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Worldcrunch

Does Venezuelas Chvez Finally Have A Real Challenger?

A ruling by the Inter-American Human Rights Court has the potential of galvanizing support behind Leopoldo Lpez, a 40-year-old opposition leader who is looking to run against Chvez in Venezuelas 2012 presidential election.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lpez (Wikpedia)


EYES INSIDE
LATIN AMERICA

Legal and political eyes across the Americas are turned to Venezuela, where President Hugo Chvez must decide whether to respect a decision by the Inter-American Human Rights Court (CIDH) and allow a major opposition figure to run against him next year.

The CIDH ruled last Friday that the Chvez government violated the political rights of a top presidential contender Leopoldo Lpez when it prevented him from holding office two years ago. The Costa Rica-based court ordered Venezuelas electoral council (CNE) not to block any efforts by Lpez should he want to run in future elections.

The Venezuelan opposition is celebrating the ruling as an unprecedented legal victory. Venezuelas Supreme Court will have the final say-so because we are a free and sovereign nation, Foreign Minister Nicols Maduro said.

Lpez, 40, a former mayor of the wealthy Caracas suburb of Chacao, was barred from holding office after the countrys comptroller released a report alleging a host of allegedly irregularities. Lpez, one of Chvezs outspoken critics, said the government was trying to frame him to prevent him from running for president. He has never been put on trial.

Chvez has given no indication whether he will obey the ruling. On Saturday, he accused the court of siding with the coup plotters who tried to overthrow him in April 2002, El Universal reported.

To me, that court is worth nothing. For the political left its nothing, he said during a meeting with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was in Caracas. My haircut is worth more to me than that court, he added in reference to his now almost bald scalp. Chvez is currently ongoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Lpez fired back. Chvez is afraid of me, he told noted journalist Roberto Giusti. If he doesnt allow me to run it shows just how afraid his government is.

CNE president Socorro Hernndez said it was absurd for Lpez to argue that the government had trampled on his rights when he has been appearing every day in the media. She added that it is not up to the CNE to decide whether Lpez can run. That decision will instead be made by the Supreme Court or the Comptrollers Office, she explained in a radio interview.

Reaction to the CIDH ruling was divided along official lines in Venezuela. Some legal experts say Venezuelas constitution obliges it to obey international rulings. Not adhering to the courts ruling would also mean disenfranchising a large section of voters, said Gustavo Briceo Vivas, president of the Venezuelan chapter of the Latin American Ombudsman Institute.

Lpezs Voluntad Popular party will officially proclaim his candidacy for next years race on Saturday at a mass gathering in Caracas. If he is allowed to run, he will still have to square off against other opposition contenders in February. The winner will face Chvez at the ballot box in October 2012. Except for two days in April 2001, when Chvez was temporarily toppled in a coup, he has held Venezuelas presidency since 1999.

-Martin Delfn
Worldcrunch

Photo - Wikipedia

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