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Open letter to Venezuela's opposition

By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views

12.08.05 | Any election, no matter how crooked it might be, brings new elements to the political discourse. Last Sunday disastrous showing for democracy is no exception. The challenge for you, dear opposition leaders, whether you supported abstention or not, whether you dealt behind doors with chavismo or not, is to decide what is your next step according to the new hand given to you.

The good news is that it should not be very complicated for you to realize that you need to come up with a clear strategy as the dust you are biting now should tell you. So, I am willing to help you find a way out.


Let’s look at the results as per the front page of El Nacional today (as good as any other source considering how impossible it is to have a good representation of the country’s political force in view of cheating, abstention and the "morochas", all CNE sponsored).


Let’s start with that extraordinary null vote, which at the very least shows a deficiency in the voting procedure, and at the worst is the mechanism used by the CNE to cheat in order to decrease the abstention numbers. Let’s also assume that it could be in part the voters expressing a “none of the above” option. That should give you pause.

Now, let’s look at chavismo figure. There is good and bad news there. The good is that it failed to pass the 50+% mark so hoped for. That bad is that it passed it as quite a few of the “others” are actually linked more or less to chavismo. But the real good news is that in spite of all the built in advantage, of abstention, chavismo does not get the 59% of August 2004. Isn’t that something!? With a real feisty campaign, there is plenty of room for you to cut into chavismo. Besides, you can hardly go lower than your present 17.3%. Or can you?

The other fact is that at way more than half of your voters, those that usually vote for you, did not bother to vote this time. And most of those already stayed home last October. In other words, managing politics the way you are managing them these days IS NOT GOING TO BRING THEM BACK to the voting stations. It should be clear for you that any “appeasement” strategy that you might have had has failed. Actually, that abstention number is bound to increase dramatically in December as people like me, considering the incredibly obvious manipulations of the CNE this time around and the wimpyness shown by you, will really wonder about the point of voting in December. Yes, I have followed you until now, but there is a new deal in town and my obligations to you have ceased, as little as they might have been.


Things have changed, dramatically. Now we are discussing saving democracy. Forget about “preservar espacios” as Sobella Mejais once said to justify her staying in the CNE as a Chinese Jar. In fact, forget about the CNE altogether. With the way the CNE is operating, there is nothing to look for in there. They must be confronted and that is all. You should all rally behind Sumate, or if too unpalatable for some of you, behind some panel that will decide for all of you whether to run in an election or not. But Sumate should be the only conduit to negotiate with the CNE, in the name of ALL of the opposition. Or do you have a better agent? What good as it done to you to forget about Tulio Alvarez and let Sumate hang high and dry for chavismo to make it target practice? You might reply that Rodriguez will never negotiate with Sumate. And who will Rodriguez negotiate with? Come on! Get a grip!

The time has run out with the CNE. Remember that you have the 350 article in the constitution and you can apply it perfectly there. Remember that real observers will come in December and remember what happened when you let observers participate in the negotiations for the Recall Election. Observers are there to observe, so give them something to observe. The best thing that could happen to you is for the EU to say that it is leaving Venezuela simply because elections cannot be run in the conditions imposed by the CNE. REMEMBER, Chavez needs a democratic caution and your blunders have been giving it! When are you going to learn? You need to demonstrate that elections are impossible and refuse to negotiate the basic points defended by Sumate. Even the Carter Center might approve of that!

Besides now we are running for a National Assembly. All that talk of local leadership that will run anyway in Municipal or Regional Elections is now bogus. The way things are in Venezuela we all know that no one is going to make it to the National Assembly if there is no political organization behind. If you agree among yourself, the candidates will have to abide by your decisions.

Besides look at how easily unhinged Rodriguez gets when slightly confronted! Keep confronting him all the time and you will see him resign sooner than expected! And by the way, DEMAND that Sobella resigns. She is all alone there, she is totally ineffective except for a token concession they grant her. Stop playing that game! Let the CNE totally fall in the hands of Chavez. It is acting as such anyway, so let the word know the truth by removing any democratic fig leaf excuse they might still have.


Now it is the hour of truth: will you rise about your petty interests? Or will you go and meet the final defeat in December, leaving the National Assembly with a more than 2/3 chavista majority, with 25% soldiers that will never question a word from Chavez and will brow beat any civilian in chavismo that dares emit a personal opinion? A 2/3 majority which will make legal all the illegal measures taken by chavismo since 2003 and thus projecting a legal image outside and dooming us for a decade to live under a military boot without even a military coup d’etat? Does Fujimori ring a bell with you? At least he did a coup d'etat! Are you going to allow the election of a 2/3 majority that will vote yet a new High Court, a new CNE, a new Poder Moral, even more subservient, if possible, than those ones that so sadly figure there? A 2/3 majority that will make it impossible to run a partially fair presidential campaign in 2006, with the aggravation that nobody will pay attention to any united front candidate knowing full well that Chavez will win no matter what?

