[Marxism] Teodoro Petkoff, newly-announced Venezuelan presidential candidate

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 22 14:59:06 MDT 2006

(On the CubaNews list I posted three negative opinions about newly-
announced Venezuelan opposition candidate for president there, and
drew a different assessment from another reader. Here are both.)

From: Dan Hellinger 
Sent: Saturday, April 22, 2006 1:47 PM
To: Walter Lippmann
Subject: Re: Background information on Teodoro Petkoff

I would compare Teodoro Petkoff to F.H. Cardoso, the former president
of Brazil, who was once considered leftist because of his writings on
dependency but governed Brazil from the center-right. Petkoff was
Calera's Minister of Planning (not Finance). I was part of a group
that interviewed him in January in Caracas, and at that time he
defended his support for Caldera's turn to neoliberalism by citing two
factors: (1) the financial crisis that give Caldera little room for
maneuver; (2) the welfare program that was, accroding to Petkoff, to
ease the burden on the poor. In the interview, Petkoff also condemned
the opposition for the electoral boycott of December, defended
Chavez's support for Evo Morales, and said he would continue Chavez's
social programs but administer them with less corruption and with
more efficiency. Also, it's worth remembering that Petkoff
immediately condemned the April 2002 coup, to his credit.

Petkoff represents little threat to President Chavez. He will (quite
rightly) be remembered for having been a key economic minister in the
Caldera government and as part of the old regime. I don't believe we
ought to engage in ad hominem attacks on him as a "traitor". He's a
social democrat -- has been since the late 70s, remains so today. 
I think it's healthy that he's running and hasn't made, at least as 
far as I know, any threats about pulling out or setting any conditions.
But he has little organizational or public base. And I would not
assume that he enjoys the blessing of the US, rather than Julio
Borges or Manuel Rosales.

Is there any real threat to Chavez from any of the potential
condidates? I think the best the opposition can hope for is that
together Manuel Rosales, Petkoff, and Julio Borges can muster enough
votes to deprive Chavez from a majority. I want to make clear that I
am NOT predicting that outcome. The U.S. will undoubtedly put
enormous pressure on all three, and any other candidates that might
emerge, to drop out. We don't know how successful President Chavez's
call for his supporters to mobilize 10 million votes will really be.
And there are always unforeseen factors in an election. I think
President Chavez will win easily. But there is an outside chance that
in a low turnout election, with several opposition candidates each
mobilizing a particular part of the opposition base (remember 4 in 6
Venezuelans voted "Si" in the recall), that they could together
muster over 50 percent. Much depends on the ability of President
Chavez to motivate voters the way he did in the recall.

Oddly, all three of these candidates want to be the unified candidate
of the opposition, which I think is foolish. Which ever emerged as
the candidate would probably lose supporters. I think President
Chavez has an even better chance of achieving a majority (he only
needs a plurality to win) against a unified candidate than he has if
several opposition candidates run. Petkoff may be the least likely of
the three to bow to pressure to withdraw from the race, if he actions
in 2002 are an indication.

Here's a link to a q and a, in English, that was done with Petkoff
last October (not the one I was part of in January, but similar in

Thanks to Karen Lee Wald for providing these three messages about
Teodoro Petkoff, who's now being touted in the U.S. media as the
"moderate leftist" candidate who's announced he's running against
Hugo Chavez for President of Venezuela.

The US media is now touting a man they call a "moderate leftist" to
run against Hugo Chavez. I sent out a query about him and here are
three responses I received, thanks to Dawn Gable>

Edgar H. wrote:

Hola Dawn,

Teodoro Petkoff is a traitor. He was a guerrillero in the 60s, was
jailed, he escaped from prision, he founded Movimiento al Socialismo
with Jose Vicente Rangel, then quit the party, and then became un
burgues sin plata, when he joined Rafael Caldera (christian democrat
from COPEI) in the 90's as a minister of finance. They are calling
him a leftist, but of leftist he does not have anything anymore. He
is one of those traitors that moved from the far left to the right to
join Americo Martin, Soledad Bravo (the singer) and Pompeyo Marquez.


Edgard H.

