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February 16, 2012 11:32 am

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Faces Many Threats

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Henrique Capriles Radonski. Photo: sanblogs83.

Venezuelan Opposition leader Enrique Capriles walks the streets around his home flanked by bodyguards. In fact, everywhere he goes the bodyguards follow — the threat of attack hovering above his head, not only as the popular opposition to President Hugo Chavez, but also because he has Jewish ancestry.

Within hours of his landslide victory, winning 62 percent in the Democratic Unity’s primary vote on Sunday, Capriles was attacked throughout the country’s media. One local magazine superimposed a Star of David behind his portrait, suggesting his Jewish roots, while governmental officials spurned him as the “face of Imperialism” and an “anti-patriotic candidate.”

Capriles is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and publicly speaks passionately of their escape from Nazi repression. His openness about his Jewish ancestry has become bait for the Pro-Chavez movement.

A senior governmental official re-tweeted a newspaper cartoon depicting Capriles in pink shorts and a swastika on his arm, squaring up against a muscular Chavez. The insinuation is clear: Enrique Capriles is “bourgeois” and “fascist” – a far cry from the left-leaning Chavez who champions the cause of the lower class.

The 39-year-old governor of Miranda State, Capriles, does not share any formal ties to the local Jewish community but maintains a positive relationship with community leaders and institutions. Although there is no immediate threat of violence against him, the Opposition remains wary and concerned. The voter lists from Sunday’s primaries were burned to protect the confidentiality of the voters, in fear of violent reprisals.

In a country ravaged by kidnappings and street crime, a Senior Secretary of Capriles’ MUD party – who spoke anonymously to the Algemeiner for security purposes – noted, “people are afraid” of what the October 7 elections might spell for Capriles and the local Jewish community. The latest victim of a high profile kidnapping was Washington Nationals catcher, Wilson Ramos, who was abducted by gunpoint from his family home on November 9 last year.

However, officials within the Opposition party surmise that Capriles will be attacked only within legal boundaries – yet, enough to ensure another one-sided election. Capriles was jailed for four months in 2002 following his participation in a failed coup-de-tat attempt on Chavez’s rule, and now – according to MUD Party officials – government ministers are looking to disqualify his presidential candidacy by re-opening the case against him.

But this does nothing to assuage the fears of violent reprisals. And in Chavez-ruled Caracas, where there is a civilian homicide rate of 200 per 100,000 inhabitants – one of the highest rates in the world – Capriles, and his hope for social and economic progress, is never safe.

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