A former bus driver and state governor will struggle for the presidential seat in Venezuela. The elections are to be held on April 14.
Henrique Capriles, the 40-year governor of Miranda, ran for presidency in 2012. His rival, late Hugo Chavez, had a lead only of 10 per cent of votes. Now Capriles is going to measure his strength with Nicolás Maduro, Chavez’s successor, who is ruling the country at the moment. Henrique Capriles has accused Mr Maduro and the Venezuelan government of constitutional abuse.
Capriles’ maternal great-grand parents came from the town of Radun (presently Voranava district, Hrodna region, Belarus). During the Second World War they were murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp. His mother’s mother, Lili Bochenek de Radonski, spent 20 months in the Warsaw Ghetto. His mother’s father, Andrés Radonski, was an engineer active in the cinema business in Poland, who emigrated to Venezuela and opened his first cinema in Puerto La Cruz in 1947.
The presidential candidate’s mother was born in Venezuela; his father is of Dutch heritage. As Capriles belonged to a better-off family, he studied at prestigious higher education institutions in Venezuela. After the graduation Capriles worked as a lawyer.
Behind the bars
Capriles was elected to the Chamber of Deputies of Venezuela in the December 1998 elections and became the youngest member of the Venezuelan parliament ever elected. In the July 2000 elections, Capriles was elected Mayor of the Baruta Municipality, representing the party Justice First (Primero Justicia).
On 12 April several incidents of violence occurred around the Cuban embassy (located in Baruta), as opposition protesters cut off water and electricity, smashed windows, damaged six Embassy staff vehicles, and blocked the Cuban ambassador from leaving. Chavez’s associates claimed that Capriles “should have used his authority as the mayor of Caracas’ Baruta district to disperse the crowd of angry protesters”; Capriles said “he helped avert more violence by preventing protesters from storming the Embassy.
Later the Mayor was acquitted of the charge of fomenting violence in a siege of the Cuban embassy during the coup attempt. After Capriles spent several months behind the bars he was ultimately cleared of all charges.
In 2008 Capriles was elected Governor of Miranda state, defeating Chavez’s protege.
A long way to vice-presidency
A former bus driver, Nicolás Maduro went on to become a union leader, ultimately reaching a position in the Venezuelan government during the Chávez administration. According to the recent public opinion polls, it is him who is leading in the election race.