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In Venezuela, top Chávez rival sounds confident note after key court victory

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“The government has no option. They must follow what the constitution says,” says López. “Not accepting the decision by the court [is] a sign of weakness by the government and Chávez himself…. Why not accept the ruling? It’s a sign of a weak, authoritarian regime.”

López confident of victory over Chávez

The former mayor of Chacao, a wealthy neighborhood in Caracas, insists that he will take the opposition to victory against Chávez on Oct. 7, 2012, the date set last week for the presidential election.

The allegations against López stem from the late 1990s, when his mother was in charge of state oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela’s (PDVSA) public affairs office. Part of her job was to authorize donations to charities and civic groups. One of these grants went to Primero Justicia (Justice First), a judicial reform advocacy group and political movement to which her son belonged.

PDVSA was – and still is – widely known for its corruption. While López’s case was never brought to trial, popular opinion may associate him with the old guard of Venezuelan politics.

Verdict's wider impact

The verdict may have wider ramifications. Venezuela is not the only Latin American nation with similar laws that bar citizens from standing for office without granting them fair trial.

“There are eight [countries] on the continent that have disqualification as part of their legal framework so a decision in our favor will have an impact in the continent,” López says.

One of these nations is Colombia, where nearly 500 candidates that were hoping to run in this month’s municipal elections have been banned from doing so, many without fair trial.

López believes next year’s elections could be a turning point in Venezuela, not just a change of government but the dawn of a new era, a succession of governments that will improve his country.

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