Teodoro y Petkoff

A visibly frail Teodoro Petkoff was awarded the Ortega y Gasset Prize yesterday. The honor is given by the Spanish newspaper El País, and it is one of our language’s most important awards for journalism.

Petkoff is barred from leaving the country courtesy of a defamation lawsuit initiated by Diosdado Cabello, so he could not attend. Instead, former Spanish President Felipe González and Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa accepted the award in his honor, with Vargas Llosa providing a soaring speech honoring all Venezuelans who fight for freedom.

As we celebrate his legacy, I have a personal confession to make: while I’ve been impressed with Teodoro the writer, I’ve grown up skeptical of Petkoff, the politician. He’s a mixed bag for me.

During the halcyon days of 2002-2008ish, it was impossible to avoid Teodoro’s lucid take on the country’s events. His voice was clear, sometimes dissonant, always perceptive, never anything less than optimistic. He became a favorite of ours on the blog – Quico in particular – and we joined the chorus of people saddened by the demise of Tal Cual, the daily he helmed, now reduced to a weekly and online venture thanks to the government’s pressure.

As for Petkoff the politician, that’s where my family history comes into the mix.

I grew up in a deeply anti-Marxist family. When I was two years old, my father was kidnapped by the far left guerrilla fighters still roaming the country then, many of whom are now in power. I was raised to always distrust Marxists, particularly those that switched to the democratic side. “Once a leftie, always a leftie,” was the motto.

Petkoff’s whiplash-inducing transformation from guerrilla fighter to left-wing politician to Rafael Caldera’s Economics Czar (guffaw!) was applauded by many in Venezuela, and he wore it like a badge of honor. To me it was the sign of a person with deep ideological inconsistencies. How exactly do you go from taking up arms to defend Fidel Castro … to becoming one of Castro’s most fervent critics, all the while consistently defending the very ideas of socialism?

Petkoff the politician has always been a leftist, both before and after his conversion. In fact, Petkoff continues to be a socialist in spite of the tragedy that socialist ideas have wrought upon our country. I’ve never been able to overcome the impression that there are a few ideological anchors missing there – and when a boat has no anchors, it drifts.

I accept the fact that I am the problem here – if passing judgment is a sin, then burn me now. But another part of the problem lies in Petkoff’s abrasive public persona.

I got to interact with him a couple of times, and it never surprised me that the guy was pretty much unelectable for broad swathes of the population. He is just a tad too intellectual for Venezuela, too much of a curmudgeon for our emotional, happy-go-lucky electorate. I, for one, would always read him, but I would never vote for him.

It might seem hypocritical of me to criticize repentant lefties at the same time that I am lauding Mario Vargas Llosa, and you know what? It probably is. But at least Vargas Llosa never took up arms for his crazy Marxist ideas, and he learned soon enough the errors of his ways.

Petkoff seemed to evolve into another spectrum of the ideological bandwith, although I’m still not clear which. Like many inside Venezuela, I could never figure him out. I guess that’s how he liked things.

Teodoro Petkoff is really two people in one – the writer, and the politician. One stands out more than the other. Regardless, he is one of the most complicated figures in our modern history, and I guess that’s what makes him so darn intriguing.

At any rate, we wish him well, and his prize is deeply deserved.

102 thoughts on “Teodoro y Petkoff

  1. I am sorry but, isn’t this change of opinion his biggest achievement? He took arms and was a radical who waged war on democracy… then he saw the error of his ways and became a moderate socialist and a critic of Stalinism and Maoism… then he realised socialism wasn’t the answer and became a minister for the man who chased and imprisoned him!

    In this, he is unique.

    Isn’t that the whole point of growing up, abandoning adolescent fantasies and confronting reality?

    The very thing you criticise is what we should hope happens to those who support the regime.

    Moreover: he has been in the frontline for half a century, without giving or asking for a truce.

    He has been insulted, attacked, sued, robbed… and yet he never flinched. He went on.

    That is a lot more than you, any one in your family, any other Venezuelan, can say.

    Credit where credit is due mate.

    One last thing: left-wing politics is something altogether different from the Venezuelan regime. I live in a social-democratic country that works perfectly fine, indeed better than most. Being left-wing here is pretty much what it was supposed to be. The Latin American left is an aberration.

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    • “One last thing: left-wing politics is something altogether different from the Venezuelan regime.”

      That’s a very dangerous thing to say, because by saying this, you legimitize the far-left to try again, and again, and again… So you get rid of Maduro, and elect another communist like him later again.

      Venezuelans must understand that Chavismo is a FAR-LEFT political movement, and that just like the FAR-RIGHT, the FAR-LEFT has never cared about democratic institutions in any country in the world! And never will.

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      • The thing that Vzla needs to learn is that too far right or too far left means disaster. With that much Oil, it’s Corruptzuela.

        Petkoff always had a “socialist” tendency, as many European countries do. That’s fine. If the Adecos/Copeyanos hadn’t been Huge Thieves themselves, for 40 years, forgetting the majority of our poor/eneducated, Chavismo would have never won or prospered.

        If we learn anything after these swings, far Right with Perez Jimenez Capitalist Corruption and Indio Ineptitude, pardon my French, with (Adecos/Copeyanos) and now, the worst by far, Cubazuela Corruptzuela on steroids..

        That will be to find something in the middle: a Republic, of sorts, with separation of powers, a clean CNE (dream on..) but that won’t completely disregard the poor and their education. Or they’ll get pissed off again, and get Lured against into some other Populist bullshyt.

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        • Exactly, but to say that “Chavismo has nothing to do with the left” is basically let the door open to a new disaster. Don’t do this mistake!

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          • Oh, Chavismo could perfectly declare itself right-wing. It isn’t a problem of ideology, it is a problem of (our) history as a country.

            Boves didn’t know about right or left, yet he is extremely similar to what we are witnessing today.

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            • Venezuelans elected Chávez because they hadn’t learned how to identify the dangers of electing authoritarian leaders. The masses were no different than Little Red Riding Hood back in 1998. It’s that basic.

