December 11, 2009

Making believers out of us...

Quico says: The Latinbarómetro Poll, published by The Economist, always has an eyebrow-raising stat or two to offer. This year's study, for instance, asks the age old question: in which large country in the region do people have the strongest faith in the market economy's ability to help the country as a whole?


Read the whole thing...

Comments are now disabled on this site.
Please comment on the new site.

Technoutopian Chronicles

Quico says: If citizens' ability to reason together on issues of common concern in the public sphere is the cornerstone of real democracy, Venezuela is in more trouble than we know. These days, in Venezuela, the public sphere looks like this.

If we're going to start the long, slow process of rehabilitating our public sphere, reclaiming it as a place for sane interaction between responsible adults, we're going to need mechanisms that allow us to tamp down on pure vitriol and outright ad hominem attacks, to make space for a more reasoned kind of discussion. Caracas Chronicles 2.0 is mi granito de arena: a way to empower an online community to defend itself from the total mayhem on sites like N24.

I've been working on it for a few months, and I really think this software could do the trick - even in Spanish. The system is designed to be self-correcting, marginalizing nutters and empowering people with something to say by using the input of the entire community.

I've thought long and hard about how to make a software platform that's easy enough to use even for the casual, once-in-a-while commenter but that allows people who want to spend more time on a forum to get much more out of it as well. We'll see if it happens.

For now, here's that FAQ.

What is Community Powered Comments?

Community Powered Comments is a new way of moderating the comments section that puts the reader community in charge.

Instead of relying on one or two moderators to decide which comments are good enough to publish and which should be deleted, it asks the entire community to help identify the comments that really drive debate forward. It then makes sure those comments stand out in every comment thread, while it lowers the visibility of comments that add less to debate.

Think of it as the community’s vaccine against gallinerization, a way of protecting Caracas Chronicles as a space for serious debate.

In 2010, we’re going to roll out this system in Spanish, to try to launch a platform for political debate about Venezuela that doesn’t immediately degenerate into the kind of thing we see on Noticiero Digital.

So how does it work?

At the end of each comment, registered users are asked to answer two questions about it:

Do you agree with this comment?


Does this comment add value to the discussion?

All you have to do is answer those two questions fairly and honestly: the software does the rest.

First off, it highlights the comments that add most value to the debate, making them easy to spot in a thread. At the same time, it makes comments that contribute less to the discussion a little harder to read, by displaying them in gray text over a white background. The very lowest ranking comments – plain old trolls – get hidden.

Notice: nothing is ever censored in Community Powered Comments! No comment gets erased outright. Even if everybody hates a comment, you can still click on it and read it.

The goal here is to make trolling relatively unrewarding, by depriving trolls of visibility.

What’s the point of asking people to rate each comment twice?

Sometimes, the comments that do most to sharpen your understanding of an issue are comments that you totally disagree with! So we want you to keep the question of whether you personally agree with a comment separate from the question of how useful it is to the debate.

The point here is to avoid Groupthink: the situation that develops when people just rate up comments they agree with willy nilly. Groupthink bumps off dissenting views merely because they’re unpopular, even when they’re valuable to a debate. Community Powered Comments is designed to avoid that pitfall.

Of course, this will only work if the community really makes an effort to vote fairly on each issue separately. The site asks a lot of you, and gives a lot back.

Do I need to open an account and log in to post a comment?

You don’t: anyone can post a comment, with or without an account. To post without an account, you just have to convince the system you’re a human being by answering one of those captcha word puzzles.

So what’s the advantage of opening an account and logging in?

First, you need to log in to rate other people’s comments. Anonymous cowards don’t get a say on how visible others’ comments will be.

Second, if you don’t log in, the system gives your comments a pretty low visibility setting by default – if you write a good comment and people vote it up, it will become more visible, but to begin with, its visibility won’t be great.

Also, by logging on, you get to decide how choosy you want to be in filtering out comments the community doesn’t like very much. This can range from not choosy at all (“Show me every comment”) to highly choosy (“Show me only the best comments”).

Logged in users get to decide how choosy they want to be.

If you’re not logged in, the system assumes you’re “medium choosy” – showing you most comments but hiding the lowest rated ones (pure trolls).

Finally, you need to log in for the system to be able to track your Reputation Score, which allows it to recognize your contributions to the community in the past and rewards users who add the most value to the community.

What’s my Reputation Score?

