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Comments* about Venezuela's political game.

By Pedro M. Burelli

*Original Op-Ed: Wash Post 'Venezuelans Get Sacrificed in Blame Game', by Marcela Sanchez, January 9th, 2004

Comment: Marcela Sanchez in her weekly column on the America’s in the Washington Post choose to focus on a conspicuous issue underlying Venezuela’s current political quagmire and it is the nonstop habit of “pointing the finger”. Her views are common with those of many foreigners who listen to both extremes “argue” their points without really scoring a point. The fact remains that going into his sixth year of sloppy administration, Mr. Chavez, as Ms. Sánchez correctly point out, still chooses to blame the past, the politicians, the elites, the US… etc. for the country’s multiple – and growing - shortcomings – without owing up to the crude fact that having monopolized power to the edge of authoritarianism the proverbial “buck” only has ONE place to stop and THAT is what makes Mr. Chavez, and his recall, the center of a political crisis that has more than enough other culprits.

The opposition, as heterogeneous and unruly as can be, is a reflection of a nation ambushed by the dire consequences of its nonchalant neglect of politics. Its core components are the critical elements of our nation; our educated middle class, our enterprising immigrants, our real business leaders, the organized components of labor, the Catholic Church, the institutional component of our Armed Forces, budding NGOs and a handful of emerging political parties.

However, two unmentioned groups deserve special notice among the opposition – one favorable, one negative. On the positive side we have the majority of the poor that have given up on Chavez; this is a demonstrable and telling phenomenon ripe for the picking by a fresh political leader – when he or she chooses to emerge. More depressing is the unholy alliance of washed-out political parties and their conspicuous – yet unelectable - leaders and a couple of media guys that keep them in our faces 24X7. This “blocking” coalition fails to owe up to their historical responsibility in facilitating the election of an individual that found, to his amazement, the road to the Presidency paved by those that purportedly opposed him.

If Mr. Chavez is still in office it is because those same leaders and their propagandists continue to monopolize the below the table maneuvering that is frustrating progress and infuriating the vast majority of the country that seeks REAL, DEFINITIVE and SUBSTAINABLE transformations. By delaying the unavoidable; a democratic (yes, chaotic and temporally divisive…as it should be in a democracy) and transparent (as it better be) contest for leadership, the “political operators” in the opposition, and a few unrepentant media kingpins, are trying to present the nation with a fait accompli: a highly manageable (i.e. malleable) candidate that once again provides the “fool’s gold” of political cover and patronage.

In the naïve search for a SINGLE candidate to oppose Chavez, or his handpicked successor, if and after Chavez is recalled, we might all be falling into a trap. Unanimity is not really a part of the democratic lexicon…and when it does show up is not overnight and from the ruins of a political establishment that collapsed because it had no remaining ideological underpinnings, had scant shared values, and propelled indolence and impunity to new heights. The best the opposition should hope for is a workable coalition of progressive, untainted forces that can rally the disenchanted majority and initiate a period of virtuous, inclusive and accountable governance. Some will be left out, and some should be left out. The problem is that under the guise of a “Candidato Unico” and “Unidad” as a mantra too much sewage survives with reversed and fetid effects. PMB

PS: I will not take issue with Ms. Sanchez giving credence to the Chavista claim they collected 4.3 million signatures against opposition legislators…I remain confident that, sooner rather than later, it will be clear to all that the saying of a ‘lie repeated one thousand times….” will define the futile efforts of the Chavez administration and, as always, will be its doom.



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