Capriles pledges support for peace talks in Colombia and distance from Iran
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles pledged to help Colombia in its peace talks with rebels and distance himself from Iran should he defeat President Hugo Chávez in an increasingly tight race ahead of Sunday's election.
The government of neighbouring Colombia is due to start talks with FARC guerrillas this month in Oslo to try to end five decades of conflict. Chavez’s government, accused by Bogotá of backing the rebels in the past, supports the talks.
That has led to speculation that an opposition victory in Venezuela on Oct. 7 could damage prospects for peace in Colombia. But Capriles denied that was the case.
A government led by us would accelerate the Colombia peace process. A progressive government in Venezuela will stop being a refuge for rebels, for armed groups, he told a news conference in Caracas on Monday.
We have a government that is an accomplice of the Colombian guerrillas. That will change.
Capriles, who has mounted the strongest electoral challenge Chávez has faced during his 14 years in power, recently met Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogotá.
The opposition candidate also said that if he won he would demand the freedom of some 30 Venezuelans kidnapped in Colombia, and end any direct contacts with the rebels so as to not confuse the negotiations.
Among the half-a-dozen or so major local pollsters, most put Chávez ahead. But Capriles has been creeping up thanks to an energetic campaign, and two surveys give him a slight edge.
The 40-year-old governor, who would be Venezuela's youngest president, also said he would steer foreign relations away from Chávez's alliances with nations such as Iran and Belarus that the West views with suspicion.
What do we have in common with Iran apart from producing oil? Or Belarus? Capriles asked. ”Isn't its president a dictator? You tell me! We honoured (late Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi twice. Are those the relations Venezuelans want? No!
Capriles said he would also try to sit down with Cuban President Raúl Castro to review the presence of more than 40,000 Cuban workers who are in Venezuela in exchange for oil supplies.
And I've told the Russian ambassador here that we are going to stop buying weapons from Russia,” he added, referring to Chávez's multibillion-dollar arms purchases from Moscow.