Venezuela: The Political Technology of Chaos

The street protests shaking Venezuela are part of a conscious strategy to force president Nicolas Maduro from power, and are directed by the faction which lost the last presidential election, writes opposition politician Leopoldo Puchi. Himself an opponent of Maduro, Puchiwrites in El Tiempo that he is troubled at the protests’ apparent disregard for democratic legitimacy.

That Venezuelans should demonstrate against insecurity or the economic problems the country is facing is normal.

There are certainly reasons to protest: crime rates, shortages, even the cut in the annual quota of officially permitted foreign exchange for dollars, which has affected the quality of life for the middle class and the young since it is seen as a kind of annual bonus.

Nevertheless, what we are facing today is something else; what is being expressed is a desire for political power that goes beyond the legitimate right of protest.

In effect, a portion of the opposition has decided to carry out a strategy intended to force president Nicolas Maduro out of the presidential palace.

To achieve this end, the method is to put pressure on the decision makers of the state, in particular the military command, so that they will fracture and a portion of them will depose the president.

The opposition believes that with this strategy it will be easier for them to take power, since a ‘transitional’ government will be weaker.

Violence, of low or medium intensity is one of the tools in this effort to fracture the state, whether by blockading roads, burning tires and vehicles, throwing rocks and the like.

In other words, generate an unsustainable level of chaos, which will simultaneously loosen commitments and bonds within the state, while generating a wave of solidarity and confidence across the entire spectrum of the opposition.

It is a recognized procedure now, one which was used in the past by the left, and which these days people call ‘Springs.’

The sector that is pushing for this ‘ouster’ is not a majority in the opposition. But neither is it small or weak. It has support in the media, in powerful factions here and abroad, and it plays well to the bases.

This sector has effectively taken the baton from the [opposition]Democratic Roundtable (MUD) and imposed a strategy that has become dominant.

For his part, [failed conservative presidential candidate and opposition chief]Henrique Capriles Radonski has criticized what is happening, but rather timidly, since he is afraid to lose ground among his supporters. It is the same with the [opposition]political parties.

Up until now, events have mainly included sectors of the country radicalized by their electoral losses, and those who worry that if Maduro stays in office for the next five years, the country’s situation will be normalized.

Up until now, the street mobilizations have not linked themselves with the social hardships linked to the country’s economic problems.

Nevertheless, the first stirrings of an as-yet unexpressed social unrest can be felt beneath the surface, a result of the ongoing shortages, inflation and criminality.

If the current government does not act assertively to deal with these problems, the situation could well change, bringing other actors out onto the streets. Keep your ear to the ground.

Leopoldo Puchi