By Emmanuel Rincón
Español. Power is an illusion and, at the same time, illusion is power. Whoever is capable of manipulating minds at opportune moments will be able to use the power of illusion and seize power. A coup d’état (or in the Venezuelan case, ending the usurpation of the presidency), does not have to be effective to be successful. As a matter of fact, it does not need to be successful to achieve a transition in government. Moreover, what is crucial is the illusion of success. Reality, is not important during those moments when lowering the guard or changing sides is just a matter of seconds.
To succeed in a coup it is not necessary to win all the battles. Indeed, you may lose all of them–except the communication battle: the battle of illusion. All your troops can be bleeding on the floor, but if a significant part of the population believes that you are the victor, they will surrender to you, despite you lack of weapons, men or ammunition.
Juan Guaidó’s first mistake on April 30 was announcing the end of the usurpation of power on Twitter. Ideally, he should have taken to the TV channels and radio stations, stating that all the military was on his side (and not only part of it). Instead of claiming that he was waiting to defeat Maduro, Guaidó should have declared that the tyrant was already dethroned, demanded that his political opponents submit to the Constitution, and subdue the traitors.
Imagine the amount of cortisol, adrenaline and stress that would have accumulated in the brains of Maduro’s soldiers if Guaidó was on the government-controlled channel VTV declaring his victory–or if Maduro’s arrest was being announced on the radio. Is this as effective as just saying “join us and we will triumph”?
February 23 meant another lost opportunity to dynamite the Cuban-controlled military bases. The improvisation and hesitation gave the regime another chance; the opportunity was not taken even when hundreds of soldiers defected on that day. Conversely, Nicolás Maduro’s cartel played its ace, released the prisoners to protect the revolution, showed determination, and took the victory without significant casualties.
Power is a continuous sociological treatise that must be put into practice every day. It cannot be transferred by means of constitutional mandate, nor elections or sovereignty. Power is just an illusion living in thousands of minds that unanimously decide to respect an authority, or to bow down before it for various reasons: fear, respect, interest, love, madness, masochism or disinterest. Despite the risk of being redundant, I insist that there is no power for the sake of power; power is just an illusion. If for a brief moment the majority of the military had thought that Maduro was overthrown, he would have been gone long ago.
Juan Guaidó has not made used of his mighty ally, the most vigorous military power worldwide and its power of persuasion. John Bolton has tried to provide Juan Guaidó with all the tools, declarations and messages in order to checkmate Nicolás Maduro’s supporters. However, the interim president has mismanaged his wild cards, just like the tetris player that does not make the long pieces fit and loses.
In an exclusive Washington Post interview, the interim president was asked what he would reply to John Bolton if the American diplomatic offers him military cooperation. Guiadó declared: “dear friend, thanks for all your help in the just cause. Thanks for the opportunity; we will assess it and probably consider it in Parliament to solve this crisis. If necessary, perhaps we will approve it”.
That “perhaps” resounds in the ears of Bolton, Trump and Maduro and his allies alike, because ambiguity at a moment of high pressure only means hesitation, which can tire out the Americans and the Venezuelan people that once again took to the streets.
In a recently published a letter from an “opposition” group of Venezuelans demanding a “peaceful, electoral, democratic and sovereign resolution to the current crisis,” which would be tantamount to a second wind for the group of dictators. I would like to ask them a serious question: do you think that Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello and company will say one day: “OK, we are leaving; we are fed up with ruining your lives. We are heading out to jail of our own accord at the Helicoide or the U.S.?” And I ask again: do you really think so? Or is it simply that you want Nicolás Maduro to remain in power? Ask yourselves that question out loud; perhaps you will find how stupid it sounds.
A couple of days ago, a fourteen-year-old boy called Yoifre Jesús Hernández was killed in the middle of a protest against Nicolás Maduro in Caracas. His father saw him passing by on a stretcher with a shoot in his waist. A medical student attempted to stop the blood but she failed and had to watch him die. His father and aunt cried inconsolably. A reporter asked the medical student whether she wanted to say something to the boy’s father. She just burst into tears asking for forgiveness as she was incapable of saving his son, and said she would like to hug him.
Perhaps you may be wondering “what do the power of illusion, John Bolton, military intervention, and a group of innocent Venezuelans demanding ‘peace and sovereignty’ have to do with the murder of a fourteen-year-old kid?” In a country of contrasts and abuses, everything has to do with everything: it is pointless to underscore that the responsible for Yoifre’s death was not the young student who, in floods of tears, could not prevent him from bleeding to death. On the contrary, the ones responsible are Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello, Vladimir Padrino, the military chain of command and, of course, the official who shot the gun.
It is worth questioning, though, whether the opposition leaders are also responsible for those deaths by organizing manifestations of unarmed people against heavily armed animals. Are they responsible for coexisting with the tyranny and hindering a medical surgery to extirpate it without further delay? I do not dare to judge; it is certainly a rough matter.It will be the Venezuelan people who will ultimately be the judge.
Dear pacifists, I regret to inform you that if you pretend to avoid a bloodbath, you have arrived years late to the situation. Under Maduro’s regime, more than 330,000 Venezuelans have been killed by gangs. About 100 Venezuelans starve to death every day. You must add to this number the cases of suicide motivated by desperation and the harsh living conditions, plus the medicine shortages and, of course, do not forget the more than 18,000 assassinations by the national police force FAES in the last eight years–not to mention a poor man named Fernando Albán, who was thrown from the tenth floor of a building by SEBIN agents.
Let us recapitulate: one of the greatest drug cartels worldwide, 20 years of repression, political assassinations, political kidnappings, multimillionaire embezzlements of public funds, expropriations, gold robbery, extortions, gangs, “colectivo” government thugs, guns, Hezbollah, Cuba, Russia, Iran… Now, I wonder how realistic things like pacifism, elections and sovereignty are in this scenario.
And I ask yet again (this question is for those who, directly or indirectly, repeat the dictator’s lies and that slogan “Hands Off Venezuela”): are you seriously trying to avoid a bloodbath or is it that you are finding a way to make Chavismo remain in power?
Emmanuel Rincón is a Venezuelan lawyer and writer, author of five novels.