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Venezuela: Dialogues on the Dialogue

Categories: Latin America, Venezuela, Citizen Media, Politics, Protest
National Guard disperse student protesters in Caracas [1]

Attempts at a dialogue between students and the police in Caracas, Venezuela. Copyright Demotix Photo by Carlos Becerra (February 15, 2014).

After two months of incessant street movements [2] marked by violence and the death of many students, the Venezuelan crisis finally saw an attempt at a dialogue between the government and the opposition. The meeting was broadcasted on national television and intensely discussed on social networks. There, people shared different parts of the debate and ideas surrounding the political and social crisis in Venezuela. Nonetheless, when reading between the lines in most of these conversations, a lot of uncertainty about the future and an unanswered question about the conflicts between political factions and the economic situation is shared by all. 

On Twitter, the hashtag #DiálogoVenezuela [3] [es] (Venezuela dialogue) continues to grow in popularity with different opinions, and more questions can be found under #PreguntasSobreElDebate [4] [es] (Questions on the debate). 

Marleny Martinez [5] [es] responds to criticisms of the opposition, which often accuse them of being coup leaders or part of the ultra-right wing: 

When are we going to understand that we in the opposition are democrats. NO is the only thought that unites us.

Meanwhile, Ángel David Sardi [8] [es] sees the debate as a senseless game: 

Is this 11 for 11 and Venezuela's got the ball? Like that?

Andrea Bernal [10] [es], on her end, stresses the absence of objective mediators that could act as a type of thread amidst the discussion: 

And where is the mediator? There should be a moderator that does not belong to any part.

As a criticism, Gustavo Mavare [13] [es] points out the error of government spokespeople in insisting on the achievements of early years of the Hugo Chávez government: 

While the people need solutions, the government is dedicating itself to thinking about the past. Sad reality.

Meanwhile, Patricia Gutiérrez [15] [es] is suspicious of the intentions of the government's dialogue: 

In Venezuela, we want PEACE. But an authentic Peace! Not a dictatorship disguised as a sheep with the word “dialogue”.

Through a more reflective and analytical approach in his post Diálogo y Conciliación [17] [es] (Dialogue and Reconciliation), Nicmer Evans notes the progress made by the dialogue and lists some of the key aspects behind the organization and outcome of the conversations:  

El diálogo como práctica política no es sólo una alternativa, sino el instrumento fundamental de su práctica en una sociedad global donde la democracia se ha asumido como el sistema universal que rige las relaciones humanas.

En Venezuela, el diálogo entre sectores fuertemente polarizados en principio por concepciones ideológicas, pero hoy más que nunca, por intereses de poder, se plantea como “una necesidad”, posterior a dos meses de violencia urbana

Dialogue as a political practice is not just an alternative, but rather a fundamental instrument of its practice in a global society where democracy has been assumed as the universal system governing human relationships. 

In Venezuela, the dialogue between sectors that are strongly polarized in principle by ideological concepts, but today more than ever, power interests, arises as “a necessity” after two months of urban violence. 

Similarly, the blogger analyzes what can be seen in the background for both sides: 

La convocatoria y aceptación del diálogo por parte del gobierno es visto por algunos sectores radicales del proceso revolucionario como un síntoma de debilidad […].

De igual manera, dentro de la oposición, la aceptación al diálogo sólo es reconocida por aquel sector que aunque no ha cuestionado las acciones violentas en las calles de diversas ciudades del país, no han convocado a las mismas .

The invitation and acceptance of dialogue on behalf of the government is seen by some radical sectors of the revolutionary process as a sign of weakness […]. 

Similarly, within the opposition, the acceptance of a dialogue is only recognized by the sector that has still not challenged the violent actions in the streets of various cities throughout the country, have not called for the same. 

And on the process of the dialogue itself as well as the role of the most extreme sides, he says: 

[…] debe ser manejado con la prudencia necesaria y con el discurso más favorable para generar la inclusión, no sólo de los moderados sino de los radicales, excluyendo a los extremistas violentos, para obligarlos a ceder.

Cualquier asomo de un gobierno de conciliación activaría al sector extremista del chavismo, colocando a Venezuela en un abismo que generaría satisfacción sólo a aquellos sectores que responden a intereses trasnacionales. Pero, aún sin un gobierno de conciliación, la pérdida de las conquistas sociales logradas en el gobierno de Chávez, basadas en una más justa distribución de la renta petrolera, sería otro detonante pero ahora de un conflicto social.

[…] it should be handled with necessary caution and with a more favorable discourse to generate inclusion, not only from the moderates but the radicals as well, excluding violent extremists, to force them to give up.  

Any hint of a government of reconciliation would activate the extremist sector of chavismo, placing Venezuela in an abyss that would generate satisfaction for only those sectors that respond to transnational interests. But, even without a government of reconciliation, the loss of the social gains made in the Chavez government, based on a more just distribution of oil revenues, would be another trigger, except this time for a social conflict. 

Also approaching it analytically, Luis Vicente León published his opinions on the role of the representatives from both political groups and the results of this exchange on Prodavinci [18] [es]: 

¿Qué se ganó? Aunque es muy temprano para proyectar el futuro de estas reuniones y estamos en una fase todavía muy incipiente, se abrió un espacio del tipo de diálogo político que es natural en cualquier dinámica democrática del mundo y que en Venezuela, hasta ayer, era inexistente

El gobierno se presenta a la reunión unido y organizado. Más allá de las múltiples diferencias internas que tienen, el riesgo externo de la oposición en la calle los unifica. En el caso opositor el tema se complica. El conflicto la divide entre moderados y radicales y, además, entre políticos y estudiantes. Nadie individualmente representa a toda la oposición ni puede garantizar el fin del conflicto con un acuerdo de su parte.

What was achieved? Although it is very early to project the future of these meetings and we are still in the very early stages, a space for a political dialogue was opened that is nature in any democratic dynamic in the world and that in Venezuela, until yesterday, was non-existent. 

The government presented itself as united and organized at the meeting. Beyond the multiple internal differences that they have, the external risk of opposition in the street unifies them. In the case of the opponent, the issue becomes more complicated. The conflict divides it between moderates and radicals, and furthermore, between politicians and students. Nobody individually represents the entirety of the opposition nor can they guarantee an end to the conflict with an agreement on their part. 

And finally, he comments: 

Es evidente que aunque todos son importantes en el diálogo, el éxito o fracaso del mismo pasa por lo que Maduro esté dispuesto a hacer para rescatar el equilibrio del país. Y al gobierno le sobraban oportunidades antes del debate de ayer.

It is evident that everyone is important in the dialogue, the success or failure of it goes on what Maduro is willing to do to redeem the balance of the country. And the government had plenty of opportunities before yesterday's debate. 

The hours of debate that kept most Venezuelans, both within and outside of the country, glued to their television screens and computers continue generating responses. Some of them full of distrust, other hopeful of seeing a door to reconciliation opening after over a decade of conflict between political views and social classes. The interventions, in their entirety, can be seen on Albaciudad.org [19] [es] and more comments with respect to this can be heard on the political HangOut with bloggers Luis Carlos Díaz and Naky Soto [20] [es], where they comment on the interventions and their possible implications.