Permanent member of the National Academy of History, writer, columnist, and university professor, Elías Pino Iturrieta uses abundant adjectives to evaluate the path taken by the opposition leadership, which he suggests “to get in touch with reality”. In recent weeks, he has won a legion of detractors for confronting the staunch defenders of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, whom some Venezuelans see as the last chance to overthrow Chavismo, to the point of thinking that if he fails to get re-elected, the interim government of Juan Guaidó will suffer a major blow.
-In your article “Venezuelan Trumpism” you say that some leaders sold the illusion of a US invasion and put aside the internal fight for power. What is the reason for it? Political laziness or is it just that everything is exhausted and we see a “redeemer” in the United States?
-They began to raise this issue of salvation through Trump a long time ago, so they have not tried everything. The problem with this proposition is that they called play ball before being ready to bat. They didn’t even try to train but became heralds of the invasion from the beginning. Trying to sell the possibility of an immediate exit is a fraud. A relatively informed politician has to know that the President of the United States cannot pick up the oval office phone and tell the officer on duty at the Pentagon: “Look, kid. Invade ”. That does not exist. The worst thing about this story is that they are selling a fraud, and that fraud encourages the people. And why does it work? Because society has tried so many times to no avail and sees the invasion as a way out. Then leaders begin to create dangerous illusions. One begins to compare the Venezuelan situation with past and foreign crises that have nothing to do with it. They lead you to think wrongly. They have poisoned people’s minds. That is the severity of homegrown Trumpism. Selling a lie and having the people believe it.
“Democracy and freedom need checks and balances and that is precisely what the dictatorship is destroying under our noses”
Elías Pino Iturrieta
-Are not the interim and the White House responsible for phrases like: “All options are on the table” and “we have them fenced in”? Have they created false hopes for Venezuelans?
-Of course. The lie that has two sides: the Venezuelan community and Trump. At this point in history, you have an obligation to reason. One thing is obvious: Mr. Trump is not trustworthy. He prompts mistrust. He lies every day. Trump’s changing ego is the only thing that dominates politics in the White House. How can I trust a man that has dismissed 7 ministers and 16 other officials? He discards them little by little. You could see it, but you do not because there is already an imposition from a sector of Venezuelan politics and the exiles in the United States. That creates a very serious problem for us, more serious than you can imagine: confusing our own means with the foreign. Some believe a victory from democratic candidate Joe Biden will be the end of the world. But why should it be if you live in Guanare, Cumaná, or Boconó? Your life will not change because Biden is not a socialist, communist monster as they have claimed. That is insane. You do not live in Nebraska, you live in Margarita!
– Is not the wish for an invasion a consequence of not seeing in any leader a reliable figure? Last week sociologist Tulio Hernández published “Liderofagia” (Leaderophagy, the “suppression” of leaders), an article where he stated that Venezuelans are used to “devouring” their leaders. If they do not deliver, they are quickly repudiated and people start looking for new ones. Why does this happen?
-This leaderophagy does not belong exclusively to public opinion, but the leaders. Do we want to suppress the current leaders? Not me, but they are setting the conditions for that to happen. If Juan Guaidó – whom I admire, respect, and have helped – makes the unfortunate move of April 30 in La Carlota, he is giving me reasons to repudiate him. By Juan Guaidó’s involvement in these absurd invasions of Macuto and Chuao, he is giving out reasons to be rejected. This leaderophagy is not the sole responsibility of Venezuelan society, but of the leaders who have committed this nonsense. The events of Chuao, Macuto, and La Carlota are inexcusable. Those were unfortunate ventures. All this is the product of an abstracted elite. Guaidó forgets that the political parties trusted him with the position, but now these organizations are being excluded from the decision making process. I am sure, and I have information on the matter, that incidents such as La Carlota, Macuto, and Chuao were the result of decisions taken by individual leaders within the elite where political parties Acción Democrática and Primero Justicia did not participate. How could these parties be unaware of the plan for La Carlota! The fault lies not only with Guaidó but with the personalistic elite surrounding him. Political parties have also failed to stop him: “One moment, Mr. Guaidó. This cannot continue, because you depend on us ”. That has not happened. The attack on the parties has increased. The Government wants to erase them, and the only way to avoid it is for that intimate and personalistic circle of Guaido to be broken and replaced by an advisory service from parties like Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo, and Acción Democrática. I exclude Voluntad Popular from the equation because it has been the controller of this private club. We have to end that private club.