Your reputation score is a summary measure of your overall contribution to the community over time. Every time a comment you write is rated by another user, your Reputation Score ticks up or down accordingly.

Write a lot of smart, substantive, interesting comments that drive debate forward and your reputation score will rise over time. Write lot of silly, inflamatory or uninteresting comments that don’t add value to the discussion, and your reputation score will suffer.

Why should I care about my Reputation Score?

The better your reputation, the more influence your ratings have over the way other people’s comments are displayed. The worse your reputation in the community, the less influence you have over others within it.

That’s another reason to really try to write comments that drive debate forward: if you don’t, your reputation score suffers, and if you have a bad reputation score, the system doesn’t take your opinions as seriously as it takes the opinions of your better reputed peers.

There are other reasons, too. If you have a high reputation score, any new comment you write will be highly visible by default. If your reputation in the community is not so good, your new comments will be less visible to start with.

Community Powered Comments sets out to replicates the way these things are (or should be) in the real world. The better your repuation is, the more seriously your opinions are taken. That’s how it is in the real world, and that’s how it is on this site.

How do I improve my Reputation Score?

It’s simple: by writing smart, substantive comments that other community members recognize add value to the debate, and by rating others’ comments fairly, whether or not you agree with them.

Where can I see my Reputation Score?

You can’t, and for a reason. We don’t want people to fixate on an arbitrary number, or to treat reputation building as a game. We want you to focus on contributing as much as possible to the community by writing quality comments and rating others’ comments fairly

What are Trusted Users?

Trusted users are the 10% of users who got the highest reputation score over the previous seven days. The list changes every week, so the universe of trusted users is always changing.

This is all done automatically: every Sunday night, the site analyzes the previous week’s worth of commenting activity to identify the top 10% of contributors to the community over the last seven days. It then automatically contacts them to let them know they’ve been chosen as “Trusted Users” for the next seven days.

Because the set of trusted users changes every week, even if you had a terrible time of it last week, you can still be a trusted user next week if you work hard to contribute to the community. Community Powered Comments believes in giving people second chances.

What are the perks associated with being a Trusted User?

As a Trusted User, the system gives you more say over the way the community operates for the next seven days. Specifically, you’ll get a limited number of “tokens” you can use to promote or demote a given comment.

Think the community is being too harsh on a given comment? You can use one of your tokens to Promote a comment, making it much more visible. Think the community is voting up a really stupid comment? Then go ahead and spend one of your tokens sinking its visibility.

As a trusted user, you have the last word: once you’ve promoted a comment, all voting on it ceases.

And there’s more. As a trusted user, any comment you make on the site will come with a “Trusted User” seal of approval and receive high visibility setting by default. Trusted users are allowed to put images into their comments, and they’re allowed to edit their comments after they’ve posted them.

Can I become a permanent Trusted User?

You can’t. Every Monday morning the system starts compiling data on the following week’s trusted users from scratch.

I have a great idea for improving the system, where can I send it?

Community Powered Comments is very much a work in progress, and we expect it to generate lots of debate – and not a few hiccups.

If you want to contribute an idea or – better yet – code a fix in PHP, we’d love to have it!=

Contact us on caracaschronicles at fastmail dot fm

Comments are now disabled on this site.
Please comment on the new site.

December 10, 2009

Caracas Chronicles 2.0: Sneak Preview

Quico and Juan Cristóbal say: The new software platform for Caracas Chronicles is finally here! After several months of intense work, the site is now presentable enough for everyone to look at.

Check it out!

For now, the new site is at, which we hope will be the URL of the new, Spanish version of Caracas Chronicles. Over the next few weeks, we'll be posting in parallel here and in the new site. Early next year - once we've brought over the archive - we're going to put this old blogger site to sleep.

At the heart of the new site is an innovative system for managing the comments section that, we hope, can solve the age old problem of ceaseless flame-wars in Venezuela's political cyberspace.

The idea, basically, is that Juan and Quico don't get to decide which comments get top billing and which comments get hidden; you do.

With this new system, the community collectively gets to decide which comments get top billing by voting.

The system asks you to vote not just on whether you agree with a given comment, but also on whether it helps drive debate forward. Read all the details in the new system's FAQ.

Remember, you don't have to create an account to comment on the new site, but we strongly encourage you to do so anyway. It's free, and it only takes a minute or two.

