Henrique Capriles Radonski
Who he is: Henrique Capriles Radonski was the Justice First Party candidate for president of Venezuela in 2012, running against incumbent Hugo Chavez from the United Socialist Party and five other candidates. In elections held 7 October 2012 Venezuelan voters chose Chavez with 54% of the vote, 44% for Capriles. Capriles won the primary in February 2012 while serving as Governor of Miranda state, a position he held since 2008 and resigned in June 2012 to pursue the presidency.
Previously, Capriles was mayor of the Baruta Municipality of Caracas from 2000 until 2008. Capriles co-founded the centre-right Justice First party and was originally elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1998 on the COPEI party ticket. Capriles was the youngest member ever elected to the Venezuelan parliament and served as its vice president until it was dissolved by the Constitutional Assembly of August 1999 and served for two years as president of the Chamber of Deputies.
Background: Henrique Capriles Radonski was born 11 July 1972 in Caracas, into a practicing Catholic family with Jewish ancestry, and describes himself as "fervent Catholic," having become more devout during his 2004 incarceration. Capriles's father, of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, was a successful businessman who helped launch Kraft Foods in Venezuela. Henrique's mother is from an Ashkenazi Jewish family, born to Russian and Polish immigrants who left Europe during WWII; two of her grandparents had died in Treblinka and another spent 20 months in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Having grown up attending Catholic schools, Henrique Capriles Radonski studied law at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and tax law at the Central University of Venezuela. He attended further schooling in Amsterdam, Viterbo, Italy and at Columbia University in New York. His work as a commerce law tax specialist included employment at two different law firms as well as with Venezuela's revenue service, SENIAT.
During the 2000 mayoral elections in Baruta, Capriles ran on the Justice First ticket and received 79 percent of the vote. Crime dropped markedly, over 75 percent, during his term of office. During the attempted Venezuelan coup d'etat in 2002 Capriles did not disperse the crowds in a manner deemed acceptable to the Cuban ambassador, German Sanchez Otero; in addition, during the unrest Venezuela's Interior Minister was detained by police. In response, the state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Capriles and in May 2004, after a series of delays, he was arrested and held until September when he was released on probation. At trial in December, 2006, Capriles was acquitted of the charge of fomenting violence in a siege of the Cuban embassy during the coup. Five months later his acquittal was annulled by a court of appeals, however, and the case was reopened in 2008. Ultimately, Capriles was cleared of all charges.
Later that year Capriles was elected Governor of Miranda and held office until 6 June 2012 when he resigned in order to run for president.
Capriles won in the presidential primaries with 64.2% of the more than 3 million votes cast to represent the Justice First party. Henrique Capriles has "defined himself as a center-left 'progressive' follower of the business-friendly but socially-conscious Brazilian economic model" and utilizing a free market model to help businesses succeed (Reuters) and improvements in education to lift the country's poor out of poverty. Incumbent President Chavez has accused his opposition of representing "the rich and the U.S. government."
The campaign has been marked by a vicious character assassination against Capriles by the state-run media, accusing him of being a homosexual and a Zionist agent, linking him to his Jewish heritage. Hugo Chavez's struggle with cancer has been a source of fuel for rumors questioning his ability to govern and concern over a potential military coup if he is reelected, as no clear successor is in place.