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Is S˙mate an opposition party?

By Edgar Brown | Paspalum Fasciculatum

22.09.05 | What exactly does 'opposition' mean?

  1. The action of opposing something that you disapprove or disagree with
  2. the relation between opposed entities
  3. the act of opposing groups confronting each other
  4. a contestant that you are matched against
  5. a body of people united in opposing something
  6. a direction opposite to another
  7. an armed adversary (especially a member of an opposing military force)
  8. a political party opposed to the party in power and prepared to replace it if elected

Yet another pesky label. Chavez uses this label every time he speaks. "The Opposition" is his enemy. For most people the word 'opposition' conveys the 'political party opposed to the party in power' meaning, the 'Democrats' are opposition to the 'Republicans.' Even if a Republican opposes what Bush says, that is not 'the opposition' that is the 'party of the president,' if a Democrat agrees with what Bush says, he/she is still part of 'the opposition.' Funny how words work.

However in Chavez's world, everyone that opposes him in any way, is opposition. Anyone that opposes any of his actions, is opposition. It does not matter if there is a party or not, it does not matter if it is an individual, or even if it is a 'Chavista' (which of course, automatically stops being a 'Chavista' to become 'opposition'). Thus the media is opposition, the Catholic church, the unions, federations, bureaus of commerce, companies, universities, are opposition. Most of my fellow Venezuelan bloggers are clearly opposition. His previous mentor Luis Miquilena (besides Castro of course), the one that took him to Venezuela's presidency, is now his opposition. A large portion of the 'forcefully retired' military are clearly opposition. The disillusioned, but loyal, 'Chavistas' are calling to the 'opposition' media because they cannot vent in the 'Chavista' media, thus they enter the gray area of 'escualidos' in the 'opposition.'

Now combine this with the use of the label for the ones on the 'coup' which are obviously opposition. Or with the very diminished, deservedly or not, true 'opposition parties.' And add re-interpretations of the label like 'election campaign groups' or 'political party' and you have a nice tool to denigrate anyone that does not agree with you. "He is from the opposition" is that powerful tool that serves to disqualify anyone, and anyone's opinion. Why are ad-hominem arguments so prevalent when there is no argument to make?.

Of course, strictly speaking, yes, we are opposition, we oppose his destruction of Venezuela, of our democracy, of our courts, of our election system, of our oil industry, of our private industry, of private property, of basic freedoms. We oppose his corruption, and his corruptive influence. We oppose his giving money away while our Venezuelan poor are becoming poorer. We oppose the presence of a Cuban invasion force in Venezuela and his giving our territory away to Castro. We oppose his delusion of grandeur with which he is meddling with the democracies of the whole hemisphere. We oppose his manipulation of the media, his propaganda machine, his discriminative policies (partially through the Tascon list). So yes, we definitively oppose him and his policies, however the great majority of us are not part of an 'opposition party,' we are just concerned Venezuelans.

The Súmate case

Súmate (spanish for "add yourself up") is an organization that got formed from this 'generalized opposition' because of the failures of our electoral system. The National Electoral Council (or CNE for its initials in spanish), the supposedly impartial electoral organization, is just another of Venezuela's new class of fake democratic organizations, you just have to carefully read the Carter Center report to realize it. A recent poll, the same one that gave Chávez a 70% approval rating, showed that 47% of Venezuelans consider the CNE the _most_ untrustworthy of Venezuela's organizations, combine that with the last election results in which there was at least a 68% abstention (non-CNE sources estimates it at 80%) and a 17% null vote (second only to Chavez's own party), and we have to conclude that even a considerable number of Chavez supporters don't trust the CNE.

Súmate from the beginning has been trying, to clean up the CNE's act (to no avail), and to compensate for its many failures. Through volunteer work they managed to put together the resources, the databases, the systems, and the mechanisms, that made it possible to satisfy the Constitutional requirements of the Revocatory Referendum. Despite all the obstacles, and hurdles put in the way by Chavez's government, the courts, and the CNE, their level of organization made it possible. They were very careful in their target, they have avoided dealing directly with Chavez, they avoided campaigning against him or in his favor, they have avoided becoming a party, they have no 'candidates.' So clearly Súmate is not an 'opposition party,' anymore than a worker union or a bureau of commerce is an 'opposition party.' Of course since Chávez is molding a dictatorship while Súmate stands for democracy, it clearly stands in the way of Chávez objectives.

Now, it is this 'opposition' label (understood as 'opposition party') that many uninformed people use to decry the use of U.S. NGO money to support Súmate's efforts. While at the same time conveniently ignoring that Chavez, which nobody can deny is a true political party himself, accepted $1.5 million in campaign contributions from a foreign institution (BBVA), something that according to our Constitution _is_ illegal, while a contribution to a NGO is not.

Of course, Chavez has tried to convict them of something, he wants them out of the way, but since there is really nothing in the Venezuelan laws that makes it illegal (for now at least), he went for that good old populist stalwart: treason.

So, next time you see the label 'opposition' would you please think twice about its real meaning?.

  1. Dissenting with Chavez Daniel's take on our "so called opposition"
  2. Has Human Rights Watch Joined Venezuela’s Opposition? Part II Aleksander
  3. Who you gonna call? Chavistas calling 'oppostion' media.
  4. The case against Chávez Some history and Miquelena's transition
  5. Venezuela's new Electoral Board (CNE) Daniel (Jan 21, 2005). Even more Chavista than before.
  6. Statement of the CIV concerning the situation in Venezuela Questioning the legality of the CNE and the referendum
  7. Why I Didn’t See Chavez in New York (Or, a Tale of Two Presidents) Comparing president's attitudes in N.Y.
  8. Chavez's milestones Describes when many of us became 'active' opposition
  9. Tascon list Yes, the actual list, with all its information, can be found in Alek's article
  10. Rebuttal to the Venezuela Information Office Regarding the referendum process, and Súmate's role.
  11. Long and positive day at the Remate (final push) Miguel's first hand account as a Súmate volunteer
  12. Sumate: the guardian of Venezuela's democracy Aleksander
  13. Hugo Chávez moves ahead with elected dictatorship Andres Oppenheimer, The Miami Herald
  14. Sumate: Fighting for Fair Elections Christina Leadlay. Embassy Newspaper.
  15. Delenda Súmate Jorge
  16. Venezuela in July 2005: a political portrait Súmate's role in later elections
  17. SUMATE calls it: no clean elections on August 7 Daniel.
  18. Carter Center report (PDF)
  19. Justin Delacour comes to rescue his Venezuelan idol The constitutional articles related to funding of parties.

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