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Good Bye Leadership of Venezuelan Opposition. Welcome Successors

By Víctor García Crespo

Novermber 10, 2004 | I believe that both, the results of the presidential recall referendum and the regional elections are a great tragedy for Venezuela. It will be the direct cause of loss of freedom of speech, political persecution, abuse of power, impunity before the law, more corruption, discrimination and inefficiency. It is impossible to overstate how terrible Hugo Chávez is going to be, and the full extent of the damage that will come year after year. The leadership of the opposition or, better to say, the inert residual of it, has turned itself into an amorphous knot over its loss, where every lace seems to have no means to be disentangled, no to mention to continue fulfilling its tying function.

The opposition never had a presentable leadership, its leaders twisted around most of the ideological fight against Hugo Chávez to satisfy the ambitions of the Venezuelan right-wingers, the most right-wingers of the right-wing, the corrupts of the past, and the naïve and honest ordinary citizens who were crying for a guidance to approach their uneasiness about the ideological trend of the government, their anger for having been submitted to political discrimination and the worsening of their quality of life. From the very beginning the leadership of the opposition showed its ineptitude when, having to face an inefficient government with an unparalleled legacy of corruption and disastrous political and economic decisions, which was given in silver plate all the necessary edibles as to feed a healthy political opposition movement, was unable to design a political strategy capable to capitalize the popular discontent in every stratum of the Venezuelan society.

While after colossal mistakes, such as the extreme right coup d'état attempt, and the general strike, there were some steps in the right direction, as it was to procure a democratic solution through elections under international supervision, these were absurdly and candidly made within the conditions established by the government, which had not qualms in designing a mined political terrain that was naively stepped in by the opposition and eventually ended up blowing up the hopes of millions of Venezuelans, leaving them politically disfranchised and looking for shelter in the meaningless, but telling road of the political abstention. The result? The opposition noisily failed and Hugo Chávez controls today practically the whole country even when 54% of the population, including his own supporters, decided not to cast their vote in the regional elections. How could the opposition possible have lost almost every political space? Let me give some additional reasons:

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones (Quien tiene rabo de paja no debe acercarse al fuego).

Ordinary people who oppose the government always had a difficult time accepting the singing voices of the opposition: Carlos Ortega, Antonio Ledezma, Henry Ramos Allup, Accion Democratica, Copei, Fedecamaras, etc., etc., etc., are of the so many men and socio-political institutions that brought about Hugo Chávez either by action, omission or complicity during their participation in the corrupt democracy of the past. They enjoyed the privileges of power and had their chances to make a difference. However, they rarely really cared about underprivileged Venezuelans. In every social endeavor addressed to these Venezuelans, they either made sure a good share of the money to be invested or expended on the poorest, was properly diverted to their pockets or simply looked away for their comrades to steal the money. The dissatisfaction in the lives of underprivileged Venezuelans was caused by the powerlessness they felt in the face of the fact they were falling further behind with each generation. Hugo Chávez managed these people with great skill, and is using the full force of the media every given Sunday and every each other day to direct all their anger and hatred to the Venezuelans who economically "have it all" or "have something."

Some Venezuelans aren't entirely prepared to admit it, but there really is a sector within the Venezuelan middleclass opponents who could not hide they are very unhappy people still nostalgic for the "good life" they used to have without doing any other work but sucking the former governments tits. It is the middle class that flourished during the governments of Accion Democratica and Copei as a result of higher oil prices coupled with rampant corruption and traffic of influences. The "good life" they enjoyed during that era, led them to believe they were different from the rest of Venezuelans, especially from the underprivileged ones. Thus, the word "perraje" (Venezuelans trash, with no economic means, ordinary) became an important part of their vocabulary to identify the underprivileged ones. While it is true these underprivileged Venezuelans are terribly misinformed and for obvious reasons ignorant, I don't think it is entirely fair to say that they misunderstand their class interests. They have come to the conclusion that they are going to be screwed regardless of which party is in power, and they prefer to be screwed by a group that doesn't appear to hold them in contempt. Indeed, you get the impression that their hatred is so great that they are taunting the democratic attempts at policy solutions to their problems, almost saying we hate your contempt for us so much we'll prove it by voting against our own interests. These are the people who saw Carlos Ortega to run away from challenging and interchanging insults with Hugo Chávez, after having said "he would never leave the country and abandon the fight for Venezuelan people." It is also the same people who are now laughing at, and making mockery of Henry Ramos Allup when he asserts, without any kind of shame, that Accion Democratica showed "what is made of" by gathering 5% of the votes during the regional elections and pretend, because of that, to claim the leader role within the opposition.

II have no doubts that all the electoral processes have been fraudulent. However, I have to admit and conclude that, thanks to the leadership of the opposition this is not relevant anymore. The government has been clever, not only in reducing the leadership to the opposition to its minimal expression, but even in achieving greediness by being favored in 22 out of 24 gubernatorial positions. Too goo, for a pacific revolution, to be true? You bet. For this situation by no means, reflects popular support. However, it is very dangerous . Hugo Chavez agenda in now on its way, and although there doesn’t seem to be a visible leader capable to gathering the popular discontent, Chávez, maybe unwillingly will produce Venezuelans to make history, and not the other way around. As Truman said, "In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better." Does this sound too abstract or lack of concretion? Well, not really. Hugo Chávez is maybe a good example of it. With a difference though, his has showed leadership,political skills and even courage, but not progress for the better. He came from nowhere thanks to the persons and institutions above-mentioned, but today is a president multiplying the mistakes and corruption of his predecessors, helped by an enormous income as a result of extremely high oil prices. He, himself, is engendering the person and the organizations that will be successors in the unending search for a real Venezuelan democracy. The opportunity will come and will be seized for the better, as it will be someday, for his loved Cuban dictator.

Both of aforementioned factors were necessary to Hugo Chávez victory, and neither would have been sufficient in itself. So you can simultaneously "blame" a big part of the forgotten underprivileged that are now receiving the benefits of Chávez demagogy, and an incompetent and divided opposition; and absolve the majority of the Venezuelan people. To put it another way, were it not for crooked voting machines and a submissive electoral board, Chávez's posse of haters would have been enough to gain the victory.

What should the next opposition do about it? This will be the subject of my next article. However, there is a lesson already learned. The successors will not live in glass houses and will not go again to the political gunfight, that Chávez has used and proposed, equipped with pocketknives; and this not just a figurative statement.

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