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Manuel Rosales: "I won't sit in anyone's lap"

By Aleksander Boyd

London 20.08.06 | He may not be a gifted orator but he's certainly saying, and doing, all the right things thus far... Governor of Zulia state Manuel Rosales launched his presidential bid yesterday with a rather surprising show of force that no observer was expecting. His candidacy appears to count on a swelling sentiment of unity of purpose, which is apparently shared by many an enemy in Venezuela's opposition ranks. Presidential wannabes Julio Borges and Teodoro Petkoff forbore their aspirations to work with Rosales. And to top it all off Rosales registered his bid at the end of a week that had started with the news that Chavez's nemesis, union leader Carlos Ortega, just walked from a military prison where he was held unlawfully on trumped up charges.

So what's the significance of this? If I'm allowed some hope it means a great deal for Venezuela and its battered democracy. Once upon a time, nearly 30 years ago, a presidencial race was, against all odds, won by an opposition candidate that according to the polls of the day stood no chance. Unexpectedly this opposition candidate's win came about thanks to the vote of Tachira, Merida, Trujillo and Zulia states. The favourites then were baffled, as Chavez seems to be nowadays. The conditions are quite similar; there was a general disgust towards the irresponsible manner in which the defeated administration had managed the enormous income that had come, quite literally, out of the blue following the nationalization of the oil industry; the press was stifled, one of the last actions of the outgoing president was to present charges against a notorious journalist for allegedly having libeled him... Does that ring a bell?

National Director of Strategy for Rosales, Teodoro Petkoff, gave some startling declarations yesterday. Rightly he pointed out at the many failures of the Chavez administration, stressing that Rosales' campaign will be centered on explaining how to redistribute wealth but more importantly on how to create it, something which Chavez is totally avert to.

Manuel Rosales has an excellent track record in the public administration, not only was he reelected in 2004 as governor amid an abusive and unfair smear campaign deployed by Chavez but Zulia state's electorate, the second in number of voters in Venezuela, is squarely behind him, which in real terms means that he's got already almost 2 million voters in the pocket.

Rosales has said that he will govern for all Venezuelans, not only for those who don red t-shirts to get hand outs, contracts, jobs and so on. In a clear appeal to disenchanted chavistas he stressed that the business of pilfering the country's resources in international adventures that bring no real benefits to the people is to end. Alluding to Chavez's disgusting display of serfdom with dictator Castro, Rosales, a real patriot, stated "I won't sit in anyone's lap, nor will I hold hands with anybody, I respect the people of Venezuela." Touché...

The fact that he has been since 2000 the governor of the most entrepreneurial state of Venezuela and having Petkoff and others on board means that Rosales has a clear understanding of the necessity of wooing foreign investors and provide the required legal framework whereby the sanctity of contracts will be upheld. Again in stark contrast to the attitudes of the current caudillo.

Hugo Chavez himself admitted recently that his dreams of getting 10 million votes is impossible to achieve. His hollow rethoric has stopped trickling down. The premise that the military is fully supportive of his seudo revolution has irremediably been shatered; case in point Ortega's walk from military prison, the alert raised 10 hours after the act.

There are remarkable similarities between Carlos Andres Perez first presidency and Chavez's 7+ years in power. Petkoff expressed his conviction that Chavez is beatable and indeed Rosales may well reenact the feat of Luis Herrera Campins for all the same reasons and more. Should Venezuelans decide to ignore the abstention drive promoted by officialdom and realize the importance of participating massively in the coming elections there's a great deal of chance to revert the current situation.

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