Daily Dispatches

Hope in Venezuela

Latin America

Venezuela's first opposition party presidential primary revealed a clear leader in Henrique Caprilles Radonski, 39, governor of the state of Miranda and co-founder of the center-right Justice First Party. On Sunday, Caprilles garnered close to two-thirds of the vote in a primary that attracted nearly 2.9 million Venezuelans to the ballot box.

Runner-up Pablo Perez, governor of the Venezuelan state of Zulia, is backing Caprilles in the fight against current President Hugo Chavez. Perez told Caprilles, "My friend, you are going to be Venezuela's president."

Caprilles' track record is good. The presidential hopeful boasts of having founded nearly 70 free health clinics in Miranda, and he promises to conduct his economic policies in a market-friendly fashion. Caprilles recognizes the economic destruction that has resulted from many of Chavez's policies, including, "25 percent inflation, widespread food and energy shortages, and soaring crime and homicide rates."

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Caprilles will soon be engaged in a fierce battle against Chavez. Since his diagnosis with an undisclosed form of cancer, Chavez has frequently forgone treatment for the sake of maintaining his power base. Some reports suggest that Chavez, 57, may only have nine to 12 months to live.

Chavez still has around a 50 percent approval rating, but many Venezuelans desire change. One construction worker, Ruben Rodriguez noted, "I decided to come to vote to express my complete unhappiness. In these 12 years, the country has gone downhill."

If Chavez can fight off the cancer, his money, media dominance, and ruthlessness may make him hard to beat, but Caprilles became governor by defeating a pro-Chavez candidate Diosado Cabello.

Chavez has ruled by setting class against class, but Caprilles said, "I aim to be the president of all Venezuelans. It isn't the time of lefts or rights. It's the time of all Venezuelans."

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