"Jesus A. Rivas" <jesus at anacondas.org>

HA, Teodoro is a Joke

He was a Marxist guerrilla fighter in the 60, was involved in many
extreme actions (bank robbery, assaulting a train, and other
guerrilla action) then he came to political life for the MAS
(movimiento al Socialismo) where he was a strong leader along with
Jose Vicente Rangel who were both the main figures of the party. I
even voted for him when he ran for office in 1988 against Carlos
Andres. Then he stayed kind of in the backgrond for a few years,
always in the left. Then when Caldera came to office he was the
minister of Coordiplan (kind of minister of the economy). Cladera was
in this idea of "reaching over the other side" so he brought up
Teodoro as one of them. Teodoro could have not been more righ winger
by then. He is the responsible of the "apertura" or saling away all
the oil fields that are now on hands of BP, and other transnationals
that Chavez is forcing to pay taxes, and comply with the law. IN that
appertura they got to pay 1% of their revenues for taxes. ONLY ONE
PERCENT!!! and the concession was given for pittifull money compared
to what the field was worth. Teodoro faced a Dr's strike since the
doctors were soooo poor. The went into a strike (after months of
warnings and demmand after demand that was unfulfilled). The medical
doctors in those days were making Bs 17000 (about $200 a month if I
remember well). Teodoro was kind enough to call the "Asesinos" for
trying to improve their working conditions!!! Yeah, he is a soft
leftish alright!!

He is the head of Tal Cual which is a news paper that was created
just to oppose Chavez. now Teodoro is at odds with Corina Machado
because SUmate is now calling for primaries to present a candidate
from the opposition and Teodoro did not want to run in those. He sent
himself. So he will be one probably one of two running against Chavez
unless Sumate bacsk him up, which they could because he is just one
of them. He is just more selfish. As for left there is nothing left
on him and he will take NO VOTE from Chavez. None whatsoever.


Jesus *********

Gunnar B Gundersen <ggunders at willamette.edu> wrote:

Hi Dawn,

Como te va?

I have observed Teodoro Petkoff for the last 30 years. To say, today,
that he is a "left-center" ex-guerrillero or "moderate leftist" is
inaccurate. There may have been a day when he was associated with
what passed for socialists back in the 50's and 60's - and even into
the 80's.

However, he is known in Venezuela mostly for being on TV talk shows
and for his attempts to get elected under the MAS (Movimiento al
Socialismo) banner. He never really did anything - as far as I can
see, and I've been watching Venezuelan politics up close for 30
years. This can be a little confusing at times because MAS is a party
that was also founded by Jose Vicente Rangel. He actually left the
party too (or was pushed out) after he lost the Caracas mayoral
election to Aristobulo Isturiz.

MAS - the party he helped to found - is now part of the right-wing
opposition, wanting to return things to the pre-1999 (new
constitution) status quo.

Petkoff was a minor "star" in the old Venezuelan political galaxy
even though he never really won any meaninful election. He served a
role in the Presidential Trading system between COPEI and AD. He got
to be the guy who would go on TV or make speeches denouncing the
ruling parties and corruption. But, in retrospect, and even at the
time, it is clear that it was just a puppet show. In otehr words, he
always came across as a phoney.


After a quick reading, this wikipedia blurb seems pretty accurate.

Petkoff served in the government of Rafael Caldera. I think he hoped
he would follow Caldera as President. The fact that he threw his
support behind Caldera, one of the most right-wing presidents
Venezuela ever had tells you a lot.

He considers himself, and is considered by his peers, to be a player
among those who think of themsleves as the intellectual elite of

Of course, one would put Jose Vicente in this group as well, except
JVR is clearly a sincere bolivariano whereas these "old school
communists" like Petkoff (who were always more about self-promotion
than "El Pueblo") are just full of hot air.

I think he sees a chance to have another run at being in the
limelight -he is probably getting money or promises of money from
U.S. and European sources, and will probably even get campaign
management help from people like James Carvell and the other election
mercenaries that have been involved before. Also, this might help him
sell papers ("Tal Cual" is his).

Jose Vicente was smart. He came out and welcomed Teodoro into the
race. It'll give someone for President Chavez to spar with.

Teodoro is no dummy and he knows how to say the right things and
he'll try pushing every revolutionary button he can come up with. I'm
sure he'll even have permission to do a little Bush or U.S. bashing
along the way.

He was also smart enough to declare that he is running as an

To outsiders (outside of Venezuela) - and to some who consider
themselves "clase media" he will probably look like a viable
alternative to President Chavez, and for many he will "look" more
like the kind of person they think should be President, namely, a
European-American Intellectual.

My sense is that the majority of Venezuelans know who this guy is and
won't be fooled. If he really cared about regular Venezuelans he
would have joined MVR and tried to work from within the Bolivarian

It is comical and ironic that Petkoff will probably be supported by a
lot of the elitist old-guard (East Caracas) crowd. I find it so
because when he ran for President many times under the MAS banner he
never got more than 5% of the vote and he was viewed by the
escualidos as a communist, even though what he really was might be
called a "Petkoffist."

