Teodoro Petkoff

Teodoro Petkoff
Minister of the Central Office of Coordination and Planning (Cordiplan)
In office
Personal details
Born (1932-01-03) 3 January 1932
Bobures, Zulia State
Political party MAS
Residence Caracas
Alma mater Central University of Venezuela
Profession Politician, Journalist

Teodoro Petkoff Malec (born in Bobures, Zulia State, January 3, 1932) is a Venezuelan politician, ex-guerrilla, journalist and economist. One of the most prominent politicians on the left in Venezuela, Petkoff began as a communist but gravitated towards liberalism in the 1990s. As Minister of Planning he oversaw President Rafael Caldera's adoption of neoliberal economic policies in the mid-1990s. He has been a prominent critic of President Hugo Chávez, and was a candidate to run against him in the December 2006 presidential elections, but dropped out of the race in August to support Manuel Rosales. He launched the newspaper Tal Cual in 2000, and remains its editor.

Life and career

Early years

1983 MAS Petkoff election poster; the slogan reads "The MAS grows in order to govern"

His father was a Bulgarian emigrant and his mother was a Pole of Jewish origin. He received a Bachelor degree in Economics from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) where he also served as a professor for 14 years. He was member of the student resistance against the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez and was imprisoned on several occasions. Along with his brother Luben Petkoff he was a guerrilla fighter under the command of Douglas Bravo against the government of Rómulo Betancourt. Later, he joined in the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).

In 1971, Petkoff left the PCV to found, along with other dissidents, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). He was a member of Congress and twice an unsuccessful candidate for president, gaining 4% in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1983 and 3% in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1988.

Minister of Rafael Caldera

In the second government of Rafael Caldera (1994-1999), MAS was in coalition with the centrist National Convergence party of Caldera, along with other left-wing parties such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and the MEP, and other right-wing parties as the National Movement of Integration. Petkoff served as Minister of the Central Office of Coordination and Planning (Cordiplan), directing the government's economic policies. From Cordiplan, Petkoff managed the Venezuela Agenda, a neo-liberal government program for reducing the size of the public administration, controlling inflation and stopping the currency devaluation, while administering social programs aimed at improving the population's nutritional health and providing "children-mother" services for the poorest.

Opponent of Hugo Chávez

In 1998 Petkoff left the MAS because he was against its support of Hugo Chávez's candidacy (see ) in the 1998 Presidential election. He left the political world and became a journalist, working as a director of El Mundo. Afterward, he founded his own newspaper, Tal Cual. Tal Cual has been outspoken in its criticism of both Chavismo and those who supported the coup attempt against Chávez.

Petkoff has written several political books. In 2005 he published The Two Lefts (Las dos izquierdas, Alfadil Editor, Hogueras Collection) where he analyzed the resurgence of left-wing politics in Latin America. Petkoff argues that there is a sharp difference between the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Néstor Kirchner, and Ricardo Lagos, compared to the governments of Chávez and Castro, which he characterises as similar. The main ideas can be read in an article published in the journal New Society (Nueva Sociedad) in Spanish (see Las dos izquierdas).

On April 21, 2006, after rumours indicating that a number of intellectuals and middle-class liberal activists had asked him to run in the 2006 Presidential election, Teodoro Petkoff launched his campaign to be the next president of Venezuela. In a short televised message he explained his reasons and asked Venezuelans to follow his lead in the construction of what he described as a new, better Venezuela. On August 4, 2006, Petkoff dropped out of the presidential race. Five days after dropping out of the race, he endorsed Manuel Rosales, former governor of Zulia State, for the presidency.

In July 2008 the Inter-American Dialogue published a paper by Petkoff about Venezuela under Chávez, saying “Chávez’s Venezuela is a Bonapartist democracy of sorts, a one-of-a-kind 'dictatorship.' He aims to make the armed forces the institutional base of his power.”[1]

In an October 2012 interview, Petkoff noted that while Venezuela under Chávez retains certain democratic institutions, such as political parties and the electoral process, he described other aspects of democracy, such as “the full exercise of freedom of expression,” as being “very beleaguered” under Chavez. He said that “Chávez has more fascist than socialist elements, unless we speak of Stalinism: the cult of violence and death, contempt for opponents, singing to the past, and so on.”[2]

Personal life

On May 12, 2012, Petkoff and his wife were mugged by an armed man on a motorcycle after leaving a Caracas restaurant.[3] In December 2012, while on the island of Margarita, Petkoff suffered a fall and sustained injuries that required surgery.[4]



Wikimedia Commons has media related to Teodoro Petkoff.

Edelman, Marc. "Venezuela's Petkoff: From Guerrilla to Congressman," NACLA Report on the Americas 21(3) (May-June 1987): 9-12.

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