So, what are to do the good guys, those who merely want the rule of law and free and fair elections?
Well, after months of protest, month of increasing international support, there are left with two constitutional articles; the 333 and 350. Their translation below.
Article 333: This Constitution shall not cease to be in effect if it ceases to be observed
due to acts of force or because or repeal in any manner other than as provided for herein.
In such eventuality, every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a
duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect.
Article 350: The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle
for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority
that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human
Of course these articles are hogwash as inapplicable. Let's start by looking into who decides who is violating, and how, the constitutional rule so that "el pueblo" has the right to rebel. As if rebellion had ever been a right...
The reason these articles are in the constitution were to retro-legitimize the coups of Chavez in 1992. That way, in his hubris of eternity, he sort of got a constitutional pardon.
Unfortunately these articles are there, and they are the last option the opposition has. That they can try to use them is something that only Cuba and Evo Morales are strident against. The rest of the world has decided long ago that the opposition are the good guys. The problem for the opposition is thus how to use them.
For the sake of the legal argument, let's say that it is enough to watch the recent horrifying videos of repression to feel that the opposition is quite justified in using article 350. The more so that we are not talking here of a few crazies, but of millions of people that have taken to the streets over the last 3 months, all across the country, to protest against what is now internationally recognized as a dictatorship. So we go to 333.
Fortunately the circumstances dictate what can be done. A year ago, theoretically, one would have been discussing whether to refuse to pay taxes, or do a general strike, or march to Miraflores until we are all shot dead, or other impractical ways to do that. Tomorrow we will see a clear way to do that civil disobedience: we do our own referendum against the CA and we will establish visually that there are more people against than for the said assembly. True, the regime will try everything left in its books, but the fact of the matter is that the images we are going to see in a few hours, and already I have below the ones from Brisbane, Brisbane Australia were nobody would have thought there were so many Venezuelan exiles, will create trouble. Let me explain.
The opposition has rejected any dealing with the CNE, the electoral board that has shown to be outrageously servile to the regime with a stupendous willingness to commit electoral fraud to rig the vote for the CA. Thus the opposition has decided to call its own referendum, or rather "consulta popular" contemplated in the constitution even though it is not legally binding. But if it succeeds it will be so ethically binding and politically wrecking....
It is a "popular consultation", that is, a vote to find out what the people think about a given issue. It certainly was thought as some kind of device to solve local issues like should the new road go through this or that field. But it will be used for the first time tomorrow, and on a national scale. Well, the regime has had 18 years to codify such things, and even article 333, but in their arrogance they never thought the day would come for such a need. For them the 1999 constitution was a mere tool for to rule, not to be ruled by.
In barely two weeks the opposition has organized a vote, all paid out of pocket and volunteers, that will offer those willing to participate a piece of paper with three questions, one on the CA, one on the military role and one on replacing all higher up personnel. How can we measure the success of this action considering that no official organism in Venezuela will vouch for the results, when not threatening the vote itself?
To begin with the opposition has a lot of parameters against. There will be no security provided by the armed forces so that voting stations, in particular in popular areas, are easy targets for colectivos and assorted chavista thug militia. Thus the popular vote result in lower income neighborhoods will not be representative. People living there and willing to vote against the regime will probably want to do it as far away from home as possible so as not to be seen. Then again, desperate hunger and lack of medicine could give us quite a surprise.
Second, the lack of means forces the opposition to run thread bare operations, and in not even half the locations the CNE disposes for normal elections (think at all those safe public schools who are forbidden to the opposition). Already CNE sponsored elections are reaching records of low participation so we can expect a significant abstention. Then again.........
Third, the threats of the regime are numerous. Even if it will be extremely difficult for the regime to know who voted (short of filming all centers all day long) the real threat is that if the CA is not elected then supposedly all beneficiaries of social programs will be left with nothing. No matter how angry at the regime you are you may want a CA anyway.... Then again......
Finally the campaign has been run in barely two weeks. With ads removed from TV, with censorship in full from the regime who went as far as forbidding the use of certain words and expressions that could promote indirectly the consultation. Then again..... it will be the first twitter/facebook election in history. Let's see how it works out.
My criteria for success will be long lines, visible by the international press, almost everywhere in the country. The publicity stunt will be enormous, and never mind the discredit of the CNE when it will be proven that a barenuckle election can be organized in less than a month, with results published within a couple of hours of the vote, without the use of any electoral machine device. AND with more trust in the results than what is obtained from the CNE.
My guesses. I think we may manage 5 million votes which will be a tremendous success. It will be beautiful photography. The CA vote 2 weeks later will draw no voting lines anywhere. The political fallout will be extreme for the regime and could cause a fast unraveling. But note that even a 3 million vote considering all adverse circumstances will still be a great success though not definitive.
The problems for the regime will keep increasing no matter what, even with 3 millions.
It does not matter who the regime used to fill up the CA slots: there are 5 million for "none of the above".
The CNE value is shot.
There will be a naked visual proof on why the regime refused to call for the recall election and the regional ones: no people behind them.
And worse, the combativeness of the opposition will be raised!
Which leads us to what next.
If the regime does not find a way to ease out the CA then the 350 will need to be claimed in full. And that means taking the streets in election day of the CA, July 30th, when the army will have to decide to shoot protest and call for thousand of deaths since the army, not the nazional guard, is the one in charge of protecting legal elections. Calling for a state of siege will not do since no democracy holds election under a state of siege or emergency. And already some countries, like the European Union, have announced their intention of not recognizing a regime out of a CA elected under such conditions.
It is going to get very exciting
This video is enough to make you want to 350-take the streets
Repugnantes escenas de represión de las fuerzas de seguridad de la dictadura de Maduro. Verdaderos psicópatas. pic.twitter.com/vEd3bu3rX9— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) July 14, 2017
One side effect will be for the world to measure the extent of the Venezuelan exile, something unsuspected even for many inside Venezuela. See, the CNE has tried to limit the vote of Venezuelans overseas through all sorts of tricks. But the opposition let's you vote if you hold a Venezuelan passport. And look just at Brisbane, able to have a line of people to stand for voting!
LO ÚLTIMO | VIDEO - Así acuden los venezolanos a votar en Brisbane, Australia en la #ConsultaPopular de hoy #16Jul pic.twitter.com/UgYlJhujvn— Alberto Rodríguez (@AlbertoRT51) July 16, 2017
Note that the talk, in all seriousness, has started in this blog since last April. Now it is time to act.