I am watching with increasing preoccupation the stumbles of the Venezuelan political opposition barely two weeks after Chavez officially announced his constitutional plans. In fact, considering that preliminary polls seem to indicate that the majority of the country would be rejecting the referendum as presented now, in spite of the candy included such as a 30 hours work week for most in Venezuela (1), I am not seeing the opposition moving assertively to capitalize on such an initial advantage.
I mean, some things are taking place but I see no coordination of effort, and some wild declarations that could come back later biting in the rear those who uttered them. For example Rosales speaks, recklessly, of 130 000 units to be activated to argue around the country against the said referendum. 130 000? Who is he kidding? I would laugh my head off if the PSUV would state such a bold claim: with Rosales I feel like weeping when I read such braggadocio.
Meanwhile the usual suspects are already claiming that we should stay at home massively on referendum day. They are of course not telling us what to do to actually stop Chavez, nor are they volunteering to lead a new march to Miraflores to remove Chavez from office. What gives? How long are we going to allow them to pretend that they lead us?
Finally the softer opposition thinks that one way or the other they will force Chavez to accept the 344. I mean, it is right to ask for it to show that Chavez is not a democrat, but it seems that actually PJ and the MAS might be believing that Chavez will see the light and suddenly will allow to split the proposal in 3 voting blocks. When will Julio Borges get it? We are not in democracy anymore and unless you are willing to take personal chances to force for the 344 to be applied, then you should abstain to speak on that.
The other day I wrote extensively on the things that the opposition should be considering doing. I am not expecting the political opposition to even read my ideas but anyway I will try to give them some suggestions again. They will not read them I am sure but at least it will be written somewhere so on December 10, when disaster befalls on us I will be able to wash my hands from the whole mess. Note: this post does not concern the dissident students and NGO such as Radar de los Barrios as their strategy is of course different from the one of the political opposition.
In no particular order:
- Create some coordinating commission of acceptable intellectuals. Put them in charge to publish every couple of days a rebuttal item per item from every single proposal of Chavez. One single item, two days of full exposure by all. But the political opposition itself should not descend much into the debate, just hammering on “NO to Chavez forever, 2012 is enough” ("Chavez hasta el 2012"?) and taking up what the commission says, according to every political group flavor. That way you do counter the proposal but you do not risk to be ensnared by the chavista trap. The commission? A couple of well known human rights lawyers, Teodoro Petkoff, a couple of reputable journalists, a prominent ex-chavista as the spokes person, no more than a dozen folks in total. And they should travel to announce their comments so that all of the country is visited, told, each main city taking turns to debate one of the proposals.
- Meet. Create a summit where all the non-abstention folks get together and decide to split strategies. If PJ wants to do the 344, and COPEI wants to go door to door, fine, but make it appear as if you had decided to share the tasks.
- Announce clearly that abstention is an option and that the bad CNE will be sole responsible for it. But also say that the debate will be done on a possible abstention strategy late October at the earliest. Invite the chronic abstentionists to either join the campaign until late October or shut up at least until then, or offer right now a post election strategy. Be clear and forceful on that: demand that they tell you what will they do after the vote, no matter what the results are.
- Create an electoral commission. Let it alone deal with the CNE. Say to the the CNE that that commission, that should include SUMATE (I will in another post why), is your representative. Let that commission deal with the CNE and IGNORE THE CNE YOURSELVES. It will be always time to go late October and wage war on the CNE. The CNE is not the issue right now. That commission should be a small group of respected lawyers, plus someone from SUMATE and someone from Ojo Electoral, to force them to take position. If they refuse, then they will have demonstrated their pro Chavez bent and we will not need to worry about them anymore.
- Advertise overseas. Look at chavismo: it is already preparing an international propaganda blitz. Prepare a half dozen teams of trained people willing to travel on short notice to attend important forums, visit important newspapers and politicians overseas. And do not send the tired old guard of Timoteo Zambrano or Asdrubal Aguiar. Their time is gone thought they should be asked to work hard at organizing the meetings. You need to show that there is a grassroots movement against the constitutional coup d’etat and you will only create this through new faces, of all ages, all races, both sexes, all social conditions. Each traveling group should be accompanied by a seasoned expert who makes the contacts but those who speak should be workers, students, churchmen, bloggers, journalists, home makers, business people, whatever. Groups formed according to the country visited, no more that 5 people are necessary per group. Remember, their work will be crucial for the after December 9 vote, in preparing a favorable opinion overseas to support democracy if Chavez starts cheating of becomes rough if the polls are not good to him. These people should be picked and trained through September and should travel through October mostly.
- And also create a local welcome group of grassroots origins so that visiting journalists do not fall into the same "escualido" traps as before. You can learn from chavismo there. Take this journalists to visit clear examples of autocracy, of refusal to account for actions, show them that what Chavez wants is more power so that he can hide his failures better.
- Tell the media to be wise and inform. As the proposals get better understood many chavistas will have second thoughts. Convince the media that the debate is against Chavez remaining after 2012, not just against Chavez.
- And please, please, no pretty posturing. The republic’s fate is at stake. If Chavez wins convincingly YOU WILL BE ALL OUT OF A JOB; IF NOT IN JAIL SOON. So, for once, share, cooperate, and do not dish each other. Otherwise we will all stay home no matter what you say. In fact, you might become so irrelevant that we will do what the students and Radar de los Barrios tells us to do (do not miss Miguel translation here).
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1) the proposal if for 36 hours a week, no more than 6 a day. Since a majority of Venezuelan business and public administration work only five days and people WILL NOT go back to work on Saturdays, the work week will effectively be reduced to 30 hours, same paycheck. The reader can imagine the consequences for the country of 25% less production suddenly. Of course, the rank and file chavista that Chavez seeks to mobilize has no clue.