Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Venezuelan opposition will lose even if it wins

I am not quite concerned about the outcome of 2012.  The realization has come to me that even if the opposition were to win in December 2012, it will probably end up losing the battle anyway as I have strong doubts that it will be able to rule.  The way the campaign has been developing so far is worrisome, but not because Chavez may yet implode or because the opposition is taking desperately slow but somewhat effective steps toward creating an electoral option.  The thing, it seems, is that the opposition best shot is to be able to create an electoral option, not a ruling option.  Allow me to explain.

I wonder what kind of mandate will the opposition gain.  Will it be the necessary mandate to impose the necessary change in the country if we ever want to have a shot at stopping being a third world country with a semi fixed income?  I doubt it.  The Venezuelan opposition seems to be playing the "efficient Chavez card", that is, retain most of the chavista structure of the country but managing it with a criterion of efficiency, and less corruption.  Hearing declarations, e.g., from Petkoff to Capriles Radosnski (to name those who went knee jerk to the defense of Iran dealing PDVSA) one would think that we are actually in a democratic systems, with its problems of course, but democratic enough that one can expect reasonable elections, reasonable chance of victory, reasonable transition, reasonable challenges for the next 6 years..

Well, it is not.

The leadership of the Venezuelan opposition does not seem to comprehend to which extent 12 years of chavismo have transformed Venezuela from a dysfunctional democracy into a kleptocratic beggary.  The state country for a future non-chavista president will be a state where all have rights, none have duties, where a huge bureaucracy will be entrenched and unmovable and ruinous, ready to sabotage the actions of a regime that either goes against their interests, or for which they have little affinity to begin with. 

The other day I was having lunch with one of my business partners, one that has a certain access to some of the regime employees.  He asserted to me repeatedly that many in the directions of ministries despise Chavez and cannot wait to get rid of him.  In fact, they went as far as saying that Chavez days were numbered, that he might leave before his term end (disease effect included, I suppose).  Maybe. But does that mean that they would serve a Capriels Radosnki without misgivings, or that they much would prefer to serve a less destructive chavista such as Diosdado Cabello.  My lunch date was strangely stumped by this observation, reflecting a certain denial inside the opposition as to our reality..

I am certainly willing to accept that many in the public administration, besides the political ministers and vice minsters, are tired of the chaos that the country is sliding into and they sure would like to be less worried about crime and blackouts.  But I think the opposition is not taking in the whole picture, that these people might be tired of Chavez but might not be tired of chavismo as long as their paycheck keeps coming, with an occasional opportunity for an "extra" income which does not need be more than a bottle of 18 year old Scotch.

Maybe I am pessimistic but the example of Argentina keeps coming to mind.  When Peron was overthrown eventually it was more because of what he was himself than for what he represented.  The failure of Peron was not countered with a new model, a new type of country, the military that overthrew him preferring to act as if Peron was just another caudillo and not the society changing moment he presided, even though that might have been due more to Evita.  We know what followed and today Argentina is still suffering the consequences of Peronismo, 60 years after the fact, no one apparently having been able to offer a real alternative model besides repression of Peronism.

For better or for worse, according to your point of view (worse for me of course) Venezuela has been deeply changed over the past 12 years and the damage is simply irreversible.  People who have been mentally damaged by 12 years of state leeching are simply not going to go tomorrow as if nothing to open business where hard work is required to succeed, or the well paid jobs that may be associated with such business once they become reasonably successful after the hard work of the boss AND the employees.  It is not going to happen.  What we need is a strong proposal of a new country with new paradigms where chavistas may or may not join but where those sitting on the fence and those opposing the current system might unite in a way resistant enough to slowly but surely reverse the tide of chavismo.  It will take at least a couple of decades.  The moral compass, the political energy that is required for that cannot come alone on promising to be merely an efficient chavismo.

The opposition is afraid of such a proposal because it will more than likely cost it the election in 2012.  And  that is probably true.  But winning under such conditions, without a clear mandate for change, will simply result in a huge march starting from Catia and 23 Enero that will go to Miraflorres and burn it down.  Such a march will look nothing like the ones from the other side of Caracas in 2002....  The chavista lumpen has given ample evidence that they are not above burning up anything that stands in their way.

