CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles retained his state governorship on Sunday, keeping himself in prime position for a possible new run for office should President Hugo Chavez’s cancer force him out of office.
Here are some facts about him:
* Capriles, 40, beat former vice-president Elias Jaua, a heavyweight Chavez ally, to win re-election as governor of Venezuela’s second-most populous state, Miranda. The state, which includes part of Caracas, ranges from the huge Petare shantytown 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.
* In the October 7 presidential election, Capriles was the candidate of the Democratic Unity coalition, which groups 20 or so parties and organizations making up the bulk of Venezuela’s opposition. He lost, but received 45 percent of the votes and would hope to be the opposition’s candidate at any new vote.
* In Miranda, the charismatic and energetic governor is known for riding a motorcycle and heading into slums to supervise projects and talk to working-class voters. On the campaign trail before October’s election, he visited hundreds of towns and villages, seeking to project an image of energy, youth and attention to grassroots problems.
* Some say Capriles deliberately has cultivated an almost Chavez-like image of being on the street and in constant contact with the poor. While campaigning, he blows kisses and pumps his fist in a Chavez-like, man-of-the-people style.
* Capriles’s maternal grandparents, the Radonskis, fled anti-Semitism in Poland and arrived in Venezuela with just a suitcase stuffed with clothes. Two great-grandparents died in the Treblinka 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. He downs Red Bulls to keep his energy up.
* 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 the charges could one day be revived.
* If he were to lead Venezuela, Capriles says, he would copy Brazil’s “modern left” model of economic and social policies. On the campaign trail earlier this year, he 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 devout 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. He receives a torrent of marriage offers via Twitter and Facebook. He says he will find his wife and start a family in his own good time.
* Though describing himself as center-left, Capriles belongs to the more conservative Primero Justicia (First Justice) party which he helped found in 2000. Foes say he is really an “ultra-right” politician, in the pay of Venezuela’s pro-U.S. traditional elite, but masquerading as a progressive.
* Government officials have targeted his wealthy background, association with conservative politicians linked to Venezuela’s pre-Chavez rulers, and his role in the Cuban embassy affair, to try to discredit him.
* If he had won the October election, Capriles would have become Venezuela’s youngest president. He often uses the slang of Venezuela’s young, and nearly always wears informal clothes and a baseball cap.
Reporting by Caracas newsroom; Editing by Sandra Maler