Carlos Blanco's A Time to Talk, released on December 30
"Democrats have the need and the obligation to restate their strategy"
Victories are made up of many ingredients, including defeats. The condition for defeats to contribute to future victories is for people to harshly and sincerely learn from them instead of disguising and ignoring them.
In this column, I have sustained that the struggle for democracy throughout the "red era" has been underpinned by efforts deployed by democratic society since 1999. Voices have risen inside the opposition to say that they had only seen defeats until 2006 and recognize victories only starting from 2007, with the Constitutional referendum, with partial advances in 2008 regional election and 2010 Congressional election. That is, they sustain that those early struggles would have been mistaken and only those in the recent years would have proven to be useful for the democratic cause.
Now, the circumstances created by the 10/7 and 12/16 elections' recent catastrophes have given rise to odd situations, notably including that of some saying that since 2007, the leadership that ultimately converged into the opposition alliance Unified Democratic Panel had exclusively scored victories, as a mechanism to reinforce some particular leaders and a strategy. Now this sector has, more or less rhetorically, admitted the recent disaster; however, little by little, they have been introducing the idea that those have not been big defeats, but almost modest drawbacks, instead. They assure that the percentage distance between Chavismo and opposition is the same as that of 10/7; that it does not matter when Chávez is to assume office; that the government is willing to dialogue; that every authoritarian regime is opportunistic by nature and, as such, people do not have to protest too much.
They know that defeat has been colossal, but they do not want to admit it, because it would be like admitting that the so-called radicals -those who proposed the need to fight for a change in election conditions- were right. Instead of admitting that there was a gross strategic mistake, they rather insist that the situation is not too serious. And they have even come to use the argument that they dismissed before in the so-called radicals: defeats can be useful for future victories, provided they are used wisely.
The danger now is that essential lessons are not learnt, because those responsible for these drawbacks, including those that were going to belong to Capriles' cabinet or guided him, are postulating the theory that if you are not dead is because you are alive; that, thank God, we are breathing even though the other wanted to annihilate us and, as you know, there is no problem, because eternity is ahead.
INGREDIENTS. I will never get tired of repeating that struggles in the early years of the 21st century constituted the Venezuelan spring. There were impressive mass demonstrations; sectors that had never been involved organically in political struggles, like the oil sector, for instance, joined the movement; the middle class defied its own social status and union leaders, businessmen, military, intellectuals, joined those heroic struggles. Those clashes led to Chávez' resigning to presidency in 2002, the exclusion of fingerprint reading machines in 2005 election; the involvement of the international community through OAS in Caracas, the civic and general strikes, all were heroic struggles that, except for 2011, did not attain their goal, but at least tried to do it.
After those defeats, there logically appeared new leaders (except for now that there are no replacements) and ways that were not exempt from drawbacks were explored, like Manuel Rosales' candidacy; but there were also significant victories like the establishment of the Democratic Unity Panel; the government's failure in the Constitutional referendum; and partial successes with the governors and mayors elected in 2008 and representatives in 2010.
This mix is what truly constitutes the road to freedom, along which many names and institutions have played a leading role, notably including Carlos Ortega, Pedro Carmona, Carlos Fernández, Juan Fernández and Gente del Petróleo (the Oil People); those of the Educational Assembly; the Democratic Coordinator; Enrique Mendoza; the military (including Altamira Square's); the Recall referendum with its two processes of signature checking; 2005's abstention; Manuel Rosales: Súmate; the struggles to prevent RCTV TV channel from being closed; the student movement's leadership formidably represented back then by the young leader Yon Goicoechea; mayors and governors that now are completing their terms; representatives elected; Henrique Capriles; recent candidates; people shot at Llaguno Bridge; political prisoners, exiles; those that have discretely dared criticize the government in Caracas Metro, public offices, markets and supermarkets.
THE NEW PHASE. The crisis will unavoidable become more acute in 2013. Chávez is not able to assume office and what comes next is processing contradictions without him. National and international forces that Chávez has rallied around him are now headless. Maduro is playing the part of a radical while squeaks and his socialist screams end up being ideological bellows for which he does not appear to be prepare; Diosdado Cabello already began to face the attacks by a fundamental ideologist of Chavismo in the Marxist field like Heinz Dieterich.
If Chávez does not show up on January 10, a situation of absolute absence would occur, not only on constitutional grounds, but also because his absence would be the ultimate evidence of his inability to exercise power. It cannot be understood government's representatives, now echoed by some opposition figures, saying that it does not matter and equating the very serious presidential illness (that has led government representatives to turn a few words pronounced by the presidential patient into resurrections) with a tendinitis or a dizzy spell. The country is aware of the President's true health condition and even though he survives, he will not be able to devote to anything but to his recovery, in the event that it might be possible. The rest are stories that lead to the necessity of discussing how and when his absolute absence is to be filled.
Chavismo is focused on administering information about Chávez's illness for it to fit their political times, which has surely been done with his consent; what should not happen is that the opposition also follows that same pace that is filled with secrecy and lies.
Democrats have the need and the obligation to restate their strategy toward the elections that will come. Leaving the conflict for Chavismo alone to solve it as a domestic problem not only would consecrate the opposition political exclusion, but also the risk that rifles will settle the problem.
Translated by Álix Hernández
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.