|Our next president?|
Yet, since I plan to attend tomorrow's opposition rallies I shall write a short summary of the past 2 weeks to help people cut through the contradictory news; and sometimes misleading news from well intentionned journalists who are, I am afraid, coming a tad late to the party. Last night for example the French TV called Guaidó "extreme right" which goes on to tell you to watch out for what you read. This blog is, of course, perfect.
January 5 the opposition held National Assembly elected its chair for the 2019 period of sessions. It was the turn of Voluntad Popular to chair and they pushed forward Juan Guaido, a politician little known outside of political circles where he found good reviews. After all Leopoldo Lopez is in jail, while other major figures are either in exile of sheltered in foreign embassies. Note: Voluntad Popular according to French TV would have managed the feat to be an extreme right party that is a full standing member of the international socialist union.
The amazing thing is that in spite of totally controlled TV and radio media, Guaidó has surged like few politicians have ever surged. Not even Chavez went that far that fast. It is quite early to speculate on why such a surge in spite of regime media black out. But let's say that social media is reaching further than one would have thought (but do not be mistaken, lower classes are far from been knowledgeable about Guaidó: they have no smart phone). One thing is certain: he is a fresh face, not tainted by opposition leadership failures; he seems to be disciplined enough in his speech lines, a rare quality today. That is enough to give him a rocket launch, at least among opposition followers who in not even two weeks have rallied behind him, even grudgingly like for the Maria Corina Machado crowd.
January 10 Maduro persisted in his crimes by swearing himself in front of the high court TSJ. Let's not deal with legalese here: the point is that serious democratic countries do not recognize him. And this for a very good reason: his "reelection" is a fraud. Period.
Thus the NA proceded to do as it is its constitutional duty: declare the presidency void and the need for elections to supply the lack of president. PLUS that the chair of the NA should assume the interim presidency. Which it has not done yet.
Why has Guaidó chosen not to swear in yet? If you hear the rabid crowds in Twitter you will go from "betrayal" to "cowardice" and a vast choice of insults. The truth, Occam style, is quite simpler. You can swear in to whatever you want but if you have no means to enforce it, you are dead.
What people do not understand is that Guaidó maybe the chair of the NA, BUT HE REPRESENTS ALL OF IT, NOT HIMSELF ALONE. He cannot do anything of consequence without making sure his back is covered. The NA has set on a course of actions to put such legal pressure on Maduro's regime that either this one caves in or it does the irremediable: dissolve and jail the assembly. If the NA plays its cards wisely, Maduro loses no matter what he choses to do.
The NA started by announcing that it was assuming the vacuum, not swearing Guaidó yet, leaving that for future pressure. Today it made use of that faculty officially for the first time by declaring that Venezuela would not leave the OAS and consequently naming a new ambassador. It is irrelevant to discuss here whether that is legal: the point is that it stresses that Maduro does not direct legally foreign policy anymore and the international community will need to chose sides.
The other thing that Guaidó promoted was "open cabildos" some kind of open air town hall meetings. Many laughed but to everyone great surprise, probably Guaidó included, they took a life of their own and withing days the crowds drew larger and larger all over the country. And Guaidó wily implied that depending on the success of these cabildos and the conclusive rally of January 23 he would decide to swear himself as interim president of Venezuela.
What was the more interesting surprise was the relative lack of reaction from the regime. We only saw repeated moves that helped it in the past like new TSJ rulings and a miserable increase in miserable social bonuses. With an hyperinflation people are well aware of the worthlessness of these. Translation: the regime has no idea about what to do and is preparing for massive repression, it slone card left. That is, if the military agree, and that is far from certain.
Yesterday there was a small mutiny of 27 guards. For all that I know it may have been a show from the regime to justify X action. The problem is that the alleged mutineers called for the people of Cotiza to come to their rescue. And they did. Cotiza is one of the many neighborhoods of Western Caracas where chavismo has reigned supreme. Low income folks, very sensitive to state subsidies. In all the 2014 and 2017 protests Cotiza never lifted a finger. Last night it was not only Cotiza with troubles but also other chavista strongholds like EL Limon or La Pastora, San Martin, etc...
Now, do not raise your hopes high that fast. Those are the neighborhoods that serve as links to poorer areas and those ones did not move much, that I know of. Also there were people there protesting but their numbers were not that large. But they were protesting, for the first time, and the spell is broken. The more so that scared people living in these areas did not go out but started banging their pans in protest and support. Maybe only 200 went to the streets in Cotiza yesterday. But tomorrow they could well be 2,000. That is what really shocked the country today, the end of the CLAP blackmail food subsidy program. The blackmail and the failure of the regime to fulfill its part has exhausted the population (1)
|Tomorrow, historical selfie day record?|
Thus the opposition is rolling its dices for tomorrow, trying not only to hold a mega rally where for the first time there will be a large contingent from Western Caracas, but also rallies all over the country. Whatever happens tomorrow the one certain thing is that chavismo late called counter marches will not be able to do better in Caracas, and will be absent in the provinces. (2)
Today the stakes managed to go higher. Vice president Mike Pence sent a personal message of support to the opposition for tomorrow and Senator Marco Rubio clearly indicated that the US has had enough of Maduro and that it was time for this one to negotiate something in earnest.
As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad. pic.twitter.com/ThzIAqBoRn— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) 22 de enero de 2019
And that too, for good measure
.@POTUS & the US stand w/ the Venezuelan people as they seek to regain their liberty from dictator Nicolás Maduro. For the sake of our vital interests & the sake of the Venezuelan people, we will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. Read my op-ed in @WSJ: https://t.co/CRNMxlNIJM— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) 23 de enero de 2019
And Rubio, no minced words
#SEBIN officials in #Venezuela should reconsider the plan they have for tomorrow before it’s too late.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) 22 de enero de 2019
You are about to cross a line & trigger a response that believe me you are not prepared to face.
You still have time to avoid this.
And in case you still do not get it
I was scheduled to be in the Florida Panhandle today. But last night @POTUS convened a meeting for today in the Oval Office with himself, @VP & his national security team to discuss #Venezuela.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) 23 de enero de 2019
It’s now clear crisis is about to enter a new phase which will require new options. https://t.co/hhMHrQmp3z
And to nail it, this video of Guaidó. Whether you understand Spanish is irrelevant. Observe his qualm and apparent relax. He may be young but he is already an excellent politician. And more importantly, he inspires confidence!
Guaidó!!! pic.twitter.com/D4yfDy1xbp— Miguel H Otero (@miguelhotero) 22 de enero de 2019
To be continued (3)
1) there were the "pernil riots" in December when the regime failed to deliver the promised traditional pig hinds that Venezuelans eat for Xmas. Who'd knew that they announced what is going on now.
2) Western Caracas has always sent people to the protest rallies and marches of Eastern Caracas but not in large numbers, and only when such protests were held on week ends. I am willing to guess that if pressure from CLAP food and violent colectivos was a tad weaker we would have seen significant numbers in 2017, and maybe even in 2014. The only question tomorrow is how large will be West Caracas contingent, but there will be one. After all, they can claim to go to work and shift to the protest since most places of work will not open..... Colectivos can only herd so many people at once.
3) I will attend and will bring my good camera with real zoom. But my health situation doe snot allow me to go as far as before since I cannot run to escape eventual gases. There is no point taking one's smart phone to send pictures because, well, lines will probably be down. I may tweet on occasion, follow me if you do not do it already.