Archive for the 'The Opposition Candidates' Category

The opposition candidates IV. Part 2. The Candidate for the Job by Paul Esqueda

February 8, 2006

Paul Esqueda gives us his second installment (part 1 here) on the
opposition candidates with the requirements for the job. (I have other writings
by others in waiting, but I have not had time to work on it, my apologies to

opposition candidates IV. Part 2. The Candidate for the Job by Paul Esqueda

To provoke some
thinking about the complexity of selecting an opposition candidate, let us
consider what a job posting might look like.

                                                                Help Wanted

The opposition
groups of the Republic
of Venezuela seek a distinguished
and dynamic candidate for the position of President. This job entails
developing a comprehensive, viable and far reaching plan

to win the elections in December
2006 with at least 50% of the vote to
assure a peaceful transition to a new government preserving democratic rule and

                  2. to bring political and economic
stability to our society

to put Venezuela on the path to economic
growth as fast as possible

to put in place specific actions to
enhance the quality of life of all citizens

Specific skills needed:

    -The candidate should have excellent negotiation skills. He has to
negotiate the establishment of an airtight coalition among dispersed and
fragmented opposition groups in order to develop a shared strategic plan. In
parallel with the electoral campaign, our candidate will have to negotiate with
some existing institutions (i.e. the military for example) either directly
or indirectly to assure appropriate support. After the candidate is
elected and in office, to assure effective governance, he will have to
negotiate with a National Assembly and a Supreme Court which are right now 100%
Chavista. Needless to say, the candidate should be prepared to deal with the
established mindset of populism and opportunism.

    -Excellent communications skills are a must. Our candidate should be
able to articulate a strong and penetrating message together with a vision to
all voters, particularly the undecided, as well as to the Chavistas and
to those who oppose the current government but have lost all hope. A
willingness to learn some lessons from our current President would be a plus.

     -Our candidate has to be a team player. This job is going to be a team
effort, and for that reason he should be capable of setting up and
consolidating a diverse team to win the election and carry out the plan
outlined above.

      -Most important of all, our candidate must have excellent leadership
skills. In this context, he should be able to clearly differentiate himself
from autocratic rule by demonstrating how true democratic leadership can
embrace political diversity.

The candidate should have wide and deep knowledge of Venezuela’s political and economic
history. He or she should have experience in holding office as a public
servant, perhaps in congress, and preferably possess some private industry
experience as well. It is very important that our prospective candidate has
been exposed to other cultures and other economic development models so that he
has an educated view of international issues and problems. Candidates with
military background please abstain from applying.

Your nominations and applications are welcomed. The Venezuelan people
will soon be hiring for this position.

      Compensation should not be a priority for the candidates

The opposition Candidates III: Part 1. In search of a candidate by Paul Esqueda

January 23, 2006

Paul Esqueda is an old and very good friend, a true friend, whom I met too many years ago in my first job in Venezuela where we shared some very exciting times. Paul is an electronic engineer by training with a Ph.D.from the same university where he is today Head of a Department. He is a verty versatile and competent person, those that can do anything they set their minds to, who has been President of Venezuela’s premier engineering research institution, which we helped create. From there he became a Professor at Venezuela’s leading business school IESA, where he was later appointed Dean of the Graduate program. For family reasons he is now temporarily abroad, from where he follows with passion what is going on in Venezuelan politics. He has decided to take up the challenge I made and will write a four part series on the opposition candidacies. He will begin today with “In Search of a candidate”, will follow it with “The Job”, then “The ideal candidate vs.the real candidates” and he will close with “The best choice”. Thanks to Paul for his effort and enjoy.