By logging on, you allow the system to track your reputation within the community, and the better your reputation is, the more impact you'll have on the way the forum works, the more visible your comments will be, and the more weight the system will place on your opinions. And if you're among the top 10% of commentators in any given week, the system gives you a whole set of additional goodies regular users don't get.

Early next year, we'll be launching Caracas Chronicles 2.0 in full, which will include a Spanish version. This will open up CC to a whole new cast of characters, but hopefully the new software will steer the conversation away from the troll wasteland you find in places like Aporrea or Noticias24.

We look forward to your feedback, but not here.
As of today, the old comments platform on this site will be disabled.

Please comment on the new site.

December 9, 2009

Mental Health View From Quico's Window


(Taken 10 a.m. I'm actually a recent-enough immigrant to Quebec to get excited by this kind of thing...)

Subverting Chavismo's Discursive Standard

Quico says: Judging from the reaction, rather a lot of you misinterpreted my last post as some kind of woolly call to hold a nice, reasonable debate with chavismo.

I want to be quite clear about my position here: no critical engagement with chavismo is possible. And, actually, that's the crux of my problem with the regime.

It's easy to mistake that for a rather shrill, impetuous stance; a kind of misplaced haughtiness masquerading as high principle. But lets be clear about this: it's not that I reject a debate with the people I oppose. It's that I oppose people who reject debate.

Obviously, a lot hinges on how you understand chavismo, how you interpret its discursive essence. Some people see Chávez's tendency to respond to any and every criticism with an ad hominem attack as a kind of curiosity, one trait in a broader political philosophy. Over the years, though, I've come to see it as the lynchpin of the intellectual edifice that is chavismo: a defining trait and organizing principle at the center of a strategy for crafting a totalizing worldview.

For Chávez, and for the cult-like political movement he has created around himself, the world is neatly divided between two sides. The good and the bad. The key thing to grasp - and I think there's a nearly limitless documentary evidence to illustrate this - is that for chavismo, the things that bad people believe are bad by virtue of the identity of the person believing them. Escualidos are not evil because they're wrong; they're wrong because they're evil.

Take, to choose one example out of a zillion simply because the clip is conveniently in English, this interaction between Chávez and a FoxNews journalist at this year's UN General Assembly meeting:

Notice what happens here. Chávez is asked a question that, through its own content, suggests that the questioner does not share his views. The question, in Chávez's hands, becomes merely a mechanism for identifying the questioner as a dissenter. That Chavez will not in engage with its substance goes almost without saying. Instead, the journalist expression of dissent serves as a springboard for an attack on him, on his motives and his affiliations, all by way of explaining - apparently self-evident to Chávez - that his identity as a journalist for a conservative provides all the evidence anybody could need of the evil that lurks in his heart, and exempts Chávez from any duty to account for his actions.

You don't have to be a fan of FoxNews to grasp the dire consequences of extending this mode of reasoning to every single interaction with a dissenting view a leader engages in.

The dirty little secret is that, within the ideology Chávez has stamped on his movement, the sorting mechanism that allows you to determine whether any thought, book, argument, documentary, bank, mural, film, newspaper, foreign leader, TV channel, multilateral institution or person is good or bad is, conveniently enough, whether he will submit to Chávez with unquestioning loyalty. In fact, from the totalizing standpoint chavista discursive standards creates, failing to snap unthinkingly into line is prima facie evidence that you belong to the Evil camp, and immediately voids your right to hold Chávez to critical scrutiny.

To take chavismo's worldview seriously is to see dissent itself as intrinsically evil. How evil? Evil enough to imperil the possibility of life on this planet. That evil.

This absolute sorting of the world into good and evil according to the single, totalizing criterion of loyalty to the boss seems to me both irreducibly authoritarian and absolutely central to the chavista system for organizing reality and making sense of the world. Manicheanism is not "an aspect of" chavismo; it is chavismo.

That there is no serious possibility of a frank and open exchange of views with people who hold on to such an ideology seems to me perfectly self-evident.

It's definitional, actually, because within the worldview chavismo espouses, the willingness to treat an idea that Chávez personally rejects as potentially valid is wholly incompatible with revolutionary principle. But real debate, genuine, free and open debate, can't accept such arbitrary exclusions. If you begin by sectioning off whole provinces of reality and declaring them out of bounds before you've critically engage them, what you are doing is not debating. It may look and feel like a debate, but it's not.