Great leaders or movements that have changed their country in democratic manners have had always something in common: a rather unpopular program that they stuck to until eventually one day they won the election.  Then they had no problem advancing their program.

In France we have for example de Gaulle who was not afraid to leave power in 1946 to wait his turn in 1958 when the failure of the French 4th Republic that he had foretold did happen indeed.  He was catapulted to office and today, 54 years later, be it from the right or form the left his system is still in place, with more stability and prosperity than any other constitutional system in French history.

The United States gives us a recent example of such leaders.  Reagan stuck to his guns after his 1976 defeat to come into office in 1980 to create a system that only today is finally fraying.  Same thing for England where Margaret Thatcher would have normally lost her elections had she not been helped by the economic marasm of her predecessor.  But you can be assured that she would have kept fighting as if nothing had she not won when she did.

But examples from the left also exits if not quite as clear.  Mitterrand in France had the vision of embracing the Communist party to get rid of it at the ballot box.  He was vilified and had to wait until 1981 to finally make it.  But he did and today the once mighty Communist party is mere embers.  His idea was not to change the system though he hinted at that earlier.  But he had the intelligence to understand the value of the Gaullist reforms and focused himself paradoxically  in making them viable in the long term by bringing in political alternatives, something impossible as long as the Communists were raking 20% of the votes.  Lula of Brazil, in a way, did a Mitterrand thing by losing enough elections until he made it to power not to dramatically change the country but to make it work for all.  Inasmuch as I dislike him he have to acknowledge that he has changed Brazil much more than what people think he did.

I am not saying that a preliminary electoral defeat is a must for a new system to reach power.  There are other factors such as deep economic crisis or sudden social malaise which can speed up things.  What I am saying is that the Venezuelan opposition needs to establish a plank that will not sugar coat the reality that it will be facing in 2012 if they are allowed to step in Miraflores Palace.  If they fail to do so, then they will fail at bringing the needed changes and our fate is the one of Argentina, an eternally polarized country unable to go to civil war but unable to correct its ills.  That is, if we are lucky enough to avoid civil war.


  1. Excellent post, nail on the head type.

    The tragedy is that the average anti Chavez Venezuelan doesn't see it that way at all. As long as the the 4 "Bs":

    - Bonche
    - Booze
    - Boob enhancement
    - Blackberries

    are well and functioning, "what, me worry?"

  2. torres6:01 AM

    "What we need is a strong proposal of a new country with new paradigms where chavistas may or may not join but where those sitting on the fence and those opposing the current system might unite in a way resistant enough to slowly but surely reverse the tide of chavismo."

    The problem is that when such proposals come along, it is *because* they break old paradigms that few can see the proposal for the solution it is. Killing the petro-state model is key, yet most opposition will shy away from any proposal that even attacks the petro-state model. Keeping poverty in check is key, but most opposition will shy away from any proposal that directly addresses poverty. For examples.

    What's odd is that some of these proposals that accomplish these things would, in fact, help win the coming election, not make it more difficult. And even so the opposition won't back them.

    Go figure.


  3. I fear that your analysis is spot on. The damage to the fabric of the society is too thorough. I suspect that, like the addict, Venezuela will need to hit rock bottom before it can begin to recover.

    However, Venezuela is like an addict with a trust fund. Only when the trust fund (PDVSA) has been depleted will Venezuelans be forced to recognize their own reality. This might not occur for another decade or more.

  4. Great post Daniel, right on the money IMO.

    When you hear the new wave of candidatos talking about their 'plans' it is clear that they are all into the let's-make-chavista-populism-more-efficient bandwagon.

    None of them are saying what needs to be said, which is, this country can no longer sustain populist models of any stripe. It is a carefully calculated lie, you know it, I know it, everyone with an iota of brain knows it too. So why carrying on with that false pretence? Why continue fooling the electorate with promises that can't be kept? The most right wing, caudillista of them all, L. Lopez, even said that we have to renounce capitalism...

    What a sorry and pathetic spectacle, and what a sorry and pathetic bunch of opposition leaders. 12 years into this mess, and still they haven't learned the lesson.

