The Popular Consultation as an articulation of social protest

By Luis Manuel Aguana

A widespread concern of all civil society demonstrations against what is happening in the country is how we articulate and channel protests around the world to achieve the critical mass needed for something to happen in Venezuela.

Many hours have been devoted to the discussion of how to make the little "tealights" -Maduro dixit- that are taking place all over the country light up in a real fire and mobilize a whole population that cannot see the day when the regime of Nicolás Maduro finally ends. However, the regime has silenced the media and although it is finally known that every day there is some strong protest about a lack of food, health, water, transport, security, etc., throughout the country, the general perception is that Venezuela is in a tense "calm" when in fact it is in a permanent hive.

On a last note in March 2014, which I published at the time of the full street scuffle of that year. (see in Spanish Caída inevitable, at http://ticsddhh.blogspot.com/2014/03/caida-inevitable.html) said that according to serious research carried out in relation to the nonviolent struggle against regimes such as the one we suffer in Venezuela, it was technically concluded that no nonviolent civil insurrection had failed during the study period (1900-2006) after the active and constant participation of only 3.5% of the population had been achieved, and that historically successful insurrections had been recorded with a much lower percentage than that.

According to the National Institute of Statistics-INE, we have a projected population of 31.8 million Venezuelans as of 2018, which would require keeping 1.1 million people on the streets in an active and constant manner. Those are the internationally proven mathematics of successful civic protest. In 2014 I thought we could achieve that number on the streets that year alone. But 4 years of beatings, failures, betrayals, deaths, persecutions and mass exodus indicate that unfortunately it will be less and less possible to use the street as the only methodology of struggle, so new open forms must be implemented, We need to be able to demonstrate in a clear and intelligent and at the same time forceful way our rejection and repudiation of this regime, in order to be able to challenge its permanence in power.

On the eve of the next May 1st mobilization, many organizations will take to the streets in a fair protest seeking demands that it is impossible for this regime to give, not only because they destroyed the entire system of life of the population but because they do not have any alternative way to keep the country afloat without the money of the oil rent, and that now is insufficient.

This depressing picture will get into a vicious cycle. The population on the street will protest and their request will be answered with more violence and repression, returning to the beginning with more hunger and more misery, which will in turn provoke more protests.

"Against hunger, misery, corruption and repression" will be the slogan of the unions and other organizations of the country for May 1st. How many people can be mobilized in Venezuela for the social protest? Everything indicates that we are in the presence of a significant increase in social conflict. According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, protests increased by 40% in one year, immediately demanding humanitarian cooperation, with February 2018 characterized by "an increase in labor protests, protests for food and medicine, street closures, rallies and paralyses as the main forms of protest...". (see in Spanish Conflictividad social en Venezuela en febrero de 2018, en https://www.observatoriodeconflictos.org.ve/tendencias-de-la-conflictividad/conflictividad-social-en-venezuela-en-febrero-de-2018).

Venezuelans who are committed to the return to the rule of law, to respect for the Constitution and its observance (until we can change it for a better one) are obliged to the country to propose new forms of organization and non-violent struggle. The effective combination of street protest for unfulfilled demands that by their very nature are completely dissimilar, with a coherent route of how to solve the country's political problem could effectively give the articulation required for the sum of all these protests to constitute that critical mass required to sustain the international minimum required for the displacement of the regime.

The isolated protests - the "tealights" that Maduro called - without a glue that gives them a sense of political unity, will continue to be that, "tealights". But they all have one thing in common: they are the consequence of a nefarious economic system imposed by a ruling clique ideologically opposed to the majority of the country. There is no protest that does not have its origin in something that this regime has destroyed in its eagerness to impose 21st Century Socialism on Venezuelans.

A Popular Consultation that indicates the clear route to displace Nicolás Maduro from power will add to a single critical mass all the Venezuelans who still remain in the country, both those who actively protest in the streets and those who do not for reasons of age, health, security, etc., and that they are the great majority, giving a clear majority mandate to those who govern us, and a strong message to the international community that we Venezuelans want change in peace and democracy, and indicating to those who still hold the popular representation in the National Assembly that they still owe us a Transitional Government and National Unity.

Seen in this light, the Popular Consultation is a formidable tool that should be used by those who are trying to articulate social protest in its different manifestations, no longer understanding it as a substitute for it. It is high time we used the channels of participation that are in the Constitution in support of our cause, before they cease to exist....

Caracas, April 24, 2018

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