So, which should be your objectives? Very simple, make sure that Chavez does not get that 2/3 majority. Everything else is secondary and can be discussed as of January 2006. Such discussions as a common program government, a platform to rebuild the country, a way to have Chavez lose in 2006 should be postponed: if you do not get 1/3 of parliament in December, it is all over.

Thus what we have ahead are fire and brimstone days and if you have no stomach for it I suggest that you make room for those who have it and wait for more normal days to try a come back.

There is no need to riot in the streets, we do have the necessary democratic tools to force chavismo into a few concessions, such as the 350 article. But to succeed we need to set aside personal interests, be ready to sacrifice what we need to sacrifice, and all go with one clear objective at hand. Account settlement can wait for 2006. Because what we are facing is a chavista campaign that will not hold any punch and if you are not united in some simple common objectives, then you will not be able to withstand the pressure. You must work out fast a commonality of intentions that allows you to include all opposition parties, all abstentionist main leaders. By the end of August all should be ready to go. No Coordinadora Democratica this time, no need for them: the message will be simple and able to include all, to appeal to even some dissatisfied chavista voters.


A few lines are enough.

No to Castro. No to financing the rest of South America. Venezuela first. No Bolivian adventure. No China deal. Be patriot!

This can appeal to some chavistas who are getting tired of seeing Chavez traveling back and forth, spreading Venezuela oil money as if it were his only. Forget about Latin American solidarity, did they think of us in 2002? 2004? Attack any travel, any initiative of Chavez, accuse him of being a thief if necessary. What do you have to lose? It is your money you are defending after all! Expose him ruthlessly in every meeting, in every interview you can, without making it personal. Just ask WHERE THE MONEY GOES AND WHO ALOWED HIM TO DO SO. You, in the National Assembly are the only way to put brakes on that piñata.

No to a National Assembly sold to the army. No to the army. No to the war with the US!

The Army has caved in to Chavez. You should use those pictures of soldiers in Cuba to question the devotion of the Army to Venezuela. There is nothing to expect from an army who has abandoned any democratic vocation it might have had in the past. Walking on eggs around them has not brought anything, has it? At least you might force some reaction inside the army and obtain that it remains impartial one election more (though I wonder how impartial it has been in the last three elections, but then again I am such an anti military person, I distrust soldiers so much…)

Offer a referendum on the army, a referendum to put back the army in the barracks. You can call for a referendum from the National Assembly. Say the it is the people who should decide what the army does, not Chavez.

Also, proclaim your friendship with the West. Say that only Europe and the US and Canada and capitalism will allow Venezuela to build a bright future. Criticize Bush, criticize Iraq, point out that Bush is gone in two years but that any war that Chavez starts will last us a life time. Enough of letting Chavez define who is a traitor and who is not! Enough of letting the army fake a war it cannot win and that will leave us ruined even if no shot is ever fired! Accuse Chavez of betrayal at every corner if needed. Or do you think your silence so far has paid of? Peace and jobs, that is your proposal and state that Chavez CANNOT BRING THAT BECAUSE HE DOES NOT WANT IT!

No to violence. No to personal power. Yes to separation of power.

Do not be afraid to attack the judicial system, the CNE, the Chavez administration. They will not help you, they will not rule in your favor. Attack, attack all the time because even if you behave nicely from here to December they will stick to you, put you in jail at the latest sometime in 2007. Actually you should even say that your objectives will be to change the judicial system, to make sure Isaias does not repeat as attorney General, that Clodosvaldo will be moved to another retirement home.

See, you do not need to attack Chavez directly, just attack all the mess he has made!

Say yes to Barrio Adentro, say yes to Mercal.

Say that these programs have convinced you but that they are poorly managed. Say that your objective is to integrate these programs with existing structures to make them work better and that you will pay Venezuelan professionals well so as to free yourself from Cuban doctors.

Say that you will pass laws to recover international trust in Venezuela, to create jobs.

Explain that Chavez support of Castro is blocking private investors, Venezuelans and foreigners and that is why there is no jobs, no housing, no real development. Say that cooperatives are fine but without international and private investment they are not enough. Say that you will offer new laws to strengthen cooperatives and allow them to seek joint ventures with foreign cooperatives and investors. That jobs, jobs and more jobs is your only economical program. Look in the eyes at chavista electors and ask them if they know anyone with a REAL job? Offer jobs to replace all the failed misiones, and use the money of the failed misiones for Mercal and Barrio Adentro. I know, it is tough to swallow but do you have anything better to offer? Do not worry, you are not going to win anyway, what you want to get is a chance to win someday and for that you need to make sure that Chavez does not get 66%!

No to barter, we want cash for our oil.

This is a no brainer. No more barter for ships, no more barter for meat, money will be only spent at home, with Venezuelans, on Venezuelans. Too bad if this puts us at risk with our trading partners. Announce that all commercial deals will be reviewed and that the head of PDVSA, a few ministers, a few ambassadors will be investigated. So they might threaten to sue you? They will do so anyway in 2006, 2007 and the following years on any other excuse. You want to save the country, and get a job along the way? Show disposition for sacrifice, for honesty, publish the tax return of all your candidates and demand to see the one of Chavez and co and to audit them. Play dirty, they will, but play democratic, what you would demand in any civilized country.

