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Manuel Rosales: underdog in Venezuela's race

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 27.11.06 | There's one aspect about Venezuela's presidential election that's missing from most analyses published these days. Most observers of Venezuelan politics keep referring to this race as if it were a normal contention between two candidates. They keep citing polls as if polling was a scientific absolute. The undeniable fact however is that it is far from a regular election for Manuel Rosales is not facing Hugo Chavez on equal terms, on the contrary he does not have, for example, 4 out of 5 directors of the National Electoral Council on his payroll. Neither does he have the financial muscle to bus thousands of supporters around Venezuela nor does his statements have any repercussions in world's energy markets. Some people in town are wondering why is it that Reuters keeps printing -without credible evidence- that Chavez will win easily by a 30% margin. Could this be a policy of a company that makes most of its money by selling financial information to big corporations and multinationals? I don't know, what I do know though is that, in my book, a man that allegedly has such a large margin over his contender should not need 2500 buses to fill up an avenue with his supporters in a city of 6 million people.

The underdog here is the Maracucho folks -Manuel Rosales that is- that much should be clear by now. The superficiality with which the international media is reporting the race is such that one has to question what are the true motives behind the absurd stance taken by most. At the press conference with foreign journos the other day one couldn't hear questions such as "Mr. Rosales, what's your opinion on the obscene amount of public funds that Chavez is using in his campaign?... What do you make of the 22 to 1 ratio of broadcasting seconds that differences the incumbent with you?... What's your opinion on the politization of PDVSA, a company whose mission, according to its CEO, is to support by whatever means the Comandante?... Do you honestly think that you can challenge an incumbent that controls all powers of the State?... Should you win the election, will your military bodyguards beat the crap out of journalists sent to report protest against your performance?... Will you order your cronies to cut the electricity in order to silence speeches delivered by your foes before their supporters?... Will you maintain prohibition of helicopter flights over Caracas during political rallies of your opponents?... Will you forbid landings of aircrafts due to political reasons?..." None of these issues catches the attention of them lot.

The race is far from normal. This is a flyweight v heavyweight sort of political bout. This is one man who controls nothing against another who controls everything. In normal circumstances most human beings tend to sympathise with the underdog and that, I think, is what's happening here in Venezuela. Chavez has become the establishment, the status quo, the candidate of the wealthy or rather the wealthy candidate, he can't continue making the argument that he's an underdog. A walkabout anywhere in this country provides any observer careful enough to look around that there's a 4 to 1 ratio of propaganda in favour of Chavez. Similarly the total amount of funds that Rosales has at his disposal is probably the budget that his counterpart spends in one week. Rosales' minions, another example, can not paint entire airports with graffiti (see pictures below). In sum the abuse of power on behalf of officialdom is such that any rational person would conclude that Venezuela is no longer a democratic country.

San Carlos airport in Cojedes state. Picture taken 23.11.06. Note that the police are not bothered by the propaganda.

However there's much unrest in Venezuela, a great deal of people are fed up with this caricature of a revolution. Chavez biggest miscalculation to date is to have believed that he could turn an utterly materialistic and capitalist people into a bunch of communist eunuchs. Rosales, as Chavez did in 1998, is simply giving voice to the concerns of the many and, additionally, reformulating a rather novel concept to Venezuelans, which is empowerment. The underdog has taken the fight to goliath's former turf, a turf the latter long abandoned for greener pastures. In only five days we shall see whether in this corner of the planet people sympathise with the underdog.

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