CARACAS (Reuters) - State governor Henrique Capriles is the opposition coalition’s candidate to fight President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela’s October presidential election.
Here are some facts about him:
* The wiry Capriles, 39, is governor of Venezuela’s second-most populous state, Miranda, which includes parts of Caracas. The state ranges from the Venezuelan capital’s largest shantytown Petare to fishing villages and beaches on the Caribbean coast.
* A law graduate, Capriles became Venezuela’s youngest legislator at the age of 26, then won the mayorship of a Caracas municipality before beating a die-hard Chavez loyalist, Diosdado Cabello, to the Miranda governor’s office in 2008. He says that surprise win against a government heavyweight bodes well for his presidential duel with Chavez.
* The charismatic and energetic Capriles rides a motorbike and heads into slums most days to supervise projects and talk to working-class voters. Some say he has deliberately cultivated an almost Chavez-like image of being on the street and in constant contact with the poor.
* Capriles’ maternal grandparents, the Radonskis, fled the Nazis, arriving in Venezuela with just a suitcase stuffed with clothes. Two great-grandparents died in a concentration camp. “Imagine that some people in the Chavez government are so ignorant they actually call me a Nazi,” he says.
* His grandparents set up a lucrative cinema business in Venezuela and, through them, Capriles once met legendary Mexican comedian Mario Moreno — best known as “Cantinflas.”
* A basketball player and sports lover, Capriles says he relaxes by finding some friends for a game or going for a quiet run after dark.
* Like Chavez, Capriles has been jailed. He was imprisoned for four months on charges of fomenting a protest at the Cuban Embassy in 2002, although he says he was mediating. He was acquitted of the charges at trial, though there is chatter in political circles that they could one day be revived.
* If elected, Capriles wants to copy Brazil’s “modern left” model of economic and social policies. On the campaign trail, he has sought to appeal to traditional Chavez supporters, stressed inclusiveness rather than attacking the president, and urged Venezuelans to “get on the bus” for change.
* Despite his Jewish roots, Capriles is a practicing Catholic, who says his faith deepened in jail. He wears a rosary and likes to visit a shrine on Margarita island each year.
* The governor is single despite a torrent of marriage offers via Twitter and Facebook during his campaign for the opposition primary. He jokes that he will find his wife and start a family in his own good time.
* Though describing himself as center-left, Capriles belongs to the Primero Justicia party whose roots are right-wing.
* Government officials target his wealthy background, association with conservative politicians linked to Venezuela’s traditional elite, and his role in the Cuban Embassy affair, to try to discredit him with voters.
* Should he win, Capriles would be Venezuela’s youngest president. He projects an image of youth and energy, and nearly always wears informal clothes and a baseball cap.
* Capriles is the candidate of the Democratic Unity coalition that groups about 30 parties and organizations making up the bulk of Venezuela’s opposition.
Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Kieran Murray