OK, so we all know this is a kind of coup. Keeping Maduro on as the not-encargado-and-yet-obviously-in-charge (a.k.a., de facto) president is about as legitimate in my eyes as if my dog started barking orders on cadena nacional. We all agree that what’s happening is outrageous. We all want to…do something.
But what’s the right strategy?
Today, Henrique Capriles went on the air again and took what, to many, was an unacceptable moderate tone. I found his press conference a bit confusing, but his basic stance can best be explained by an email I got from Primero Justicia grandee (and candidate for Chacao mayor) Ramón Muchacho. You don’t need to agree with it, but you do need to realize that there’s a strategy in place.
Here are the choice bits of Muchacho’s email:
“- The technical, legal, and constitutional discussion is as important as it is complex. It admits of multiple visions and different interpretations, but most people don’t care much about it even though we do.
- With or without Chávez, there was never going to be a change in government tomorrow. The same gang that held power before was going to continue holding power regardless. If we had won the elections in October – then we would have seen a change in government.
- From a communicational point of view, the idea of a coup without shots or tanks on the streets is a hard sell. It’s difficult to convince people that those who held power before October – and also won the election - are now governing thanks to a coup.
- If we endorse the idea of a coup and/or an illegal takeover of power, then we would have to cease recognizing the government. For example, Capriles, Falcón, and Ledezma would have to stop asking for or receiving money from the government. Furthermore, no politician or party that stops acknowledging the government would want to register their candidacies for mayor.
- Chávez didn’t take the oath because he couldn’t (I’m sure he really wanted to!). He is obviously sick, and has little time left.
- There will be no elections in Venezuela while Chávez is alive. We can protest, march, etc., but that is a fact – no elections while Chávez is alive. We must be realistic about this. We can’t put our socks on before our shoes. First, Chávez dies. Then, we call for elections.
- They will not be able to hide Chávez’s death. He won’t be cryogenically frozen a la Walt Disney.
- It would be terrible if people started seeing the opposition as vultures, circling around Chávez’s dead body trying to obtain power. We can’t be seen as trying to gain via a technicality what we have yet to achieve via the vote.
- Although some don’t perceive it, the government is weak and getting weaker. Maduro is wasting himself as the days go by, and Chávez’s death will soon stop being dramatic news. The topic has even gotten kind of boring…
- We just lost the presidential elections. We were supposed to spend 6 more years in opposition. Now it seems we will have elections soon, and sans Chávez. We represent roughly half of the voters, and we can continue to grow. Let’s not destroy with our feet what has taken such effort to build with our hands.
- Most importantly: leaders, public servants, and politicians should not forget what people’s real problems are. They are increasing daily. Let’s not get stuck on January 10th, but if we do, let’s acknowledge that doing so only helps the government.”
Allow me a personal note: Ramón Muchacho and I have known each other since we were teenagers. We worked on our school paper together. I guess the fact that we both learned to write at the same time (and from the same teacher) partly explains why I find his reasoning so compelling.
I’m not saying I’m 100% sold on this, but you can’t deny he makes a pretty strong case.
Ultimately, whether or not you buy this line of argument depends on something I have been emphasizing for the last few months: are we, or are we not, electable?
I used to think we were not electable and so truth should prevail above all strategic considerations. However, with Chávez out of the picture? Against these stooges? Hell, I’m liking our chances.
Perhaps it’s time we started thinking strategically once again.