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Venezuela's presidential race: Rosales challenges Chavez to debate

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 23.10.06 | Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales seems willing to take its campaign one notch higher for he is about to challenge Hugo Chavez to a televised debate, something the incumbent has never granted to any political foe. A while ago economist Gerver Torres asked Hugo Chavez to debate economic matters, but of course the great Messiah, who knows nothing about economic issues, declined. Now Chavez, instead of taking on the new challenge coming from someone he considers intellectually inferior and lacking oratory skills, is demonstrating how condescending and disrespectful he is towards his opponents.

"I come today, in the name of the Venezuelan people, to send a very clear message to the government's candidate to join me in a televised debate, so that we can discuss the many problems affecting this country. He has to explain to Venezuelans the more than 90.000 assassinations, the unemployment, the lack of investment, the poor services, the hunger, the poverty, the laughable number of housing units constructed, he has to explain what does he mean by XXI century socialism" thus started Manuel Rosales his press conference. "We want to know whether the government's candidate wants to model Venezuela's political system as the Castroite dictatorship of Cuba, we want to know whether he believes in democracy, in alternation in power, in accountability, in upholding the rule of law, in respecting contracts" added Rosales.

"Venezuela does not believe in hollow rhetoric, in empty promises, in violence, in warmongering... He must be asking Fidel Castro's advice... I demand that Fidel grants the candidate [Chavez] permission so that his protege agrees to debate with me... I will demonstrate to Venezuelans that the only thing Chavez is good at is at lying... brace yourself for I am waiting for you..." said Rosales.

Del Valle Canelon from Globovision just asked what was Rosales' opinion regarding Chavez's statements whereby he said that he won't debate Rosales whose intellect he mocked. Rosales said "if he's so good, so articulate, so incredibly gifted, why the fear? Why doesn't he want to debate? But not only does he not want to confront me, neither does he engage with many Venezuelans that have requested his attention over the years."

Daniel Castellanos from the official TV (VTV) asked Rosales whether he would debate some Bs.50 billion that allegedly went missing and also his participation in the 2002 coup. Rosales said that the central government wants to order Zulia's governorship how to spend allocated funds "as far as I know this is not a dictatorship and the central government has got nothing to do with discretionary decisions of regional administrations" stated Rosales. Concerning the coup, which Rosales refers to as power vacuum as sentenced by the Supreme Court, said that he is eager to discuss coup d'etats, especially the one led by Chavez in 1992, the orders he gave to the army to massacre innocent civilians in 2002, and the many victims whose families are yet to see justice be made.

Juan Carlos Aguirre from UNIONRADIO has brought the issue of polls, citing some figures. Rosales says that Chavez was pretty much on its own in the political scene and logically, when another candidate appears, a part of the electorate moves to the new option. "If I am doing so badly in the polls, why would they [the government] worry so much about poll results?" pondered Rosales.

Asked about his stance vis-a-vis Posada Carriles Rosales said that he has to be made accountable for his crimes. "If we are demanding justice to be made regarding crimes that have been committed by officialdom we must be as unforgiving towards others. Posada Carriles has to be brought to justice, wherever he is" concluded Rosales.

Jesus Hernandez from Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias cites a political analyst that maintains that the US is lobbying heavily countries around the world to hinder Venezuela's chances to get the UN Security Council seat. Rosales blames the terrible foreign policy of the current administration rather than US lobbying as the culprit for the result at the UN floor. "The diplomatic backlash is not against Venezuela but against the incumbent."

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