Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Petkoff talks the talk 

Today in El Univeral there was an article about the all but declared candidacy of Teodoro Petkoff. Some of you may ask Teodoro who? Just briefly, he is one of Chavez's most persistent critics who runs the newspaper Tal Cual, a stridently anti-Chavez paper that prints no news that isn't about Chavez (ie, when Chavez leaves office they will have to close the paper). His parents were eastern European immigrants and he became a communist activist in his youth. He was jailed under the Perez-Jimenez dictatorship in the 1950s and made some famous jail breaks. He broke with the Stalinist orthodoxy in 1968 and later entered mainstream politics after founding his own political party - MAS (Movement to Socialism). He was a congressperson for a number of years and then the planning minister under Caldera, immediately proceeding Chavez's rise to power. I have to add I've never quite figured out how a former communist activist and congressperson scraped together enough money to start his own paper.

Being on of the most prominent opposition activists he has now appears to have decided he wants to run against Chavez. Here is some of what was said in El Universal:

The director of Tal Cual, Teodoro Petkoff, thinks that he is the person who can face president Chavez in Decembers elections, although he has not yet decided if he will be a candidate.

"I am not a candidate, at least not yet, if I was a candidate I have the impression that if someone can face him it would be me", said Petkoff, who is 74, in an interview with AFP.


The majority of hte polls give Chavez as the favorite to win re-election with at least 45% of the vote against a maximum of 5% for the most popular opposition candidate, Julio Borges of Primero Justicio


Petkoff recognizes that Chavez will be a formidable candidate. "I have never underestimated him. He can be a terrible president, but as a candidate he is formidable," he concluded.

There are a couple little gems here. First, Chavez is just blowing away the opposition: 45 to 5. And apparently Petkoff isn't even at 5%. What is his support, 2%? So the opposition has to win virtually every undecided voter to have any chance. Good luck with that. Quite frankly, whoever runs against Chavez is a sacrificial lamb. This may be why Petkoff could be a good candidate for the opposition. Others probably want to wait until there is a realistic chance of winning. Petkoff, at 74, can't wait at all and doesn't have much to lose so maybe its a good fit.

The next gem is the comment about Chavez being a terrible president but a formidable candidate. For those who have never read Tal Cual this gives a good example of the muddle headed ideas put forth by Petkoff there. Petkoff thinks Chavez has been a terrible president but will be a strong candidate?!?! But don't politicians who have been in office 7 years generally get judged on their record? If so, and if Chavez is indeed popular with the electorate wouldn't that imply that most Venezuelans think he is doing a good job? I sure think any rational person would come to that conclusion. And with the economy booming, poverty down, jobs up, and the country turning into one big construction site I think the facts on the ground fit nicely with this view: the reason Chavez is a formidable candidate is because most Venezuelans think he is doing a good job, that they are better off under him, and that most likely things will continue to improve. There really isn't any great mystery here. To understand why Chavez is all but a shoe in for re-election you just have to look at the economy and acknowledge the reality of how well it is doing. Something Petkoff can bring himself to do.


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