              What the party claims to be is ultimately irrelevant, because a wise electorate must be able to identify its authoritarianism long before the snake eggs had been bred. A party like Podemos, for example, can even profess to be the reincarnation of mother Teresa, but the electorate should still be able to call them out for what they really are.

              Ask an average person in your civilized country what they think of communism or fascism, than ask an average Venezuelan. That explain the difference between the political situation of the two countries.

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              • You would be surprised by the amount of people here angry enough to vote for an extremist. Quite a lot (20-25%).

                As a Venezuelan looking with the eyes of a foreigner I could readily tell them: guys, you elect this nutcase and in five years you will have your country handed back to you in pieces.

                And some do believe me. Some don’t, of course.

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    • JC,

      Agree completely with Alejandro. The guy changed his mind. He is entitled to that and further, he gets an awful lot of credit for doing so.

      Let’s give the guy a break! Also, let’s learn how to forgive. What they did to your father was horrible (I do remember). But remember, there are many, many Venezuelans that have and will change their mind about the nature and cause of our national tragedy. And you know what? I will salute them for it.

      All the best.

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    • De acuerdo Alejandro. A Juan Cristobal Nagel le sugiero no enredarse con lo del socialismo de Teodoro y Miquilena o sus maneras de ver el mundo político desde la izquierda. Sucede con los socialcristianos o los socialdemócratas y la lista de largo(s) ismo(s) en etceteras. Al final importa el resultado de beneficio ciudadano total que, cuan más cerca se esta de lado de los pobres o cuan más lejos. Ello en la política real se justifica, lo que no justifica es hundirlos más de lo que están. Por lo demás los se dirán para sus adentros: milito en la izquierda o la derecha, o en el liberalismo solidario o de rostro humano, porque es donde crecí y me formé y es ahí en donde tengo o están mis amigos.

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    • de acuerdo Alejandro. A Juan Cristobal Nagel le sugiero no enredarse con lo del socialismo de Teodoro y Miquilena o sus maneras de ver el mundo político desde la izquierda. Sucede con los socialcristianos o los socialdemócratas y la lista de largo(s) ismo(s) en etceteras. Al final importa el resultado de beneficio ciudadano total que, cuan más cerca se esta de lado de los pobres o cuan más lejos. Ello en la política real se justifica, lo que no justifica es hundirlos más de lo que están. Por lo demás ellos se dirán para sus adentros: milito en la izquierda o la derecha, o en el liberalismo solidario o de rostro humano porque es donde crecí y me formé y es ahí en donde tengo o están mis amigos.

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    • Alejandro – you are right. It is time to put away the childish toys of idealistic youth. Any political system can function properly if the true ideals are adhered to but when the human element is injected with all its contradictions, the body becomes infected. Communism and extreme socialism are terminal chronic illnesses and can only be managed by using other peoples money and when that runs out the body dies. Democratic socialism and capitalism works because the structure plays to some of the human needs. Self- actualization and yes greed. But only a system with independent checks and balances can succeed to keep the baser instincts under control. I believe that the evolution of Petkoff was in the reality of life. Running a newspaper brought him face to face with the realities of the human condition. He had employees he had to motivate, money to raise, papers to sell, provide a living for workers and their families and realized that extreme socialism and communism when infected by corrupt officials with no checks and balances that it just does not work and actually the people who are hurt the most are the ones the system was supposed to help the most. Thus Petkoff has learned the fallacy of his early idealism when confronted with the ugliness of the situation in Venezuela. People he fought alongside of, against the corruption of the fourth republic, have become so much worse that the fourth republic of Venezuela’s dreams of avarice that now pale by comparison to the greed of the Boliburglars. Petkoff is a front row spectator to the destruction of the country he loves so well. Where are the Petkoff’s of today that will take up the arms against this disgusting perversion known as MasBurro and Cashbello and their band of thugs.

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      • Petkoff changed long time before that, otherwise he would never have been minister for Caldera.
        The change started when he left the PCV and founded MAS.

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  2. Perhaps it’s merely a labeling issue.

    For example, I don’t trust anyone who believes, whether it is verbally expressed or demonstrated by action, that the ends justify the means. There is a strong tendency for communists to believe this, but you also find believers of this in non communists.

    I also don’t trust freedom fighters who fight for their freedom only to control the freedom of others. This is a fundamental mark of communism, under which freedom of ownership and individual rights are trumped by the whimsical interpretations of social benefits by the current rulers, but, again, you find people who believe this in non communism.

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    • Exactly, the argument is about the misuse of power and rampant corruption rather than about the role of government in protecting the poor (or better yet, helping the poor to escape poverty and helping preserve the welfare of people through their entire lives). Castro and friends appropriated power under the premise of protecting the people of Cuba from foreign exploitation, only to become oppressors.

      Although JC perhaps you prefer ideas on the Randian (libertarian or anarchist?) fringe of the political spectrum?

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  3. A few unelectable politicians, too intellectual or grumpy:

    1. Arturo Úslar Pietri

    2. Jóvito Villalba

    3. Cecilio Acosta

    4. Beltrán Prieto Figueroa

    5. Leonardo Fernández

    6. Miguel Ángel Burelli Rivas

    7. Teodoro Petkoff

    Seeing this list, who do you think lost an opportunity here, these guys, or the country?

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    • Lorenzo Fernandez was, if anything, avuncular, though the AD campaign of ’73 portrayed him as old and dumb; a bit square: “Bobenzo”. This against the energetic CAP, who was rejuvenated, with a more polished look, hip facial hair and vibrant leaps, forgetting his dour days as Betancourt’s Minister of the interior.

      But Lorenzo Fernandez (and Caldera’s government) helped COPEI to break the one-and-a-half million vote barrier, and the 35% threshold, and then our “bipartidismo” really took off.

