The 12 months of 2005 were a microcosm of both the accelerating Bolivarian project and the political blunders of the opposition. The sixth year of Hugo Chávez’s administration brought further consolidation of executive power over the Venezuelan state, economy and media, while the opposition stood and watched.
In retrospect it almost looks like the two sides were complicit. They weren’t, but no one could blame you for thinking so.
From my perch at the National Endowment for Democracy and later knowing opposition leaders, I had the frustrating privilege of watching the train wreck that passed for the opposition’s calculations—first in denouncing without evidence the 2004 referendum results and later coercing members to abstain from the 2005 legislative elections—against the backdrop of an accelerating Bolivarian project hell-bent on gaining absolute control over the Venezuelan state and economy.
The opposition’s strategy was confused and divisive. It was focused on ill-conceived short-term goals and self-righteousness, driven largely by individual political ambitions. In 2005 the opposition not only handed a blank check to the anti-democratic intentions of the Chávez government, they also undermined their own credibility and cohesion. What was personally painful was to see the responsibility of halting such a predictable disaster in the hands of leadership of such incompetence and leaders of such political avarice.
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