El Jefe

Henrique Capriles: Weston's Hope for Venezuela

At the news of Hugo Chavez's death, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles was magnanimous: "At such a difficult time, we must show our deep love and respect to our Venezuela," he tweeted. "My solidarity to all the family and followers of President Hugo Chavez. We appeal for unity."

He is the sole hope of Venezuelans in exile in the election that is slated to take place in 30 days. Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who made the announcement and will likely take power, is the odds-on favorite and the head of a powerful machine that has jailed opponents and shut up the media for years. 

But Capriles drew 6.1 million votes, or about 45 percent of the population, in October. He is a favorite among decision-makers and has a powerful position as governor of Miranda State. 

See also: Hugo Chavez Is Dead

Capriles is a 41-year-old lawyer, handsome and smart, who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. He was the youngest member ever of the lower house of the Venezuelan parliament when elected in 1998 and eventually became its vice president. He was imprisoned in 2004 during the coup attempt against Chavez, though charges were later dropped. And he was then subject to horrible anti-semitic attacks -- even though he is Catholic from his father's side and considers himself a member of that religion.

Many polls before this past fall's election had Capriles winning, Of course, it is hard to poll the poor, who were Chavez's main constituency. But it is likely that Capriles can gain votes with Chavez out of the equation and the leader's far-less-charismatic minions likely to stand for the top job.

Money will flow to Capriles, largely from South Florida -- particularly from Weston and Doral, which are Venezuelan meccas. The murder rate is extraordinarily high in the country, and a lot of Venezuelans want change.

We at New Times wish Capriles much success. Viva la revolución!

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse