Carlos Blanco's A Time to Talk, released on October 14
This catastrophe has to be assimilated, lived; and only from there, we will able to face the future
The defeat suffered by the Democratic Opposition is monumental and cannot should not- be hidden. It is true that victories are preceded not by one, but by many defeats; but victories are possible if you are aware of their consequences and learn from failures and mistakes. What should not happen is what Chávez did in Amuay when amidst the tragedy he said that "the show must go on."
Opposition leaders not only offered a victory, but on the very same Election Day, with gestures, because results could not be verbally announced, they suggested they had won. It did not happen.
In terms of politics and politicians, this could be another defeat; however, for hundreds of thousand, maybe millions, of Venezuelans, this is an existential catastrophe. It cannot be ignored that for many people, their lives, their vital decisions, their personal, professional and family fate depended on the result of October 7th election.
There is great pain, many tears have been shed; people are in mourning. This catastrophe has to be assimilated, lived; and only from there, from that well of sadness, the serenity necessary to face the future can be found. I have many suspicions about those who time their grief because you have to stand up now and come back to business as usual. No. The show must not go on as if nothing has happened.
WHO HAS WON AND HOW? Chávez' victory is not a clean one. Before proceeding, I want to make two things clear once and for all: maybe Chávez has the votes to win without tricks and it is also possible that votes cast on the machines have been properly counted. Therefore, I am not saying that Chávez lost, or that the results were electronically changed. I do not have evidence to make those assertions. However, is a fraud limited to the above? Absolutely not.
Venezuela witnessed a campaign marked by a lack of fair play by the government; the excessive use of public resources; permanent intimidation; use of the National Mass Media System in favor of the official campaign; and, above all, fear, fear instilled in public servants, in those who are benefiting from the government's social missions, those who were threatened with violence had the Caudillo lost the election. This arsenal prevents elections from being free, clean and legitimate, because it distorts the will of a part of the country, the size of which cannot be determined, but that certainly exist. Even if Chávez wins in a free election, distorting the will of a single voter by virtue of official intimidation is unacceptable. It is not the same winning for 10% as for, let us say, 2% or 3%.
Therefore, denying the fundamental practices does nothing but paving the way for them to repeat and multiply. Gubernatorial and mayoral elections are to be held soon; would not it be worth fighting for a change in election conditions? The idea here is not telling people to abstain if not all the desired changes take place; the idea here is that fighting for a change of those conditions, even though a percentage of them would make voters enthusiastic and a part of demands could be attained.
THE CAMPAIGN. Capriles' campaign was commendable. He made millions enthusiastic and certainly walked the streets. That effort has a long history that dates back to 1999 and 2000. Without those struggles, people would not have mobilized this year. However, the offer of a victory that was supposedly sure failed and strategy was a crucial issue.
There was a deliberate policy to exclude leaders and organizations. Most candidates for the primary election were excluded from the campaign strategic leadership. Most party leaders were excluded too. The argument that a close collaborator of Capriles told me was that they did not need party leaders, because the grassroots were already gained for the campaign. I replied to that stance with the example of Acción Democrática (AD party); I told him that AD followers voting for the candidate, as they surely would do, was not the same as they being mobilized with the experience of operations like "fly" or "gallop" or others. The same applies for other parties. I remember having said that traditional parties perhaps would not win an election, but that winning an election without them was difficult.
A strategic mistake derived from the previous one is not recognizing that many today's Chávez's followers belonged to political parties like AD, Copei or MAS. And even for usefulness reasons, or for unitary convictions, a connection with the disappointed Chavezism could have been sought through the political history of its members.
A more profound topic that has emerged with the postelection hangover is the deeply reactionary and wrong idea that Chávez's followers are imbeciles who sell out for three thousand bolivars. They are not aware that politicization among poor sectors, and the creation of a new elite, even the existence of a "well-dressed" Chavezism, are a part of a new political and social reality. Insulting Nicolás Maduro because he was a bus driver and now is the Foreign Minister is not understanding that precisely a profound, desirable democracy is the one in which drivers can reach the highest levels. AD did that in its times and, for instance, a humble shoemaker like Augusto Malavé Villalba, with speech limitations, who became a top union and political leader, was the butt of similar jokes.
A wrong vision of Chavezism, even of discontent, lead (the opposition) to compete with Chávez in terms of electoral offers. This approach reveals that the regime's offer was considered from a material perspective only, but not from the perspective of what it provides in existential terms: sense of belonging, a voice, and a passionate narrative; without mentioning the fact that promising to improve Chávez' offers was reaffirming what Chávez has done; bad, but something.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH OPPOSITION LEADERSHIP? In other societies and contexts, a defeat like this would lead to a renewal of the opposition leading cadres. Maybe, this is not possible or desirable in the Venezuelan case, but the least one can expect is a widespread call for a creating debate on the causes of the debacle and strategies vis-à-vis the future. The portion of the country that left their souls in this failed effort cannot be asked now just to elect governors in December without learning from the experiences, without mistakes being corrected and virtues, which, certainly, Capriles' campaign also had, being deepened.
This defeat, well evaluated, can become the basis of future victories. One should resist to the temptation to silence critical voices because there is a new election coming. This argument will always prevent debate. December's election is next; then April's and watch out! Perhaps a referendum for a Constituent Assembly...
Translated by Álix Hernández
The very early morning after the presidential election (April 15), both candidates requested the National Electoral Council (CNE) to conduct a full audit of the process: one, Henrique Capriles, because he asserts that the election results are different from the ones announced, and the other one, Nicolás Maduro, in order to clear any doubt regarding his victory, and to reinforce his political stance. Nevertheless, as it is already known, President Maduro changed his mind.