Meet the Candidates: Henrique Capriles Radonski
Today, as part of What’s Next Venezuela’s “Meet the Candidates” series, we introduce Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Henrique Capriles Radonski leads the pack in the Venezuelan opposition presidential primaries. His frontrunner status was consolidated earlier this month when former contender Leopoldo López withdrew from the race and endorsed Capriles.
Capriles’ national political career began in 1998, when at 26 he was elected to the then Chamber of Deputies, becoming the youngest elected member of Venezuela’s parliament. Capriles’ served as President of the Chamber of Deputies until it was dissolved under the Chávez-led constitutional assembly of 1999.
In 2000, Capriles was elected mayor of Baruta, a division of the Greater Caracas municipality in Venezuela. While mayor, he was arrested and jailed for four months after being accused of fomenting attacks on the Cuban embassy in Venezuela during the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chávez. He was acquitted of all charges. The U.S. Department of State referenced Capriles’ case in its 2008 Human Rights report, calling it “a denial of a fair and public trial.”
Following his second term as mayor, Capriles was elected in 2008 governor of Miranda, one of the largest and most densely populated states in the country. Despite moves by the Chávez administration to bar him from the election, Capriles received 53 percent of the popular vote and defeated Chávez’s right hand man Diosdado Cabello.
As governor, Capriles has successfully improved Miranda’s education system and aided the state’s poorest citizens. During his time in office, Capriles has revitalized 400 of Miranda’s schools and provided food, shelter and education to more than 2,500 families in poverty through his “Zero Hunger Plan.”
Throughout his career, Capriles has been an outspoken critic of the Chávez administration, particularly with regard to expropriations. A commerce lawyer by trade, he has argued vigorously for the decentralization of government power and for re-opening trade and diplomatic ties with other Western democracies.
Capriles, who is running under the banner of the Primero Justicia party, is particularly strong among younger Venezuelans. Having no connection to the old political establishment and favoring the moderate center left government model of Brazil, Capriles is a fresh new alternative for all Venezuelans. His campaign slogan, “Hay un Camino” (There is a way) was crafted to convey a sense of optimism and potential in Venezuela’s future.
Heading into the February primary elections, Capriles has established a platform focused on:
- Ending impunity for criminals and drug traffickers and developing an effective penal system;
- Gradually rescinding the artificial exchange rates and other currency controls imposed by Chávez;
- Reforming Venezuela’s education system and improving upon the success of Venezuela’s welfare programs known as “misiones”;
- Reducing corruption and political interference in Venezuela’s public sector;
- Decentralizing the Venezuelan government, returning authority to the country’s state and local governments.
Click here to learn more about Henrique Capriles Radonski on his website.