The hopelessly flattened discursive standards chavismo espouses - Chavista = good, dissident = evil - is not one we could engage through the practice of public reasoning, even if we were minded to. Instead, the habits of mind chavista ideology is built on are precisely that which we need to subvert through the practice of public reasoning.

When we hold the government to account, when we point out the absurdities of its exchange rate regime, when we rail against the injustice of its repressive actions, when we demand a justification of its spending priorities, we are doing it not to engage chavismo but to subvert it, because when you are facing a totalizing ideology, demanding an explanation is in itself a subversive act.

When we cultivate the habits of mind that allow people to think critically about the actions of those in power, to question them and demand they account for their decisions, we're keeping alive the possibility of democracy for future generations, because we're keeping alive the modes of interaction that we will need to sustain a discursive democracy at some point down the line.

The question, for me, is how we can exploit the particular characteristics of the internet to carry out this kind of subversive work. I think there's a ton to be done in this regard. And, personally, I intend to do it.

December 8, 2009

Dictatorship means never having to say "the reason is..."

Quico says: One thing all critics of the Chávez regime seem to agree on is that democracy in Venezuela is pretty much dead. But what exactly do we mean by that?

When we talk about democracy we're usually talking about two separate but related ideas.

On the one hand, you have the institutions of democracy. We mean parliaments and banking regulations; election day rules and procedures; habeas corpus and constitutional principles of due process; decentralization, and all that. When we say that Venezuelan democracy has died, we mean that none of these institutional mechanisms is operating the way the constitution says they ought to. This, alarming as it is, is not all there is.

There's another level where democracy has been dying, a much more intimate level that manifests itself in the ways we communicate when political matters are at stake. I call it the "discursive level" in that it concerns itself with the kinds of arguments people in the political sphere find compelling at any given time. It's about the habits of thought of our political actors.

This distinction is not trivial.

One thing is the National Assembly and another is the quality and style of the debates that are held within its chambers. The question, from a discursive point of view, is what constitutes a "powerful reason to act" in the eyes of its members? Alongside any abstract principle and any formal institution there are the tacit rules actual people use to apply them the world.

Political systems are democratic to the extent that they maintain possibility of holding reasoned debates in the public sphere that tend to generate consensual understandings. On the contrary, they are authoritarian to the degree that appeals to straight-out authority - jefe es jefe - are enough to secure compliance from political decision-makers.

Venezuelan intellectuals tend not to distinguish clearly enough between these two levels, the institutional and the discursive. We tend to be much clearer, more explicit, and more eloquent talking about what has gone wrong institutionally than what has gone wrong discursively.

But if our institutional democracy has died it's because the discursive habits of mind that support it have been hunted to extinction. Chavista discourse was dictatorial long before chavista government.

In Venezuela, a return to democracy will entail much more than a return to institutional democracy. It will mean focusing on the discursive realm as well, on re-establishing a certain set of unwritten rules and expectations about what is "normal" behavior in the public sphere. These rules, which Habermas calls "discursive standards," are the criteria people use to decide if an argument is persuasive or not. When the rules of engagement in the public sphere are democratic, what you get is what Amartya Sen calls "government by discussion."

Discursive democracy is what you get when the main question asked of a given political argument is: "does that position make sense?" Discursive authoritarianism is what you get when the main question asked of a given political argument is: "who put that argument forward?"

An escualido?! Booooo! A chaburro?! Hisssss!!!

Democracy in Venezuela has collapsed in the face of a full frontal attack not just at the institutional level, but also in that deeper, discursive sphere. So subverting chavista hegemony requires liquidating the discursive standards that sustain its power.

Bringing discursive democracy back to life means putting in place policies hashed out in real debates, where ideas are grappled with, confronted and crafted into consensual roads forward by people more interested in the content of a position than the identity of the one expressing it.

This is not an easy thing to do. Building a discursive democracy runs counter to some very old habits. Throw yourself into a genuine discussion and, suddenly, you've made yourself vulnerable. In a genuine discussion, you go in without any guarantee that you'll come out on the winning side. Discussion requires humility, flexibility, a willingness to learn and an acceptance that you may be called on to alter your positions in the light of what the other side says. This may be one of the reasons true architects of democracy have, to some degree, possessed a healthy dose of greatness.

Dictators will not subject themselves to genuine debate, because genuine debate is risky, unpredictable, dangerous. A dictator will join no communicative interaction in which he (and it's usually a he, isn't it?) is not guaranteed the upper hand from the start. This is why Chávez simply refuses to be questioned by journalists who will throw anything but the softest of soft balls at him.

