Rosales in exile: Death of a politician…

April 21, 2009

When someone in the Court where Rosales was to have had an audience yesterday leaked his sentence ahead of the audience, Manuel Rosales decided to go into exile in Peru in what is likely to become the death of his career as a relevant politician in Venezuela.

Rosales’ attitude is understandable, the sentencing papers contained information only the Judge knew and they were ready to jail him, but what else did he expect? A fair trial? Understanding? There was no question in anyone’s mind that this was to be Chavez’ revenge, so for Rosales to expect any fairness was naive to say the least.

But the move is truly shortsighted politically. Rosales is not a reporter, a second rank military officer or a two bit swindler, he happens to be one of the main opposition politicians in Venezuela and as such it was his job to stay and fight. He should not have considered any other option: Leaving represents playing into Chavez’ hand, giving up the fight, sending a signal that he may even be guilty. Staying would have represented an honorable and political battle against all odds. It would have made life difficult for Chavez and his Government. He now becomes an irrelevant problem. A has been. So long Manuel!

Yes, it is the human solution. Nobody likes to go to jail. Nobody likes his or her freedom to be restricted. But when you become a politician, more so in a country like Venezuela, it is part of your fight. It is your responsibility.

Just think if Rosales had been jailed yesterday and sent to a prison with Pedro Carmona, Eduardo Lapi, Carlos Fernandez, Raul Baduel, Carlos Ortega and a couple of military officers now in exile. Much like when Hugo Chavez was jailed in 1992 after staging his coup, the jail would become a fertile ground for conspiracy and political noise. An uncomfortable source of news for the Government and a constant distraction from Chavez’ well orchestrated challenges to the opposition.

People would visit the jail and meet not only their friend, but others, would help them and would send a signal to the country and the world that something is not right with Venezuela’s justice and political system.

Instead, Rosales will have been forgotten in a month and his stature will have been diminished in the eyes of Venezuelans. Not because he will have lost it, but because he will no longer be part of Venezuela’s daily political fight.

And in a country with mediocre and weak opposition, the people will have witnessed the death of another opposition leader because he chose the exile option. In the end, Rosales chose his own political death.

It may be the right decision for him, but the worng political option for everyone.

28 Responses to “Rosales in exile: Death of a politician…”

  1. […] avait demandé de “le mettre en taule“, un ordre que le Tribunal a exécuté… En changeant l’accusation trois fois jusqu’à ce que cela lui colle. Et ne parlons pas de la juge […]

  2. Roberto Says:

    Now it makes sense. I apologize for my confusion.

  3. Gringo Says:


    Your words to KA are uncalled for….Don’t fault those of us who left, many of us still have skin in the game in country.

    I don’t fault KA for leaving. After all, I am safely in the US w a blue passport. Nor do I fault Rosales for leaving. My point is that someone like KA, who has left, does not have have a lot of credibility when he says that Rosales “should have stayed to fight.” I fault KA for saying Rosales “should have stayed to fight” when KA has left. Do as I say, not as I do: that is KA’s position, and I DO fault him for that.

    Do I make myself clear?

    OTOH, KA also DID also state, “it is easy for us to say,” so he did recognize to a certain degree the credibility issue, but not enough to refrain from stating that Rosales “should have stayed to fight.”

  4. Roberto Says:


    You words to KA are uncalled for. Venezuela is going to need those within and without to continue pushing until the nightmare is over.

    Don’t fault those of us who left, many of us still have skin in the game in country.

  5. EG Says:

    Chavez, for all we may think, is not an idiot. He remembers well what happened to him. He knows all too well how people can rise from the ashes. He is a hard and heartless polititian. He would’ve made sure Rosles was destroyed, physically or psycologically or simply eliminated. Rosales had no choice, he had to go. Anybody that thinks that Rosales had a political future, somehow, has not realized that we are not dealing with decent human being.

  6. firepigette Says:

    Well, the situation was and is so difficult and complicated for him, that I do not think any pundit can wrap his/her mind around a proper judgment.Speculation is interesting only in light of this.

    The important thing is not which plan was better; What is done, is done.

    The important thing now is how HE takes advantage of the position he chose.

    The international press has always been deficient in describing the truth under Chavez’s government, maybe now he can improve that situation a bit if not a lot.

  7. concerned Says:

    Rosales was not, or should not be savior of the opposition. His leaving may be a blessing, and he can continue his support from outside the country better than from in prison. If there was a credible justice system, he could plead his case and win in court. With the system in place now, he would be silenced and rot in jail. It is time to plant a new seed for Venezuela’s future. One that can harness the support that Rosales had plus draw in the undecided and new voters from the strong student movement.

