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CARACAS, Thursday September 27, 2012 | Update
 
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ELECTION 2012 | Henrique Capriles Radonski

Breaking new ground for the future

Since his election in the primaries as the candidate for the opposition Unified Democratic Panel (MUD), he started a frantic nationwide tour for Venezuelans to know him "face to face"

Capriles Radonski started his race for Miraflores presidential palace (Photo: Reuters)
ROBERTO GIUSTI , ALICIA DE LA ROSA |  EL UNIVERSAL
Thursday September 27, 2012  12:00 AM
Incredibly, a 26-year-old beardless kid who turned out to be the president of the Lower Chamber, had very clear purposes. "I am not worried about time. I am almost 20 years younger than (President Hugo) Chávez, I'm not eager to go back to the Congress, but I have many desires and all the vocation for public service." Nowadays, such a sentence sounds like a premonition, but long ago, in 1999, it looked like extemporaneous in a country surrendered to the feet of Hugo Chávez.

Young Capriles Radonski, an attorney graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University, with master degrees of Economic and Tax Law, swam against the tide. He would speak of a third way, stripped of any ideology. "I believe in a country where specific solutions are applied to serious problems. And problems are not only of a political nature, but, above all, economic problems. They hurt in your stomach." In this way, he was shaping his speed to win the primaries in a faraway, uncertain February of 2012. It was the beginning of a thorough yet meteoric track record, which in a 13-year term would put him in the spotlight.

Born to a family of Jewish origin, he would run against centralism and cult of personality envisaged in the Constituent Assembly. But he also fought corruption and was aware that "a large portion of the country's people has been sidelined."

One year later, at a café of east Caracas, he would agree with a bunch of disappointed guys in their twenties to have their own voice in a troubled political arena. Opposition party Primero Justicia (Justice First) was born under the motto of really participatory democracy and a growing young, critical leadership committed to a different way of doing politics. The stance would be implemented all of a sudden, as several of them ran for local elections.

Capriles Radonski would run for Baruta mayor and win at leisure his second election challenge, thus proving to be in line with voters. As a mayor, he embarked, among others, upon the task of reducing crime levels. When he took office, the municipality recorded almost 5,000 crimes annually. Eight years later, at the time of stepping down, the number had downsized to 976.

Regarded as a dangerous foe by the government, in 2004 he was hurled to the underground dungeon of El Helicoide prison, charged with attacks on the Embassy of Cuba during the coup of April 11, 2002. Nevertheless, far from lessening him, the jail baptism would strengthen his conviction.

Winning against all odds

Stubborn, even obstinate, Capriles Radonski came through the court harassment unscathed. In 2008, he got ready to fight, against all odds, for Miranda state government. It was not an urban, middle-class municipality in the capital city of Venezuela, but a multi-colored, densely populated state with 70% of poverty. All in all, the link worked and the sweated, smiling, receptive kid in jeans and t-shirt engaged in preaching his truth. 

He found administrative chaos, corruption, a torn-out state government and the maximum expression of the scourge of poverty. He dedicated himself to basics. "Our fight is not for power, but for progress and union of Miranda residents. I did not arrive by dumping people or ranking workers between Chávez's followers and dissenters. We give resources to red communal councils and it has worked, because we came to work on a project for everybody."

The reaction could not wait. He got the budget chopped; he was taken away billion bolivars; he was deprived of 19 hospitals, 250 outpatient services, highways and roads. "We would not stand around with our arms crossed and established a network of 50 outpatient services from scratch. We take care of more people at the Health House compared to Higuerote Hospital. I am not just fighting for an airport. My goal is working for people."

When he ran as pre-candidate, the country took it naturally. However, some circles did not like his wording. "The next president needs everybody, because he will face opposition, necessary though. There will be two candidates, two managements, debates... I am not afraid of contrast. But the objective is future. This project is based upon such foundation, instead of being the antithesis of Chávez. I came to change the way of doing politics. I am not to apportion perks."

One again, against the tide, his wording rumbled as usual. For such purpose, the young guy in jeans and t-shirt counts on a resource which has been paid little attention. "Look at me, I am almost 40; I have not got married yet, nor have I children; not because I don't want to. It is just because I have devoted my whole life to this: to serve. I do not do it like a sacrifice, but because of satisfaction deep inside. That is the important thing; for you to feel it. And I, thank God, can feel it."

On his way to progress

Capriles Radonski has started a race full of obstacles to get to Miraflores presidential palace, with a clear view of what the country is asking for: "dialogue, union and inclusiveness." His motto is spreading his message of progress and confronting the opponent without demeaning him. He is firmly convinced that progress will win on October 7. "I came to commit myself. I will be the next President of Venezuela. Venezuela, there is a way."

Translated by Conchita Delgado
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