  5. Anonymous12:36 PM

    If bocaranda tips are true and the CNE and smartmatic are so close friends, and cuba is going to manage the SAIME from Cuba and cubans new ID will be venezuelan (that mean a lot of cubans) Ihope USA will give venezuelans the same inmigration law as they do to cuba refugees... so long

  6. RabbiBulla4:18 PM

    Brace yourself, Daniel. The key is
    "conversion"-Chavez must go. Make little pamplets and drop them everywhere. God is going to bless Venezuela with a "second chance"-but, Chavez must go. Billions have been stolen and Chavez cannot return it.
    First the people convert, then the military will follow.Then,chavistas will wilt away like dead weeds..

  7. Charly4:36 PM

    That article is dead on. As for solutions, anew country, a new paradigm? Better look elsewhere than Venezuela. Oil at 200 and even 300 dollars a barrel is not a so distant prospect, meaning that with all this easy income the country is doomed. Sauve qui peut.

  8. I'm probably out of touch since I haven't been in Vzla for years, but Government leeching, corruption, laziness, lack of organization, poor work ethics have always been there in our country, especially after the 70's when the petrodolares rushed in.

    Of course, the laziness, corruption and leeching have gotten worse with Chavez, but mostly with the poor, less educated classes. The mid-class, entrepreneurs, upper class who did most of the heavy lifting has either left the country long ago, or are still working as hard as they ever did to survive. These are inevitable generalizations, of course.

    My point is, when this Chavismo from Hell falls, and the new inept "opposition" leaders take over, it won't be THAT much different than before Chavez.. There will still be plenty of corruption and vagos, but there would be more int'l investment coming back, and some elite Venezuelans returning. You know who you are, the motors of the economy.

    Sure, it will take years to reverse the damage of this pathetic regime, but it's not like Venezuela was an impeccable Switzerland or a Chile before Chabruto came around. The streets were a mess, crime was high, inflation too, most people stealing left and right, no new infrastructure, highways, water and electricity problems, basura en las calles, lack of education, bad schools and universities.. These things are worse now, granted, but they weren't perfect before.. remember Carlos Andres, Lusinchi, Luis Herrera, Caldera..a bunch of incompetent thugs for the most part too, political nonsense, adecos, copeyanos, same shyt, just not as bad as the current "socialistic" crap.

    No eramos ni perfectos ni santicos antes de Chavez, y quizas nunca lo seremos, con quien sea que agarre el poder. So I don't expect miracles when Chavez gets the hell out either, but what else in new? Don't be so pessimistic, we've always been pretty much the same, for decades.

  9. RabbiBulla6:07 PM

    So I don't expect miracles when Chavez gets the hell out either, but what else in new? Don't be so pessimistic, we've always been pretty much the same, for decades-
    Sledge-I agree with everyword you (and I stay disgusted with things) said -except the ending- I do want
    a miracle- why not?I believe
    Venezuelan 'el pueblo' can be inspired-and so can the Cuban people-Can be awakened.

  10. One of your best posts yet, containing many difficult questions to ponder - Questions that quite possibly nobody has a sure answer to, but QUESTIONS that loom essential to future endeavors.

    I tend to agree with much of this.Venezuela has become a very corrupt country, because the will to corruption has been fed with a silver spoon.Now we need to feed the will of those who want to improve Venezuela with love, and we cannot feed the people integrity through LIES.

    For change to happen, Venezuela has to be REBORN.We have to purge that which has become poisonous and corrupted in our society or that which has become taboo in the collective.

    Margaret Thatcher was a good example of someone who knew how to use the power of constancy and integrity, whether you agree with her politics or not.She fought for her ideas even when they were not popular.She reduced the power of the Unions which for decades had been untouchable, while they were constantly increasing benefits for their own members to the detriment of the rest of society.

    Lies always backfire in the end.Real strength and change can only come through integrity and steadfast will power, otherwise we will just go from one Chavez government to another.The majority of people are very easily influenced ; once they begin to witness true strength, little by little many will come around,feeling proud of their country for the first time,as they learn to trust and value RELIABILITY.Right now reliability has been destroyed.

