When Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles invoked violence Tuesday by calling on the nation's military to rebel against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the 43-year-old Miranda governor could rest assured he had the full backing of National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup.
Both long-time, right-wing opposition members have rejected the state-of-emergency declared by President Maduro to weather the nation's economic hardships, with Allup joining Capriles in arguing that the government decree removes the constitutional powers of National Assembly and undermines the Constitution.
The Venezuelan government says this is a coordinated move by the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and a ploy to destabilize the country by igniting street violence. And if anybody has precedent in this area, it is Capriles.
Who Is Henrique Capriles?
Capriles began his political career back in 1995 during the so-called Fourth Republic of Venezuela, a period characterized by the Punto Fijo Pact that came to a close with Hugo Chavez's election in 1998.
Since then, Capriles, from one of Venezuela's wealthiest families, has played a leading role against the Bolivarian Revolution but has failed to win the presidency twice, losing to both Chavez and Maduro as head of the MUD coalition in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
In 2001, Capriles created the Justice First party, which according to journalist Eva Golinger was the principal beneﬁciary of funds spent in Venezuela by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and International Republican Institute (IRI).
"All of the opposition leadership hails from the far-right, conservative, elite, white, and neoliberal sectors of society."
During the 2002 U.S.-backed coup against Chavez, Capriles lead a raid on the Cuban embassy in Caracas, which was located in the wealthy neighborhood of Baruta where Capriles was mayor until 2008.
Capriles conducted the raid with the belief that former Vice President Diosdado Cabello and other Chavez officials were hidden in the Cuban embassy, despite then Cuban Ambassador Sanchez Otero refusing them entry into the building.
Capriles and his entourage did not find anybody inside the embassy, but the vandalism by then mayor of Baruta represented a clear and flagrant violation of international law.
Capriles Against Democracy
In Capriles' latest presidential election loss to Maduro in 2013, the opposition leader immediately claimed fraud despite having no evidence for his allegations. Since then, he has conducted a campaign to overthrow President Maduro, using anti-democratic measures in a bid to usurp the Venezuelan government and democracy.
The most high-profile of these were the "guarimbas" of 2014 following the election of Maduro, which were spearheaded by now imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. These violent protests included rioting, roadblocks and barricades which resulted in the death of at least 43 people in 2014.
As Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, author of "We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution," told teleSUR in a recent interview: "Capriles himself told his followers to 'unload their fury' after he was narrowly defeated by Maduro in the 2013 election, leading to several deaths and violent attacks on government targets."
Now President Maduro is accusing Capriles of attempting to destabilize the country, which is currently suffering from one of its worst environmental and economic crisis in years. These fears are backed up by Capriles recently calling for "tanks" and "war planes" and warning that Venezuela is a "bomb that can explode at any moment."
“Clearly," says Ciccariello-Maher, "they (the opposition) are unsure if they will be able to collect the required 4 million signatures in time, and so are keeping their options open — up to and including a coup against Maduro, which is surely unconstitutional, but which they will claim is an attempt to 'rescue' the constitution itself.”
According to Professor Ciccariello-Maher, in recent years Capriles has sought to distance himself from more extreme sectors of the opposition, particularly the imprisoned Lopez. But "violence and coups are nothing new to the Venezuelan opposition, going back to the state repression of 1989 and the brief 2002 coup against Chavez."
"All of the opposition leadership hails from the far-right, conservative, elite, white, and neoliberal sectors of society," Ciccariello-Maher concludes.