Chavez will stay until December 2006

Yes, say it, but also say that you will make sure that he rules better, that the money is spent where it should be spent. Say even that you will force him to pick better ministers!!!! Be creative! After all, cohabitation worked elsewhere, why not in Venezuela? At the very least you would gain a real CNE for 2006 if you manage to get more than a third of the National Assembly.

Voila, you do have a simple program that can reach the masses. You need not go further. And you should actually even make it briefer than what I wrote, just pick something coherent and stick to it. You have to present your self as martyrs willing to sacrifice yourself at the National Assembly if needed, and not as people just trying to look for a well paid job. Play Chavez fire and brimstone game, try to make him talk of December 2006 instead of December 2005. Make him look like a power hungry madman. Challenge him to collaborate with you!


You must make your “morochas”. Chavismo is going to make theirs, so have no qualms about making your morochas and screw the built in advantage of chavismo. The CNE is not going to ban morochas no matter how illegal they are and how much Teodoro protests. Keep complaining about them, keep asking them to be eliminated, but build them. They will allow two options when you get around to form the list and allow you to agree.


Play the regional card. Forget those who want or thinks they deserve this or that. You will only overcome the seat distribution by playing the regional card.

For the uninominal votes let Copei rule Tachira, Rosales rule Zulia, PJ rule Caracas and Miranda, AD rule Sucre, Margarita and Monagas, PV in Carabobo even if it is a corpse etc…

Allow for the creation of a left wing. Even though the corpuscles such as Solidaridad or left parties such as the MAS are nearly obliterated, make sure they will get half a dozen seats. You will need them for the 2006 presidential race. Put one MAS in Aragua, one Solidaridad in Caracas, one Causa R in Zulia and Bolivar, one Union in Anzoategui and 2 or 3 more here and there. Forgive them for having supported Chavez, you will need a democratic left to pick up the chavista mess someday or it will fall into Chavez II and sequels are never good.

Deal with the abstentionist leaders by promising that if the CNE does not change the ways things are run, you will withdraw all candidates by election day. And then give them a few positions in the ticket. Ledezma in Caracas, Paz in Zulia and one or two more here and there. Let's see of they resign come election day. If you do not like them there will be elections to get rid of them in the future, that is, if you get at least 1/3, remember!

Don't be afraid to nominate more candidates than spots available, you will do primaries through September if needed and have the losers resign. But one thing: whoever wants your general support, your union label must pledge to withdraw after an unfavorable primary. Do not worry, electors will not be fooled, they have demonstrated Sunday that they will stay home and not vote for a "traitor" in case they decide to break their pledge.


This is where the parties can run. Make it a primary of sorts and do not be afraid to give AD some preferences in the provinces: they still have some appeal there even if you cannot believe it. Or do you think that PJ is ready to take over Trujillo? Solidaridad to win in Zulia? Ledezma to carry Barinas?. This will be a pre-primary to start sifting through a unity candidate for the presidential election. Whichever party runs nominal candidates, it must leave the list vote to the others of the coalition, that way you will really know who has what appeal where by comparing seat votes and list votes.

Thus, on the list vote part of the “morochas” distribute seats as the result of Sunday vote, even if AD gets half of the candidates. You can have there multi party lists and use that as a pre-primary of sorts. Though you could demand to chose some of the AD candidates, force AD to renew itself some, to have less ADecos willing to pact with the devil. AD will do it for a few extra candidates, trust me! More than one party can support the list vote, so go ahead and have fun with it. That way you will protect yourself from any accusation of lack of primaries. But do not worry about that, Chavez is not going to allow primaries in his camp, not after what has been happening with the Tupamaros.


The Venezuelan law has a wonderful tool to allow you to reach unity: the replacement assemblyman: "el suplente". The suplente is the guy that seats and votes following Chavez orders when a chavista big wig must attend some Chavez meeting or do his or her Miami shopping. Make every candidate that runs under the alliance pledge that they will seat one assembly session yes, one session no, lots drawn after the election. Make every candidate that want Unitarian support sign an official pledge and publish it, along their tax return. That way both principal and "suplente" will be motivated to run together even if they are from different party. They will both seat equally with both serving 6 months session. You can even force them to share any income as an Assembly person! And point out how shameful chavista suplentes have been behaving! Show that yours will be useful national assembly people that will really work if they want to remain in the assembly.

Be creative!!!! There is always time later to agree on annulling agreements and what not. Whatever you annul will never be as bad as the unfulfilled Chavez promises. And who knows, you might like it, it might work and by 2006 you might kick Chavez out. But one thing is certain: the way you are managing things, Chavez is staying until kingdom comes!


All of this can be set up in one month if there is a will among you. You can do something else if you want, but it has to be as radical, as inspired, as selfless, as looking forward.

Or people like me will stay at home and start looking within chavismo for ways to survive (Tupamaros? A mision "collaboration"?)We are not going to support you any longer if you do not give us reason to support you and if you are dragging us down along. It is time to grow up. The games are over.

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