan economy Cuba has passed from colonial master status to mercenaries of the other three to keep Maduro in office while they play out their geostrategic games against the US.