CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Henrique Capriles, a youthful and energetic politician who has never lost an election, is the Venezuelan opposition's best hope in years of beating President Hugo Chavez.
The 40-year-old lawyer has campaigned nationwide, wearing a baseball cap in Venezuela's yellow, blue and red at every stop in his door-to-door bid to woo voters away from the leftist leader in today's presidential election.
Capriles has served as lawmaker, mayor and Miranda state governor in his young career. Describing himself as David fighting Goliath, he now promises to unite the country after almost 14 polarizing years under Chavez.
The telegenic bachelor nicknamed "flaquito," which means slim, attracted big crowds at rallies, even drawing hundreds of thousands of people in Caracas last Sunday.
Capriles was chosen as the opposition's standard-bearer in an unprecedented primary election in February.
"Our people still hope for change," he told AFP in an interview on Monday, accusing Chavez of being "sick with power."
The business-friendly candidate places himself on the center-left politically, though he was first elected in the chamber of deputies at the age of 26 on the center-right Christrian Democrat list.
In 2000, he was elected mayor of Baruta, a municipality in the Caracas metropolitan area, as a candidate of the Social-Christian Justice First party, which he still belongs to.
He served four months in jail after being accused of failing to stop an attack on the Cuban embassy during a 47-hour coup against Chavez in April 2002. He was acquitted of the charges and re-elected in 2004.
Capriles became governor of Miranda, a northern state, after winning the 2008 election against a Chavez loyalist, current National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello.
Born on July 11, 1972, his maternal grandmother is a Jewish Pole who survived the Holocaust, but he follows the Catholic faith.
He considers former South African president Nelson Mandela as a model to follow in Venezuela, a country divided between "Chavistas" and anti-Chavistas.
Capriles has no children and says he is still looking for his "first lady."