Our missions, should we choose to accept them

Juan Cristobal says: -

“If the ‘Yes’ option lost, what would we lose? … The social missions and the communal councils.” From a campaign poster, 10 reasons to vote yes.

We’ve all heard it, incessantly it seems. One of Chavismo’s latest and most effective mantras is that the opposition wants to do away with the government’s popular social programs, the Misiones. The government has even taken to using the State’s media outlets to spread the false notion that the opposition’s governors and mayors want to do away with the Misiones.

Never mind that there is little truth to these assertions- in this media war, it’s all about perception. It’s not enough to say it isn’t true if the opposition is ineffective in actually explaining what its policy toward the Misiones actually is. The more the opposition lets the government frame them as anti-Misiones, the harder it becomes to fight back.

The opposition’s failure is not wholly unrelated to its lack of media access. But the smallness of its bully pulipit does not make them entirely fault-free.

Time and again, the leaders on our side seem bent on wasting perfectly good chances of actually spelling out their vision with respect to social policy. It seems they spend more time talking about the need to address the issue of the Misiones than actually addressing it.

For example, take this recent interview by Leopoldo Lopez, one of the opposition’s better-placed candidates for 2012. In it, he acknowledges the Misiones are “correct from a conceptual point of view,” but that they have “lost their validity (sic) because of poor execution.” It’s an empty phrase that nevertheless hints at a different approach to social programs, but stops way short of actually spelling out what social programs would actually look like if he, Leopoldo Lopez, were to take power.

Lopez is far from the worst offender in this regard. Every opposition politico has a heavy stack of wasted opportunities and bygone chances, moments they could have chosen to define their vision for social policy but neglected to do so.

So in a series of upcoming posts, I will try to spell out a vision for the Misiones and a way to frame the message. I will base these posts on Primero Justicia’s platform, a document I helped write, with the caveat that it only represents one point of view among many that (I hope!) exist within the opposition. In that sense, these posts should be considered a continuation of a series of posts last year regarding Primero Justicia’s proposals (see here for their position on oil, here for their take on the justice system and here for their take on fighting crime).

The starting point for this analysis, though, will be a series of posts on what the Misiones claim to do, what the programs consist of and what their main successes and failures are. I will try and dig up government claims as well as more impartial analyses of their impact. Given the obscurity with which the Misiones operate, it will be useful if this were a communal effort. So readers, if you come across interesting analyses regarding the Misiones, send them my way.

Because, let’s face it, the opposition’s penchant for criticizing Chavez but going out of their way to say that they agree with Chavez’s most popular policy is borderline schizophrenic. If they don’t explain what the problem with the Misiones really is and how they would make them better, if they don’t sketch their vision for social policy, then the government will sketch it for them.

Perhaps that helps to explain why we are still in the minority.