Quick Reactions to the Change of Power in the National Assembly

David Smilde

I have been preoccupied with the annual January deluge of professorial tasks over the past couple of days—tenure letters, conference submissions, annual review, etc. But I have been closely watching the events surround the change of power in the AN. Here are some quick reactions.

Fortunately, the Bolivarian National Guard and Bolivarian National Police did their job today and provided enough security for the new AN deputies to safely reach the Legislative Palace. This could not be taken for granted after new National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup was not allowed in the National Assembly offices yesterday, and government supporters suggested they would surround the Legislative Palace. Fortunately Maduro himself called on all parties to allow the swearing-in to happen in peace.

The opposition did the right thing in not getting hung-up on the three deputies they could not swear-in because of a TSJ decision suspending the electoral results in Amazonas State. This ruling needs to be contested in court rather causing a constitutional crisis by ignoring it.

I thought Chavismo was scoring points with their statements pointing at Ramos Allup emphasizing that the opposition represented a return to the past and was more interested in power than in the well-being of the people. The MUD’s Americo de Grazia seemed intent on supporting the PSUV’s portrayal with unfortunate declarations that the MUD was indeed aiming at taking the presidency (did the MUD not agree upon appropriate messaging for an event broadcast nationwide?).

But then the PSUV walked out over a supposed procedural violation, after trying to prevent majority leader Julio Borges from talking. Borges appropriately made use of the advantages provided by a microphone and gave his speech despite the hubbub behind him. The PSUV looked petty, obstructionist and undemocratic protesting over an unsubstantial technicality. And in fact this is a party and movement that has, in the past month, shown little vocabulary or discursive ability for dealing with the new reality of not controlling all branches of government.

Of course the optics of old-time Adeco Henry Ramos Allup becoming the face of the opposition could hardly be a worse. And it is clear that Chavismo is going to make the most of it.

However, I do not think average Venezuelans voted in December for the opposition as a new political brand and ideology. Indeed that would have been difficult since the MUD did little messaging or campaigning of any kind. Rather the voters who made the difference were those who punished the government for its poor performance. These are mainly people who are suffering from scarcities, inflation and crime and who simply do not believe in Nicolás Maduro anymore. They want a change in the current situation and if a National Assembly led by Henry Ramos can deliver, they won’t care if he represents the Cuarta Republica.