CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan opposition leader Teodoro Petkoff dropped out of the presidential race on Friday, saying he would support a single candidate — as yet unannounced — to run against President Hugo Chavez in December elections.
Petkoff, a newspaper editor and former leftist guerrilla, said he would continue working to oppose Chavez, whom he calls authoritarian.
"We will continue in the struggle," Petkoff said, adding that he would wage a "battle for the democracy and against totalitarianism."
The 74-year-old said he is confident that a single candidate supported by all sectors of the opposition could defeat Chavez, who has used booming oil revenues to fund popular social programs, including subsidized food markets and new public housing.
Petkoff recently has lagged behind opposition candidates Manuel Rosales, the governor of western Zulia state, and the conservative lawyer Julio Borges. All are far behind Chavez, who according to recent polls has support of 55 percent or more of the population.
Petkoff said he had discussed the issue with Borges and Rosales and that all had agreed to support a single candidate.
Borges said that the decision as to whether he or Rosales would face Chavez would be announced Monday.
For most of the 7 1/2 years that Chavez has been in office, Petkoff has dissected the former army paratrooper's government in his renegade tabloid Tal Cual, Spanish for telling it "Like It Is."
Petkoff complains that rampant crime and government incompetence plague social programs that he says are rife with cronyism.