We’re all radicals now

Yeah, yeah, so four days ago I wrote a long, rambling blog entry explaining why the general strike was going to fail. But, cripes, it’s Venezuela! Four days are an eternity here. In the meantime, the National Electoral Council called a referendum for Feb. 2nd that the government described as an electoral coup, and the very next day the Supreme Tribunal turned around and quashed the referendum on a technicality. It’s the mother of all provocations.

The Washington Post ran a dire editorial today pleading with Washington, Bogotá and Brasilia to help defuse the crisis. I wish I could say it was exaggerated, but it isn’t. We’re reaching a point of no-return here.

My boss quips that it seems like the government was concerned that the strike wouldn’t be successful enough, that they’re acting like they’ve decided to galvanize the opposition, uniting it into pro-strike monolith. It’s true: if the Supreme Tribunal had just held off on that ruling for a week or so, that would’ve been enough to split the opposition. There were plenty of people in the opposition who were either lukewarm or, like me, against the strike. It didn’t make any sense to us to launch such an extreme measure while our referendum request was still in the cards.

But now that the Tribunal has gone ahead and killed it, now that they’ve spited the spirit of democratic idealism and the thousands of hours of work it took us to gather and systematize over 2 million signatures, now that the government has made it clear they’re more than willing to shit all over our movement, to mock us openly, that they’ve made such a public show of contempt for the constitution they themselves drafted, well, there’s not much room for division anymore, is there? The government is willing to do anything to stay in power, it’s just a lie that they’ll ever accept a vote they’re not sure they can win. The clipboard and roses path seems hopelessly naïve, hopelessly out-of-touch, in the face of their brand of authoritarianism.

Yesterday’s ruling erases the divisions between opposition moderates and radicals. That tension, which could’ve hobbled or killed a strike, is now gone. We’re all radicals now, the government has made us all into radicals. For months they’ve pushed and prodded, provoked and mocked, until they got their wish: they made moderation moot. For a long time I’ve feared violence is inevitable. For the first time, I’ve started to consider the notion that it might be necessary. Chávez is just not going to go down without a fight.

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A journalist, political commentator and news obsessive, Francisco Toro is the Founder and Executive Editor of Caracas Chronicles.


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