Maria Corina Machado: Times of Political Innovation

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Photo Credit: Marcela Colmenares

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post in the Telesur website with the following name: Fascism, the face of the right-wing. The post meant to “educate” people by explaining to them what Fascism and Nazism is, and proving how those movements resemble a hundred percent the Venezuelan opposition and its leaders. In one of the sections of the post, Telesur shows pictures of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Augusto Pinochet and Francisco Franco, next to representatives of the opposition such as Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López – to name a few. I won´t waste your time explaining why this comparison is ridiculous and unacceptable, because it is obvious that the German genocide, the Chilean military dictatorship and the Spanish Civil War cannot be compared to a Venezuelan opposition that has even been denied the possibility to speak in its own National Assembly (Legislative branch of the government). However, the Telesur post cannot be taken lightly, because very much like fascism and Nazism brainwashed its population, the Venezuelan government is on its way to brainwash ours. Nazism and Fascism are mentioned on a daily basis in this ideological war. And if they want to talk a bit about fascism and Nazism, I will give them something to talk about.

One of the biggest lessons that Germany learned after the Second World War was not to underestimate anti-system parties (anti-democratic parties). Even though the German political institutions and culture differ from those in Venezuela, some lessons can be useful for all, and should never be forgotten. The first reform that I am talking about, was the introduction of a Federal Constitutional Court with the right to ban political parties with anti-democratic values. Ever since, two parties have been banned: the Communist Party and the Socialist Reich Party. A second major change, was the introduction of a 5% electoral threshold in the Bundestag, which stabilized the decision-making of the German parliamentary system, but also prevents small extreme parties from an easy access to power. While it is true that Nazism became more extreme after Hitler became chancellor, it is also true that the Nazis did not sell themselves as a democratic party when they began to seize power. The Weimar republic was in crisis and, in need for a change, the people decided to trust the Nazis despite their anti-Semitic and authoritarian discourse. In other words, the Weimar republic was so democratic, that it allowed the existence of a party that threatened the existence of democracy. So democratic, that it allowed the people to choose its own Führer.

What does all this have to do with Venezuela? A couple of days ago I met Maria Corina Machado, a member of the Venezuelan National Assembly since 2010 and a brave representative of the Venezuelan opposition. She was giving a talk about the “Neo-dictatorship” that has been established in Venezuela since the past presidential elections in April 14, 2013, when – with a difference of about 200,000 votes – the government refused to audit (recount) 100% of the votes (a process that in some countries is automatic). Ever since, the government has used every possible tool in order to threat and silence the Venezuelan opposition, including violence. Ms. Machado, together with other members of the opposition, was beaten inside the National Assembly by government-adept legislators. All the incident occurred with the doors closed, difficult access to internet and the absence of the media. Finally, the only national TV channel that the opposition trusted (Globovisión) took the decision to no longer broadcast Henrique Capriles’ speeches live. These are some of many proofs that show how the Venezuelan government has increased its power while losing its legitimacy.

One of my biggest concerns while listening to Maria Corina’s speech, was how are we going to be able to get rid of this illegitimate neo-dictatorship, because I do agree with the term. How are we going to fight an army (because it is true that Chavez and Maduro kept the army happy by rising its benefits and salaries, even in times of economic hardships) with words? How are we going to fight a dictatorship with democratic tools, when all our democratic institutions are centralized and corrupted? The Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice accepted Chavez’ permanent absence until he died without even gathering a team of doctors to verify if he was fit to govern, which was anti-constitutional; the electoral system refused to recount a hundred percent of the votes right after it suggested to do it, and the National Assembly’s president decided to forbid the opposition to speak in its own parliament. So when we want to fight these branches with democratic tools… how naïve are we being?

Maria Corina Machado is obviously not naïve. She understands the difficulties of the situation and she thinks that while the opposition should be determined and strong, it should never forget its democratic values. She stated firmly that the Venezuelan opposition is preparing for a transition to democracy, which I assume will be carried out once we get rid of this government. How is this government going to end? According to Maria Corina, the possible scenarios are infinite and, unfortunately, not all of them are peaceful; as usual, Venezuela is ruled by uncertainty and anything could happen. This is an extremely difficult fact for me to accept, and I am convinced that it is also difficult for many of my readers. But Maria Corina and other responsible leaders want us to trust them and stay strong. “This is a leadership that is willing to risk a lot, but that is also asking for huge sacrifices”

In the meantime, the Venezuelan opposition’s current strategy is based in what Maria Corina calls Parliamentary Diplomacy (which consists in parliamentary members from the Venezuelan opposition talking to other parliaments in the Americas), and increasing the political cost of the government’s authoritarian behavior. It is time for true solidarity between countries that need to understand that the Venezuelan political and economic crisis affect the performance of a whole continent. Keeping always in mind that solidarity does not equal direct intervention.

I know that many of my readers will be wondering about the possibility of a coup d’état in Venezuela. To them I say, anything could happen. A coup d’état would be a faster way out of this government, but we cannot forget that the military has its own plans and ambitions. After all, military dictatorships like that of Pinochet, originated after an illegitimate claim to power. These are new times with new kinds of dictatorship and populism. If coup d’états are no longer the solution for Latin American problems, as Maria Corina pointed out, these are times of necessary  political innovation.

Marcela Colmenares

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4 thoughts on “Maria Corina Machado: Times of Political Innovation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Marcela. It is good your article about the Venezuela political. It would be good to translate it in Spanish like you said before. The venezuelan situation is too critical and we hope that the solution will be as soon as possible. Sorry for my poor english. Kisses

  2. Marisol Amaya says:

    Hi Marcela, I read your article and I seemed it very good. It would be good that you translate it to Spanish. We want and hope that this situation it will resolve as soon as possible. Kisses.

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