Henrique Capriles, the young governor of the Venezuelan northern Miranda state, kicked off his presidential campaign on Oct. 12, and is, so far, the only official opposition candidate ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Several others have said they plan on running in primaries, but have not officially announced their candidacy.
The 39-year-old, who served as the president of the Deputies’ Chamber in the National Assembly between 1999 and 2000, and as the mayor of Caracas’ Baruta municipality until 2008, is running on a platform that he says is neither leftist nor rightist, in an effort to unite a fiercely divided country and end Hugo Chávez’s 12 years in power. Chávez, who has cancer and has been in power since 1999, plans to run in next year’s election.
Opposition parties boycotted the 2005 elections, alleging they would not be fair or transparent. But the opposition was revitalized after a strong showing in last year’s legislative elections.
Chávez has been criticized by the opposition for corruption and running a dictatorship by filling the legislature and top courts with his supporters. But Chávez’s supporters argue he has improved the lives of the country’s impoverished masses by providing healthcare and literacy programs, among others, with windfall oil revenues. Venezuela is South America’s top oil producer, and oil accounts for some 90 percent of the country’s income.
The first round will be held on Oct. 7, 2012.