  8. Arturo Guinand Says:

    Problem is that there haven’t been ‘martyrs’ in Venezuelan jails ever.

    We are pretty much a selfish society and after a couple of days, the majority won’t give a f_ck about it.

    This is not new.

    Even though Chavez keeps repeating that ‘el pueblo’ was claiming for his freedom when imprisoned, truth is that nobody but a couple of interested people, really gave a f_ck about him.

    If you go to jail in this country, you can forget being a Mandela or a Ghandi.

    Maybe, after serving your time, if you attract the interest of two old political dogs that can promise big business to a couple of the local media moguls… then you might have a chance.

  9. Eric Says:

    No way should Manuel have turned himself in! Are you nuts? Play Russian roulette by allowing this half-mad sanguinario to throw him into La Planta? Come on, Miguel. You’ve got great political instincts, most of the time, but this time estás fuera del perol.

    If there’s a 100% sure way of stifling any kind of dissent in Venezuela or creating an immediate mass community of exiles it would be by allowing Chávez’s goons (“who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”) to murder Manuel in La Planta. Otra riña mas entre reos.

    Who’s next?

    We don’t need martyrs. We already have enough martyrs, for godssakes. The first job of a politician, any politician, anywhere, is to survive. That’s usually thought of metaphorically, as in “stay in office.” In Venezuela today the stakes are way, way higher.

  10. Milonga Says:

    No other option here but leaving the country. Everyone now is talking about Rosales, his accusation that Chávez is a tyrant and a dictator. Do you know the names of the prisoners of the Cuban regime? Maybe at home, but not worldwide. His fleeing the country has made world news, and maybe opened the eyes of a few….

  11. Gringo Says:

    I agree Miguel. He should have stayed to fight I probably would have, but then again it is easy for us to say.

    Miguel, living in Venezuela and blogging nearly daily against the Dictator, has much more credibility for his stand than does someone like yourself who is living in the safety of the United States.

  12. Humberto Says:

    It serves no one, not the Venezuelan opposition or the Rosales very large family for Manuel to immolate himself by going to jail. What exactly is the point he is going to make by going to jail? That he “accepts” that the judiciary in Venezuela can give him a fair trial? That he can be a forgotten “victim” just like Francisco Uson was for years?

    No, there are no rules in Venezuela except that what the “comandante” wants shall be done. I say I am happy for Manuel and his family that he is not a martyr rotting in jail. I say I am happy that Chavez did not get what he wanted. And, I say anybody that believes Manuel was going to get a fair trial and skipped the court hearing because he is a coward probably deserves to be governed by the autocrat.

    And, being a politician in Venezuela does not carry with it the obligation to go to jail when the autocrat wants you to. I’d say exactly the opposite. Count one against Chavez.

  13. Gringo Says:

    From the safety of Gringaterra ( Tierra de los Gringos), I cannot fault Rosales for fleeing. The message has been put out: those in the opposition will be at risk for being jailed. Or rather, the message was already out there, but it has been strongly reiterated. While I agree with Marc in Calgary that prominent oppo people “must keep their skeletons in the closets to a minimum,” I fear that it is naive to believe that this will be sufficient to avoid prosecution from Thugo’s regime. Are they not capable of concocting evidence?

    I don’t know why, but I was reminded of some lyrics from Bob Dylan.
    But I mean no harm nor put fault
    On anyone that lives in a vault
    But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him
    Upon reflecting on Thugo’s deeds, the following works most often spring to my my mind: Alice in Wonderland and Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home.

    My prediction is that Thugo will be torn apart by a mob of furious Chavistas. When? No idea. Could be decades.

  14. marc in calgary Says:

    It is easy to say what “I would have done”, of course “I’m” not facing time in the big house.
    is self preservation key to Manual’s decision? I think so. Ahead of his immediate political future it seems, perhaps he will return, when another democracy returns… or at least, when the decline in revenue forces an accounting of where have the $billions gone?

    Having read accounts of lifetimes wasted in the gulags of mid century Russia, I find it difficult to criticize his decision.
    and noting what anyone in Venezuela’s political landscape must realize about running against the current political masters, is that anyone considering a run at Chavez, must keep their skeletons in the closets to a minimum. That is, you don’t earn millions, without having others think you’ve gotten it somehow under the table. Yes I know about the large land holdings in Barinas ect… but to run against the Chavez machine, maybe it is necessary to be more of a Gandhi, than is the case with Rosales…

  15. KA Says:

    I agree Miguel. He should have stayed to fight I probably would have, but then again it is easy for us to say.

