Chavez versus the clown
A few months back I blogged about Teodoro Petkoff, the one-time communist guerrilla who became Minister for Privatisation, aka Planning, in the '90s administration of Rafael Caldera, and who was planning to take on Hugo Chavez in December's Presidential elections. Now Petkoff, who was never able to leave the margin of error in opinion polls, has pulled up his tent, much to the delight of the Venezuelan right, which had been outraged by the opportunistic support he recently decided to give to some of the social programmes the Chavez government has introduced since it came to power in 1999.
Petkoff's withdrawal from the race leaves a professional clown named Benjamin Rausseo as Chavez's chief opponent. The more serious parts of the opposition will rally around Manuel Rosales, the governor of oil-rich Zulia, the only Venezuelan state not controlled by the coalition led by Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement. There is no sign, though, that Rosales can muster mass support outside the labour aristocracy of Zulia. I see the miserable state of the Venezuelan right as another sign that the real political opposition to Chavez will emerge from within the Bolivarian revolution.
Down in Brazil, a left-wing candidate is challenging President Lula's betrayal of the membership of his Workers Party.