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Venezuela's presidential bout: Round 1 for Manuel Rosales

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 10.10.06 | As Daniel rightly pointed out, in the first week of October unity candidate Manuel Rosales stroke thrice against Hugo Chavez, and the deranged caudillo appears to have adopted a self-defeating attitude. His idea of measuring forces in the wake of the very successful rally held by Rosales in Caracas on Saturday was a complete disaster. Sources within the regime informed last week that Chavez was hesitant about the time, venue and manner in which his Sunday rally would be held. Initially he had planned a rally in Avenida Bolivar, which he cancelled on Saturday, and changed instead to a pathetic caravan attended by very few people, considering past events.

Although chavistas are trying their hardest to downplay Rosales' rally fact is that, even in official media, everyone is talking about it. Based on a note sent out by Associated Press (AP) that put crowd numbers at "above 10.000" chavistas rejoiced and have been using AP's piece as the ultimate source of truth. However the original article in Spanish -penned by Elizabeth M. Nuņez- starts with the sentence "Decenas de miles de personas marcharon el sabado por las calles de Caracas..." i.e. "Tens of thousands of people marched on Saturday in Caracas' streets..." (AP's translation department in urgent need of thorough revision). Propaganda pamphlet Diario VEA had yesterday a front page headline about Rosales' event that figured more prominently than Chavez's own picture. Ultimas Noticias, official rag par excellence, published yesterday a note correcting the credit attributed to the picture published on Sunday stating that it was a Reuters picture and not an AP one as originally claimed.

And what to make about the Chavez - Morales military pact? See Miguel's take on this issue. My impression is that Rosales' tactics are contributing in no small part with Chavez's mistakes and although it would be foolish to think that recent official unhingement is due solely to Rosales the caudillo is revealing a rather uncharacteristic behaviour that benefits Rosales. Undecided voters and light chavistas have started pondering about the future under a man completely detached from their problems. A fascinating aspect of Chavez political persona is that people still think that he is not responsible for the chaotic situation of the country. That is to say people keep thinking that insecurity, poverty, unemployment and corruption are not of his making and while the president hovers around the 50% approval rate in polls the performance of his administration in the issues mentioned is condemned by nearly 80% of the population.

Rosales has already started putting the blame where it belongs. One issue that both chavistas and opponents of the regime have in common is the sheer discontentment with regards to the giving away of Venezuelan resources to other countries while people here struggle to survive. It's a binding factor that no one disputes and will determine the outcome of the election for Chavez can argue that his ministers, the police, congress, etc. are useless. What he can not do is to transfer the responsibility of giving the farm away to his lackeys for it is him and only him who takes those decisions. No minister promised money to Morales. No Congressman/woman approved the construction of houses in Cuba. No military pledged Venezuelan blood in other nation's conflicts. This is all Hugo Chavez and his galloping megalomania. Rosales only needs to stress upon the obvious to win the coming rounds.

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