Venezuelan opposition leader says party to decide his primary candidacy

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CARACAS – Two-time former Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles placed the future of his candidacy in limbo on Sunday, saying he would let his party decide if it wanted to replace him because of his political disqualification.

Capriles is one of three candidates running in the Oct. 22 primary who is barred by the Venezuelan government from holding public office.

“The reality is that I keep facing political disqualification that makes me decide that I can’t continue with this electoral race,” Capriles said in a statement on social media platforms Instagram and X.

It will be up to the “bases that elected me in my party” to decide the future of his candidacy, he added.

It was unclear if his Justice First party will choose another candidate to replace him, or if it can decide to continue with his candidacy.

A possible withdrawal by Capriles, a 51-year-old lawyer, had been anticipated in some local media for weeks, in part because his campaign was not taking off in the polls and his political star seems to have waned following previous attempts to become president.

Capriles has repeatedly said opposition unity is the only way to defeat President Nicolas Maduro in the 2024 presidential elections. The head of state has not yet formalized his candidacy, but it is widely believed he will seek reelection.

Capriles did not express support for any other candidate on Sunday, but reiterated his call for unity.

“Unity is our biggest strength and together we are capable of overcoming whatever obstacle appears in our path,” Capriles said.

María Corina Machado, a 57-year-old industrial engineer, leads the primary polls with more than 40%, while her closest rivals barely touch 10%.

Machado, like Capriles, is prohibited from seeking elected office under a decision by the Controller General, seen by critics as an arm of Maduro’s government.

The opposition has not said how it will proceed if the winner of the primary is barred from holding office. REUTERS

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