    ...and remember : Who lies for you will lie against you. ~ Bosnian Proverb

  11. Anonymous7:38 PM

    I am wondering, what exactly would such proposal be from the opposition, Daniel. It does seem to me that, on paper, Venezuela has the structure to be a functioning democracy. So, why not insist that good government will deliver the promise of democracy? I am not arguing hat this the only way to go for the opposition, but simply that it is a sensible one.

    Also, your position of the strong leader sticking to his/her guns because she/he knows better, strikes me ironically similar as to Chavista rhetoric. Isn't this what Chavez argues? That is, he knows better for the country, and by golly, he is gonna make sure that he gets his vision accomplished! And come to think of it, he has about half the country convinced that he is right. Go figure!

    Pelao Manrique

  12. Anonymous8:03 PM

    Best post in a long time.

  13. Pelao Manrique,

    Chavez presents as a strong man who has appealed to popular sentiment: true.

    And, many people who vote for him love the freebies and the vindications he promises.Good for laziness, scapegoating and the good old ego.

    Most on the opposition in reality do not believe in many of Chavez's ideas but often present as though they do in order to obtain votes.

    There are different kinds of strengths...the most powerful one is integrity .....something Chavez does not know.

  14. You choose Peron as an example, but You might have felt more optimistic had you chosen Spain, or Portugal for comparisons, or even Bulgaria or Estonia as comparators.

    The struggle against the social forces that make up Chavismo won't end with electoral defeat of Chavez, but I'd support a Marshall plan solution over a Returning General one.

  15. peleao

    i wrote "great leaders or movements" but the post was long enough that i did not go into the movements. we could chalk to it the phillipines where the movement survived the assassination of its leader and used corazon aquino. or even in venezuela the AD of perez jimenez, though it is stretching the image since AD had already won elections.

    i am not talking here of flash in the pan that become permanent like chavez in 1998 who was convinced at the very end almost to run for office. or peron for that matter!

    i am talking of people who took several years to make it to office, AFTER they presented something. here, well, we are still waiting for an amiable compromise program from the MUD. even leopoldo has been more precise in his proposals so far!

    a recent example of movement that believed in its proposal is the slow rise of the canadian west until in the last election it finished its digestion of the traditional conservative party with a majority in parliament. a little over a decade ago no one would have bet much on the hard western right of canada to take a majority in ottawa.... and it is certainly not the charisma-less harper that made the difference, it was the constant harping of western provinces who slowly but surely fell one after the other until they converted ontario.

    in venezuela what we need is an opposition united behind a prgram that does nto sugar coat reality and that is willing to lose in 2012 if necessary until the coutnr realizes one day that there is no other way but that alternative. democracy defense is poopycock for chavistas who have never been democrats to begin with. you need to tell them that if they keep that way they are going to eat shit and wait for them to do so.

  16. RabbiBulla12:27 AM

    Chavez-if he lives-will want
    more wealth, more power,more
    absolute control. Does anyone
    doubt this?
    Venezuelans are manipulated by
    fear. Chavez then "prescribes"
    his medicine. It's horrible.
    Look what happened to agriculture,
    look at the food situation.
    Finally- buying weapons-does not -NOT make Venezuelans safer.
    From looking at these things I mention- isn't this enough for
    Venezuelans to conclude- Chavez
    is wrong. Can't they just say
    the words "CHAVEZ IS WRONG"?

  17. torres3:08 AM

    "in venezuela what we need is an opposition united behind a prgram that does nto sugar coat reality and that is willing to lose in 2012 if necessary until the coutnr realizes one day that there is no other way but that alternative. "

    But what if the alternative, with no sugar coating, helps win 2012? Isn't that even better? And what if the alternative is one that the country choses not as the only alternative but as the best alternative? Isn't that better?

    I tell you, it's a paradigm issue, not a lack of positive alternatives issue.


  18. Much as I would love to see Chavez go down in flames in 2012, I don't see the opposition "telling it like it is" at the risk of losing to Chavez. They want to get rid of him so bad, they'll say anything to win.

    They will not say that social spending has to go down, they will just borrow more money and kick the can down the road, yet again.

    This shortsightedness will win them the battle but may end up costing them the war.


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