“When you’re in prison, you either embrace religion or you reject it,” he said. “I embraced it; it was a very spiritual time for me.”
Capriles has visited the Virgin’s shrine every year since he got out of jail. When he formally launched his campaign, he visited the site seeking her blessing. He has vowed to return the day after he wins the presidency.
Some of Capriles’ political moves seem more inspired by faith than logic. In 2008, he ran for the governorship of Miranda — Venezuela’s second most populous state. His rival was Diosdado Cabello, Chávez’s former vice president and his hand-picked contender to carry the state. It was a race that few thought Capriles could win, yet he garnered 53 percent of the vote.
In Miranda, Capriles earned a reputation for reaching across the ideological divide. While Capriles has pledged to loosen state controls and create a business-friendly environment, he has also promised to improve the social “missions,” including free healthcare and housing, that have been the backbone of Chávez’s popularity.
In the northern state of Sucre this week, Capriles went through a laundry list of the administration’s broken promises — from new housing projects to a deep-water port — and said that he would be the one to complete them.
“To those of you who wear red shirts,” he said, referring to Chávez’s signature color, “I say, ‘Come here brother, I am going to work even harder to win your trust.’ ”
As he sat on the back of his campaign bus recently, Capriles noted that John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were in their 40s when they took office. “I think 40 is a good age to run a country,” he said. “But I’ve always been fast.”