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    • You forgot Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo. OPEC founder and mastermind of the 50/50. Ultimately foresaw today’s debacle almost 40 years ago…

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  4. Petkoff evolved as times widely changed in Vzla. When you’re born in the 30’s, (from very humble Polish/Bulgarian immigrants! )and have to deal with Perez Jimenez dictatorship, it’s not the same as you or I being born around the 70’s with CAP and the oil bonanza..

    He clearly revolted against Jimenez, but soon enough, after he saw the atrocities and lies of Castrismo, rebelled against that too, and became a fervent “liberal” in many ways in the 90’s, with “Venezuela Agenda” and all that.

    And he immediately left the MAS party as soon as he smelled the Chavismo putrid crap, a lot sooner than many bloggers here, or other “right-wing” intellectuals did.. He then became one of the fiercest critics and most respected opponents of Chavismo. Never to be Bribed, as the vast majority around him.

    Petkoff deserves all the credit and admiration in this world. I too grew up hating his guts, being from a Cafetal family when he had those detestable MAS fist signs all over CCS.. But that’s water way under the bridge. The man has earned all of my respect and admiration through the years, remains humble and en pie-de-guerra, as always, fighting for his country, his Ideals, even at his age, not for $$$ as everyone else.

    He deserves to be remembered right up there with the best we’ve had, Uslar Pietri is the only one that comes to mind. Well deserved Ortega y Gasset !!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teodoro_Petkoff

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  5. Speaking of the left, The most conservative province of Canada, has lost a 40 yr. rule by conservatives and switched , overnight to a NDP majority government. NDP won on a platform of robin hood policies with some references among elected MLA’s to the great Chavez ideas…. (plop!)

    It stands to be seen if this voto castigo by Albertans results in such a failed petrostate as Venezuela has.

    My take on Teodoro and on Petkoff, i second Juan’s take, A great writer and commentator and a repented Marxist. In my book a good thing though. TP drove him self in his grey corolla around the city and has to have the biggest set of balls of many ” pseudo politicians around. (Maria Corina’s set is larger btw!)

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    • MCM, another unelectable politician.

      A brave woman, the day she shows an ability to confront the many dogmas she believes in, history will recognise her as the equal of TP.

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  6. Your distrust of people changing their leftist views would disqualify much of the American neo-conservative movement which provided the mental muscle for the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II governments.

    While that legacy includes failures as well as successes, I don’t think it could be accurately said of them that “once a leftist, always a leftist”.

    People are capable of learning from events. Creating permanent categories in which to categorize and demonize them is not thoughtful.

    My congratulations to Petkoff.

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  7. Also, to really judge this man, one should read some of the books he wrote; I must confess being too freaking lazy and anti-political in general to do so, but here they are, apparently he wrote extensively about the nuances of “socialism” or the Leftists lies:

    Works

    “Checoslovaquia: El Socialismo como problema”. (MonteÁvila:1969,1990) ISBN 980-01-0295-7
    “¿Socialismo para Venezuela?” (Editorial Domingo Fuentes:1970).
    “Razón y pasión del socialismo: el tema socialista en Venezuela” (Editorial Domingo Fuentes:1973)
    “Proceso a la izquierda: O de la falsa conducta revolucionaria.” (Planeta:1976) ISBN 84-320-2509-7
    “Del optimismo de la voluntad: Escritos políticos” (Centauro:1987) ISBN 980-263-073-X
    “Por qué hago lo que hago” (Alfadil:1997) ISBN 980-354-050-5
    (with Raúl Huizzi) “Venezuela en la encrucijada” (Universidad de los Andes:1998) ISBN 980-11-0280-2
    “Una segunda opinión: La Venezuela de Chávez: un libro hablado con Ibsen Martínez y Elías Pino Iturrieta.” (Grijalbo:2000) ISBN 980-293-211-6
    “Hugo Chávez, tal cual” (Catarata:2000) ISBN 84-8319-142-3
    “Las Dos Izquierdas” (Alfadil:2005) ISBN 980-354-170-6

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  8. The generation to which Petkoff belongs was idealistic, the prototype is Che.

    They are children from the middle class that react to the terrible social injustice in their midst. They have hired help in their homes, they live with it. Coming of age through the 50s you live in the tension of ideological poles of Communism and Western Capitalism. You understand that you are in the western capitalism camp oppressed by some corrupt dictator (Odria, Trujillo, Batista, Perez Jimenez…). Monroe doctrine dixit “America for the Americans”. There is no possibility of change.

    If you look at the other pole, you see societies that were practical feudal just a couple of generations ago racing for space, an expression of their industrial and technological might. The west is scared of them! The reds are marching through Asia, the promise is inmense, the momentum is unstoppable.

    So you are enamored of the possibilities. You cast your lot with change.

    The only problem is that no one ever thought of philosophical underpinings of Communism which justifies “cracking a few eggs to make an omelette”. The thing is those eggs were human lives.

    So you live on and you realize your error. You survived your seditious years.

    Now, some of people in the communist crowd their grudge was a little more personal. They were victims of the injustices. Perhaps they were children of humble origin that got educated due to their innate talent in the elite institutions, but they were mistreated by the wealthier in-crowd and certain opportunities were simply not open to them because of the origin. Then you get the Aporrea crowd.

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    • “…the prototype is Che”

      That’s an insult, dude.

      cochino guevara was pretty much a dry skull malandro psycho, who only went as far as he did because castro pat him on the back (Then sent him to be killed in Bolivia, where he went down crying and begging for mercy, just like any dry skull malandro here)

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      • Hey Ralph,

        I reject marxism, so I will send Che and the rest of the wreched bunch to the dustbin of history. I am just expressing what I see in that generation. I still remember the studio of an uncle with a huge Che picture with the caption in Italian “che e vivo’. I spoke to him a few years ago, and he still describes him a man of good will, in spite of the documented atrocities.

        Raf@, I am Peruvian… and Venezuelan and American, in very concrete and legal ways :-)

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  9. Petkoff’s whiplash-inducing transformation from guerrilla fighter to left-wing politician to Rafael Caldera’s Economics Czar (guffaw!) was applauded by many in Venezuela, and he wore it like a badge of honor.

