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Henrique Capriles

Henrique Capriles played a leading role against the Bolivarian Revolution but his profile faded after he failed to win the presidency twice, losing to both Chavez and Maduro as head of the MUD coalition in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Some dismissed him as a loser, despite doing well in the 2012 election against socialist leader Hugo Chavez and almost beating Maduro a few months later after Chavez's death.

But by 2016 the Miranda state governor was again on the political front line, this time driving an opposition push for a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro. By mid-2016 he was tied with the imprisoned hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez as the most popular opposition figure. He could even have a third stab at the presidency should Maduro be recalled this year, triggering an election.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, from one of Venezuela's wealthiest families, was most recently mayor of the affluent Baruta borough of Caracas for two consecutive terms (2000-2008). Henrique Capriles Radonski defeated close Chavez confidant Diosdado Cabello 54 percent to 46 percent. He earned a law degree from Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB) with a specialization in finance and tax law. Upon completing his degree in Venezuela, Radonski pursued advanced studies in Amsterdam and the United States. Capriles Radonski was born in 1973. He is an avid runner. He is single.

Prior to serving as mayor, Radonski was president of the National Assembly. Capriles began his political career back in 1995 during the so-called Fourth Republic of Venezuela, a period characterized by the Punto Fijo Pact that came to a close with Hugo Chavez's election in 1998. At age 25, Capriles Radonski was the youngest member ever elected to fill the charge. A key leader within the opposition Primero Justicia (PJ) party, Capriles Radonski ran as a consensus opposition candidate after the Comptroller declared former Miranda governor Enrique Mendoza ineligible to run based on administrative sanctions.

In 2001, Capriles created the Justice First party, which according to journalist Eva Golinger was the principal bene?ciary of funds spent in Venezuela by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and International Republican Institute (IRI).

During the 2002 U.S.-backed coup against Chavez, Capriles led a raid on the Cuban embassy in Caracas, which was located in the wealthy neighborhood of Baruta where Capriles was mayor until 2008. During the April 2002 "interregnum", Capriles Radonski was involved in an opposition assault on the Cuban Embassy. Capriles conducted the raid with the belief that former Vice President Diosdado Cabello and other Chavez officials were hidden in the Cuban embassy, despite then Cuban Ambassador Sanchez Otero refusing them entry into the building. Capriles and his entourage did not find anybody inside the embassy, but the vandalism by then mayor of Baruta represented a clear and flagrant violation of international law.

The GBRV accused him of being complicit in the incident and for allegedly inciting violence. Radonski served four months in prison before he was acquitted of all charges in 2006. The GBRV, however, appealed the acquittal, and Capriles Radonski could face another trial. Local pundits gave Capriles Radonski mixed reviews for his administration of the affluent Caracas borough Baruta.

On 05 March 2013, President Hugo Chavez died before completing his six-year term, and a few days later Nicolas Maduro was sworn in asacting president. A special election for president was held 14 April 2013. Capriles' 2013 presidential campaign was characterized by his use of clothing similar to that of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (wearing a jumpsuit, a hat with the Venezuelan flag, etc.) and the promise of maintaining social welfare programs initiated during the Chavez era.

There was more than 46 hours of coverage of Maduro’s election campaign by the government-run television channel (compared with approximately 78 seconds of coverage received by opposition candidate Capriles). The government-affiliated media also regularly contained anti-Semitic statements, including some comments against former opposition presidential candidate Capriles, a practicing Catholic of Jewish ancestry. For example, the website Aporrea.org published an article that linked Capriles’ support for military intervention in Syria with his Jewish heritage and allegedly suspicious relationships with named Jewish leaders and organizations in Venezuela.

On April 14, National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena announced that acting president and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidate Nicolas Maduro had received 50.66 percent of the votes and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski had received 49.07 percent. Lucena announced that the results were “irreversible.”

Capriles stated in a press conference that he would not recognize the electoral results and demanded that the CNE conduct a full audit of the results. Capriles’ argued that before, during, and after the elections, numerous government abuses of power and other irregularities affected the election results. Abuses cited included improper assisted voting, voter intimidation, proselytizing close to the voting centers, restricting voting-center witnesses, government officials campaigning while in their official capacities, and the government candidate’s misuse of public resources during the official campaign. On August 7, the Supreme Court (TSJ) announced its unanimous decision to dismiss all challenges to the presidential election, including those of Capriles.

By 2015 the main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) had long struggled to maintain cohesion, let alone formulate a clear electoral platform beyond simple opposition to Chavismo. In June 2015, opposition personality Henrique Capriles told Spain's El Pais that the MUD “is going to be unified” by then. The comment to El Pais was Capriles' first tacit acknowledgment that the MUD's internal chaos had persisted well into the 2015 campaign season. This power struggle between Capriles and the right-wing advocates of Leopoldo Lopez (but not only Lopez) basically characterized the general internal struggle within the MUD that had raged since late 2013.

The "guarimbas" of 2014 following the election of Maduro were spearheaded by now imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. These violent protests included rioting, roadblocks and barricades which resulted in the death of at least 43 people in 2014. As Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, author of "We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution," told teleSUR in a recent interview: "Capriles himself told his followers to 'unload their fury' after he was narrowly defeated by Maduro in the 2013 election, leading to several deaths and violent attacks on government targets."

By early 2016 President Maduro accused Capriles of attempting to destabilize the country, which was suffering from one of its worst environmental and economic crisis in years. These fears were backed up by Capriles recently calling for "tanks" and "war planes" and warning that Venezuela is a "bomb that can explode at any moment."

In recent years Capriles has sought to distance himself from more extreme sectors of the opposition, particularly the imprisoned Lopez. But "violence and coups are nothing new to the Venezuelan opposition, going back to the state repression of 1989 and the brief 2002 coup against Chavez."

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Page last modified: 05-06-2016 20:54:28 ZULU