In search of a candidate by

Searching for a candidate for any position, not just the Venezuelan opposition
presidential candidate, ideally requires that you put together a list of
responsibilities, goals to be accomplished and challenges to be assumed by the
selected individual. With that information then you can proceed to elaborate a
profile with the specific skills and background needed for the position, in
this case for the presidency of Venezuela.
Finally, you compare the profile of the ideal candidate with that of the
available candidates to find the best match. However, the challenges in the
case of the presidential race in Venezuela are so overwhelming that
they require a brief analysis of the current and historical political context
before one analyzes the pros and cons of the candidates that seem to have a
good opportunity. This is the first part of a series of four essays about the
search of a presidential candidate in Venezuela.

The main challenges

Something must have gone really wrong in the last 47 years of democracy
given the current mess that we find ourselves in Venezuela. Our educational system
failed to instill in our citizens the basic principles of democracy. How is it
possible that the incumbent president has been granted so much power? He has
absolute control of the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the National
Electoral Council, the General Attorney’s Office, and the Armed Forces just to
mention the most important key centers of power in the country. The leadership
of all those institutions has decided to blindly follow the current president’s
orders and wishes at the expense of democracy. In other words, basic
constitutional rights like dissidence and free speech are being sacrificed for
the sake of a single command to fight off the so called enemies of the state.
Every day one new enemy is created: US
imperialism, the church, the opposition, Mexico and so on. Conspiracy
theories are now abundant. Where were those guys that currently govern Venezuela
educated? In my opinion, there is a terrible crisis of integrity and ethical
values that has peaked in the last six years.

Things get worse when one includes corruption in the analysis. It seems
like Venezuelan public funds mostly from the oil industry are up for grabs but
only for those selected Chavistas that are “more equal than others.[1]
This brief analysis poses one of the main challenges for the opposition presidential
candidate if he is ever elected. In other words, whoever takes over the
presidency will have to change the whole mindset of most Venezuelans that seem
to find in corrupted populism the solutions to our economic development and
well being. Our candidate has to be a person of the utmost integrity, with a
proven historic record of high ethical standards and strong convictions about a
free democratic society. This requirement may seem evident but it should be
pointed out that when Chavez emerged as a potential candidate early in 1998 his
credentials were never thoroughly questioned. Almost 60% of Venezuelans with
voting rights thought he was the right choice according to the results of that
election. The charming yet hollow and shallow rhetoric of Chavez cultivated
everyone back in 1998 to the extent that rich and poor voted for him. He had
overwhelming support then. During the last six years, Chavez has been
consistently above 30% popularity according the polls carried out by
Datanalisis and others. This is very high by any standards. How can an
individual that has proven to be so undemocratic get so much popular support?

Perhaps, one explanation is that the majority of our citizens do not
understand the full meaning of democracy. On the other hand, the Government has
done a good job of giving the impression that eliminating poverty is their
first priority by moving to public policies of direct subsidies to the poor.
The Government becomes the main provider to most Venezuelans. Consequently, it
tends to take control of all economic activity leaving out the private sector. These
actions gain a lot of popular support for Government and they are more
appealing to the average citizen. However, we all know that historically these
types of policies have only short term effects and they generate high
dependency. Although direct subsidies may help, the foundations of any modern
sustainable society lie on a good mix of free market policies with social
programs that address the need of the poor by creating business and job
opportunities for all. This second approach to development produces results in
the long term and it relies on a strong private sector of the economy. It would
seem like the Government has a short term vision of development whereas the
opposition groups are thinking more long term. It is not difficult to guess
what policy the average citizen is going to favor: the short term approach.

This last consideration leads us to the second and most important
challenge. Our candidate has to be able to win the hearts and minds of most of
the Venezuelan voters in a relatively short period of time to defeat Chavez. A
favorable outcome will depend a lot on how our candidate frames a message
appealing to the average Venezuelan voter. It is not an easy job considering
that all the money is on the side of the incumbent and money alone wins a lot
of votes regardless of the message. Indeed, money (in the short term) is the
message of the Government and as the old adage says “money talks.” In a nut
shell, these are the key challenges of our candidate.