    Question: Did Petkoff ever have the credentials to be a presidential Economics Czar?

    The guffaw says perhaps not. I’m looking for confirmation. Thanks in advance.

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  10. It is curious, how opinions differ.

    For me Vargas Llosa is a guy who has been permanently wrong in politics for 50 years.

    First he supported the Cuban revolution.

    Then he went to become a Thatcherite.

    Thatcher almost ruined Scotland and North England, made the UK the most unequal country in Europe and de-regulated banking in a way that could only end (and ended) in world-wide disaster (remember 2008) and mafia-like manipulation of the markets (remember the great mortgage recycling? remember the LIBOR rate collusion?).

    He advocated ending Social Security and put healthcare in the hands of private charities and insurers (an unelectable policy if there ever was one, and with good reason) only to see how those policies failed repeatedly in the US.

    Sure, he is a great man, a great writer and a lover of freedom, but I would be crazy before putting him nowhere near political power.

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  11. I could not stand Petkoff as a politician, because I could not stand him on TV telling the population something about some new measure using baseball as a metaphor.

    But apart from that, he is smart, he is honest, and honest enough to recognize his mistakes and change. What else you can ask for?

    Instead of condemning somebody for being an idealist in his youth, having enough intelligence and integrity to reflect on that and see the error of his ways, and work, hard, to fix things and to oppose those willing for a second round of the same, we should be learning.

    Because a future Venezuela will need to have a place for a lot of future Petkoffs, or be doomed.

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    • Well, and in general because remember all the whole Caldera years make my blood boil, but thats not Petkoff’s fault in exclusivity.

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  12. And they didn’t let him go to receive his prize.

    Chavismo is so fucking petty. Small time dictators.

    they put people in prison for having too much milk powder, for twitting, for carrying a kite with a message.

    they fucking let a dead iguana shut down the country.

    My neighbour’s dog’s shit raises higher than these assholes.

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  13. I wonder how do you define a good or succesful politician , does that mean someone who can best and most passionately attract the popularity of the masses . That would include Hitler, Mussolini , Peron, Mao and Chavez , some rather unsavory characters , or does that mean someone who is very competent and talented at doing the work of a professional politician in convincing other professional pols to work with him in achieving difficult things . people like LBJ . Does being a succesful pol imply being a good statesmen or ruler , someone good at running a govt wisely and for the greater benefit of the country in which he acts.
    Was Adenauer a good politician ? how would he have fared had he tried competing with Hitler in a 1930’s election?? Maybe we use the term politician too loosely and forget that the success of pols doesnt mean that they can be popular in all cases and all circumstances , that todays great inspiring leader can turn into tomorrows disastrous dictator. (Mugave??) . I sometimes suspect that LBJ for instance at a congressional level was much more competent pol than JFK.

    In short how does Juan Nagel define whats to him a good politician ?? and what is it that Theodoro lacked that made him a bad politician. ?? Ojo Im not criticizing Im just trying to understand. !!

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  14. Juan doesn’t like transformers. Must be problematic because he and everybody else is condemned to live among transformers. A couple meets, promise eternal love, get married, and a couple of years later are suing each other through divorce lawyers. Economists discover Von Neumann and Morgenstern, believe in rationality, and then abandon it when evidence shows it has a rather narrow bound. Nutritionists tell us eating eggs is good, then is bad, then is good again. This is the universe of Heisenberg and Gödel; a universe that will never be fully known because we look at it through a dark glass. The original author of that metaphor himself was chasing Christian like a mad dog until he heard the voice on his way to Damascus and became the foremost apostle of the creed he formerly persecuted.
    If not inevitable, change is at least highly likely. Two properties of change are its triggers and its utility. Teodoro has told the story of his changes. As a young man, reading Les Miserables was the trigger for becoming a revolutionary. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was the trigger that led him to renounce Marxism and he wrote a book about it. With regards to utility, one can compare the change of the likes of Aristóbulo o Luis Tascón, formerly national leaders of the populist parties AD o Copei who became devout followers of the commandant. They are not the only ones, but serve to make the point. The utility of Aristóbulo’s change was highly beneficial to him on a personal basis. If Teodoro didn’t change, he would be one of the most prominent leaders of chavismo and would be enjoying easy access to Cadivi’s dollars. Instead of Cadivi, he has suffered persecution and has endure with dignity.
    I appreciate the personal underpinnings of Juan’s deep dislike of Marxism and Marxists of any sort and I appreciate his sharing the story with his readers. I also have a personal story. I was a former Marxist. What triggered my change was Carlos Rangel’s book “Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario” where he aptly describes totalitarian regimes as a puny computer with few registers and instructions tackling very complex societal problems and democracy as a supercomputer with millions of CPU’s each tackling a small set of problems in he most efficient manner because they are self propelled by personal interests.Communism is a system where the commissar pretends to know better than you what is good for you and your family.

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    • Communism is a system where the commissar pretends to know better than you what is good for you and your family.

      If you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, the commissar genuinely believes “[he knows] better than you what is good for you” (and everyone else), and imprisons or kills millions of people if they don’t conform to his infallible vision.

      Greedy, exploitive tyranny can be very bad – but the worst crimes have been committed by passionate idealists.

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    • Yes indeed ,…what is a good politician?unfortunately many people do not include ethical in their description.Petkoff is an ideologue whose ethical considerations dissapearbwhen it comes to getting what he wants.He killed people, he robbed banks, he treated his 3 rd wife like a kaka….Man.it takes an increiblely naive person to think someone like him changes ……he did not fundamentally change…
      he only changed his expression.Being intelligent only augments his incapacity to do the right thing.

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      • Which people did he kill? Which banks did he rob? Do you know him personally? Pray tell me. If being a bad husband is a crime. Well, 90% of the husbands in Venezuela estarían en la picota. 😵
        I guess it’s all part of the urban legend… Do you have proof of what you are so flippantly stating?

