Making him the latest in a long list of Venezuelan politicians denied the ability to challenge Hugo Chavez, Leopoldo López, the former mayor of Chacao, had his presidential hopes dashed this week when the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that he cannot hold a public office until after 2014 due to pending corruption charges against him that López argues were fabricated in order to impede his campaign.
The court maintains that López is not being denied his rights “because it is only an administrative ineligibility and not a political one.” Chief Justice Luisa Estella Morales clarified the ruling by explaining that López (and the hundreds of other politicians who face similar barriers) can still campaign; he just can’t hold the office should he win.
The decision comes a mere month after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that López’s candidacy should be allowed. Not surprisingly, Chavez quickly discounted the ruling, calling it “worthless” and charging that it “protects the corrupt and obeys the mandate of the (U.S.) imperial power and the bourgeoisie.”
López is a respected politician with a Harvard education and a wide fan base that caused him to win 81 percent of the votes during his mayoral bid in 2000. This has led some observers to the conclusion that Chavez might have something to fear in López. And he should. During his time as mayor, López was known for instituting judicial reforms to prevent crime and provide greater security. After allegations were first brought against him, López himself stated, “Why do they announce these cases now? Because I can win elections.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, López has announced that he still plans to run for president, valiantly stating, “Those who think that they are going to force us to kneel down while they try to snatch our rights are wrong.”