Henrique Capriles, Venezuelan With Jewish Roots, Must Make Up Ground in Vote

Opposition Leader Running Uphill Against Chavez Legacy

Running Behind: Henrique Capriles is running hard in the race to succeed the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. He still has some ground to make up.
getty images
Running Behind: Henrique Capriles is running hard in the race to succeed the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. He still has some ground to make up.

By Reuters

Published April 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Overturning the popular Chavez’s dying wish, the naming of Maduro as his successor in his last public speech, may be a step too far.

Capriles won 44 percent of the vote in October, the opposition’s best showing against Chavez in a presidential election, and he is predicting a late surge this week.

“The polls are only a snapshot of a few weeks ago, and things are moving fast. We are winning,” Capriles said. “They know this election will be decided on April 14th, the game’s not over.”

His camp, cheekily called the “Simon Bolivar Command” in a reclaiming of Chavez’s idol and Venezuela’s independence hero Simon Bolivar, is far more upbeat than just two weeks ago.

Capriles and his aides believe Maduro’s poll numbers are moving lower as the sympathy over Chavez’s death wears off.

But their rising self-belief is not yet widely shared.

“The opposition’s optimism is probably misplaced,” the LatinNews think-tank said in what is a near-consensus view of non-partisan observers tracking the race.

“Despite Maduro’s obvious lack of charisma in comparison to Chavez, he is the only option on the table for ‘Chavistas’ and with the state oil company PDVSA fueling a well-orchestrated campaign, Sunday’s ballot should be a mere formality.”

SURPRISE POSSIBLE?

To pull off a surprise win, Capriles first needs to ensure as many as possible of his 6.6 million supporters in October back him again. Last year’s record overall 80 percent turnout is unlikely, however, to be replicated.

He would also need a significant number of “Chavistas” to decide that Maduro, a former bus driver who rose to be vice president and is vowing to continue his mentor’s hardline socialism in Venezuela, is not up to the job.

That is extremely hard just a month after Chavez’s death, with his endorsement of Maduro literally ringing in Venezuelans’ ears from speakers at every government rally and campaign spot.

“Give us another month or two, for people to start comparing Henrique with Maduro as candidates head-to-head, instead of Henrique having to go up against the ghost of Chavez, and we would win this easily,” said Nelly Rodriguez, resting with friends at a Caracas cafe after attending a Capriles rally.

“It’s pretty obvious that Maduro is a terrible candidate. If it weren’t for the Chavez factor, there’d be no contest here.”

If Capriles loses again on Sunday, the opposition coalition faces another six years in the political wilderness and the hard-won unity of the last few years could splinter.

The Democratic Unity movement’s diverse mix of right- and left-wing groups was already under huge strain earlier this year before Capriles galvanized them and buried disagreements, at least temporarily, for the sake of a united push on Sunday.

Capriles is clearly the best and most popular opposition leader in years, but another defeat would put him in a difficult position. There are others waiting in the wings to polish potential rival candidacies for the future.

“Chavismo” itself may not stay intact without its mesmerizing leader, meaning Venezuela’s split down the middle between pro- and anti-Chavez factions might become blurred with a realignment of political forces.

Anticipating a probable loss, some in the opposition are consoling themselves that Capriles would not inherit what they see as the complicated mess that Venezuela’s economy and society present to the winner of Sunday’s election.

If he wins, Capriles would not only face enormous problems, from terrifying crime levels to Byzantine currency controls and the highest inflation in the Americas, but also a “Chavista”-dominated legislature and a potentially antagonistic judiciary.

“Henrique would face an impossible, Herculean task. So let’s watch Maduro burn himself within six months instead,” said Amelia Alvarez, 46, among the group of Capriles backers downing iced tea at the cafe after hours chanting his name at a rally.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.