How Easy it is to be Ultra in Venezuela

The editor of the daily newspaper Tal Cual, opposition leader, and former planning minister under the previous government, Teodoro Petkoff, criticizes the opposition's optionless radicalism.

By Teodoro Petkoff - Tal Cual
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El Universal [one of the country's main daily papers], editorially, and some of its most important collaborators are campaigning against the participation of political parties in the regional elections.  The arguments range from suggesting that these elections will “relegitimate” the regime since they will be "an authentic show of the 'palpitating democracy' that Chávez wishes to exhibit", to accusing those who participate in the "electoral carnival" of being "collaborators".  According to a columnist of this periodical, the government would have burnt their adversaries in a "terrain of incongruity."  Speaking of incongruity, doesn't it seem to this periodical and to their collaborators that there is nothing more "inconsistent", more "legitimating" for the government, more "collaborationist", more demonstrative of "palpitating democracy", than a newspaper with national circulation and continental fame that spends tons of ink accusing the Chávez government of totalitarian dictatorship…and continues circulating as usual?  Has it not occurred to them to think that to be consistent with the "collaboration or resistance" dilemma, raised by one of their columnists, one would need to go out of business?  If to participate in the regional elections is a form of "collaborationism", what is to be said of a journal that titled yesterday's Sunday editorial "Elections in Dictatorship", so that Chávez can show it to the world as "authentic" proof that his government isn't a dictatorship?  Do these editorialists have any option but to stop writing?  Their articles could be exhibited (and in fact, they are) nationally and internationally as proof that in Venezuela there is democracy, since they have undermined their own arguments.  If they were thinking logically, then shouldn’t they silence their pens?

But this, evidently, would be foolish.  It takes great insensitivity to reject the electoral participation of political parties and civilian organizations.  The critical role of El Universal is so legitimate and so necessary, as is the participation of political parties in the elections.

On the other hand, and in the same vein, Julio Borges [ofopposition party Primero Justicia] initially threatened that his party wouldn't participate in the regional elections; the same Julio Borges who didn't prevent his party from registering 197 candidates in this, what today Borges calls an "electoral carnival".  Now he tells us these candidates will be pulled if a date for the recall referendum has not been set before the regional elections.  This second statement is no more credible than his first because some PJ candidates, as a precaution in case their party was serious, have already collected signatures to present themselves as representatives of “civil society”.

It is doubtful that Leopoldo López or Capriles Radonski [two oppositional mayors of Caracas municipalities] are prepared to humor Borges.  But that to be Ultra (leftist or rightist, the result is the same) is very easy.  One can criticize the whole world without worrying about offering a single alternative, unless it is rhetorical ballads on “resistance” or “civil disobedience”.

Translated by Jonah Gindin