The end of an error

Today, Venezuela’s opposition returned to the National Assembly they boycotted five years ago. They come armed with a sizable minority that, if this were a government that followed the Constitution, would have the power to limit Hugo Chávez’s untrammeled authority.

Regrettably, thanks to an illegal power grab by the outgoing Assembly, the new legislature has been transformed into nothing more than a glorified political battlefield, one where soldiers are penalized if they are deemed to be tanking.

It would be easy to dismiss this as inconsequential political theater. Yet the fact remains that the majority of Venezuelans who voted for the opposition will finally have a pulpit in the nation’s legislature.

Until recently, and unlike Quico, I had been somewhat sympathetic to the opposition’s decision to withdraw from legislative elections in 2005. The decision came after it was shown that the secrecy of the vote had been compromised. Could you blame them for not wanting to participate in a rigged game?

But, over time, I’ve come to see this as a mistake.

It’s not like having a minimal opposition presence would have prevented the outrageous swathe of legislation produced by the outgoing, illegitimate Assembly. After all, this is the lame-duck group that decided 25% or so of the votes gave it the political capital to, among other things, severely curtail Venezuela’s freedom of the speech, pack the judiciary with political cronies, twice give Hugo Chávez enabling powers, and strip the incoming Assembly of its power.

There are a lot of things these people lack. Chutzpah is not one of them.

But by abstaining and thus depriving itself from a voice in the forum, the opposition hurt its chances to ferment its leadership.

Chavista turncoats such as Ismael García, Pastora Medina, or Juan José Molina have carried the opposition banner in the National Assembly in recent years, but they have never really been accepted by the opposition electorate as part of them.

Instead, we have been forced to rely on governors, mayors, college students, and party bosses for leadership. Several are buena gente, but for them it’s notoriously more difficult to get a political message across than it is for a legislator attending bi-weekly sessions where a microphone and a TV crew are always at hand.

The 2005 boycott and the National Assembly that resulted from it are part of history now. As we bid them chao pescao, we need to focus on dealing with the complicated legacy they leave behind.

But let’s take a moment to call the 2005-2010 legislature what it is: a historical mistake.

12 thoughts on “The end of an error

    • Well, I certainly don’t regret it, for one. The opposition needs to be kept away from the levers of power, in order for the Revolution to proceed, and this was a brilliant and clever way to do it, at least for the next 18 months.

      Count me as 100% in support of the enabling law, as well as all the other methods taken to suppress the opposition.

  1. I was brief becasue I wanted to make this second point separately.

    The problem in 2005 was not that we boycotted the election. The result was spectacular, less than 25% people voted (according to CNE manipulated figures since the opposotion did not have witnesses). The problem is that the opposition had not a single clue about what to do after that victory. they just sat there, bemoaning the “illegitimacy” of the assembly while they handed it the “legal” seal.

    An immediate move would have been from the start to declare that this assembly was not even legal and request immediately a referendum. then at least 10% of the people woudl have been willing to sign up. Or after the 2007 referendum victory demand that the assembly that voted a failed constitution reform disband.

    Or something else: there were many constitutional options but the opposotion never had the guts for it, never had a plan and thus we got into the mess we are now.

    True, even with only 20 seats in the precedent assembly we would have had some leverage. But would 2007 have happened? Would PODEMOS break up with chavismo? On this respect we can at least be thankful that the true face of chavismo was amply revealed, without a doubt, to all here and abroad, even it it took five full years. That some chose to accept such a regime is another story but now there is nowhere to hide, to pretend that chavismo is a democracy. Those who still support it are no democrats. Read the speech of Soto Rojas or watch Blanca Eekout on TV a few minutes ago and you will see what I mean. Those people cannot be reconstructed, no matter what. They need to be removed from power one way or the other and the longer a complacent country allows them to cling to it (they did get 48% after all) the more violent that removal will be when the day comes.

    • Those are good ideas for what they could have done. You should write a post about them, in case you haven’t already.

    • Daniel: “They need to be removed from power one way or the other and the longer a complacent country allows them to cling to it (they did get 48% after all) the more violent that removal will be when the day comes.”

      So, the biggest political minority (48% !!) representatives have to be “removed” BY ANY MEANS, because they are not democrats. You are proposing to save the democracy… killing the democracy.

      Could you explain to me how could you ensure the stability of a gouvernment issue from not legal/violent “means”, againts a 48% minority, probably increased by people rejecting those not legal/violent methods?

