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Venezuela Election

Profile: Henrique Capriles

Lawyer and former governor lost the last presidential election to Hugo Chavez but believes things will be different now.

Last Modified: 03 Apr 2013 10:08
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From the archives: Capriles prepares for 2012 election

Henrique Capriles Radonski, a lawyer and former state governor, will lead Venezuela's opposition in elections for a second time, challenging the ruling Socialist Party in presidential elections on April 14.  

Capriles lost the previous election, in October 2012, to then President Hugo Chavez. But the energetic campaigner believes he will have better luck this time, and he has sharpened his political rhetoric against the incumbent Nicolas Maduro. 

"Nicolas lied to this country," Capriles said when announcing his candidacy, refering to statements Maduro made about the health of deceased President Chavez. 

Polls show that Maduro retains a comfortable lead over Capriles, who runs marathons in his spare time. 

Early years

The descendant of immigrants from Europe, Capriles' father had Dutch roots while the family on his mother's side fled Poland after the Holocaust. 

"I come from a working family. My grandparents arrived in Venezuela with nothing. ... I worked since I was 11 years old."

- Henrique Capriles

His upper-class family owns major stakes in newspapers, movie theatres and other businesses.

Like political candidates the world over, Capriles, 40, tries to focus on his "humble" roots, making promises about reducing poverty and "social inclusion".

"I come from a working family. My grandparents arrived in Venezuela with nothing. I come from a family that worked hard, and were dedicated to give the best to this country," Capriles told a local newspaper. "As a child, I learned to push myself to get things. I worked since I was 11 years old."  

Capriles' supporters tout his motivation. "He is a person that works 24 hours, 365 days a year," Adriana D'Elia, the current governor of Miranda state, told Al Jazeera. "It is difficult to keep up with him."

His detractors consider him a fresh face for Venezuela's old elite, a politician who acts like a champion of democracy but who is happy to subvert the will of the people when it fits his own ends.

Coup claims

Capriles is accused of participating in a 2002 coup attempt against the country's elected government.

Critics say he was complicit with violent protesters at the Cuban consulate in Baruta, where opposition attackers thought members of Chavez's inner circle were hiding.

After Chavez foiled the coup with the help of loyal army officers, Capriles was detained for 119 days, but was later released after being absolved in court. 

"Unfair jail sentences are twice the burden," Capriles said on his website.

Prison has had a lasting impact on the candidate, former colleagues said. "I am sure that the experience made him tougher," said D'Elia, who has known Capriles for more than a decade.

After overcoming his legal problems, Capriles ran for governor of Miranda state in 2008 and won. 

He compares his political approach to that of former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, who promoted pro-business policies, while also developing and funding social programmes.

"Capriles' campaign has been very concrete: he has emphasised the problems of job opportunities, assistance to older people, assistance to those who live in extreme poverty. Education has been also a recurrent topic," Maria Ponce, a researcher at Andres Bello Catholic University, told Al Jazeera.

Campaign plans

But critics say Capriles will reverse the gains in poverty reduction seen under socialist party, which has been in power since 1998. 

In his attempt to distance himself from the traditional opposition, Capriles has consistently said that he wanted to expand social programmes as part of plan to create economic growth with social inclusion.

Capriles' campaign slogan ahead of October's election was hay un camino ["there is a way"] and he consistently slammed the government for what he says is corruption and mismanagement. 

The candidate has established a platform focusing on employment, education, security and better management of the oil sector.

During the 2012 campaign, he promised to train more than 20,000 new police officers and raise the minimum monthly salary to 2,500 bolivars ($581) from the current rate of 2,047 bolivars ($476).

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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