Now that you mention the destruction of the political parties. Some people say that the December elections called by Maduro will make an interim government in exile inevitable in 2021. Is that feasible?
– No, and there is proof of that. Before the civil war in Spain ended, the republicans established a government in exile in Mexico. That was a fiction that never worked, even though the brightest minds were involved. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship consolidated. There is no favorable outlook on that possibility.
"There is no way to defeat the dictatorship without real political parties in tune with society”
While the interim President lives in Venezuela, his commissioners reside abroad. In an interview with La Gran Aldea, the former ambassador to the UN, Diego Arria, said that the interim government was a fiction. What do you think?
– I do not take Diego Arria’s words for granted. I do not think he is very accurate. But he is not wrong. There is no power without the elements of power. For example, people, money, and the possibility of exerting control. Guaidó only symbolically has them. We are living a fiction, but the only strength, which is very real, is the backing of more than 50 democratic countries abroad, in addition to the emotional consent of society. If 80% backs the project, it stops being fiction and gains elements to become a reality. It is about the parties making that fiction materialize; and the only way to do so is dismantling the clientelistic elite around Juan Guaidó and replacing it with the political leadership of the parties working with him. Otherwise, there is no way out. If this continues to be handled by the leaders who conceived the moves of La Carlota or Macuto, there is no way out.
-Why has Chavismo been so long-lived compared to other dictatorships in Venezuela?
-In the first place, because decrepit political parties allowed Chávez to build a long-lasting dictatorship. And secondly, due to the unrestricted support of the Armed Forces. This is a military project. There are no fissures between the civilian ruling elite and the Army. There will be no reconstruction of society without political parties. The emergence of new political parties has been a miracle. Chavismo reigns over a society lacking options for political organization. There is no way to defeat the dictatorship without real political parties in tune with society. Let that connection spread to the army and then they will draw their conclusions.
-Are we condemned to endure Chavismo for 20 more years or eternity, like the Castro dictatorship in Cuba?
-Of course not. Not if the political parties understand that this is a fight for the republic rather than a fight for their own survival.
“The Republic is the only important thing that Venezuelans have done for a decent life, and it is unknown to the leaders!”
-But do they understand that? César Miguel Rondón said in an interview with La Gran Aldea that the political elite has timing issues…
-I would say something worse: Ignorance issues. Rush and bad timing is the product of ignorance. They believe the history of Venezuela began the day they were born and not in ancient documents. What happened before does not matter to them. They are so wrong! The Republic needs discourse and narrative, and Chavistas are extraordinary in these matters. Chávez had an epic story that began in the times of Guaicaipuro and ended with himself. Why don’t we get rid of the dictatorship? Because it has a discourse. Where is the republican discourse of ours? It does not exist, because leaders believe that everything will start with the brilliant generation of 2007. Rubbish! The Republic is the only important thing that Venezuelans have done for a decent life, and it is unknown to the leaders! I’m not asking them to read history books or take lessons, but at least understand the problem. If the guys do not know the work of Francisco Javier Yanes (author of Epístolas Catilinarias, 1835) or the struggles of 1830 to make Venezuela a proper modern liberal Republic, what can I expect from them! At least they need to know the horse they intend to ride. If not, they will not take the right path, because they will not know how to ride. There is no way out if these young people do not stop being so superfluous.
-A young man of 37 years is the jockey. What do you say to leader Juan Guaidó?
-When you ask me to say something, I feel like a “notable”, and that seems abominable to me. The project, Juan Gerardo, does not depend on you, nor the group in your office. It depends on opening up the office to the political parties, understanding that the Republic is at stake. That is so obvious. There is no alternative other than humility. Of course, they are proud. They consider themselves unique and exclusive. Don’t be arrogant! You do not even know half of the story. We are looking at the surface. Democracy and freedom need checks and balances and that is precisely what the dictatorship is destroying under our noses, especially under the noses of Guaidó and the political parties detached from reality.
Translated by: José Rafael Medina