Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: You say pleito, I say debate

By Juan Cristobal Nagel in Caracas Chronicles:

You say pleito, I say debate
In retrospect, this must have been an awkward moment

Henrique Capriles had some harsh things to say about La Salida the other day.

He said the wave of protests unleashed in February, which has since died down, only strengthened the government, and was rejected by a large majority of the population. He heavily criticized its proponents as out of touch with the needs of the majority in Venezuela. His feelings have been echoed by, among others, Baruta mayor Gerardo Blyde, who today says the proposal for a Constitutional Assembly is a bad one.

This has unleashed a torrent of criticism. For example, former Constitutional Assembly rep Alberto Francheschi basically accused Capriles of being in cahoots with Maduro. Friend-of-the-blog Gustavo Coronel claimed Capriles, with his stance, had become “politically irrelevant,” and in a sharp rebuke, now claims that “Aporrea is more in opposition to the government than the MUD.” (Good one, Gustavo)

Personally, I think this is a good thing for the opposition.

There has been way too little debate inside our own ranks as to what constitutes the right strategy. The shifting nature of the Maduro regime (some would call it an implosion) means there are no easy answers. And the issue of political prisoners and dwindling civil liberties requires that we all think carefully about our next steps.

On this blog, we were critical of #LaSalida, but we came around to understanding what was driving it. Any issues we had with the strategy were drowned out by the outrage the backlash provoked in us.

I have also criticized Capriles’ non-stance, which basically proposes sitting tight until 2019 without saying so. I have openly questioned whether he remains the leader of the opposition, and I have been surprised his callous indifference toward those who have been detained for protesting. The #LaSalida folks have no strategy, but neither does Capriles.

In essence, the opposition needs to do some soul-searching. It needs to debate everything – who holds power inside the coalition, what the best strategy is, and how we find out the two. It also needs an urgent restructuring, particularly after the disastrous Roberta-gate (remember that?).

Personally, I don’t think the opposition will split in any significant form. The need for unity is greater than any personal animosity. If this debate leads us to a better outcome, then it is probably a good thing. And the opposition’s leaders understand that any claim to want to lead and unite the country is hogwash if you can’t sit down and talk to somebody inside your own coalition who just happens to think differently.

In spite of my reckless optimism, there is work to be done – lots of it. The opposition needs to re-engage with itself and find some common ground once again. Debate is good, but reaching a conclusion is even better.

Nobody holds the entire truth, and there are no easy solutions. A little humility from all the players involved might help them realize this.