“In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity.” – Winston Churchill
I confess that last night, while awaiting the results of the Venezuelan parliamentary elections (results which the National Electoral Council stubbornly refused to release, despite the entire country knowing them), Winston Churchill was doing circles around me like a ghost.
I thought about this phrase from the most important political figure of the 20th century, because I believe that today, more than ever, it remains relevant. We must understand how to deal with our victories in politics, in war, and in life.
It would be very easy in this moment for the opposition to launch into a fiery speech and say that a recall referendum, a constituent assembly, and accelerated political change are on the way. The votes comfortably provide for such a scenario, given reports that the opposition won two-thirds of seats in Congress.
As I was thinking about these things, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro was speaking on the television. He went on to say that chavismo had received a slap in the face.
But it was much more than a slap.
Right now, nearly 18 hours after polls have closed, the National Electoral Council continues to avoid fulfilling their duty by failing to release the actual percentages of all election results. Additionally, due to their unending bias and mediocrity, the council has yet to label the specific party of each winner and loser, making it difficult for anyone trying to figure out the outcomes.
In every prior election, the council has highlighted the party of each winner, emphasizing what’s in store for Venezuelans.
Despite their efforts, reports came out that the opposition not only captured 70% of the vote, they won by a 40-point margin. Is there a precedent for such a lopsided defeat? In Venezuela, there is clearly none. So, the only objective of the council’s delay was to impede the celebrations in the streets and give Maduro time to prepare a narrative for the defeat. It was clear that in a country with inflation of 300%, widespread scarcity of 70%, and poverty of 76%, the government wasn’t going to win.
Venezuelan citizens spoke very loudly and very clearly. What happened yesterday was a plebiscite against Maduro and his regime. But it would be very dangerous for the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) to accept an empty triumph. More than anyone, the opposition should be sure to keep the government intact, especially at a time when it could fall apart and spiral out of control.
A messy collapse of the Maduro government—after yesterday’s results, this isn’t just possible, but feasible—would result in a country in chaos. For chavismo, the following days will be ones of confusion and retaliation. The Hugo Chávez movement was based on three principles, which were introduced by the former president and continued by the current one. They have drilled the following into the psyche of all Venezuelans, especially the opposition:
- The poor will support chavismo unconditionally.
- As a consequence of the first principle, the poor will always be the majority.
- The armed forces will be the pillar of the poor and support them at any moment.
All three principles collapsed yesterday. As a result, the next few days will be difficult for the regime, but also for Venezuelans, who could be dragged down with them. chavismo is such a dangerous movement that they can settle their differences with bullets, like criminal gangs do. Just a word to the wise.
It was clear that in a country with inflation of 300%, widespread scarcity of 70%, and poverty of 76%, the government wasn’t going to win. The only ones who did not know this, and continue without understanding why, are Maduro and those around him. Perhaps because of so much privilege, they forgot what it’s like to be an ordinary person.
The opposition triumph constructed itself against the most blatant form of opportunism anyone has ever seen in a country; against the most grotesque opportunism ever witnessed in the history of Venezuela; against the wall of silence that self-censored or state-censored media imposed on the opposition; and against the election tricks that the regime tried against its citizens throughout the day.
The opposition achieved this, unlike in previous occasions, by preparing themselves mentally and covering every possible trap. Yesterday, the regime tried to repeat the same strategy, but, like good chess players, the opposition had closed all roads to a checkmate.
These results strengthen people like Leopoldo López (it’s likely that he is freed in the next few days), his wife, Lilian Tintori (who traveled the world shouting her husband’s message), Jesús Torrealba (whose energy and commitment were indispensable to the opposition machine and organization), and the thousands of members of anonymous committees of all parties related to the MUD that dedicated themselves to persuade people one by one.
However, no matter what, the opposition cannot say that they have 70% of the votes. They have many votes, but the other side remains dissatisfied. If this torrent of votes, which is slightly comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall, is going to allow for an orderly transition, it depends on the magnanimity and leadership of the opposition.
In closing, Churchill comes back to mind, when he said at the Battle of el-Alamein: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
We should aim for that today in Venezuela.