The Venezuelan opposition likes to portray its candidate Capriles Radonski as a “centre-left” and even “progressive” contender and a “young politician who has broken with the old guard.” However, his track record, and that of the united opposition coalition (Mesa de Unidad Democrática) which backs him, tell a different story.
Capriles was first elected as a member of the Venezuelan parliament in 1998 as part of the Christian Democratic party COPEI, one of the two main parties of the Venezuelan ruling class which had ruled the country for decades sharing political power and wealth.
COPEI was so discredited that Capriles and others decided to form their own party Primero Justicia. This new party was set up with advice and funding from the US National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute During the April 2002 coup against President Chavez, Capriles Radonski was the mayor of Baruta, an upper class municipality in Caracas, where the Cuban embassy is based. Emboldened by the coup, a mob of opposition demonstrators laid siege to the embassy and demanded the right to enter, as they thought prominent figures from the democratic Bolivarian government were hiding there.
Capriles not only did not prevent the violent behaviour of the demonstrators but jumped over the fence of the Cuban embassy, violating diplomatic territory, to attempt to conduct a search himself.
He was confronted by the Cuban ambassador and diplomatic staff. When he came out he told the assembled mob that he had not been able to verify whether spokespersons of the deposed government were in the embassy. This led to further violence, with his municipal police watching, in which the embassy’s electricity and water supply were cut off, windows smashed and diplomatic cars attacked.
Capriles also participated in the illegal arrest of the then Minister of Justice Rodriguez Chacín.
The opposition coalition, the mis-named United Democratic Coalition, is composed a whole host of parties, the majority of which participated actively in the April 2002 coup and the sabotage of the economy in December 2002 – February 2003.
Because of the populartity of the government’s social Misiones, the opposition now claims to support them and Capriles Radonski has promised to mantain them if he is elected. But in 2008, when Capriles Radonsky was elected regional governor of the state of Miranda, one of his first actions was to move against the Cuban doctors of Mision Barrio Adentro, expelling them from their homes, closing down some of the local health clinics and removing some of the educational Misiones from the public buildings where they were based. It was only the mass mobilisation of the people to defend them that saved the Misiones in Miranda and other opposition ruled states.