[1] George Orwell “Animal

Opposition Candidates II: Economic ideas from Petkoff’s interview

January 16, 2006

So far,
nobody has taken up my invitation to write in favor or against any of the
opposition candidates. The article by Mayobre below remains the only
contribution to understanding what the opposition is offering. Yesterday,
Teodoro Petkoff had an interview
in El Universal,
I will list his thoughts on economic matters (which people
have asked about) to try to get the ball rolling again. I have tried to remove as
much as possible
the criticism to the Chavez Government so that they are ideas
that stand on their own and can be discussed as such. I will do the same as
opposition candidates give interviews or speak in the next few months on matters of substance.

highlights of the interview in terms of economic opinions:

–It is
evident that the roots of poverty are sunk in the high volumes of unemployment
and sub employment that we have in the country. The sources of employment arise
from investment and for there to be investments, public or private, there has
to be a Government with the determination to invest in plans and projects that
lead to the creation of jobs.

–A great
plan of public works on the matter of infrastructure is absolutely necessary.

–You have
to favor, with macroeconomic and institutional policies, a climate that would attract
private investment because, at the end of the day, the first employer of the country
is the private sector.

–A foreign
exchange policy that permanently maintains the Bolivar overvalued favors what
happened last year: US$ 25 billion in imports and there is no formal private or
cooperative sector that can resist the weight of such competition.

–There has
to be a policy for the construction of housing to attack both the topic of the
housing shortage and create employment.

–You can
not continue punishing the people with a VAT of 14% and it is absolutely
necessary to eliminate the debit tax to all financial transaction, which can
not be justified due to the magnitude of the oil income.

–It is a
shame that in seven years this Government has not been able to create a new
social security system, that has an absolute priority in the immediate future.

In Tachira State temporary military bridges have become the norm

January 14, 2006

Felipe the “gocho boy” from Tachira state reminds us how in this Caracas-centric country, the problem of bad maintenance and improvisation is seen everywhere, not only in Viaduct#1. Below the pictures from left to right of the “La Blanca”, “Los Jabillos” and “Rio Chiquito’ bridges in that state.

In his own words;

“My state Tachira, has began the year with a lot of problems.

first problems are the bridges, by the action of the rain and that added
with the lack of maintenance, have made that many bridges and roads have
fallen and now are useless , and the Tachira population have to use
military bridges because they are the only way to travel around the state.”

Opposition Candidates I: The year of Teodoro by Eduardo Mayobre

January 12, 2006

This article begins a new feature of The
Devils’ Excrement. I will invite anyone to write articles for my blog either
pro- or against any of the opposition candidates who are supposedly running or
considering running at this time. There will be no specific rules, other that the
articles should have good grammar, not be too long and respectful of everyone. I
will try to mix them in so that it does not become overwhelmingly a discussion around
a single name. At this time, the following are the candidates that are being
mentioned: Julio Borges, William Ojeda, Roberto Smith, Manuel Rosales, Teodoro
Petkoff and Oswaldo Alvarez Paz. I will create a new category eventually with the
articles published.

I had planned to do this later, when the candidates
had finally announced, but various people have been asking about the subject
and someone today made a very anti-Petkoff comment that was too short for me to

The first article is one written by
Eduardo Mayobre a former Vice-Minister of Finance who I have translated before
and I find is quite erudite and writes well. On Tuesday he wrote this article
promoting Teodoro Petkoff as the best candidate for the opposition.

Let the discussion begin!

The year of Teodoro by Eduardo Mayobre

2006 is a year for presidential elections

There is already one candidate that
pretends being that “ad aeternum”: the current President. We need one that opposes
him and is capable of defeating him. There are many people looking for him and
some aspiring to be him. Each person wants to have one made to his or her own measure.
However, it happens to be necessary that the opposition candidate be a single
one. The appropriate person exists and has even been mentioned a few times. It
happens to be Teodoro Petkoff, who is widely known.

