Venezuelan author and journalist Jose Roberto Duque reflects on Thursday’s live broadcast “peace talk” between the Venezuelan government and the opposition in Miraflores presidential palace.
On such a significant date as the eve of April 11th, a very interesting meeting just took place in Miraflores. To be fair, it was an important meeting, not just interesting (that word seems better suited to a circus oddity); not because agreements were made for the conspirators to stop conspiring, nor for the government to detain its march on the project known as Bolivarian. It was important because it showed people, in just one session and a single broadcast, two of the antagonistic faces of this place we call homeland.
It’s nothing that doesn’t occur daily on Twitter, true, but with a singular detail: this time the government and its administrators were enduring heavy blows, responding, debating, discussing. All this in the presence of international guests. Their presence gave the meeting an air of a primary school ear-boxing; the class troublemakers of Our America called for punishment, not with the school principal but in an all-school assembly, so we may explain why the hell we can’t behave like the others; docile, silent, obedient, like teacher’s pets.
Good exercise, good therapy, not for the ego or nervous system of the attendees, but for a country that has been lacking a formal confrontation between those who make plans, politics, and systems, without being seen in the filthy street struggling with the rest.
Some things were made evident by this meeting that was broadcast across the nation.
One: the “unity” of the opposition does not encompass all anti-chavista factions, but acts effectively as a mechanism for provocation. All the representatives who spoke at the meeting did so only within a predetermined formula; they referred to the economic difficulties and scarcity as the origin and cause for the “peaceful protests.” All, except [Henrique] Capriles. We’ll dedicate a few lines to this young man at the end.
With this strategy they were able to impose upon the room, especially upon the invited guests, the sensation that criminal activity which took place in some [wealthy] urbanizations in the past two months were part of “popular protests because of the economic situation.”
While it was easy to debunk that load of nonsense (no uptown boy is outraged by the grievances of the poor, ever, anywhere), it produced the desired effect among the diplomats.
Another thing: Just like the bourgeois leaders of the MUD can’t help but talk like the bourgeoisie, the government has a hard time departing from the verbal codes created and popularized by Chavez. You decide if that’s good or bad. It seems to me that, without being an atrocity, it gives off an air of stagnation: out in the street there is a people producing ideas and language, and still the leaders of both powers refuse to speak any differently to how Luis Miquilena and Carlos Ortega spoke twelve years ago (or, the case of [MUD’s] Ramos Allup, how Rómulo [Betancourt] spoke half a century ago or more). An issue, perhaps, for semiologists or communication consultants.
Another important thing; the owners of the MUD no longer represent anti-chavismo, but they talk and act as if they were the only guarantors of peace. Throughout the speeches of Ramón Guillermo Aveledo and Julio Borges cicadas seemed to be buzzing, a distinct murmur that insisted, “When I give the order, the guarimbas [street barricades] come to an end.” Everyone in Venezuela knows that the guarimbas have already ended, but again, the message reached its destination; the ministers of UNASUR may have left under the impression that a popular uprising still flourishes in Venezuela.
Will anyone believe that Aveledo and Borges have in their hands, or hidden in their cheeks, the end of those supposed uprisings? Someone will have to ask them.
One thing was revealed with startling clarity; Borges, who just a few days ago was crying his eyes out because his opposition buddies were hating on him for being a softy (for dialoguing with the government), last night dropped a trick card; he said the only way there will be a productive dialogue in Venezuela is if a bunch of irresponsible kids keep screwing around in the street. With this, not only did he insinuate that he is the team captain of a “popular uprising” (uncanny lies; both the uprisings and the prospect of his leadership over anyone) but he also toyed with the idea that the country is so convulsed that the ultra right may fish more easily in these troubled waters.
Of course, the puppet had to do something to try to correct the uncomfortable “What will they say?” of those who expect him to be a valiant warrior and not a fool who speaks with the enemy because he does not know how to do anything but talk. So he tried: and now we’re to believe that the guarimbas are good (which he denied last week) because they encourage dialogue.
The voice of the courts
And what of the jury? How have common citizens received this dialogue between government and opposition? Whether or not we are bothered by the fact, something exists that instantly amplifies our rivaling group thought, and that something we call Twitter.
The street, the corner, the bar, the queue, the bus, and the shared taxi are popular courts of justice, where people debate topics of international and domestic interest. But the first vomitus, the first reaction, the first thermometer of political temperatures is always thrown into that virtual network. Andres Velasquez says something ridiculous, Ramos Allup tells a bad or brilliant joke, Boboza gives a yawn-worthy speech, Maduro lets slip another fumbling phrase, and half a minute later there are already 50 comments on the matter. In three minutes it’s not 50 but 500 comments, and in ten minutes the network is boiling in multifarious arguments and the swishing of arrows, images and judgments that are bitter, ingenious, sensational, or irresponsible.
One is tempted to say: “The tweeters don’t count as public opinion because they’re just freaks who spend the whole day staring at their computer or phone.” But no, a tweeter is not a kind of alien, or anything more than an average citizen who has opinions and expresses them through the tools that the internet offers.
So then that citizen, who simulates the feelings of many who don’t have twitter, that sudden author of instant reflection and commentary, last night released their first verdict: the government is the voice of the chavista project, and the MUD is just trying to capitalize on the violence of others. They are taking what isn’t theirs; some idiot kids went out to destroy, later some mercenaries went out to kill (which took the place of the guarimbas), and the MUD wants to reap the dividends by martyring some and protecting others.
That’s not a chavista analysis: it’s what your average-ranking escuálido [opposition supporter] thinks of those big men who went to dialogue with the government they want to overthrow.
The case of Henrique Capriles
I mentioned above that all the MUD speakers referred to the economic issues, and “explained” how that was the origin of the protests. All except Capriles; his explanation consisted of an attempt to fool the listeners into thinking the country is unsettled because he isn’t president. His statements were just short of saying, “Everything started when they stole my elections, and I told you I was going to get you Nicolás!”
Once again, the most defeated and isolated man in the meeting was this imbecile in whose honor a monument should be erected to the most out-of-place argument: everyone in attendance at Miraflores was there because they recognize there is a government and president. Everyone except him, who insists on the thesis that the government is illegitimate and stole his victory in the last elections.
I don’t have any option but to paraphrase Chavez himself (the same verbal vice of the government)… “muchacho pa bobo” [ya dumb fool.]
Where is this going
The dialogue between the government and the opposition stimulated the circulation of this important piece of news: in Venezuela there are two bands, or opposite poles, who hate each other but are capable of arguing in the open ring within view of everyone…or also in private. As Aveledo sweetly proposed; “We will televise some meetings and keep others behind closed doors.” The Adecos [the dominant party in the pre-Chavez era] are the kings of closed-door negotiation and shady agreements, but in the end, all politics are required to do the same.
So I believe that there will be at least two results of these conversations; the public result, consistent in that everyone, including fickle international public opinion, will now realize that the bitter Venezuelan disputes reveal nothing but the vigor of a Caribbean democracy, which is always ardent and sometimes childish. And the result “within the shadows,” which most likely will include a promise to not let the differences and designs lead to the spiraling of violence or the destruction of the adversary.
Back to the beginning. Could it be that the MUD is in a position to stop the violence? Didn’t we agree that the financiers and inciters of the violence are others and elsewhere?
Wait for comment from Miami to verify that last bit, and carry with you that doubt.
Translated for venezuelanalysis.com by Z.C. Dutka.