      I think the origine of the 2005 mistake was the belief, from an influencial part of the opposition, that some providential General/Caudillo would, by the miracle of bayonets, finalize with Chavismo (“¡Acabar con esta pesadilla!”) without needing long-terms hard political work. Their influence have decreased a lot from this time, but I fear a tragical come back.

    • causetoujours

      I have never advocated the use of violence in my blog which has now over 3000 posts. However the democratic escape routes are closing fast and chavismo is the one that wants violence, whether we want it being irrelevant.

      What I was writing is a statement of fact, and it means that the opposition must be willing to make sacrifices if it wants to remove chavismo from office. And an election is a removal, you know….. check out GOP blogs to see what I mean. the more so that many in chavismo will go to jail once they lose power, even in the gentlest of ways. They are thugs that will not release power pacifically and we need to understand that.

      In other words, at some points we must be ready to confront violence in creative ways if we want to make our case. That includes accepting for many to go to jail which you will surely know are very violent in Venezuela even when you are a political prisoner as judge Afiuni. There will be actions like sit ins, like pacific marches that will be seen as provocations by chavismo which will repress them brutally even if we do not throw a single stone.

      The violence of the speech of an Eekout can only be countered by offering her ways to apply it and then suffer the consequences. Even Gandhi could not avoid violence and India split in two.

      In other words, it is not a matter of promoting violence, it is a matter of discussing it, at least the one coming from chavismo. Ducking our head in the sand will not help much at this point.

      Maybe it would have been more diplomatic for me if I had written that as of today the opposition must denounce constantly the violence of the regime, here and abroad, all the time, 24/24. But for people like Eekout this is an incentive to apply that violence because they are dysfunctional and the violence they apply does not count in their eyes as they consider it justified.

      Hope this helps and clarifies.

  2. Daniel, I agree that the opposition didn’t have a strategy around what to do after the election in 2005 and that’s exactly why not showing up was the wrong move.
    I heard once from one of the turncoats that many more would have turned their backs on chavismo if they had had anywhere to go. We might have been able to prevent the change in the electoral law and definitely the enabling law.
    So, no, I don’t think the results of not voting were spectacular. I put it at the same level of the “strategy” of doing guarimbas in the oppositions areas, just plainly stupid.

    • Moraimag

      The result of which I refer is the spectacular one that less than 25% voted for an assembly and of these maybe no more than 18% voted for chavismo. that was a great result that the opposition was unable to take ANY advantage!

      The “results” you seem to refer too are rather, in my mind, the consequences. If we expand on your results concept then we could go as far as saying that independence was a mistake because at that time we were the most productive colony, the lone one which depended on its work and products rather than gold digging…. that is, we can even contest the “results” of our independence :)

  3. Daniel it’s waaaayy too late to ask Spain if they will take us back, I don’t think they’d want us.

  4. Voy en español sorry: creo que en el 2005 los únicos que tenían una estrategia eran los adecos y era no contarse para no desaparecer, y bueno en el caso de ellos les salió bien, ramos allup parlatino, son segunda fuerza parlamentaria de la oposición, factor influyente en la mud y esperan posicionar al candidato de primarias, que la estrategia haya sido contraria a los intereses del país es otra cosa, pero ahí estan alive and kicking

  5. IMHO 2005 was a big mistake. I said it then and I said it now. The mistake was aggravated by the fact that, as usual, the opposition had no strategy.

    I remember that the only one that was resisting at that time was Julio Borges from PJ, but he got convinced by the rest. There was, at the time, the same type of fundamentalist feeling that was present during the CAP trial in 1993: one line of thinking and you are a traitor if you think otherwise. In the end, nobody had other strategy than going to Church the day of the election (which was proposed by Sumate). And, in the end, everybody played the game of AD, as said by the comment above.

    Even with 20% of the Assembly we could have prevented some of the infamous nominations, like the Fiscal and Defensora, and, who knows, maybe other groups would have joined the opposition if we would have been present. And many people, from the opposition were angry, very angry, they felt abandoned and unwilling to go to vote.

    Now, with respect to the new Assembly. I think that they MUST invoke the 350 to disavow the inconstitutional laws recently passed. Those laws contain several principles that were rejected in the 2007 Reform, therefore, those laws are illegitimate.

    This is my very short post:

    http://cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/2011/01/paquetazo-y-desobediencia-civil.html

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