By Luis Emilio Bruni
Spanish – Anyone who starts reading this article probably knows very well whom the strategist appointed a few months ago as an ad honorem advisor to President Guaidó is. Many of us agree on his well-earned reputation as a sophisticated and articulate operator when it comes to projecting and implementing strategies. I make no secret of my intentions in using this rhetorical device to get his attention. But what has happened at the end of 2019 is almost a strategic breakdown of Venezuela’s interim presidency. That is why, in pragmatic terms, the most pertinent imaginary interlocutor to analyze such a collapse is the recently appointed strategist. Millions of Venezuelans trust him to know how to inject common sense and logic into what has so far been a web of dissonances and strategic incongruities.
The Venezuelan nation has had three stellar moments in its historical legacy. The first is its role in the emancipation of Latin America and the constitution of its republics in the 19th century. The second, the example and leadership of the Betancourt doctrine in the proliferation and defense of democracy in Latin America and the world. The third moment is the present one: two decades of heroic and untiring struggle at the beginning of the 21st century against the most perverse and powerful coalition of enemies that has ever been waged against any nation in the history of the American continent.
The invisible enemy
Although visible enemies are well-characterized (and let it be clear that the status of enemy is imposed on them), what makes the existential struggle of the Venezuelan nation truly monumental and confusing is a powerful and slippery invisible enemy that moves like an ethereal snake with a thousand heads, appearing and vanishing before our eyes only to quietly reappear from behind.
Much (if not all) has already been said about the visible enemies: the lieutenant colonel and his newly wealthy family, the ruthless and corrupt regime leaders, the military traitors, the shameful Cuban regime, the guerrilla bandits, the São Paulo Forum, and the dictatorship’s international allies. A coalition of exploitative, human-rights-violating, and corrupt individuals and regimes that have bent over backward to subjugate, torture, and plunder the Venezuelan nation.
But in reality, it is the invisible enemy that makes this feat incomprehensible to Venezuelans. The people who have been fighting and continue to fight with gallantry and courage from their spirit of nationhood never understand the reasons for their defeats – especially those that come when victory is near.
This enemy is made up of a transnational network that maintains communication links with national and foreign politicians, businessmen, bankers, financial operators, law firms, NGOs, journalists, the media, and even officials of international organizations such as the FAO or the International Criminal Court itself. For the sake of simplicity, I will henceforth refer to this conglomerate as “the nebula”: an entity of diffuse appearance, without a determined identity, capable of permeating and penetrating even the rocks. It is a network of invisible networks, but at the same time, it is a fog that obstructs clear vision and understanding. It is not a hierarchical organization with subordinate relationships (such as a bureaucracy, an armed force, or a political organization). Instead, it functions as a heterarchy in which a differentiation of groups with similar structures prevails, but without ties of subordination. It is a type of clientelism based on relations of convenience that links individuals and white-collar mafias in very heterogeneous networks and often without shared values (apart from the desire to plunder and the objective of monopolizing an enormous amount of the immense wealth of the Venezuelan nation). This is achieved through a horizontal linking of partners, “friends,” relatives and figureheads, building systems of alliances, and generating personal ties and obligations not always visible to other members or sectors of the same nebula.
The most precious weapon to maintain the balance is both information and misinformation about each other for an eventual war of dossiers. The economic power and the intricate patterns of infiltration of this network are what make it impossible for an ordinary citizen even to imagine the conflicts of interest and communicating vessels that may exist between specific sectors of the nebula and prominent national and international figures, whether pro-regime or opposition.
The strategic gaps in a structural schizophrenia
One of the results of this influence in the ranks of the opposition that today makes up the interim government is the incomprehensible and unintelligible strategic inconsistencies that defy any logical analysis, and which are often justified with the maxim that “you have to play all the cards.” It is difficult to explain the failure to prioritize a strategy. The rescue of sovereignty is logically more important than the rescue of the rule of law, and the rescue of the rule of law is logically more important than an electoral contest. Whoever claims to be a political leader in Venezuela and pretends not to understand this undeniable fact, either responds only to partisan interests or maybe somehow obscured by the nebula.
Thus, the opposition’s strategy oscillates schizophrenically between the promotion of TIAR by the president’s international representatives, and the endless debates, dialogues, and apologetics for the formation of an “inclusive and balanced” CNE with representatives of the plunderers and human rights violators to hold presidential (or legislative) elections. At the same time, the regime and the invaders are still in control of the state and Venezuelan territory.
It is also clear that these two “strategies” do not communicate with each other. The promoters of presidential elections, or Nordic-Caribbean dialogues, do not seem to mention the restoration of national sovereignty or the expulsion of foreign agents in their speeches. Some prominent leaders wear themselves out passionately frequently in parliamentary speeches to explain to the regime’s deputies what they themselves know to be obvious (whether because their actions are unconstitutional, the people do not want them, or whether as a result of a CNE nomination committee). At the same time, these supposedly sophisticated speeches, unfortunately, end up becoming equal to the degradation of the politics promoted by the regime, combining vernacular insults with friendly condescension, repeatedly addressing those who cynically and systematically deny the obvious and can even take the insults with perverse pleasure.
