10/04/2017 | 2PM
A Venezuelan politician seen as a main contender to challenge President Nicolás Maduro in next year’s election has been barred by the government from holding public office for 15 years.
The politician, Henrique Capriles, a state governor who narrowly lost to Mr. Maduro in 2013, was “disqualified from the exercise of public functions for a period of 15 years,” according to a statement released by the government on Friday (7) evening.
“Today it’s me, but tomorrow they will come for you,” Mr. Capriles said in a news conference, adding that he would not give up his post as governor of the state of Miranda. He also called for more street protests.
The government listed a number of infractions it claimed Mr. Capriles had committed, including what it said was his failure to secure the proper approvals for budgets and contracts.
“The only disqualified person in this country is you, Nicolás Maduro,” Mr. Capriles wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Capriles has been one of the more outspoken politicians at recent protests against the president, which have drawn large crowds since an attempt late last month by the Supreme Court to dissolve Venezuela’s National Assembly. The lawmaking body is controlled by Mr. Maduro’s opponents.
While the court reversed parts of the ruling on April 1, that did not calm the fears of opposition leaders, who say Mr. Maduro has spent the last year on a steady march toward one-man rule. They are now demanding that the judges resign from the Supreme Court, which Mr. Maduro has filled with his loyalists.
In recent days, government forces have used tear gas, water cannons and batons to beat back crowds of demonstrators — attacks that have also injured lawmakers who joined the protests. A march on Thursday drew many people from the working class, a demographic that has typically supported Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Capriles remained defiant on Friday. “More than yesterday, more than today, tomorrow there are even more reasons for us to mobilize ourselves in all of the country,” he wrote on Twitter.
Human rights activists say that banning opposition politicians from holding office has long been a practice used by the country’s ruling leftists to stifle dissent.
Perhaps the most recognized leader to be barred was Leopoldo López, the opposition mayor of a wealthy Caracas subdivision, who lost his right to hold office under President Hugo Chávez.
When Mr. López led street protests against Mr. Maduro in 2014, he was arrested and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
Source: NY Times