Monday, January 28, 2019

Would Juan Guaidó Govern Democratically?

Something I've been thinking more about and which gets precious little attention anywhere is what Juan Guaidó would actually do if Nicolás Maduro were toppled and he took over the state (see, for example, comments from yesterday's blog post). There are a lot of contingencies here, which makes the thought process tougher.*

But especially after the 2002 debacle, when the Venezuelan opposition immediately tried to establish its own dictatorship, we need to ask whether the "new" Venezuela will be a democracy.

Guaidó said the following about elections in a recent interview:
Once “the usurper” (Maduro) was gone, Guaidó said free elections needed to be held “as soon as possible” after political prisoners had been freed and members of Venezuela’s swelling diaspora could all be registered. 
“That takes time but we need to take care of these [things] in the shortest period of time,” he said.
They should get a lot more specific about this. There is at least a functioning legislature but there is a strong chance a lot of Chavista judges would be forced out, potentially leaving an ineffective judicial system. If the National Assembly bows to Guaidó (with his mentor Leopoldo López right beside him) then there is little horizontal accountability. In the absence of elections, vertical accountability will consist only of protests (or lack thereof). The Trump administration doesn't care about democracy at all, so where would pressure for it come from?

They will also have to get specific about what they do with former government officials. If the military amnesty is real, that's one thing, but are you going to round up hundreds of officials and toss them in prison? Without a judicial system how will due process be protected?

Maryhen Jimenez Morales, a Ph.D. candidate in Politics at Oxford, writes that it is a good sign that Guaidó is not the kind of charismatic strongman Venezuela has seen at various times in its history. That does not necessarily mean he is more committed to democratic principles, but she is keeping the cup half-full:
Yet crucially he appears to have an institutional flair like no other opposition figure. He talks about human rights, rule of law, restoring institutional powers in a peaceful manner and stirs away from messianic promises, self-promotion or party politics. Guaido has also ensured he has to reached out to various political groups and stakeholders, including government supporters and the military, reassuring them that a transition does not mean a witch-hunt and it will be a fair institutional process. In his public appearances, he has emphasised unity and has made sure he is surrounded by a cross-partisan group of politicians.
I hope so. He will be pushed hard to seek revenge, to radically reform the economy, and to reshape the state. Doing these things is much harder in a democratic context so he will be faced with the temptation to circumvent it. Can he resist the temptation and a combination of Trump officials and Venezuelan right-wingers telling him Venezuela needs him to act quickly and decisively?

* In particular, is there a lot of resistance and violence? Do outside military forces get involved? Violence in general reduces the chance we see democracy in the short-term.


shah8 2:25 AM  

Heh, this reminds me of all the times I tried to remind people in '16 that being a politician is a occupation, with a real set of developed skills--wrt Hillary Clinton (particularly with respect to that Ezra Klein Vox article that talked about Clinton as an uncharismatic deal maker, and that's perfectly great!)

Charisma and caudillolismo are not the same thing. Point blank, politicians lie, and do shady things, and reconcile between many factions. Because they do these things, they need to inspire confidence that the path that they took is the best one, and stuff was done for the greater good, despite ill-effect of actions. There is a big difference between having a forceful presence and developing a personalist cult of personality.

shah8 2:29 AM  

Eh, the point: The big danger was never that Guaido never has the fair elections (which is still an issue), but the Guaido simply doesn't have the pull he'd need to govern anything. That's the big risk of not using a statesman with a history with various people, good and bad.

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