I'm sure the U.S. and U.S.-based interests (think of all the extra
money the oil companies have now; $72 a barrel and $3.00+ per gallon
for gasoline) will throw millions at the election in Venezuela this
year. So, hold on for a roller coaster ride.

In a way it is good that he is running because it will create an
opportunity for the Bolivarianos to refine their message and they
will come out stronger for it.

In the end, the People of Venezuela will not elect a 74-year old
hypocrite, but we'll have to listen to his hot air for a few months.


----- Original Message -----

From: dawn
To: Gunnar B Gundersen
Sent: Saturday, April 22, 2006 6:57 AM
Subject: Re: Comments: Moderate leftist prepares to challenge Hugo

Hey Gunnar,

Thanks alot. Your analysis is very helpful. And I have received
similar sentiments by others regarding how it will play out. And I
agree that it is better to have someone like him running, someone who
ha already defined himself in a not so appealing way, than to have it
be someone who can just invent himself to fit the situation. However,
the fact that he runs a newspaper is very interesting. I recall that
the opposition was trying to say that Chavez had to stop Alo
Presidente during elections because it was unfair media control....
but if this guy has Tal Qual... that will make them have to rething
thier argument.



Responding to original AP wire story Posted on Thu, Apr. 20, 2006

(It's really not accurate to call Teodoro Petkoff a "moderate leftist"
because, given the role he's played, he's really become an ex-leftist.
Nevertheless, I think it might make for good political theater and maybe
informative debates, should they actually have them. Historically, the
Venezuelan guerrilla movements of the sixties failed because they did
not win the support of the masses of the Venezuelan people. Some still
think they were doing the right thing, such as Douglas Bravo who headed
the Armed Forces of National Liberation in the Sixties and is still part
of the Venezuelan political scene. Petkoff drew a different lesson from
that experience. He broke with the guerrillas, then broke with the CP
and established a sort of Euro-Communist formation, the Movement Toward
Socialism (MAS). Eventually, he joined the capitalist government of
Rafael Caldera and held a position there. Note the response of the VP
of Venezuela to Petkoff's announcement. Rangel welcomes it.)

Via NY Transfer News Collective  *  All the News that Doesn't Fit

AP via The Miami Herald - April 20, 2006

Moderate Leftist Prepares to Challenge Hugo Chavez

By Fabiola Sanchez
Associated Press

CARACAS - Venezuelan opposition leader and newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff
will launch his presidential bid this week to run against President Hugo
Chavez, a campaign organizer said Wednesday.

Petkoff will make the announcement in a pre-taped message to be shown on
television Thursday night, the campaign organizer said, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to act as a spokesman.
He said Petkoff will run as an independent and plans a nationwide tour
starting this weekend.

The center-left opposition leader was a Cuban-inspired guerrilla in the
1950s and 60s, but later split with the Communist Party. Today, he is one of
Chavez's fiercest critics.

Rumors of a Petkoff candidacy have been swirling for months. While he has
yet to publicly confirm it, the newspaper El Nacional said on the front-page
Wednesday: "Petkoff announces presidential candidacy."

VP WELCOMES RIVAL Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the
government welcomed the candidacy of Petkoff, who ran for president twice in
the 1980s with the left-leaning Movement Toward Socialism party and was
soundly defeated.

"I think it's positive news that Teodoro Petkoff will announce today that
he's going to be a presidential candidate," Rangel said. Petkoff, now 74,
served as planning minister in the mid-1990s under President Rafael Caldera.
As editor of the newspaper Tal Cual, Petkoff has criticized what he calls
abuse of power by Chavez.

Three other government opponents have announced plans to run against Chavez
in the Dec. 3 presidential election. Several have agreed to participate in a
primary vote to choose a single opposition candidate ahead of the vote.

It wasn't clear whether Petkoff would support the vote, which Rangel praised
as a "positive" proposal.


Other candidates include Julio Borges, a conservative attorney; William
Ojeda, a journalist and former Chavez ally, and Roberto Smith, an
ex-infrastructure minister.

Chavez leads strongly in the polls against all challengers. The president,
who was elected to a six-year term in 2000, has predicted he will garner 10
million votes and easily win another term.

The country of 26 million people is the world's No. 5 oil exporter and a
major supplier to the United States, despite Chavez's frequent clashes with

Petkoff also has been critical of the United States, though from a different
perspective. He joined rebels fighting against the dictatorship of Marcos
Perez Jimenez in the 1950s and continued to struggle against the U.S.-backed
government that replaced Jimenez in 1958. The rebels robbed banks, kidnapped
businessmen and clashed at times with soldiers.

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