Wanna Beat Hugo Chavez? Learn How to Fight Mike Tyson.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
June 5 2012 2:12 PM

Wanna Beat Hugo Chavez?

Then learn how to fight Mike Tyson.

(Continued from Page 2)

“If the vice president had told me if I quit, my father would be out of jail, I would have quit,” replied Goicoechea, with no hesitation. “What I couldn’t do was to stop something that was bigger than me and that I was responsible for. I have consequences and I pay daily.” After Goicoechea refused the vice president’s offer, the charges against his father were changed in order to raise his possible prison sentence. Instead of 6 years, Goicoechea’s father was sentenced to 20 years. After a few moments, Goicoechea says quietly, “They intimidate and they play hard.”

Six Bulletproof Vests

On Sunday, Dec. 2, Venezuelans came out to vote on the referendum. Neither side knew if it had the votes to win. The bluffing began almost right away.

Advertisement

Yon Goicoechea got a phone call from a Chavista student leader at noon. He said he needed to meet with Goicoechea and it was important. “We got together in a public place and there was a very high functionary of the secret police there,” recalls Goicoechea. “And the high functionary of the secret police told me that they had the information that they had won. He offered all the resources that I need—

whatever that means—to avoid bloodshed in Venezuela. Of course, the way to avoid it was to not go to the streets.” After using his father’s fate to threaten Goicoechea, the regime was now resorting to bribery. Goicoechea simply needed to convince his fellow student leaders not to protest the outcome of the election.

Goicoechea knew that the regime didn’t actually know if it had won or not. It was only midday and people were still voting. But he could just as easily bluff. So, he told the officer of the secret police that they had information that the students had won. “If we win, we will go to the streets and defend it,” Goicoechea replied. “And if you want to avoid bloodshed that is your responsibility because you are the national security.”

The students had no illusions about what it would take to triumph on Dec. 2, 2007. Goicoechea told me that there are two things you must have if you want to win an election in Venezuela. “You have to win and you have to have the Army. If one of those elements fails, you lose. Because the Army won’t defend you if you lose, and if you win, and the Army does not defend you, you also lose.”

It wasn’t that the military needed to support your goals or your political project. Rather, it needed to see the costs of overturning an election as too great to pursue. “One thing is understanding how the military works, especially in countries like Venezuela,” says Barrios. “If there is a degree of institutionalism still alive in the military, they would take the decision that requires the less use of force. So we wanted to create a credible threat, saying that if you don’t recognize the official result, you’re going to have to use an incredible amount of force.”

Throughout the day information coming into their headquarters was largely positive, but the students had no idea if they were winning. Even at its best, they believed any lead they might have remained within the margin of error. Nevertheless, they did nothing but project confidence. Around 7 p.m., Goicoechea, smiling from ear to ear, gave a press conference congratulating students and supporters for their work and saying that all that was left to do was defend the vote. The clear subtext was that they had won, and it was just a matter of being announced. His bravado was pure theater. He had no idea if they were ahead or not.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 8:07 AM The Dark Side of Techtopia
  Life
Quora
Oct. 2 2014 8:27 AM How Do Teachers Kill the Joy of Reading for Students?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 2 2014 7:30 AM What Put the Man in the Moon in the Moon?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?