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A key week in the long winding road to unseat Hugo Chávez

By Romulo Ortiz

19.08.06 | This week was one of those when everything happened, a myriad of seemingly isolated events that made me feel this sort of cautious optimism I have came to be familiar with after 7 years of lost opportunities: I will try to piece all the newsworthy events together and try to unveil the big picture that I think favors the oppositionist movement at this time. They are in no particular order:

a) Manuel Rosales appoints his campaign team; I must say I am pleasantly surprised at how generous and decent Manuel Rosales has been in the assembling of his campaign team, there are representatives from all oppositionist sectors including most, if not all pre-candidates.

This gesture was necessary, he continues to do and say the right things.

Here’s the list of members of Manuel Rosales’ campaign team, as you can see Teodoro Petkoff was appointed director of national strategy.

b) Carlos Ortega escaped from a military prison in an episode reminiscent of Teodoro Petkoff’s epic escape from cuartel San Carlos:

“…It was back in 1963 and Teodoro Petkoff had drunk approximately half a liter of blood to fake a stomach hemorrhage that prompted his transfer to a military hospital. After he was afforded “proper care” for his “condition”, he was sent to a room on the 7th floor where he proceeded to file the window bars and rappel downward to his freedom…”
Pompeyo Márquez

Carlos Ortega’s evasion certainly embarrassed the government and elevated the moral within the ranks of the oppositionist movement. However I believe his escape transcends the anecdotal and has concrete consequences:

Carlos Ortega has a non-participation stance in regard to the upcoming presidential elections, so I expect that those advocating a political mass-suicide on December 3rd must feel validated and comforted.

It is unconceivable that he escaped Ramo Verde without the active participation of high ranking military officials; this is proof that Hugo Chávez may be wrong when he brags about our armed forces being monolithically behind his revolution.

It is widely suspected that he is already in either Aruba or Colombia. Some people fear he may become a divisive force within the oppositionist movement enabling the regime to turn this embarrassing defeat into a victory, although I very much doubt he has what it takes to mount a serious threat to Manuel Rosales’ leadership.

c) Oswaldo Alvarez Paz announces his support to Manuel Rosales, I must confess I was stunned by this development, I mean, I certainly could care less about what he has to say for it has been decades since I stopped listening to him, but he has become a sort of icon to the non-participation oppositionist faction.

I think Manuel Rosales should pinch his nose and accept his support; this may be a stepping stone toward building a true unity effort behind his unquestionable leadership, all polls suggest that in order to have a shot at this thing, we must bring aboard the shrinking portion of the electorate that still intends to abstain from voting.

d) Alliances are taking shape, Manuel Rosales is reportedly close to forging an alliance with Roberto Smith and Benjamín Rausseo might be next, In fact Ibéyise Pacheco reports that Roberto Smith might become the executive secretary of strategy within Manuel Rosales’ campaign team. This is formidable news especially if this winds up being the tight race we all hope. I believe Roberto Smith had a couple of interesting and outside-the-box ideas especially in regard to public safety, however it was more than evident that his candidacy was going nowhere in a hurry.

El Conde del Guácharo has also been speaking with Manuel Rosales, so far that’s the extent of it but you have got to start somewhere, don’t you?, the same applies to Acción Democrática although it seems highly improbable that they will drop their non-participation stance as long as Henry Ramos Allup is at the helm, the fit thrown my Alfonso Marquina doesn’t look like will change things a bit.

e) Primero Justicia at the brink of division, then pulls together (momentarily) to back Manuel Rosales. A lot has been written about this and it would make a great soap opera script, it all began when Gerardo Blyde and a few others went behind Julio Borges’ back to negotiate with Manuel Rosales right after he was acclaimed the unity candidate. This infuriated Julio Borges and apparently he went a little too far on his reprisal and not only he almost had Liliana Hernández expelled from the party but also got Armando Briquet appointed secretary general replacing Gerardo Blyde.

And that’s when things got heated up, Gerardo Blyde, Liliana Hernández, Leopoldo López, Delsa Solórzano and a few others demanded immediate elections to renovate the authorities claiming the current directive was illegitimate.

Then there was an eerie silence and 24 hours later I saw an uncomfortable Liliana Hernández kissing Julio Borges (on his cheek, of course) giving the impression that they are on the path of reconciliation, later they declared an armistice of sorts until after the presidential election.

An interesting development to further this electoral reconciliation is the appointment of Armando Briquet and Gerardo Blyde as national strategy advisors on Manuel Rosales’ campaign team.

For more gossip on the internal situation in Primero Justicia, you may take a look at Delsa Solórzano’s blog.

f) 6 millones por el buche, Hugo Chávez said last night that “10 million voters was a rounded up figure I came up with as a self-imposed challenge but it seems it will be a very difficult goal to achieve”, then he said that his campaign team should operate under the assumption that “less than 6 million voters is unacceptable, unthinkable!” I believe this revision of the estimates has a hidden meaning.

I always thought that the “10 million voters” slogan was one of his many emotional mistakes, by setting such a ridiculous goal he conveys an image of invincibility to his own people, after all if they are gullible enough to believe in him, they may believe just about anything!

It comes down to this, people won’t go to vote if they believe their vote is not necessary (remember how only 17% voted on 4D). I have also noticed Hugo Chávez is somewhat jumpy these days, is it possible that Liliana Hernández is right?

Maybe that’s why he sold (err, gave away) that CITGO refinery in Lyondell, TX. I imagine those US$ 1.5 billion may come in handy in an electoral year against an unexpectedly formidable opponent.


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