The sad fact is that unless the opposition shows it's better than Chávez at engaging with ideas, doing away with Hugo Chávez will do almost nothing to re-establish democracy in this deeper sense. If we fail to enshrine genuinely democratic discursive standards, the return to institutional democracy will be as shallow, fleeting, and incomplete as the system we had until 1998.

More than an adherence to constitutional standards, more than respect for the forms of the democratic game, what Venezuela's democratic movement needs to develop is the frame of mind needed to engage with an opponent (even chavista ones) in genuine debate, in the understanding that the power of the strongest argument will carry the day.

That's the habit of mind that creates the social underpinning of democratic government. Without that attitudinal bedrock, that basic predisposition to accept discussion as the arena where decisions are made, there is no possibility of democracy.

Faced with a government that experiences debate as a threat, merely creating spaces for genuine debate constitutes a subversive act. As long as Venezuelans sustain spaces where matters of public policy are subjected to free and open debate, chavista autocracy will never be complete and will never be secure.

The internet offers tremendous possibilities for this kind of subversion, possibilities that are not yet being fully exploited. The democratic movement needs to step up its game in this regard, creating spaces where genuine debate can take place. Who's up for it?

December 7, 2009

The three-legged stool

Juan Cristóbal says: Lately, this story about the 1988 Referendum that ended the Pinochet dictatorship keeps coming to mind.

(Translated from Spanish Wikipedia):
"At 12:18 AM on October 6th (the night after the Referendum, when results were trickling in), Pinochet meets his cabinet and informs them: "Gentlemen, the referendum has been lost. I want your immediate resignations. That is all."

An hour later, he finally meets the other members of the Military Junta. On his way up the steps of La Moneda Palace, Chile's Commander of the Air Force, General Fernando Matthei, tells journalists: "It's pretty clear the (opposition) No has won, but we are calm." General Matthei's statement was transmitted by Radio Cooperativa at 1:03 AM on October 6th.

In the meeting, [Interior] Minister Sergio Fernandez recognized the government's defeat and expressed the high percentage obtained was, in any event, a source of pride, to which General Matthei ironically replied: "Why don't we bring in some champagne to celebrate?"

According to Matthei's memoirs ("Matthei, my testimony"), Pinochet then handed the members of the Junta a decree through which he assumed all the country's powers and disavowed the results of the Referendum. This threw the Junta's members, specially Matthei, into a rage, and Matthei himself ripped the decree with his own hands.

"After that," Matthei recalls, "and without insisting on the decree, the President informed us that he would leave Santiago for a few days to get some rest, and the meeting was adjourned."

Right at that moment, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suffered a heart attack, presumably caused by the heated confrontation among military leaders. After the meeting, Pinochet accepted the situation and ordered the release of the third electoral bulletin."
Someone once said that Hugo Chávez's support is like a three-legged stool. Those legs are
  1. Popular support
  2. Oil money
  3. The military
Our goal, to obtain power and reinstate democracy, can only be met once all three pillars of support have worn away.

One out of three, two out of three - those don't seem to cut it anymore.

Chavismo has engineered a state system where alternation is tantamount to regime change. Under those circumstances, consolidating a majority and winning an election are not going to be enough. Popular support is just one of the legs of the stool. Our recent history confirms this.

In April of 2002, Chávez's popularity was waning and his oil income was shaky. With PDVSA momentarily paralysed, the military tried to overthrow him, and for a second it looked like all three legs had gone.

It turned out that his popularity was not as low as all that and, in fact, reaction to the coup quickly raised it. The popular support pillar still had some life in it.

Then it also turned out that the military leg was not broken either - the military's unity cracked, as we all know, and a good chunk of the Armed Forces backed the President. And so, ultimately, the stool regained its balance.

Later that year, the opposition led an (ill-advised) Oil Strike. The subversive act of shutting down PDVSA entirely chopped off one of the legs for a good six or seven weeks. But by that point, the Misiones were starting to work and Chávez's popularity was on the rise. More importantly, the military did not support the strike, and the people turned against the oil workers. A few weeks after the strike began, oil income began to recover and PDVSA was operational again.

The assault on one of the legs was over.

