Thursday, February 22, 2007

The opposition eats its own 

Via BoRev.net I found out about this simply stunning turn of events:


Award to ex-candidate irks Miami's expatriatesAn American political group will give former Venezuelan presidential candidate Manuel Rosales an award in Miami Beach today, and that displeases many of his former local supporters.

Former Venezuelan presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, who once united that country's conflicted opposition, will accept an award today in Miami Beach from a U.S. political organization that hails him as a ``champion of democracy.''

Miami-area Venezuelans who once supported him in his campaign to oust leftist President Hugo Chávez will be far less warm.

''Sincerely, I don't believe he deserves [the award], because he should have fought harder than he did,'' said Nelly Zabala, head of the local campaign team for Rosales' party, Un Nuevo Tiempo. ``Rosales should have answered to his people.''

In the months leading up to the Dec. 3 presidential election, Rosales became the great hope of the long-fractured opposition when the parties put aside their differences to back him as the unity candidate. Despite drawing large, enthusiastic crowds, on Election Day he received less than 40 percent of the votes -- a result that he accepted immediately, despite what many of his supporters maintain were clear signs of fraud.

His quick concession drew fire from the Venezuelan opposition. Nonetheless, his willingness to concede is precisely why the American Association of Political Consultants is giving Rosales the award, said the organization's president, Wayne Johnson.

''Here's a case where someone lost an election in a very volatile situation and who made a commitment to stick with the democratic process,'' Johnson said. ``Rather than only going around and honoring people who win elections, we believe the promotion of the democratic system depends not only on the winners but on the losers.''

Rosales did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

This year's ''Champion of Democracy'' prize, which Rosales will receive at the association's sold-out awards banquet tonight at the Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach, marks the second time the organization so honors a politician. The previous winner in that category was Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who fought back against a fraud-plagued 2004 election to eventually win a run-off election against a candidate backed by Russia.

The award to Rosales offends many local Venezuelans, who insist that he should have denounced what they view as irregularities in the voting process -- including cases of local expatriates who tried to vote at the Orange Bowl, but couldn't because their registration location had been changed.

''He betrayed us,'' said Patricia Andrade of the Venezuela Awareness Foundation. ``He was the last hope to remove Chávez democratically, and he killed that opportunity. He sold us out to Chávez.''

The Organization of American States' electoral observers who watched over the balloting in Venezuela said that it was generally trouble-free and that minor problems would not have affected the outcome.

Rosales had planned to meet with the local opposition community, but his representatives canceled the meeting on Friday, citing scheduling conflicts. His proponents-turned-critics say he opted out of the meeting because he didn't want to face expatriates' criticism.

''It's unbelievable to me that he won't come show his face to us, the people who worked for him,'' said Maylin Silva, of All for Venezuela. ``The least he could do is thank us for what we did for him and listen to our concerns.''

All for Venezuela joined with other groups, such as the Venezuela Awareness Foundation, We Are All Venezuela and Independent Venezuelan-American Citizens, to campaign for Rosales, and to organize hundreds of volunteers to work at the local polls on Election Day.

The discontent with Rosales extends through the opposition in Venezuela, said political analyst Oscar Schemel, of the Venezuelan election polling and public opinion firm Hinterlaces.

''People viewed him as a tool to remove Chávez, but he never achieved his own political identity,'' Schemel said. ``The opposition is now feeling resigned, uncertain and pessimistic because they don't perceive any leadership in the opposition to Chávez. They are unhappy with Rosales right now.''

This is truly amazing. Is Rosales the first person to ever lose an election? What was he supposed to do - hold a gun to people's heads so they would vote for him?

All things considered he probably did as well against Chavez as anyone could have. Incumbants coming off of three years of economic boom and sharply higher standards of living simply don't lose - "it's the economy stupid". And why do people like Borges and Petkoff so readily stepped aside? Everyone knew being the opposition candidate would be a thanless task.

So at the end, Rosales couldn't walk on water and lost to Chavez as any mortal would have. And for this "crime" he is not pilloried amongst the opposition. The indecency and disrespectfullness of this is breathtaking.

I know there are many decent people amongst the Venezuelan opposition. But it is also very apparent there is a great collection of very juvenile behavior amongst its middle aged supporters too.

And by the way, Rosales should be proud of this award. He did a great thing last December 4th by being adult enough to accept results once it was clear they were accurate and by getting his supporters to do the same. I may not agree with his politics but that does make him a patriot in my eyes. And even though I thought his attempt to out populist Chavez in his campaign was a mistake this sad spectacle shows that in reality much of the opposition was underserving of someone of his caliber.


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