In my opinion, this futile exercise can only have one of the following pragmatic objectives: 1) to satisfy the popular audience’s desire for catharsis; 2) to convince the regime, its deputies, and the nebula that there is a sector of the opposition that is genuinely committed to leading a transition that considers cohabitation with the network of predators; 3) to avoid focusing the action of the National Assembly where it is needed: the cessation of usurpation, the recovery of sovereignty, the reestablishment of the rule of law, and the necessary international cooperation to achieve this. These speeches tend to trivialize cooperation and international legal and diplomatic instruments by invoking civil war, foreign invasion, or military coup d’état. With this “strawman” fallacy, the causes are reversed with the effects, and it is postulated that the way to the end of the usurpation and the transition is, in fact, a presidential election.
The King Solomon Syndrome
The so-called G4 of the Venezuelan opposition survives amidst an internal paradox. For reasons that are difficult to understand at first sight, after every gesture of rebellion and national consensus (2014, 2016, 2017, 2019), the leaders of this alliance unite to stop the ongoing feat inexplicably. The paradox lies in the fact that this tenuous union erodes again with the beginning of internal struggles and the positions advanced by the coveted unitary candidatures or by the international players. Given the pragmatic improbability of this type of leadership in the management of executive power (not to mention sovereignty and the rule of law), this type of leadership ends up acting like one of the two women in the famous Solomonic trial. They behave like the woman who prefers to see the child split in two before it is given to another. If their conflicts of interest become evident, they are unable to step aside, as any genuinely democratic politician would.
When you want to solve a crime, apart from the body of the deceased and the weapon of the crime, you need to understand the leitmotiv, in this case, the motivations behind the strategic objectives. Let us then analyze the following logical pathways.
The challenge of the president and his strategists
It is not only President Guaidó, who must shed his partisan discipline as he has opportunely announced. Each of the courageous deputies committed to the liberation of Venezuela should do so. What is existentially urgent is a genuine, coherent, professional state diplomacy. Not an embarrassing partisan distribution of charges and polymers. Venezuela is in the eye of the storm of a global conflict of unpredictable consequences. The nation is unguarded and hijacked by a proxy state.
At this point, with the convulsive beginning of 2020, and President Guaidó bravely ratified in office, I have the following questions and comments for our imaginary interlocutor:
- The opposition’s setbacks in 2019 were, unfortunately, not just mistakes. They are part of the structural schizophrenia dictated by the nature of the basis of the constitutional legitimacy of the interim government. How can one “free Willy”?
- How can you counteract the King Solomon’s Syndrome?
- In times of war and invasion (like those that afflict the Venezuelan nation), there are no shades of gray in Bushido when it comes to honesty and justice. It is only right and wrong. The most difficult enemy to fight will be the nebula.
- How could the biased Spanish hegemony over Venezuelan affairs within the European Commission be diplomatically neutralized?
- How to align the EU with the allies in the Americas, the Lima group, the OAS, and TIAR?
- How to effectively combine all compatible and relevant international instruments (TIAR, R2P, Palermo Convention, UN Security Council, Blue Helmets, and peace missions)
- How can the Venezuelan case be coherently presented at the United Nations and sufficient support achieved to face an eventual veto by Russia and/or China on any initiative of international military and/or police cooperation that the interim government manages to coordinate?
Any new dialogue or dealings that re-emerge for electoral purposes (presidential or parliamentary) – over and above the rescue of sovereignty and the restoration of the rule of law – can no longer be considered a strategic error. Those who once again want to convince us that this is the way to go will have to explain in detail what, according to them, is the causal sequence by which this path will supposedly lead to the rescue of sovereignty and the reestablishment of the rule of law so that the Venezuelan nation can defend itself, not only from the regime and the invaders but also from the nebula.
Luis Emilio Bruni is a professor at the University of Aalborg (Denmark). He is an environmental engineer who graduated from Penn State University with a master’s degree in international relations from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD. in semiotics and theory of science from the University of Copenhagen. Between 2011 and 2017, he was elected president of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies for three consecutive terms and currently heads a laboratory for cognitive semiotics at Aalborg University.
Luis Emilio Bruni is professor at the University of Aalborg (Denmark). He is an environmental engineer who graduated from Penn State University. He also has a master’s degree in international relations from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD in semiotics and theory of science from the University of Copenhagen. Between 2011 and 2017, he was elected president of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies for three consecutive terms and currently heads a laboratory for cognitive semiotics at Aalborg University.