Some 10,000 Venezuelans protested in Caracas July 12 to demand the country’s supreme court overturn a “blacklist”—or “inhabilitación política”—barring several opponents of President Hugo Chávez from running in upcoming state and municipal elections. Chanting “freedom!” and waving Venezuelan flags, the demonstrators marched on the Supreme Justice Tribunal building, where they urged justices to strike down the list.
Unveiled in February by the country’s top anti-corruption official, Controller General Clodosbaldo Russián, the list disqualifies 272 politicians—mostly from the opposition. Venezuela’s Roman Catholic Church called the list “a measure that tarnishes the democratic environment.” More than a dozen members of the 1999 assembly that drafted the current constitution, including the president’s ex-wife Marisabel Rodríguez, accuse Russián of violating the law. Rodríguez said at the protest that Russián is “illegally excluding those who don’t share the president’s socialist agenda.”
Chávez is backing up Russián. “Now they accuse him of following my orders,” he told a rally July 11. “No, they are not my orders.” He said the protesters “should be ashamed of themselves” for defending candidates suspected of corruption and who should be headed for prison. (AP, Notimex, July 12)
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