  16. Larry Says:

    It’s not like Rosales was going to a Yare jail with all its homey conforts … they were probably going to send him to La Planta among the murderers. It is known fact that Venezuelan prisons among the continents worse.

  17. liz Says:

    I approve him leaving the country.. he did it for so many reasons, the main one probably: to save his life.
    But of course, this is just the perfect outcome for the regime!
    There is no wining at this game, this is his political funeral alright. Sigh.

  18. Arturo Guinand Says:

    I agree with Miguel.
    It was the human solution, but Rosales is becoming a political corpse just as Chavez wanted.

  19. bruni Says:

    Well, according to the logic presented here, the people of Venezuela should vote for Súmatein the next election. They were persecuted, accused and standed trial…

  20. Go-sho Says:

    I agree with the article and with Alfredo Octavio on this. You can’t just like the CNE and it’s laws when they elect you to office and then run when you have to deal with the rest of the establishment.

    You want to be a politician here, you have to live with the fact that there is no rule of law.

  21. A ver si leemos la misma historia. Romulo Betancourt estuvo preso bajo el gobierno de Gomez (poco tiempo, pero con condiciones realmente crueles, dos de los estudiantes presos con el murieron). El gobierno de Gomez lo saca de la carcel con la condición que se vaya del pais. Regresa a Venezuela a la muerte de Gomez y fue expulsado del paispor Eleazar Lopez Contreras. Regresa para oponerse a la elección de Medina Angarita y da ¡un golpe de estado! Es parte del gobierno de Romulo Gallegos y tiene que volver a salir del pais cuando este fue derrocado. Nunca se fue huyendo de un juicio e, incluso, cuando Lopez Contreras lo expulsa y declaran ilegal a su partido (¿el PDN?) se queda en el pais clandestinamente. No participa en la alzada civico-militar contra Marcos Perez Jimenez, esta fue dirigida casi exclusivamente por militares que deseaban un gobierno civil y democratico para Venezuela, Betancourt regresa y gana las elecciones. Lean lo que decia Romulo Betancourt del exilio. Nada que ver con la calidad de los lideres actuales…

  22. Charly Says:

    One aspect this article does not mention is where they intended to put Rosales in the slammer, not a high class military jail where Ortega was and Baduel is, but el reten de la planta, a jail for common criminals. Rosales would not last a week there. I suspect the Chavistas leaked the document on purpose so that he takes off and gets out of the way. It worked. Remember, someone opened magically the doors for Ortega and others (Lapi?) to escape. As for Rosales political death, the announcement is rather premature, witness how Betancourt came back from exile to become what is probably the only true democrat LatAm has ever known.

  23. Deanna Says:

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought that Perez Jimenez was overthrown by a group of people of different political stripes who got together in exile. If the ones outside continue their fight together with those who are left inside the country, maybe someday you’ll get rid of Chavez. It may take years (or even decades), but it’s better than have all the opposition jailed and murdered.

  24. I agree with Miguel on this. Yes, given the choice of jail in Venezuela or flight, I would go. Hell, without the threat of jail I would go! But I would never accept being a candidate for anything in Venezuela, exactly for that reason. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. It is stupid to think that you can be a successful politician in Venezuela and not get threats of jail and death (which I don’t want). That is the problem with most things in Venezuela, no planning, no thinking ahead, pure improvisation.

  25. Roberto Says:

    Miguel. The difference here is that when Chavez and his cronies were put in jail, no one had to guess why. They were very evidently guilty of trying to force a change by force.
    Rosales, on the other hand, was being accused of something for which he had proof he did not commit. The fact that the sentence was leaked, that the proof he DID pay his taxes etc was rebuffed illegaly, that the president, on TV declared him guilty before being charged, all pointed to one thing, his death.

    And while you may be right as to his political death, I’m sure you and just about everyone on this planet would make the choice he made.

    And hey, if CAP and Caldera both managed to get elected twice, who says he cannot come back from this?

  26. Humberto Says:

    I’m not with you on this one Miguel. There is not even a pretense of a fair trial here. Chavez wants him jailed and judge trumps-up charges. And then Rosales goes to jail,… for what? To prove a point?

    Sadly Miguel, in prison he would have been forgotten as well just like most of the other political prisoners.

  27. Bridge Says:

    Its easy to write he should have stayed… but honestly, would any of you stay when before the trial even starts the sentence is already known ?
    And I have serious doubts that from prison Rosales could have been playing any impotant role, it is much more likely he would have been a corps in no time.

  28. island canuck Says:

    Unfortunately it is the way of many Venezuelans today.

    In the face of an impossible task of returning normalcy to a country out of control the only solution is flight.

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