Petkoff fills all of the requirements to
represent the 75% to 80% of Venezuelans that the last 4th. of December did not
vote for the officialdom. His disadvantage is that he lacks a political party. A
paradoxical situation if you consider that Teodoro has been all of his life a
party man and even founded one that awoke hope and managed to become important.
The parties of certain scope, on the other ahnd, lack a presentable candidate.

Because of this, at least in theory, an alliance
between parties and the Director of Tal Cual would seem obvious and other
organizations of the so called civil society and other forces with political influence
could also be part of it.

If such an alliance could be finalized,
the year 2006 will be the year of Teodoro, in which his dream to reach the
presidency of the republic could become a reality and begin the transformations
that could drive Venezuela
simultaneously to prosperity and justice. It is true that there are some leaders
of political parties that aspire to conduct the destiny of the country, without
any credentials other than their youth and ambition. But they would not damage
a national opposition candidacy, even if they persist in their adventure.

At the most, they would fulfill the role
that was played by the old conservative German Borregales in the first
elections of our democracy and in the best of cases the one that was played, as
an illusion for the future, by Teodoro himself some years later.

The other disadvantage of Teodoro is that
he is blond. You now notice it less because his hair has grayed with the years.
But he is not a blond from the oligarchy, like the one Florentino mentions, but
the son of refugees, which had to abandon their country because they were
educated and progressive.

That in itself could be an advantage.

Because with so many ethnic presidents and
candidates (including Evo Morales who copied from Petkoff his party’s name,
MAS) an ethnic origin like being Bulgarian, exotic for Latin-Americans, would represent
a healthy pluralism. For the powerful with money (old money, the new one is in
the forts) the problem is not that he is blond but that he has never allowed himself
to be controlled or seduced by the plutocrats; and that he has always been a
defender of those that have nothing.

Teodoro Petkoff is at the same time a
cultured man with political experience, a rare combination. About his culture
we can mention his books about Czechoslovakia,
Socialism for Venezuela
and his most recent, Two Lefts. As for experience, we can not forget that he
has confronted difficult situations, like the fight against the dictatorship of
Marcos Perez Jimenez, like being a member of the communist party and leaving it
without renouncing his ideals, like being in jail and escaping from the military
hospital and the San Carlos fort, like being a member of the guerillas and
accepting peace and the defeat, and last and not least difficult, like being Minister
of Rafael Caldera. In those multiple and diverse experiences he has demonstrated
being a man who does not do crazy things, not even when he embarks in enterprises
which are not that sane. .

Today Petkoff is a man who is fair minded and sensible, with a great ability
for political analysis, as he shows daily in his newspaper. A dialectician would
say that he is a mediated social democrat, in the sense that he has reached
that position thru or via his incursions in the communist and liberal extremes.
He knows all political positions and because of that, he could be the best
mediator among them and bring peace to the country. He is not only a man of the
center, but a centered man, which is what this country needs, ripped by
uncentered extreme positions.

Nevertheless, he has never stopped being
a man of the left with his sensitivity for the problems of workers, for exclusion
and poverty.

All of these political virtues, as they
used to say in the old days, embellish his personality.

Political parties do not count with anyone
with the same qualities that can gather 80% of the population that does not find
it fitting to vote nor see Alo Presidente. They have some leaders that could benefit
form a Petkoff Government, necessarily one of transition, to educate themselves
or acquire the charisma that they lack today. The alternative is to wait for 2030
and enter the ring after the Government of Nicolas Maduro or one of his mates.

That is why, if they are sensible, they have
no other option than to back the candidacy of Teodoro Petkoff, who is still
thinking about the possibility, as they say, or lending his name. But that he
would not think about it twice if he had the full backing of the political and
civil society.

I want to be on the record by saying that I have no contact with Petkoff and I
have no inhibitions to advance his name, because the matter is so evident that
it is the same to mention it before or after. 

The other possibilities that have presented themselves would mean playing the
loser. And neither Venezuela
nor the opposition can afford that luxury.

Summing up, 2006 will be the year of Petkoff or
the year of Chavez. To imagine other alternatives is to pedal in the air.