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  15. Not to compare Petkoff to Orwell or Mandela, but those also were Marxists who became fierce democrats. They also wrote well. They also engaged in violent struggle, paid a price, and learned from it. And they were also pains in the asses of thugs.

    Absolutely Mr. Petkoff is worth reading and worth celebrating.

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  16. All things considered, Venezuela has a nice liberal tradition:

    Picón Salas, Carlos Rangel, Úslar Pietri, Petkoff, José María Vargas, Andrés Bello, Medina Angarita…

    I would argue our liberal tradition is deeper than the Cuban bullshit.

    Remember what Father Moreno said: chavismo is foreign to Venezuelan culture.

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  17. “I was raised to always distrust Marxists, particularly those that switched to the democratic side. “Once a leftie, always a leftie,” was the motto.”

    That motto is true for most people, because people very seldom change. They tend to cling to their errors like rafts in the ocean. But like in every rule there are exceptions, very few and Petkoff is certainly a notable one.

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  18. One correction: Felipe González was Prime Minister of Spain, not President. The last President of Spain was Manuel Azaña, deposed by Franco in 1939. Since 1975, the head of state of Spain has been King Juan Carlos (until his abdication last year in favor of his son Felipe VI).

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    • Your correction is laughably wrong.

      Spain doesnt have Prime Ministers. It has Presidents. Who are not the head of state, but are called Presidents.

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      • A source of confusion is the fact that the head of State of Spain is usually called “prime minister” in the language of Francis Drake.
        In the language of God he is called “presidente de España” or, simply, “presidente”.

        Spain is a parliamentary democracy and English speakers are used to calling people who lead the government in such a system “prime minister”.

        Podéis ver algo de la discusión sobre el título en Wikipedia:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_Spain

        Así que, hasta cierto punto, ambos tenéis razón.

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          • En español según el contexto. Lo que quiero decir es que es PRESIDENTE. Que en la calle en Madrid cualquier persona diría “el presidente de España es X”. Eso no quiere decir que no hable español. Sí, el título oficial es “Presidente del gobierno”, pero si quieres seguir con nimiedades, puedo decirte que es realmente “Presidente del gobierno de España”.

            La discusión estriba en si es “presidente” o “primer ministro”, “president” o “prime minister”.

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          • That makes a lot of sense in a Monarchy where the Head of the State is the King and the head of Government is the Presidente de Gobierno . Remember that conceptually speaking the State is more than the Government , the State is permanent while governments change with every election , The government directs the State for the period in which it is appointed , directing the state is not the same as being the state. The government strictly speaking is made up of elected officials and their minions , the State in organized states is made up of all the people that make up the Public Service , i.e of career officials . Many of our problems derive from our inability to tell the difference between the role of governments and the role of the State.

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        • Funcionalmente, esta mas cercano a lo que es un primer ministro en, que ser yo, Gran Bretaña, que a lo que un americano entiende por presidente

          Pero eso no quita que el título es Presidente :P

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  19. I also have my issues with Teodoro. But he saw right through Chavismo’s crap way before many other alleged right wing politicians, and that means a lot. He is a democrat, if the political class in Venezuela had had the same regard for the institutions we wouldn’t in this mess in the first place.

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  20. The Leftists champion “freedom”, but are mostly very unclear on their definition of the word. When they are pressed to explain how their proposals would achieve “freedom”, it turns out that they would only apply to their own people, not to everyone. When such people achieve power, their policies reflect this dichotomy. They insist on achieving “freedom” for their constituency, at the expense of the rest. The real human political struggle throughout throughout the last century has been to overcome the “zero-sum” mentality. Still working on it…

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    • I think the bigger error of left thinking is that of equating employment to oppression and exploitation. The old marxist concept of surplus value where the bad capitalist mal-appropriates the value created by the worker.

      From that point of view capitalism became the villain that had to be destroyed to “free” the poor workers from their exploitation. Just a tiny error in concept that can only mean the destruction of the main driver of human progress: ambition.

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  21. I believe TP more than deserves the award given to him. He’s been a straight shooter all his life, a personal trait not common among politicians. I reached maturity disliking him in the 70’s for his unorthodox views on the Marxist Theory while at the same time admiring his poignant denunciations of cruelty and political repression in Russia, China, and other communist countries. When I finally realized that Marxism itself was full of craps, and just a cover for totalitarian regimes, there he was TP throwing darts at Miguelito Rodriguez for his “falta de burdel” in implementing CAP’s macro economic stabilization program which I wholeheartedly supported. It was a duce de lechosa’s moment for me to see him few years later, as Caldera’s Planning Minister, tragando arena conveying Venezuelans the need for similar, if not identical, economic policies. And yet, despite all these mistakes and shortcomings TP has always been able to rectify in words and deeds. Brutally honest with his beliefs. His role as TalCual’s editor made of him the chavistas’ most feared politician of all and one of the main targets of their abuses. Teodoro has somehow replaced Arturo Uslar Pietri as the Venezuelan beacon of liberty and democracy in the country. Kudos to El Pais and Teodoro for the award.

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  22. “Picón Salas, Carlos Rangel, Úslar Pietri, Petkoff, José María Vargas, Andrés Bello, Medina Angarita…

    I would argue our liberal tradition is deeper than the Cuban bullshit.

    Remember what Father Moreno said: chavismo is foreign to Venezuelan culture.”

    Well, Father Moreno is wrong on several things, like saying there are no gangs&drugs.. The only pervasive “Venezuelan Culture” seems to be that of the poor, ignorant Barrios we otherwise well describes.

    If only Corruptzuela’s majority populace ever knew about these Elite Venezuelan Gentlemen, if only they were educated enough to even to begin to comprehend the Preface of any of their shortest books or theories, even if they had had the minimum education required to Listen to an educated, yet humble guy from humble origins like Teodoro Petkoff, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the mess we’re in.

    That’s the real reason they followed a bullshit populist Charlatan like Chavez, instead of another “socialist”, at the time, the well-intentioned Petkoff.

