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The transition of the transition

By Luis Manuel Aguana

I had my doubts about how to start this new year. I even had them on how to finish last 2018, which I could say without mistake has been the worst year since our founding, including the Independence War. That's how bad the year ended. However, since I didn't want to sit back and cry about what happened in 2018, I decided in my last note of the year, modestly, to give some practical suggestions to improve the lack of credibility of young politicians who will be in charge of the opposition in 2019, and for that old maxim that advises looking ahead, avoiding driving through the rear-view mirror.

Already on a blank page in 2019 and with the present concern of how the political events of the next few days will unfold in the middle of all this debate that has arisen regarding who appoints or not a new Transitional Government in the absence of a President-Elect for 10E, I believe that we Venezuelans have lost in the midst of all this tragedy some important details that I believe it necessary to analyze in this first note of the year.

We have devoted so much energy to getting out of Maduro and his regime that we have not realized what would come next and with whom. You tell me, what's wrong with this guy? Obviously we would return to the system of freedoms and democracy that we lost with Chavez. However, that is what we want, that is what the country wants, but is that what those who maintain a fierce struggle for power underground once Maduro has disappeared, and of course those who sustain him, want? I don't know.

In 1958 things were very clear. When the dictator left, the statesmen took possession and led the country along a route that proved to be democratic and inclusive; and even though the Pact was made up of three actors, two of them enjoyed power (AD and COPEI), but were exhausted and in less than 40 years, not being capable of a vision of the future, the continued errors gave way to a social resentment whose imprint we Venezuelans are now living badly.

At that time, Venezuelans had no doubts about the democratic intentions of a Betancourt, a Caldera or a Villalba. Their credibility and leaderships were unquestionable. Those leaders had proven themselves, and their trajectory, which included a 1946 Constituent, gave no doubt that what they would do with Venezuela after the dictator fell was the politically correct thing to do.

But the political leadership of 1958 changed dramatically in 60 years. This era has witnessed leaders who have sold themselves for money to finance their parties; leaders who have coexisted with the regime at the expense of the suffering of the population; leaders who negotiate the country without a sense of State and Nation, and who far from leading the development of Venezuela have been co-responsible for its destruction.

After the tyranny castro-chavista-madurista what should come immediately is a purge of the opposition leadership with the consequent birth of new drivers. And that purge can only be given by the people of Venezuela through a fair and clean electoral process in which civil society participates, which with its true leadership, present throughout the country, is capable of measuring itself against those whom the same people saw selling themselves to the regime and who will surely continue trying to deceive them after this tragedy. All parties will have to renew their internal leadership through elections so that their true natural leaderships will emerge, not imposed, and only the people will decide who they trust to lead the country. It is their future and they deserve to decide among those who have demonstrated ethics, morals and citizen values.

However, now things do not look as clear as in 1958. And that is precisely the problem: could that be endorsed with the same confidence that Venezuelans gave Rómulo Betancourt, Rafael Caldera and Jóvito Villalba, to Henry Ramos Allup, Julio Borges, Omar Barboza, Leopoldo López, and the rest of the opposition leadership, during this process of dramatic change, being this situation exponentially worse than what Venezuelans experienced in 1958? Absolutely NOT. That confidence could not be given without a new measurement. All those leaders would have to put themselves in a freezer until Venezuela is in a position to decide with transparency who should lead the future of the country.

Note that I am not accusing anyone or condemning a priori any leadership (which I could well do for the sufficient samples given by these people only during these last three years). It is not for me or anyone else to judge them. That is the exclusive competence of Venezuelans.  But there must first be a system of transparent selection at all levels that decides without exclusions who would be called upon to occupy the main direction of the country. That cannot be the exclusive property of the parties alone.  The reconstruction of Venezuela must correspond to all of them in equal conditions and opportunities.

So that leaves us with a serious problem, which has even been seen for a long time by the military: Are we going to rise up and put our lives at risk to hand over power to that discredited and corrupt leadership, even if they make elections later? They would never rise up and indeed they have not. And that question they have asked themselves could be the answer to why Venezuelans are still waiting for a pronouncement from the military to resolve this crisis once and for all.

The solution to that dilemma is the real substance of what is being raised here. There should be a pre-transition band where, as in 1958, there is the presence of honorable citizens in whom the country trusts, possessing sufficient credibility to create the conditions that will allow a new generation of leaders to emerge that will lead us to a process of economic recovery and political stability, leaving behind the old leaderships that have been devalued by their own actions. Those honorable citizens would be those who would lead a transition to a new leadership of the country, and who would eventually lead the country from the current deplorable state of political leadership to a new one. It is something that might well be called the transition of the transition.

One cannot go from a State led by criminals to one led by a discredited leadership of dubious ethical and moral qualification without running the risk of returning to the previous situation in the short term. If that mistake were to be made, the first to take advantage of a very possible failure due to corruption in the return to democracy would be precisely those who were expelled from power for the same reason. This was the case of Violeta Chamorro's Nicaragua, with Daniel Ortega's return to the present day.

If we do not first pass through a bridge that guarantees the emergence of a new generation of politicians on whom society can trust its future, all the effort of regaining freedom will be lost. Venezuela needs that transition of transition. A suggestion for the National Assembly and the legitimate TSJ: this should be one of the first things that Venezuelans should think about in early 2019, especially just before a transition. Thank God Venezuela still has honorable men and women, with an awareness of ethics, morals and citizen values, easily identifiable. Look for them and empower them, if you really have a sense of Nation...

Caracas, January 3, 2019


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