Dump the Dinosaurs

An interesting initiative has been launched on Facebook:

“Con los líderes de oposición que tenemos, ¡nunca vamos a salir de Chávez!

No podemos aceptar que la misma gente, año tras año siga en los mismos puestos como líderes de la oposición, cagándola de la misma manera. Eso sí es verdad que garantiza la reelección indefinida!

A Ramos Allup: RENUNCIA!
A Omar Barboza: PIÉRDETE!
Al Padre Ugalde: ¡Entrega ese rectorado! ¿Casi 20 años no son suficientes?

No queríamos reelección indefinida para presidente, ¡y tampoco la queremos para lider de oposición!

Necesitamos partidos fuertes, y para lograrlos necesitamos que Uds. les den paso a otros.

Señores: Uds. tuvieron su chance y no pudieron arreglar las cosas, ya es tiempo de irse, de hacerse a un lado y dejar pasar a otra gente. ¿No era para eso que íbamos a votar NO? ¡Den el ejemplo!

Salir de Chávez no es suficiente. Hay que salir de la vieja forma de hacer política y no permitir que regrese el pasado.

¡Basta de dinosaurios!”

Looks at first glance like an excellent initiative.

Dumping the dinosaurs and cleaning the road kill stinking up Venezuela’s national “opposition” politics is a capital idea.

Too many political dinosaurs still roam this land, making it easier for President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian thugs to continue despoiling the nation.

But two names must be added immediately to this list: Manuel Rosales and Teodoro Petkoff.

Rosales sells himself as a “national opposition leader” because he was the opposition presidential candidate in the 2006 elections, and served two consecutive terms as governor of Zulia state. But Rosales has been in the political game for about 30 years. He has deep historical roots in Accion Democratica, and he still practices the exclusivist and elitist politics that wrecked Venezuela and helped bring Chavez to power.

Rosales also is a longtime senior player in the extraordinarily corrupt world of regional AD politics in Zulia, one of his closest associates being Omar Barboza, who was handpicked as governor of Zulia in the mid-1980s by former president Jaime Lusinchi’s mistress, Banca Ibanez. Rosales has a political base mainly in Zulia, but he doesn’t have a real national base. Given his political history, Rosales definitely is not the kind of person any sensible Venezuelan would want as president.

Petkoff has been active in Venezuelan national politics even longer than Rosales. Over the decades Petkoff has evolved from a Marxist guerrilla in the 1960s to leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party in the 1970s and 1980s. However, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union had collapsed, Petkoff shifted further to the center, embracing what could be described as market-friendlier European-style socialism similar to, say, Spain’s Felipe Gonzalez. As a result, some Venezuelan elites and intellectuals became enamoured of Petkoff, though the jaguar never changes his spots.

Petkoff served as Planning Minister in President Rafael Caldera’s second administration (1994-1999), and was responsible for implementing a “neo-liberal” adjustment program that saved Caldera’s bacon and staved off a prolonged economic crisis after the coutry’s banking system failed in 1994-1995. During the current decade, Petkoff has been director of Tal Cual, one of Venezuela’s more interesting tabloid dailies, whose main purpose appears to be that of helping to project and maintain Petkoff’s role as a “national opposition leader.”

Reading Petkoff’s Tal Cual editorials nowadays, one gets the impression that he has always been a strong critic of the Chavez regime. But that’s not so. Over the past decade, Petkoff certainly has taken a stronger critical position against Chavez’s abuses. But too often Petkoff also has played the role of apologist for the Chavez regime, both in Venezuela and internationally.

And worse, Petkoff effectively blocked any possibility of challenging the official results of the August 2004 presidential recall referendum, which Chavez “won” by a lopsided 60% to 40% though every credible exit poll in the country showed Chavez losing by the same margin. How, you ask?

Does anyone remember how, after the “official results” declaring Chavez the winner were announced, AD’s Henry Ramos Allup tried to protest that the regime had committed a monstrous fraud?

Petkoff, who was then viewed as a senior and influential figure in the opposition, immediately buried Ramos Allup by demanding proof of the alleged fraud. You can’t accuse someone of cheating without solid evidence, Petkoff argued. And, of course, without an impartial examination of what had just gone down at the CNE, there was no proof. So it was easy to silence Ramos Allup, who after all is not that well liked nationally and became the top AD leader by attrition – practically all of the party’s other leaders simply disappeared after the 1998 elections.

There is absolutely no question but that a fraud was committed in August 2004. The statistical evidence is overwhelming, though the dead tree news media has completely embraced the Chavez regime’s great lie that it won the recall referendum fairly. Besides, then-OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and former US President Jimmy Carter officially declared the recall referendum to be fair, honest, transparent and legal. Gaviria had no choice; he had been honeytrapped. But Carter showed yet again why American historians considered him the least popular US president in modern times – until George W. Bush came along. Petkoff could have used his considerable public influence and credibility to challenge the official results, but he chose instead to silence Ramos Allup by publicly dismissing the AD’s leaders accusations of election fraud.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2006 and the competing presidential pre-candidacies of Rosales, Petkoff and Julio Borges of Primero Justicia. The pre-candidacies essentially were recycled versions of the three main political currents/ideologies of the pre-Chavez “Guanabana” era of AD/Copei and a few crumbs for MAS, though the political parties and movements they represented had severed all ties many years earlier with AD, MAS and Copei.

Does anyone remember that Sumate proposed holding primaries to choose the unity opposition candidate, but that initiative was shot down unanimously by Rosales, Petkoff, Borges, etc?