Fast-forward to Chávez's shock electoral defeat December of 2007. We showed, at the ballot box, that dissent could be more popular than the chavista status quo even amidst a dizzying oil boom. Unlike in normal democracies, that reality was a subversive act - a "golpe electoral", as José Vicente Rangel would say - surprisingly spearheaded by a group of students.

Did it work? Partially. It took considerable military pressure, spearheaded by jailbird Baduel, for Chávez to accept defeat, and then only for about two seconds. But a few days later, he appeared - not coincidentally - in front of the military high command, and practically announced to the country the referendum results did not mean anything. Two years out, most of the things he'd been denied the power to do at referendum have become law.

Why? Because after an initial wobble, military support of the regime resumed, the dissidents were purged, and the oil boom kept going for another few months.

Fast-forward to next year.

Imagine that Chávez becomes really unpopular and, by some act of God, the opposition gets its act together and manages to win a majority of seats in the AN, fair and square.

Will the CNE accept the results? Will our friend Socorro stand by and validate an opposition-controlled National Assembly, with all that entails? Maybe, maybe not.

And even if that miracle panned out, can't you just see the AN, through an act of its outgoing majority, stripping itself of most of its powers? Do we have any doubt the almighty, reverential Constitutional Chamber of the TSJ would rubber-stamp such a monstrosity in the blink of an eye?

Some last minute re-think is not entirely impossible, but it's looking increasingly foolhardy to gamble the country's future on the democratic scruples of the chavista State.

Hanging on to power without regard to the majority's rejection is the distinguishing trait of authoritarianism. Chavismo is an authoritarian regime.

And that, in the end, is what it means to come to grips with chavismo's inherent authoritarianism: for our side, majority support is not enough.

Necessary? Yes. Sufficient? Not by a long shot.

At some point, all of this makes us very uncomfortable. We are democrats, and part of the normal game of a democracy is that you don't tip stools over or smash them with an axe. You work with the stool you're given and do what you can to adjust it. And certainly, the chavista Venezuelan military nomenklatur is so disgusting to some of us that the thought of accepting and even embracing them as political players is mighty unappealing.

But the reality of the chavista dictatorship is that, in the unlikely event the CNE recognized our victory in an election, we would find it all but impossible to work with the stool we're given. By now, it's Chávez's stool: made to order and able to accommodate only his fat ass. The kind of 2009 Antonio Ledezma has had is living proof of that.

The upshot is that we need a three-legged strategy.

One of the legs - oil income - is pretty much beyond our control, especially after the PDVSA purge. But, despite the fantasists' fondest daydreams, the global oil market is beyond Chávez's control, too. Still, it wouldn't hurt to have a strategy for countering the vast difference in disposable income between them and us. For the moment it's enough to note that, even with oil prices well above $70/bbl, Chávez can't raise enough cash to finance the level of public spending it would take to keep GDP growing.

What's clear is that any serious attempt to subvert the Chávez dictatorship will require concerted action on the two other legs.

Yes, we need an effective political strategy. There's no way out of this without people's hearts and minds.

But given the conditions chavismo has created, there's just no way out of this hole without a military strategy, too.

Before chavistas out there go postal and begin crying "golpista," we should clarify. That doesn't mean having a strategy for rebellion. A mad idea like that would only lead to a bloodbath. It means having a strategy to challenge the unconditional support the military gives Chávez, in very much the same way as the Chilean democracy movement's rising clout created the key cracks needed at the right time to force Pinochet's hand.

The Chilean democrats of 1988 had a political strategy that led them to a convincing electoral victory. But without a military strategy resulting in Matthei & friends willing to subvert the Pinochet regime, the Chilean stool would have been left in place.

We should be crystal clear about this: a military strategy is not a para-military strategy, and it's not a call to golpismo. It means making sure that, when the chips are down, the military support for the dictatorship is not unconditional. It means having the guts to remind the military that the loyalty they swear is to a Constitution, not an autocrat, and that that constitution's article 333 creates clear obligations they, sooner or later, will be held accountable for.

The Chilean democrats, Corazón Aquino, Boris Yeltsin. In key moments, they all had military strategies in place that helped propel their movements to subvert dictatorial regimes. In all three cases, the military played a fundamental role in knocking down the status quo forces.

Without it, popular support is easily mocked. The Burmese monks did not have a military strategy. They now rot in jail. Back in 1928, Venezuela's students didn't have one either, so they spent the next eight years in La Rotunda.

This is how it goes, folks. It sucks, but it's how it goes.