    The difference between an illustrious, Great Venezuelan man and Corruptzuela’s ignorant Chavista populace is just that: Education.

    So no, Chavismo is not “foreign to Venezuelan Culture”. It is a direct product of its LACK of culture.

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    • Case in point, if in Vzla the average people knew what an Ortega Gasset Price means, or could read any of TP books, even his articles, Chavismo doesn’t happen.

      If in Vzla. average people even knew today are elections in the UK, a Clean, Manual voting process and read anything about it, they would be fooled again in the next putrid local “elections” where they will be deceived or bribed again.

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    • There is a core Venezuelan Caribbean Culture and several offshoot versions of that culture which resulted from various social processes of the last 50 years . the quintupling of the population from 1960 to 1990, the mass emigration of the rural poor to the big cities to live in conditions of extreme poverty, the dislocation of the family web of ties following on such emigration , the shower of oil income helping smooth and corrupt the life of the poorest through the clientelar system of politics . etc The poor of 1960 to 1980 increasingly fell prey to new type of caribbean culture , or manner of thinking and living which did not exist before and which contributed to the rise of Chavez after the oil prices fell and the palliatives used until that time no longer could work. There is in the barrios a culture which is in a way a subculture of that which is generalized in Venezuela from the past .When Alejandro Moreno speaks of the Popular culture as not being Chavista he refers to the fact that the original culture was largely hate free , lacking in the virulent sectarian pasions that Chavez inculcated to his followers.

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  23. Reading the above comments I think it is more than clear that most of us believe JCN is kinda off-target on his political assessment of certain issues.
    “He is just a tad too intellectual for Venezuela,…” says JC. Well, maybe you are a victim of your diagnostic… LOL
    “How exactly do you go from taking up arms to defend Fidel Castro … to becoming one of Castro’s most fervent critics, all the while consistently defending the very ideas of socialism?” (see FLOYD 7/5; 10:17 for a clear answer). I see a generalization sin on JC´s part: he equalizes all forms of socialism as only one. And yet the Scandinavian regimes are considered successful strains of socialismo. Not all socialisms are born equal… BTW, I would not consider chavismo as a form of socialism at all! It is just a huge farse hiding behind an opportunistic facade.

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    • Edmundo, are you my tio? You sure sound like him. If not, did you come of age in the 60s?

      Don’t take it in a bad way, I mean it in jest.

      But, as I asked tio? Do you renounce to Marx and all of his minions (Stalin, Mao, Fidel), and the dictator of the proletariat and place your faith is in democracy?

      After that we can argue what is the proper place of the state in a society. Which is the common debate in western societies.

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      • What is funny is that he sees Scandinavian regimes as left-wing, but not his despised Chavismo!

        And that’s a very interesting grasp of reality, indeed, because — according to him — the more democratic institutions and economic freedom a country has got, the further ‘left’ it would go. hehe. So, Cuba would be ‘right-wing’, but Sweden would be ‘left-wing’.

        It’s insane the lenghts that people will go to not assume that socialist policies can only function when they are very mild and are funded by a great and prosper private sector.

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        • Tio has the same problem :-)

          He does not consider Chavismo socialist. He settles for stupidity (tio is a smart guy). But unless there is a central body that copyrights the term ‘socialist’ and goes into some type of ‘socialist certification process’, then Chavistas are as socialist as they want to be, albeit the ugly sister (however I don’t see much redemption in Stalinism, Fidelismo, Maoism…).

          Digressing, that is the same public relations problem that Al Qaeda and ISIL are for muslims, and young earths creationist are for Evangelical Christians.

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          • There are today many versions of so called socialism , most of which have become hybridized with other historical beliefs, but the truth of the matter is that beyond its own protean conceptual definition there is the vivid imagery that it evokes in its devotees , professing that socialistic imagery and the righteous passions it inspires brings to its devotees emotions like those that a kid experiences when he puts on a superman suit , Wearing the costume does things to their ego , which they really enjoy.

            Chavez histrionically professed himself a radical socialist because he liked wearing the superman suit , he was a narcicistic megalomaniac of the first order and wearing an ideological superman suit made him feel heroic and all powerful .!! By following him poor sods with nothing to take pride in their life also got to wear a superman suit . That certainly helped his popularity !!

            I would like to live in a country were people dont feel proud pleasure in wearing ideological superman suits. !!

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    • Despite all the leftist rethoric, Scandinavian States have still the most democratic societies and free economies in the world. They are not Singapore or Hong Kong, but they are very far from being a nanny-state like Venezuela or Cuba, in which you can hardly run a business or buy dollars on you own. Unless you think that classical liberalism is “left-wing”, present day Venezuela is by far more leftist than any Scandinavian country.

      http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2014/pdf/Index2014_Highlights.pdf
      http://pages.eiu.com/rs/eiu2/images/Democracy-Index-2012.pdf

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      • “Left-wing” o “right-wing”, lo q’ sea chamo, aqui se roba con las 2 manos!

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        • But they do it because the state is just too big, what is a left-wing tendency of South America.

          Imagine a privatized PDVSA for one second: Chavistas would already have been kicked out a long time ago!

          With a smaller state, they can’t steal from you even if they want to.

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  24. I am always a bit confused by Nagel. Sometimes he sounds like Friedman, some other times he just seems to be the son of Maria Alejandra López.

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  25. I can’t believe that I’m in Alejandro’s – homeopathophobic scientist- same page on this one. “Sorpresas te da la vida Ay Dio”
    I personally know “my boss” as I used to write OP/eds for TC for a long time. It alI started by getting into a fiery debate with him after writing to him disagreeing with him over something he wrote. ( see alejandro? TP NO me mandó a comer excremento) It was Star Wars after that, emails came and went like light sabers. I was more amused than bothered surprised that he even had the time to read all his readers responses, much less answer them. He didn’t know me of course! Until to my great surprise, he finally wrote: “Bueno chica, tiro la toalla, ganaste tú… Quiero 2500 caracteres con espacio cada tres semanas”😳😳😳😄 and that started a friendship that lasts to this day.

