By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — In politics, 2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4. Maduro was nicknamed Mas-burro (dumber in Spanish), but his adversaries proved to be this in the end. Over the past year, his political skills have been proven when Venezuela’s opposition had their grand opportunity to come into power and become the main leaders in creating a solution to the country’s problems, but they didn’t know how to take advantage of it.
This began two and a half years ago when they won the parliamentary elections with a majority vote on December 6th 2015 and it ended on Sunday May 20th this year with the presidential elections, which the majority of the opposition decided not to participate.
The opposition’s strategy is a classic example of political clumsiness. They had the opportunity to win and they chose to lose, because by not taking part that’s exactly what they did. Elections aren’t perfect in Venezuela but they are possible, yet they resort to indirect and not very promising channels within today’s international political context, such as exterior pressure, economic blockade or armed intervention.
And they were the favorites in these elections just gone, there’s no doubt about it, and it might well have been their last chance to come into power and save Venezuelan democracy. By giving Maduro free passage, they have allowed him to legalize another term in office for another six years and pull out a new constitution from his sleeve which will suit him better in the future when he wants to be reelected.
The truth is, they have another opportunity: the new Constitution. However, the opposition are expected to refuse to vote in this plebiscite, as this has been their suicide strategy from the beginning and Maduro is counting on it. So much so, that if he sees that they hesitate, he’ll provoke them again with some foolishness and they’ll fall quietly into his game again, while they naively call him dumb. As a result, it’s nearly a fact that Venezuela’s democracy will be decimated even more with the Constitution.
In this world, you don’t need a doctorate from a famous university to know that you only need Russia, China or the US to recognize an elected government to know that no one will overthrow it and that most people will end up recognizing it or tolerating it. Betting on it being considered illegitimate because political groups don’t take to the polls, when this isn’t compulsory, is the stupidest thing in the world.
Today, it isn’t viable (nor ethical, nor human for me) to call for a military intervention either, much less in a modern Latin American context. That’s why seeking this or throwing away real opportunities at elections is the second stupidest thing they could do.
When the opposition won an outstanding victory in Parliament in 2015, they should have been more realistic and known that the National Assembly was the only state institution that they controlled. They should have never taken on the Supreme Court of Justice, especially as they knew before that it was biased towards their enemies, which was made clear ever since obvious violations, made for Chavez’s succession while he suffered and died, were called “constitutional”. The opposition played Maduro’s game, they thought they were stronger than they were and they fell in contempt.
When Maduro wanted to end protests with a Constituent Assembly and replace the Parliament in contempt, after the elections were inevitably called out for being fraudulent, instead of standing out of his way, they should have taken part. Today, they would have had over 50% of members of the Constituent Assembly and it would have been a different story. And the same thing happened during state and municipal elections, where they committed the same mistake. In the end, any election is legal even if abstention is high.
Then they pressed their demands in Santo Domingo and they weren’t met, so they decided not to run. Henri Falcon broke away from the opposition and did run, I’m sure he hoped that they would get their act together before the 20th and decide to support him, the only way to win the presidential seat. But, that didn’t happen; the opposition was sectarian when it should have been patriotic and democratic. They preferred a consolidated Maduro and their own political death before standing by Falcon, who was more skilled than them but lacking in support, as a moderate president who could save democracy.
If a they had made a pact with Falcon (who had been a member of their group and only broke away because he believed that they shouldn’t miss the opportunity), a week before elections, his followers would have made the difference. If 66.5% of the population had participated, like they did in the 2015 legislative elections, 4.6 million more Venezuelans would have voted, virtually all opponents.
Falcon would have won with an overwhelming majority and Maduro would be history. Venezuela’s electoral system is clearly rigged, but it works better than international mediation. There were irregularities in the elections, but they haven’t been significant, that’s the truth, everything else is just speculation.
Maduro didn’t win because they were fraudulent, he was legally elected by a part of the population who wanted to vote, as the law in Venezuela stipulates. He managed to do this because he played a tough game and even though he was the political minority on this occasion, his strategy was to take his stronger adversaries off the court because they themselves wanted to and they fell flat on their faces!
I don’t agree with authoritarian and anti-democratic means, nor do I like his admiration and unconditional support for the system we have in Cuba which stifles us and doesn’t leave us any democratic space to improve our country, yet I CONGRATULATE him. I believe that his government is legitimate because he was elected by the majority of his people, by the ones who wanted to vote. Venezuelans who didn’t take to the polls or show up gave their unspoken approval, even though they say the opposite:
Now, instead of a war, the only thing they can legally do is to take part in the constitutional referendum and not approve a constitution that isn’t clearly democratic. If they abstain again, they will only be tightening the noose around their own necks. And they need to learn from their mistakes in the run-up to 2024, because this is where they are now, with mid-term elections which they can strengthen themselves in.
If only we Cubans could hope to choose our own government among different options, in 2024 at least. While a breath of democracy continues to remain in Venezuela, every effort should be made to save it and to develop democracy, anything else is just suicide. There is also the hope that Maduro won’t take advantage of the power he has been given and maintain what little remains of the rule of law, appealing to Chavismo and the democratic Left’s original ideals. Then, he really would deserve my respect.