Instead, the three pre-candidates took it upon themselves to agree only amongst themselves who would be the opposition presidential candidate, based on poll results. Rosales polled first, followed by Borges, and Petkoff in a distant last place. It was a repetition of the worst practices of the pre-Chavez era: backroom political dealmaking and deliberately blocking any initiatives that would have made the election process more democratic, at least on the opposition’s side of the political playing field.

But the filth didn’t stop there. After the triumvirate – Rosales, Petkoff and Borges – reached a closed-door agreement on who would be the “unity” opposition candidate, the campaign needed money. And this suited the Chavez regime, which has always been interested in creating a so-called “loyal opposition” – i.e. a submissive go-along-to-get-along opposition. Chavez will never negotiate with, or make concessions to, the “opposition.” But the president would appreciate a meek opposition to provide a veneer of quasi-democratic “legitimacy” to his corrupt regime.

Caracas Gringo has spoken with individuals who worked at very senior levels in the Rosales campaign, who relate this story based on their respective experiences dealing with Rosales, campaign strategy director Petkoff, and campaign manager Omar Barboza:

In late August or early September 2006, after the triumvirate had decided Rosales would be the “unity” opposition candidate, Rosales and Petkoff, among others, reportedly met at least once with Jose Vicente Rangel at La Guzmania in Vargas state, down on the coast below Caracas. At this meeting, an agreement was reached whereby the regime would help to provide financial support for Rosales’ campaign through friendly bankers, one of whom certainly was Victor Vargas.

Our sources believe the agreed sum totaled as much as US$300 million, though it’s not clear if the entire amount allegedly agreed was actually transferred. But Caracas Gringo does know that during the election campaign from September until shortly before election day in December 2006, many suitcases packed with bolivars were picked up at a Victor Vargas-owned bank by trusted officials of the Rosales campaign.

The deal arranged at La Guzmania was simple. The Rosales campaign would receive financial support secretly from the Chavez regime through financial middlemen like Vargas. The quid pro quo was that the opposition would accept and recognize Chavez’s re-election without question. The message reportedly conveyed via JVR was, you know Chavez is going to win, but after the election you (the opposition) will get the space you need; there will be dialogue with the opposition and more inclusiveness in major policy decisions; the president and the revolution need a loyal opposition.

When the Rosales campaign did its first national poll in late August 2006, he was running 18% behind Chavez. However, by late October Rosales was running only 7% behind Chavez. As election day neared, Rosales had nearly caught with Chavez, achieving what pollsters call a “dead heat” or “empate tecnico.”

Approximately in mid-November 2006, the Rosales campaign received a proposal from the experts who created and managed esdata.org, a private non-profit entity which had extensively studied the recall referendum of August 2004, quantifying the fraud and identifying how and where it was done. These experts proposed to place trained observers at 300 previously-identified high-risk voting centers nationally, where esdata.org’s research confirmed the 2004 recall fraud had been executed.

Esdata.org’s experts reached out to Rosales, Barboza, and Petkoff, but were rebuffed. But finally a meeting was arranged through a sympathetic intermediary, Diego Arria, who was the campaign’s communications director, and the proposal was laid out. The candidate and his senior campaign managers listened politely, and then blew them off. A few days after the meeting, Barboza told a campaign associate that the individuals who presented the fraud monitoring proposal were “unos locos.”

Our sources who were close to Rosales, Petkoff, Barboza, Arria, etc. remember they were “shocked” when Chavez won by a landslide, trouncing the Zulia governor by over 25%.

“Chavez really stuck it to Rosales, and there was nothing Rosales or Petkoff could say because they had sold their souls to the devil, in the truest tradition of this society of accomplices which Venezuela has always been,” a former senior campaign official says.

After the 2006 elections, Chavez also reneged on the agreement brokered with Rosales through longtime friends and political associates Petkoff and JVR. First, Chavez refused to acknowkledge Rosales’ status as the top national opposition leader – which is something Rosales wanted very much to consolidate for his own political survival. Then Chavez launched the nationalization drive which has finished wrecking the oil, electricity and telecommunciations sectors; unveiled his five motors of the revolution; obtained special powers to eventually approve 26 Decree-Laws (Leyes Habilitantes); and announced a referendum to reform the constitution 1999 to transform Venezuela into a socialist state and economy.

Fast-forward again to the days following the 15 February 2009 referendum – which was imposed by Chavez illegally, unconstitutionally and undemocratically. The gelded OAS has said nothing, though the democratic charter has been violated. The ever-more pusillanimous US State Department has recognized as legitimate a process which clearly was illegitimate in many ways. Rosales, the new Mayor of Maracaibo since last November’s regional elections, is about to be impeached, prosecuted and likely forbidden to seek elected office by the regime he cut secret deals with, and Petkoff is protesting more loudly about Chavez’s ever-more dictatorial behavior.

Meanwhile, the proponents of dumping the dinosaurs are absolutely right. Nothing will change for the better within the political opposition until all of the old political fossils are pushed aside. But it won’t be easy. The original Dinosaurs lived for millions of years, and some – like sharks – still exist today. The dinosaurs in Venezuela’s political opposition will be just as tough to stamp out.


About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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2 Responses to Dump the Dinosaurs

  1. Alek Boyd says:

    ““Chavez really stuck it to Rosales, and there was nothing Rosales or Petkoff could say because they had sold their souls to the devil, in the truest tradition of this society of accomplices which Venezuela has always been,” a former senior campaign official says.”

    Re the 06 campaign: as you know I was there, in the thick of things. I won’t comment on deals between Petkoff and JVR (it wouldn’t surprise me that those two brujas would compromise our ailing democracy). However I will say this: the opposition did not have witnesses in 40% of polling booths. Do the math.


  2. Alek Boyd says:

    The proponents could be right. Their sifrino approach of “let’s show the door to the dinosaurs” (from their keyboards and in Facebook) is absolute crap.


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