    Everybody has different facets, and he has much more than two. He is a curmudgeon and an intellectual, but he is also the best friend anybody could have, loyal to the death. He is a beloved father and grandfather, he is absolutely objective, besides being brilliant! And he had the guts to stand up to The Party when he was horrified when he saw the true underbelly of the beast, after a private trip to Chekoslovakia; he saw the true face of communism. He inmediately denounced it and resigned, much to Brezhnev’s very public ire. And proceeded to write “Chekoslovakia como Problema”

    His life has played out like a James Bond movie, his famous escapes everytime he was imprisoned took a lot of gumption. I understand that you are judging him by your own exoerience, your family’s really. Es como nacer copeyano o Adeco. Magallanero o Caraquista.
    But try to be a bit objective yourself. You don’t know him well enough to judge him so flippantly.
    I haven’t met many politicians with the guts of denouncing their own Party, and recognize it publicly. Or creating a Party and leaving it when the party decided to follow Chavez.
    What you JC judge as inconsistent, I know is courageous, honest and true to himself. Everything is this universe is relative. Like lauding the scandinavians for their socialist governments and programs, but bashing The Lat Ams… En fin, como diría el jefe: nadie es monedita de oro…

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    • Lavici,

      “Everything in this universe is relative.”

      I hate this self refuting phrase.

      If everything in the universe is relative how can you know that everything is relative?

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        • Wow, you are much more ignorant than I thought. You are definitely smarter than average, but you certainly don’t know the first thing about science.

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    • It’s not a matter of one person being homeopathophobic, it’s the homeopathophyllic, such as you, lavici, who is unable to grapple with certain very serious realities that require the Big Pharma that spooks you.

      Still waiting for your answer to my questions — even one of them.

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      • Vas a seguir con la vaina syd? Te contesté dos veces… Que no te guste mi respuesta es una cosa. Ya te dije: soy paciente y no MD. NO PUEDO HABLAR COMO MEDICO…. Sino como paciente. Desde mi experiencia. Heeeellloooooo? Is someone in there?

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        • No me diste la respuesta a la pregunta sobre qué harías si te fallara el pancreas y tuvieras que tomar insulina diariamente, cortesía de esa Big Pharma que tanto culillo te da. (Uyyy qué miedo.)

          Pero bueno, sigue jugando como una loquita que eso cubre mucho .. e ignorancia demás.

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      • Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Drugs, Big Junk Food, use of Hidden Sugar, Sodium,Monsanto Pesticides, … Everything the establishment deals in for Big Money not for the good of the community. You, Syd have a right to do with your body whatever you want. Why can’t I? I take homeopathy, I take alopathy, I drink tea, I drink coffee. I love dark chocolate, hate milk chocolate. I like silence, I like a good debate, I get bored by childish accusations. I am a hologram, not a piece of paper with some writing on it. Not a bidimensional caracter. If you like it fine, if you don’t…

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    • I understand that you are judging him by your own exoerience, your family’s really. Es como nacer copeyano o Adeco. Magallanero o Caraquista.

      Yes, everyone whose parent was kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by extremists is supposed to rationalize that “hey, extremists are no biggie, their actions didn’t really disrupt our lives for ever. Why some of my best friends were once machine-gun wielding extremists. Really, having a former extremist in your life is just like choosing one’s political affiliation…”

      Right.

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  26. JCN, over simplification kills..

    “Petkoff the politician has always been a leftist, both before and after his conversion. In fact, Petkoff continues to be a socialist in spite of the tragedy that socialist ideas have wrought upon our country.”

    Venezuela has not been confronted with socialist ideas. We have a mix of military self-indulgence with good old corruption, mixed up with a lot populism paid by oil. Socialism was the wrap of a product called Chavez.

    Betancourt was socialist, if you truly want to compare. He was also against Castro…

    I think you missed the point dude and somehow came out quite shallow from political point of view. You can do better than this.

    PS. Canada socialism seems to work out OK.

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    • “Canada socialism seems to work out OK.”

      Of course it does!

      Full democracy + great environment to do business will “work out ok” even in the moon!!! The problem starts when you start arresting the opposition and expropriating companies left and right (Venezuela). But yeah, Canada socialism is good and Venezuela capitalism is bad, hehe.

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      • Indeed!. The point here is that some people believe that Chavez and/or Maduro are socialist. That is a big mistake Mr. Watson!. They are or were proselytizing demagogues that further the corruption rooted during the 4th (AD/Copei).

        I believe in capitalism, as well as in socialism. Hence I live in Canada. We can have a good on going economy that offers a fair chance of personal accomplishment. Venezuela does not need the populist handouts of the last 50 years. We do not need the over zealous capitalism that goes for profit over social responsibility. We certainly do not need the rampant corruption we suffer. We need justice, democracy and checks and balances that stop feeding the corruption beast.

        We can have both, like the Canadians, the Norwegians, even the Saudis just to name countries that are endowed with a lot of oil and manage their wealth with certain level of fairness (well the Saudis are fair if you are part of the crown).

        What piss me off, is that we always point to something else: the government, the people that vote for the government, the poor, the rich and so on… Culturally, we always tend to blame other things or circumstances (ask Maduro).

        We all criticize the police but we pay peanuts to them. We criticize the 4th and the 5th but we forget that a lot of us went to college free of cost thanks to the high education policies. How many of us or our parents do tricks and pseudo legal stuff to avoid paying extra taxes?. How many times we did a “vivo” thing?. Who has gave up the “cupo” even with thousands of dollars in international bank accounts?.

        I have not seen one person protesting for the elimination of the “cupo” because it fosters corruption and feeds the black market.

        We ought to stop criticizing, looking for “the other guy” guilt and gear up and become responsible of our own future. Being capitalist, socialist or whatever.

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  27. This whole “left vs. right / socialist vs. capitalist” debate doesn’t accomplish much because we don’t all agree on the meaning of the labels.

