Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya

A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)
A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 8 December 2015 — Despite all adversities and cheating to attempt to sabotage the opposition’s victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections, the forecasts were on target: the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) didn’t just come ahead in surveys, which Maduro was hoping for, but it swept the polls.

The puppets at Telesur, “Latin America’s television channel”, could barely hide their apprehension. The long wait that followed the closure of the polling stations was a clear indicator that the ballots cast were so in favor of MUD that no Castro-Chavista trickery could reverse the outcome. However, announcing the results would turn out to be a bitter and difficult pill for Maduro and Cabello’s patsies to swallow.

Well after 12 midnight in Venezuela, Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), officially announced the results in a nervous and stuttering manner, in contrast with her usual energetic and poised style. MUD had risen, so far, to 99 seats in the parliament, well above the 46 achieved by the Chavistas. It is such a crushing blow to the ruling party that until last night [7 December] the results of the remaining 22 seats, completing a total of 167 in Parliament, had not been declared.

A stunned Nicolas Maduro posed as a democrat and pretended to be satisfied with the “triumph of democracy.” An advisor obviously suggested he leave his belligerent stance of the previous days, when he threatened to “govern in the streets” with “a military civic coalition” if Chavistas (Maduro’s party) conceded losing the election. We can imagine the advisor: “Mr. President, ‘the street’ is precisely who voted against you”. Thus, the speech accepting his defeat could not have been more gray and monotonous, recounting past victories which contrasted even more against the failure of the day. The faces of amazement of his audience shouted clearly that the glory days of Chavismo were over. Another one that bites the dust, after the sharp fall of the empty figurine of the Casa Rosada just days ago.

The saga is going to be very interesting. The new Parliament will assume its functions on 5 January 2016, and even the 99 already seats called for MUD will guarantee the simple majority, those who will be allowed to directly rescind root matters, such as electing the assembly board, (‘bye, ‘bye, Mr. Diosdado Cabello!) approving or vetoing appointments, enacting legislation or appointing Supreme Court judges and the Attorney General of the Republic, among other powers that would put an end to 16 years of Chavismo government impunity and authoritarianism enforced through violence, fear and coercion.

Such power in the hands of political opponents, however, would not be the Bolivarian autocracy’s worst nightmare. The most hostile circumstances for the dying Venezuelan regime is that MUD only has to win 11 more seats of the 22 remaining open (two have yet to be announced). Reaching 112 deputies will allow the opposition contingent to get two-thirds of seats, a sufficiently overwhelming force to bring down the whole dictatorial scaffolding erected by Hugo Chavez and his followers. MUD could exercise legislative functions of great scope and depth, such as promoting referendums, constitutional reforms and constituent assemblies.

It is no wonder, then, that however incomprehensible it may be — given the speed and efficiency of an electoral system fully computerized with the latest digital technology — almost 24 hours after completion of the referendum, CNE officials, still mostly Chavistas, had not made public the final results. Maduro’s supporters and his troupe are worried, and they have very good reason to be.

Yesterday dawned with Telesur completely silent on the subject. It would seem that there had been no Sunday parliamentary elections held in Venezuela. Elections which, by the way, the government itself announced would be “historic”. Admittedly, they were right this time. Yesterday, December 7, however, Telesur focused on the French municipal elections…. things of the Orinoco.

Havana’s Reaction

Castro II’s message to his Venezuelan counterpart has a somber tone, like those formal condolences one coldly offers an acquaintance on the loss of a close relative: “We’ll always be with you.” With enough problems of his own, the General-President was sparse, dry and distant with his “Dear Maduro” letter, despite the ‘admiration’ with which he listened to the words of the arrogant president. It ends with “a hug.”

Democratic Cubans, however, are celebrating. The victory of democracy in Venezuela cheers and encourages us, and we hope that MUD knows how to appreciate, in all its worth, the enormous importance of the victory achieved. It is a well-deserved laurel, solidly fought by them at a very high cost, but it is only a first step on a path that promises to be difficult and full of obstacles. Personally, I think it is a beacon of hope for all who aspire to the end of the dictatorship in our own country. The time is right to wish Venezuelans success as they return to the path of democracy.

And it is also opportune for dissidents and opponents here, inside Cuba, to meditate on the need to exploit the cracks of the precarious official legality more effectively. It is true that political parties alternative to the Powers-that-be in Cuba are without any legal recognition, that they are demonized and persecuted, their forces are constantly repressed and that we do not have the legal space that democratic Venezuelans have been able to defend, but the legalistic route has not only proven to be an effective tool, it is the only one that would have international support.

In the last elections, in the city of Havana two members of the opposition opted for the office of district delegates. It was a courageous act, and they were repressed by mobs at the service of the government, and criticized by quite a few of their fellow members of the opposition ranks. However, they both demonstrated that a representative portion of their communities dared to vote for them, and so they broke the myth of the opposition’s absence of roots.

Today, Venezuela’s victory stands not only as a hope, but also as a lesson for us: no dictatorship is too strong to not be defeated. If it happens at the polls, all the better. No space gained from a dictatorship is small or negligible. In the coming year, a new electoral law will be enacted in Cuba. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to push in that direction: pressing hard and with determination against authorities to achieve legal recognition spaces, fighting from these spaces, leaving defeatism aside because “that’s their game.” The distance between the Venezuelan reality and ours is indeed very great, but when results could motivate the change, it’s worth trying.

Translated by Norma Whiting

*Note to readers: Sadly the translation of this post got “lost in the internet ether” and it is now appearing here, very belatedly.