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Profile: Venezuela's two leading presidential candidates

English.news.cn   2012-10-07 12:05:25            

CARACAS, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's 19 million registered voters will choose their president for a new six-year term on Sunday. The two leading candidates are profiled below.

HUGO CHAVEZ

The incumbent president and candidate of the ruling Great Patriotic Pole coalition was born on July 28, 1954, in Venezuela's Sabaneta state. He graduated from the country's military academy in 1975 with a master degree in military science and art. He also studied politics at Simon Bolivar University from 1989 to 1990.

In February 1992, when he was a paratroop officer, Chavez led a failed coup against then President Carlos Andres Perez and was jailed until 1994.

In December 1998, Chavez won the presidency with 56 percent of cast votes after campaigning for reform, constitutional changes and a crackdown on corruption.

In 1999, he won 70 percent of votes cast in a referendum on a new constitution that expanded the executive powers, and also formally committed the government to fulfilling citizens' rights to education, housing, healthcare and food.

Chavez was re-elected to a six-year term under the new constitution with nearly 60 percent of the votes in 2000.

On April 11, 2002, he was ousted in a brief coup by business leaders and dissident military officers. But just three days later, troops loyal to Chavez returned him to power.

In December 2002, Venezuela's opposition called a nationwide strike demanding a referendum on his presidency. They won the right to do so in a May 2003 negotiated agreement.

A nationwide campaign for the referendum finally collected 2.5 million signatures by June 2004. However, Chavez easily won the referendum thanks to the country's working class and poor.

In his campaign for this year's election, Chavez has redoubled his promises to the poor, saying he would put in place programs to eliminate homelessness within 10 years. He also said Venezuela would top other countries in the region in education and health within his next presidential term.

Chavez enjoys a close political and personal relationship with Cuba's Fidel Castro and frequently refers to Caracas-born Simon Bolivar, who led Latin America's independence movements in the 19th century, as his inspiration.

HENRIQUE CAPRILES RADONSKI

Capriles, a politician and lawyer and candidate of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity, was born in Caracas on July 11, 1972. He studied law at Andres Bello Catholic University, tax law in the Central University of Venezuela and took courses at the IBFD International Tax Academy in Amsterdam.

Capriles served as governor of the populous Miranda state from 2008 to 2012 and stepped down in June to hit the campaign trail. Prior to that, he was the last and youngest vice president of the dissolved Congress and president of the Chamber of Deputies between 1999 and 2000. He also served as mayor of Baruta for two consecutive terms from 2000 to 2008.

He was a founding member and leader of the center-right Justice First party and served as its deputy national coordinator until 2008. As the presidential candidate of the opposition coalition, Capriles won the Feb. 12 primary with almost 2 million votes.

Son of a successful businessman, Capriles says he will model his presidency after that of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a popular leftist activist whose administration struck a balance by promoting both social welfare and free-market policies.

During his campaign, Capriles also focused on Venezuela's foreign affairs, promising a major shift in the country's foreign policy if elected, including canceling arms purchases from Russia and distancing Venezuela from Iran and Belarus.

Capriles and his backers may be banking on his youth and charm to win over voters, especially women. The candidate, single, recently confessed that "women are my weakness" and has gone out of his way to court female voters.

At a campaign rally in central Carabobo state in early September, he reportedly interrupted his speech to comment on local women, saying he was impressed by their beauty.

Recent polls showed that the gap between the two candidates was narrowing, though most respondents still placed Chavez in the lead. Tellingly, Capriles' chances have improved as his rhetoric has grown more similar to that of Chavez by echoing the incumbent's concern for the underprivileged and vowing to promote social welfare programs.

Editor: Wang Yuanyuan
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