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  28. Going through all the comments after my contribution (7/5 -15:26) I realize I may have been a bit confusing (rather than misunderstood). Let’ see:

    For starters, I did not use the term “left-wing”or “right-wing”. I am a member of the team that for some years has been postulating that the conventional terms “leftist” and “right winger” no longer have meaningful use in modern day politics because of the extense spectrum that has flourished betweens both ends, right and left that is… ha ha. I wrote “…I see a generalization sin on JC´s part: he equalizes all forms of socialism as only one. And yet the Scandinavian regimes are considered successful strains of socialismo. Not all socialisms are born equal…” trying, precisely, to point to the fact that the original term now has several “family names”. As a matter of fact, COLOMINE (7/5 – 17:54) got it quite on target (“JCN, over simplification kills..”); she even closes with a shot to the temple: “PS. Canada socialism seems to work out OK.”, clearly implying that she likewise sees a difference among “socialisms”.
    LAVICI (7/5 – 16:53) wrote “Like lauding the scandinavians for their socialist governments and programs, but bashing The Lat Ams…”. Bashing Lat Ams? I went through what I wrote and found not such statement. Not a very ethical extrapolation on your part, Lavici…
    MARC (7/5 – 16:21) wrote “What is funny is that he sees Scandinavian regimes as left-wing, but not his despised Chavismo!…And that’s a very interesting grasp of reality, indeed, because — according to him — the more democratic institutions and economic freedom a country has got, the further ‘left’ it would go. hehe. So, Cuba would be ‘right-wing’, but Sweden would be ‘left-wing’.” Again, Marc, I never use those adjectives (left, right) for reasons explained above. Please pardon me but I find it quite stupid to conclude that a system is “further left” (or right, for that matter) because it has “more democratic institutions and economic freedom a country…”. Te pasaste, chamo! Nada que ver… They are much more successful. Period. ROY (7/5 – 18:00) has it VERY CLEAR. PLEASE READ HIS SHORT COMMENT.
    MARC ((7/5 – 16:21) “It’s insane the lengths that people will go to not assume that socialist policies can only function when they are very mild and are funded by a great and prosper private sector. HAAAH! GOTCHA! In this sentence you recognize (PÚBLICO Y NOTORIO) that here are “socialist policies” that function. In other words, you accept the fact that there are different kinds of “socialism” and that depending on how they are executed the results may or may not promote welfare and prosperity (MY understanding of your statement).

    FINALLY, I once again quote ROY: “This whole “left vs. right / socialist vs. capitalist” debate doesn’t accomplish much because we don’t all agree on the meaning of the labels”. In the end, coming down to the ground and abandoning academicist postures that some times simply “turn the stew purple” what really matters is that a government sets as its unwaiverable priority to promote and sustain the welfare of ALL its citizens, and that includes the freedoms established in the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. Perfection? NEVER! But in spite of all its flaws the governing systems of the developed countries work, and they are certainly and constantly trying to improve by, among other things, listening to their citizens.
    BTW, I just read COLOMINE (7/5 – 18:58). Recommended reading.

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    • Edmundo,

      There are some political scientists who have recognized that the “left/right” model is too simplistic. The following link is for a two dimensional model developed by Jerry Pournelle in the 60’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pournelle_chart (my favorite)

      There is also the Nolan Chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_Chart

      And the Political Compass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_compass

      Perhaps these might help us all to understand what we really want and expect from government, and to define our terminology.

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      • I would take anything from Pournelle with a Tepui-sized grain of salt, given how right-wing he is, but his system (not so much some of the valuations of the groups he makes) is one of many that tries to reframe the question, and most go to the same point – the main differences being “are you authoritarian or not”.

        That is, something like Chavismo is more worrisome due to their love of authoritarian solutions (“we have the answer, anybody that doesnt agree is an enemy that has to be suppressed, and no evidence of error will make us deviate from the path that the Leader has shown”) than with their left-wing views on poverty or inequality. In that they are more related to any other authoritarian viewpoint from the left or the right than to any democratic viewpoint from the left or the right.

        A sincere, rational desire to see what is the best path to get to social equality and erradication of poverty would be a left position that, after trying 1% of the measures they have tried on the economic side only, would have quickly wised up that the results were not positive and a new plan of action should be devised to achieve the same objectives.

        And of course, any non-authoritarian from the left would have quickly wised up that the combative, “with us or against us” rethoric was another edition of The Leader Know Best, Now Shut Up Or Be Destroyed.

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  29. Years ago I personally met TP a couple of times , I already admired the fellow for many of the reasons which have been stated here , I was part of a group , he was surrounded by a group of his then MAS correligionists , most of them the sorriest lot you could imagine , intellectually really primitive people . I liked his mindset but noticed in his discussion with us that there were big holes in his education , he was a smart person but with quite a few cobwebs in his thinking , maybe those of many ordinary Venezuelans , I was able to cast away one of those cobwebs with an example , a real zinger , sat him on his ass , he took it well and made up a kind of excuse of why he had said what he said . I guess he had to keep his followers contented . in the end of course he was so much smarter than they were that he had to go his own way.

    After he became the heroic figure of the Venezuelan press which we know today , my admiration for him grew even bigger , his comments seemed so much more level headed and insightful than those of the average oppo figure that it made him stand out above their heads , and yet he never appeared in the roster of big time oppo pols . Was never proposed as a candidate to some office or other . Maybe they thought that having been a recognized govt figure during Calderas administration he had lost some of his credentials as an independent oppo. Maybe he had chosen a role for himself and didnt want to be distracted from his chosen mission . Whatever the reason Im always curious why he has never been made more prominent as one of the Oppo’s most essential political leaders, !!

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    • Bill where did you get the idea that he had holes in his education? Cobwebs in his thinking is a subjective udgment. He is a Graduate Economist (Cum Laude) in the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), between the three incarcerations and escapes. He was at one time a precandidate for the oppo primaries, but quit when he realized he was not going to make it. In order to favor the others. Nadie es profeta en su tierra…

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