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Venezuela's Primaries: A Folly

By Manuel Caballero | El Universal

Caracas 24 April 2006 | The title of this writing served to head an article of mine a quarter century ago: so my opposition to this mechanism in nothing new, nor my opinion that primary elections are a folly. Certainly there is a fundamental reason: at that time it served as a lure for the extreme left who supported José Vicente Rangel and used it in order to ambush Teodoro Petkoff and prevent him from being a candidate. A useless burden: Rangel, who had sworn by all the gods that he would never, never be a candidate for a party that was not the MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo], upon seeing that this own party was launching Teodoro, took his friends with him, but Petkoff overwhelmed him, beating him by 56,000 votes.

Today the proposition is being made by an organization as reliable as Súmate, whose people have no interest in, nor any need for resorting to, tricks of a small town carnival.

Thousands of friends. And Teodoro just this week accepted a candidacy imposed upon him by his friends from throughout the country. I do not know what his position may be in relation to these primaries proposed by the people of Súmate, but I am sure of one thing, and the thought of accusing that organization of setting a trap for him must not have crossed his mind: José Vicente Rangel, Guillermo García Ponce and other carnival tumblers of the extreme left who are now squires of the Hero of the Military Museum [Chávez].

But with all those very obvious differences, my position toward this mechanism continues to be the same. With the aggravation that we are under a military regime, that today sends us people with no scruples, that has no compunction about proclaiming that it will not step down from power in good faith, and whose chief will stay in Miraflores until 2031, that is if Venezuela still exists, if this gang of predators does not finally triumph in its criminal bent on destroying it. And that band of criminals is not going to passively contemplate an event of this kind.

I do not doubt for a moment the word of María Corina Machado when she assures us that the logistics exists for holding those primaries, that her organization has an edge on it.

Contemplation of the navel. But that is not the problem, but rather, during several weeks the opposition candidates will be contemplating their own navels, lining up the votes of people they have convinced in order to see who, in the end, is going to put a bell on the cat’s collar; instead of going around the country trying to convince (amen to the four million who, according the government itself, make up the hardcore? opposition) abstainers and disenchanted Chavistas that it is possible to beat the government at the polls and to strengthen the people’s muscles enough to kick them out (the kick aimed precisely where the lower back changes its name) if the present tenant intends to remain in Miraflores fraudulently.

But that is not all: we already know the lack of scruples shown by this band who, to the misfortune of this country, have become its overlord for seven years already. Unless it these are internal primaries where the registry is such that each voter’s party can keep the votes pertaining thereto…wouldn’t it be hardly surprising if the SS [Situational Room] would decide to send in a number of red berets to slant the vote so as to tip the scale in favor of a candidate who would be easy to defeat?

One of their own. Wouldn’t it be hardly surprising if they were to send one of their own ilk, Lina Ron, Luis Tascón, Velásquez Alavaray or José Vicente Rangel, to sign up as opposition candidates? Or the First Daddy of the Republic [Chavez’s father] so as to take him out of the mucky den of thieves that Barinas has become? Or the Hero of the Military Museum himself? Exaggeration or caricature?

None of that: in the Dominican Republic, another Father of the New Fatherland declared himself to be a candidate of the opposition—to his own government that is! Over there at that time there were swarming about men, like Jorge Rodríguez, who were professionals at making accusations and staging electoral tricks.

No, my friends, we are not in the U.S., where a democracy well-rooted in a long tradition where one can enjoy the luxury of electing a party candidate in primary elections, where in some states even members of a rival party are allowed to vote. Over here, where is the opposition going to get the money to organize two consecutive campaigns? Primaries are conducted in order to elect a candidate. Here we need something more than a candidate: we need a leader who will be able to pull up his pants in order to fight tooth and nail for his victory. And that kind of leader is not elected in primaries: he must stand out in the fight and his own biography is his endorsement.

P.S. Having finished this article, I see that José Vicente Rangel enthusiastically salutes the possibility of opposition primaries. Do you want more points to argue against it?

Translation by W.K.

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