HC: There’s not a single good minister in this government. Each one is worse than the next. It’s a fight to see who’s the least worse. But there are many workers, who might not be in positions of responsibility, but are in middle management, who are going to have an opportunity…Let me be clear: In order to have a country of progress we need everyone. That’s key. Right now, we’re living the consequences of a Chávez administration that tries to impose its will and excludes half of all Venezuelans.
MH: Who do you look up to? Who are your political role models?
HC: Because of the country’s situation, I identify with people like [former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson] Mandela. I’m also religious so I look up to Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa and Gandhi. I like that style. I am a pacifist...But I am a follower of the Brazilian model...a country with a very deep social vision but an open economy. Our model is the worst of all: We scare away investors…But if we can create a climate of confidence then we’ll see a lot of national and international investment here.
MH: What’s your message to Venezuelans who have left the country and are in Miami or Colombia?
HC: There are two types of Venezuelans living abroad, those who went looking for opportunity and those who went because they were accused of corruption. Those who want to return but have open charges in Venezuela, they need to face justice, because I am going to fight impunity. But those who left looking for an opportunity, and still have their hearts in Venezuela, we are going to generate the conditions so they can return.
MH: What are your first priorities if you take office?
HC: Security; security and generating employment. Then we can look at electricity, water, infrastructure, roads and public transportation. We need to build many schools…There are four million Venezuelan children not in the school system. People always ask me what my first action is going to be as president, but I am not going to take just one action I have to take many. If I take just one, we’re in trouble.
MH: Realistically, how long will it take to see improved security? [Venezuela has the highest homicide rate in South America.]
HC: You’ll see the change in the first year….We need changes across the board: in the jails and courts, we need better and better-paid police. We need prevention, culture, sports, better lighting in public spaces, gun control. We need all those things to begin feeling the change in security.
Capriles to U.S.: Don’t ignore us
MH: If you had a message for the United States what would it be?
HC: The United States has made a mistake by not looking toward Latin America, it’s always very focused on what’s happening in other parts of the world. Latin America is important now, and it’s important that the United States has a relationship of equals with the region. There was so much expectation when [Barack] Obama came into power but I think the bureaucracy ate him up.
MH: What type of vice president will you be looking for?
HC: Probably someone different than me, someone who is older and is strong on the organizational front. Because I am going to be the one on the street, that’s what I like to do….I am what in the United States you would call a workaholic. I have never worked for less than 12 hours a day, every day of the week.
MH: In that sense you’re like Chávez.
HC: But I am 18 years younger. He’s tired and I’m just getting started.
Questions and answers were edited for clarity.