June 19, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's national electoral council has dealt a setback to President Hugo Chavez's foes by tentatively accepting a blacklist barring nearly 400 potential candidates - most from the opposition.
German Yepez, one of the council's five directors, said the agency decided Wednesday to abide by the anti-corruption blacklist drawn up by the government's top anti-graft official, Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian.
None of the potential candidates has been formally charged with a crime, but Russian says the law bars people from seeking office while facing corruption probes.
The ban affects some of the opposition's most prominent leaders ahead of November's state and local elections - the first major round of voting since Chavez suffered his only setback at the ballot box in a December referendum that would have ended presidential term limits.
Yepez said the council decided it will not register the candidates unless the Supreme Court rules they can run, but it urged the court to "quickly decide" on the appeals of people on the list of banned candidates.
But he said the council will review the list of 371 candidates because it believes that about 100 of them may no longer face restrictions since their disqualification periods have expired.
Opposition candidates on the list have led protests and asked the Supreme Court to throw out Russian's list, which they say was drawn up for political reasons.
One of the disqualified politicians, Caracas mayoral hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, said Wednesday night that he plans to fight the blacklist. Lopez was traveling on Thursday to Mexico, where he plans to bring up the issue at a meeting of mayors. He said he will also take the matter before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.