The race for Venezuela's presidential election has already started. Given the fact that Chavez controls the main media outlets, opposition candidates know that the competition will be very stiff and very unfair.
In late 2012, Venezuelans will be called for vote, marking an opportunity for the country to change its course. Hugo Chavez, president for the past 12 years, wants to win by any means; he will use all the power in his hands to smear and put obstacles in front of his opponents.
One of the most popular opponents to Chavez is Henrique Capriles Radonski, 38 years old, and one of the leaders of the centrist party Primero Justicia (Justice First). Capriles Radonski is the governor of the State of Miranda, ranked second in population among Venezuelan states; it also includes part of the capital of Caracas.
At the age of 25 Radonski was already an MP, and elected as House Speaker. He then became mayor of Baruta, a city in the State of Miranda known for producing coffee, cacao, and sugarcane.
Scared of Capriles Radonski's popular rise, Chavez has tried to politically eliminate him.
On April 12, 2002 a demonstration took place in front of the Cuban Embassy in Venezuela, to protest the alleged presence of some Venezuelan public officers on the Embassy's premises. Some of the demonstrators acted violently. Capriles Radonski, that at the time was Mayor of Baruta Municipality, urged the demonstrators to respect public order. Nevertheless, he had to stand trial: the Venezuelan Criminal Court accused him of instigating a riot at the Cuban Embassy during the same time in 2002 that a coup attempt was staged against Chavez. Radonski was later found innocent, but "preventive imprisonment" measures were taken against him: he had to spend "20 days without looking at the sun, without looking at the sky, without having open air." During these days in a Venezuelan prison, he declared to the opposition Venezuelan daily El Universal that he could hear other prisoners being tortured. In an interview he added that he was prosecuted for "thinking differently than the government."
Although Capriles Radonski was raised Catholic, his mother, Monica Radonski Bochenek, comes from a Polish Jewish family of Holocaust survivors. His grandmother lived in the Warsaw ghetto and managed to escape, but his great-grandparents were killed in a concentration camp. On his personal website, Capriles Radonski writes that the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people and of his family has left a deep scar on his soul and that this was surely one of elements that pushed him to fight for freedom and human rights.
Capriles Radonski's Jewish origins have made him a target of anti-Semitic attacks, especially from the pro-Chavez camp and media outlets. The Jewish Journal reports that in 2009, pro-government supporters dressed in red surrounded the "Governor's House and painted swastikas on the yellow outer walls. During the governor's race in 2008, the government-aligned media described Capriles as a member of the 'Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie', and 'genetically fascist.'"
The governor is actually among the favorite candidates of the Venezuelan electorate, but the race for the presidential election will not be easy. Capriles Radonski has already accused Chavez of a smear campaign against him. According to recent polls, published by Venezuelan paper Dinero, Radonski, the governor of Miranda, is leading in the polls with 54.6%; Chavez is behind him with 45%.
Capriles Radonski says that time for change has come for Venezuela. Chavez, in power since 1999, cannot keep on governing forever, while transforming the country in to a dictatorship, which is his goal. Chavez, in 2009, a constitutional amendment in which there are no term limits for Venezuelan elected officials.
Capriles Radonski has a great chance to lead his country towards change and a better future, but to make that change happen the international community must not this time abandon Venezuela, and it must make sure that the 2012 elections will be free, with no fraud.
From the press:
- Henrique Capriles Radonski, Miranda state governor, running for president
- Our generation is committed to changing Venezuela
- Capriles Radonski: "I expect to be the president of all Venezuelans!"
- "There is no room for fear. The only thing to be afraid of is backwardness"
- Capriles Radonski denounced a "smear" campaign by the Venezuelan government
May 9, 2011
Henrique Capriles Radonski, Miranda state governor, running for president
Henrique Capriles Radonski, 38, a Christian-Catholic of Jewish origin […], sports lover (except for swimming), runs almost every night, and is determined to become the future Venezuela's president. […] "My opponent, I am sure about it, is Hugo Chavez."
Capriles Radonski, a member of opposition Primero Justicia (Justice First, PJ) party, has occupied several elected public offices. He has been a Member of Parliament, a mayor and he is currently the governor of central Miranda state. He expects to crown his political track record in 2012: "Forty is a perfect age to be a president."
Q: The same day you announced that you would be running in the primaries sponsored by the opposition, government authorities charged you with human rights abuses. Are you getting ready to face the charges that they already started to fire at you?
It does not matter to me; they have a creative capacity (...) I agree with conducting an investigation into what happened to those policemen; the information supplied by the Chacao mayor and the Attorney General shows that what happened is a case for investigation. As this case of a human rights violation is subject to investigation, let us investigate what happens inside prisons. Where are the main human rights abuses in Venezuela? Well, in prisons. And who does manage prisons? The government does.
Our generation is committed to changing Venezuela
Q: You were in jail in 2002 for the events at the Cuban embassy; so, you must know what it looks like inside.
When I was held in the Disip (Directorate for Intelligence, Security, and Prevention) basement, I could hear prisoners being battered; could listen to their complaints. […] It is my generational duty to win [the election]. Our generation is committed to changing Venezuela. […]
Q:Which leaders do you regard as your main opponents in primaries?
I cannot see any opponent in primaries. My opponent, I am sure about it, is he who should finish his cycle; that is Chavez.
Q: It seems you regard primaries as a mere administrative step.
A: That sounds no good. Primaries are an important drive. It should be an election feast for participation. That force will enable us to move forward and replace the current narcissist, messianic leadership. […] El Universal (Venezuela)
May 5, 2011
Capriles Radonski: "I expect to be the president of all Venezuelans!"
On your mark, get set, go! The presidential race as far as the opposition is concerned is gaining strength as more competitors are joining it. Central Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski took on Tuesday, May 3, "one step forward" in his own words. "I expect to be the president of all Venezuelans!" Capriles Radonski said at the Tuy Valleys, where he led a ceremony for the delivery of certificates for the construction of housing units for 800 people.
"Rather than being the president of a grouping, I expect to become the president of all Venezuelans; of whoever has a dream; whoever is positive about the possibility of moving forward and making progress; whoever thinks that this is the best land, Bolívar's homeland," the state governor said. […]
"There is no room for fear. The only thing to be afraid of is backwardness"
According to Capriles Radonski, the country is edging closer to the end of a "cycle." At this moment, "there is no room for fear. The only thing to be afraid of is backwardness, instead of advancing and making progress," he admonished. "A new era is commencing for all Venezuela, to bring in hope, peace; to carry a message of progress for all our people in every last nook and cranny."
Throughout his speech, the PJ leader was adamant that his proposal is far from demeaning any faction. "I hope that all of us can build on a Venezuela for everyone alike," the former speaker of the defunct Chamber of Deputies and ex mayor of Baruta municipality stubbornly repeated.. […] El Universal (Venezuela)
May 5, 2011
Capriles Radonski denounced a "smear" campaign by the Venezuelan government
Central Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski denounced a "smear" campaign by the government after he announced his intention to become a candidate in the opposition primaries ahead of presidential elections to be held in 2012.
"It seems it is the prelude to a typical government campaign to try to discredit, smear, offend and insult," Capriles [said]. […] El Universal (Venezuela)