In Venezuela, top Chávez rival sounds confident note after key court victory
An Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruling on Friday cleared opposition leader Leopoldo López to run for Venezuela's presidency next year.
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“One of my haircuts is worth more than this court,” Mr. Chávez joked Saturday, playing on the fact that the Spanish “corte” means both “court” and “cut.”
Venezuela’s government insists that the Friday decision was politically motivated and is attacking the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for its association with the Organization of American States (OAS), which it has accused of being a tool of US hegemony in the region.
IACHR decisions are supposed to be binding and the court is unlikely to reverse its decision in favor of Mr. Lopez, a charismatic leader and former mayor who was banned – along with hundreds of others – from standing for public office based mostly on what the opposition claims are trumped up corruption charges.
Whether Chávez's government maintains the ban on Lopez in spite of the IACHR ruling will be a test of Venezuela's commitment to democracy, experts say.
It's a test López believes Venezuela will pass, and – bouyed by the court's ruling – the top opposition leader is sounding increasingly confident heading into the 2012 election season.
“The government has no option. They must follow what the constitution says,” says López. “Not accepting the decision by the court [is] a sign of weakness by the government and Chávez himself…. Why not accept the ruling? It’s a sign of a weak, authoritarian regime.”
López confident of victory over Chávez
The former mayor of Chacao, a wealthy neighborhood in Caracas, insists that he will take the opposition to victory against Chávez on Oct. 7, 2012, the date set last week for the presidential election.
The allegations against López stem from the late 1990s, when his mother was in charge of state oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela’s (PDVSA) public affairs office. Part of her job was to authorize donations to charities and civic groups. One of these grants went to Primero Justicia (Justice First), a judicial reform advocacy group and political movement to which her son belonged.