Meet the charismatic opposition leader the Venezuela government just can’t silence

From the Los Angeles TimesVenezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has taken the gloves off.

The 44-year-old governor of Miranda state kept to the high road during most of his political career, including his two unsuccessful tries for president, losing first to the late Hugo Chavez in 2012, and then in a photo-finish loss to current President Nicolas Maduro in the 2013 contest to be Chavez’s successor.

In both presidential races, he refused to respond in kind to nonstop, scurrilous insults lobbed his way by Chavez, Maduro and their supporters. Many of the jibes can’t be repeated in a family newspaper but nonetheless were broadcast over government-controlled news media.

“Those who make insults pay a price…. People who don’t measure their words suffer the consequences,” Capriles said in an interview prior to the October 2012 election against Chavez. “Venezuelans are tired of the politics of insults and recriminations.”

But in recent days, as once-prosperous Venezuela descends deeper into chaos — with mass protests against food scarcities, rising crime and Maduro’s autocratic style — Capriles has adopted a more radical stance. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.