Saturday, July 01, 2006

What the opposition has to offer 

The New York Times today had a long article profiling Teodoro Petkoff. There wasn't much new ground broken in the article. But it does have bad news for the opposition. First, it goes through some of the polling numbers which show how miniscule the oppositions chances are of winning an election. It points out that Chavez has a 57% approval rating according to Keller & Associates (the firm that consistently gives the numbers LEAST favorable to Chavez). It then points out that according to another poll 66% of Venezuelans would vote for Chavez whereas a sole contender from the oppostion would get 34%. All this leads the reporter to state: "With Mr. Chavez far ahead in the polls, Mr. Petkoff's campaign as an independent appears quixotic". This is certainly not good news for the opposition's main electoral strategy - boycotting the vote to delegitimize it. This reporter clearly sees that for what it is, the opposition trying to hide its unpopularity.

Worse still, its not written by their favorite New York Times whipping boy, Juan Forero, so it shows the opposition's problems have nothing to do with the writings of one reporter. Rather it is their own stupidity, unpopularity, and mendacity that does them in.

All that though wasn't the most interesting part of the article. What caught my attention was the article bringing up Petkoff's faux populist strategy of promising to hand out oil money directly to all Venezuelans through "oil coupons". Of course, Petkoff has spent the past seven years doing nothing but criticizing Chavez for his espansive social programs so this sure seems like a rather dramatic turnabout in his position. But when you are desperate to win an election and get your hands back on the levers of power anything goes I guess.

Problem is it is all B.S. Witness this paragraph from the article:

"Petkoff understands that associating these coupons with the oil boom is something that can reverberate among the poorest elements," said Luis Pedro Espana, an economist who studies poverty issues at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas. "It's an electoral ploy, but if managed well, it could go beyond a direct subsidy to a more meaningful assistance policy."

So this is what the opposition is offering, electoral ploys. That should come as no surprise. Traditional Venezuelan politicians have a long history of campaigning on the left and then governing on the right. Chavez alone has stayed true to his electoral promises, reducing poverty, improving the economy, and raising peoples standard of living. That makes it unlikely the Venezuelan electorate will fall for cheap electoral ploys like Petkoff's


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