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The role of the Civil Opposition

By Luis Manuel Aguana

Ever since that famous question was asked "Civil Society, how do you eat that?", Venezuelan Civil Society has gone around in circles to serve as a counterweight to the barbarities committed by both the regime and the official opposition during this period of obscurantism in Venezuela's history.

In a recent earlier note (The Civil Opposition present, in https://ticsddhh.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_92.html), I remembered a term that I coined in the year 2012, which went beyond the well-known Civil Society that all Venezuelans know, and which I baptized Civil Opposition:

"The Civil Opposition is civil society in its role as the protagonist of change, and its action in public affairs is manifested in its active participation and control of the main public actors. It will always be in opposition and will permanently remind those actors that there is an anonymous country that is affected by the decisions and public policies that are applied to citizens. They are the ordinary people who do not belong to parties but are conscious citizens who live in and love their country, NGOs that have their own civil spaces, opinion makers without ties or straw ends, who are day by day doing their bit to ensure that things are done well. If this decisive participation had existed before, perhaps things would not have gone so far and Chávez would not exist in the Venezuelan political scene" (see in Spanish Oposición Civil, in https://ticsddhh.blogspot.com/2012/08/oposicion-civil.html).

Within the framework of this Civil Opposition, the National Original Constituent Alliance, ANCO, has acted so that the political protagonists understand that given the extremely serious institutional situation in which Venezuela finds itself, it was, is, and continues to be necessary to concur with Popular Sovereignty to produce the changes that this country needs, not only that of expelling Maduro and his criminals from power. Politicians have been deaf to this principled approach. First, in the face of the call for a National Constituent Assembly that we have made for many years when we called ourselves a Constituent Movement, and from 2016 with the founding of ANCO. In the same way later with our proposal of a Popular Plebiscitary Consultation.

It has never been our proposal to replace the role of the political parties as the Civil Opposition. The parties in Venezuela -the new ones and the old ones, all of them- lost their democratic course more than 20 years ago. There is not a single political party in Venezuela that has renewed its leadership in internal democratic elections and offered a structural solution to solve the country's problems, beyond putting the faces of its leaders up for an election. They are all hollow. That is why the Civil Opposition has been present in its different manifestations and that is why we founded ANCO.

But that doesn't solve the problem. The Civil Opposition, unless its leaders accompany the current political parties in their claims to power by power itself, cannot by definition replace the role of the political parties, however horrible their performance may have been. The current parties have the obligation to modify their way of acting in front of the country or to perish in front of other new ones that effectively vibrate in the same frequency of the citizenship. And the quarry from where these new parties will come out is, again, the Civil Society in its main role of social control of the parties and the rulers that come out of them.

If we don't like something the parties do, let's report it. Let us constantly insist and criticize their actions even more in the face of their public responsibilities. But Civil Society does not exercise the power to make decisions. We only mobilize ourselves with activities and exert pressure so that they act in the way that we believe convenient for the interests of the country. And if we still don't get them to do what we think they should do, then there will be no other choice but to participate directly in public affairs, taking a step forward and creating new parties that do respond to what the people want, soliciting the vote of the citizens to do ourselves what those leaders we criticize do not want to do in favor of the people. That's how the system works.

The behaviour of the political parties in Venezuela has left much to be desired. In 1998 the bipartisanship as we knew it until that year disappeared. Many of those rotten leaders of the old destroyed parties migrated to that new platform that Chavez formed to change the institutionality of our country. And those who survived decided to cohabit with the regime in order to survive. We are now seeing the results of that. We have seen in these 20 years that this experiment did not solve but rather aggravated the disease that Venezuela was already bringing, which caused precisely one coup leader to be elected President of the Republic. And although other parties emerged with new faces, even very young ones, they unfortunately followed the experience and bad habits of the old ones. And why was this the case? Because the truly concerned citizens have never wanted to take the step of joining the old parties to renew them, or creating new ones to propose solutions for the population, remaining on the sidewalk of Civil Society, and so things did not change for the Venezuelans either.

When from ANCO, as a Civil Society organization, we requested a Popular Plebiscite Consultation as a tool to remove the regime, what we were basically proposing was to generate in practice the constitutional mandate of a people towards those who have roles in public power to change the political situation. That was the only way that from the Civil Society we could make them do what we asked. When they did not achieve this, they continued to do what they thought was appropriate in their role as "representatives" that we gave them with our vote. Those are the rules of the democratic game.

The effort that distinguished Venezuelans are making to put "representatives" to the country's Civil Society through innovative mechanisms based on social networks, is a modern approach to shape this concern of mobilizing Civil Society in its role of social control of what political parties and their leaders do, But never the representatives that are elected through those mechanisms could replace those who were legitimately elected with votes in the National Assembly or any other public power of the current Venezuelan institutions, so we are very upset because at this time they are not fulfilling their role as representatives. They have lost legitimacy of exercise and that is why from ANCO we fight to structurally change the way those representatives exercise our public representation, for a modern and different way where the citizens can exercise their control. And that is part of our proposal in the Big Change.

I welcome all initiatives that try to organize Civil Society in some way but without diverting the current and future role it should have in emerging from this crisis. There is no single Civil Society, just as there is no representation of humanity because we are human beings with different expressions. There will be multiple expressions of the citizens who will have their legitimate representations and all of them will be equally very valid and must continue and be strengthened; because if there is something that we have gained in these last 20 years in Venezuela it is the citizen conscience that our lives and the quality in how we live them depends on the deficient or efficient exercise of the activity of the politicians who represent us. That our role as citizens in the public life of the country manifested in a strong Civil Opposition must go beyond exercising a vote periodically. And because we have not done so is the reason why we are in this very serious situation. Let us not let them take away from us this new citizen condition we have acquired after so much sacrifice, making it felt for what will happen now and in the future of Venezuela.

Caracas, April 27, 2020

Email: luismanuel.aguana@gmail.com
Twitter:@laguana

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