Venezuelans Elect Hugo Chavez Successor Amid Hope and Dread

Henrique Capriles, Leader With Jewish Roots, Vies for Post

Day of Destiny: Opposition leader Henrique Capriles prepares for presidential election in Venezuela.
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Day of Destiny: Opposition leader Henrique Capriles prepares for presidential election in Venezuela.

By Reuters

Published April 14, 2013.
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More often he has sounded indignant, accusing the “far-right” of plotting a rerun of a short-lived coup against Chavez a decade ago if the opposition loses Sunday’s vote.

For many “Chavistas,” their late leader’s explicit instructions will likely be enough to dispel any doubts they might have about Maduro’s abilities, at least in the short-term.

Capriles, 40, will have an even tougher time if he pulls off an upset. One of the biggest challenges will be to win over suspicious supporters of Chavez and Maduro. Both said over and over that the opposition candidate was nothing more than a pampered “bourgeois” rich kid, a traitor, and worse.

Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October’s election, has denounced Maduro and his “coterie” as fake socialists who have enriched themselves while paying only lip service to Chavez’s deeply held ideology.

“We’re going to decide the future we want - one where public projects are completed and hospitals function, or one where we stay as we are,” he roared at one of his last rallies.

“The great majority want to move forward.”

Capriles is offering a Brazil-style model that mixes pro-business policies with heavy state spending on the poor. He says Maduro’s tenure has been a disaster for all Venezuelans, with a devaluation and new currency controls.

If he wins, Capriles says he will stop “gifting” Venezuela’s oil wealth to other nations like Cuba, and will cool ties with distant Chavez-era allies such as Syria, Belarus and Iran.

While he does come from a wealthy family, he has sought to establish his street credibility, riding a motorcycle, playing pick-up basketball games on shantytown courts, and almost always wearing a baseball cap.

He faces an almighty battle, however, to beat the memory of Venezuela’s late leader.

“This election is not Capriles versus Maduro,” said housewife Rosa Elena Marcano, 60, at the opposition’s last rally in western Lara state. “It’s Capriles against Chavez’s ghost.”


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