Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States deepens the country’s political crisis still further. Meanwhile, at least three people died today in mounting protests against the country’s definitive turn toward authoritarianism.
León sees two scenarios. Here’s an English translation of the key excerpt. Highlights are mine.
The government’s “exit costs” are almost infinite, which makes it a sort of “kamikaze.” Added to this is the very low possibility of a successful negotiation to lower these exit costs, because the opposition still needs to perform two tasks in order to get there. First, it needs negotiating power, something to offer in exchange that is compelling enough for the government to either to accede or to find itself obligated to exit from power. Second, it needs a valid interlocutor, someone with enough internal control and power to commit the opposition to uncomfortable accords with a government that has explicitly violated its rights.
The first need can be filled with pressure from the street, which—rather than a single “epic” march—would have to become an unstoppable demonstration in all the country and of all the country, making the nation ungovernable. But this would still leave the second variable without a response: who can negotiate to lower the exit costs?
With this in mind, these are the two most probable scenarios.
1. One in which opposition pressure continues to grow, but the government remains willing to repress it brutally and tirelessly, even amid international repudiation and sanctions, because it sees only one outcome: that its leaders’ heads get cut off if they give in. With a military sector also committed to the government side, this scenario could be prolonged. This would lead to the formation of paramilitary and guerrilla groups around the country, which would become part of the nation’s everyday life—but with the government remaining in power.
2. Another in which pressure from the opposition reaches its maximum level and fractures Chavismo and the military internally, due to fear of what could happen to them in the future, with the likelihood of being held accountable for brutal and evident human rights violations. In this case, it will probably be the military that decides to seek and coordinate negotiations to reduce and control exit costs. That negotiation would take place with an opposition leader who has managed to capitalize on the struggle and become the unquestioned spokesperson for those pressing for change.
Here’s Luis Vicente León discussing this “exit costs” theme on a November 2016 WOLA panel.