Yesterday Leopoldo Lopez announced that he will seek to win the opposition primaries, so that he can face Hugo Chavez in October 2012 presidential election. In my opinion, as I wrote earlier in Spanish, Leopoldo has become the king maker, and he definitely has the upper hand, if he plays his cards right. Regardless of what chavismo throws his way. Leopoldo has developed a political platform, that showed some rather impressive numbers in party primaries. He has travelled the country, a la Romulo Betancourt, in the last 2-3 years, and has established (I’ve been told) networks of local support pretty much nationwide. He sits, comfortably, 2nd, 3rd, in polls (not that Venezuelan pollsters can be trusted) despite the fact that he hasn’t held office since 2008.
What Leopoldo needs to do is pact with MUD, the opposition umbrella group of political parties, and throw his lot behind the eventual winner. Making the most of the fact that he still is in political limbo (Chavez's kangaroo courts will ultimately decide whether he can run), but with a binding decision of an international court blowing his sails, he should start campaigning. Ferociously. What are the chavistas going to do, forbid him from campaigning, from travelling up and down the country?
If he wins the primaries, which I doubt, Hugo Chavez loses in October 2012.
If he is not allowed to participate in the primaries, and throws his lot instead behind Henrique Capriles Radonsky, or Pablo Perez , or Maria Corina Machado, or, even turncoat Henri Falcon, Hugo Chavez loses in October 2012.
If he is allowed to participate in the primaries, and comes 2nd, or 3rd, he still has a huge amount of votes, network, political platform and support to lend the winning candidate, Hugo Chavez loses in October 2012.
If, however, caudillo tendency gets the best of him, and he divides the oppo vote, Hugo Chavez will win in October 2012.
So whatever chavismo does, short of assassinating him, he has got, in my opinion, the power to decide who will be the next president of Venezuela.