August 05, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a list barring hundreds of candidates suspected of corruption from running in elections is constitutional, despite complaints that it singles out opponents of President Hugo Chavez.
The list _ released by the country's top anti-corruption official in February _ prevents 272 mostly opposition-aligned politicians from running in November's state and municipal elections.
Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian, a close Chavez ally, argued Venezuelan law gives him the right to impose restrictions on potential candidates suspected of corruption.
But opposition leaders said the ban violated Venezuela's constitution, which upholds the political rights of all citizens unless they have been charged with a crime and sentenced by a court. None of those on the list have been sentenced.
Responding to a judicial action to declare the ban unconstitutional, the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber on Tuesday upheld the contested article of a law that enabled the action.
The decision was published in statement on the court's Web site.
Russian told Venezuela's state television station on Tuesday that he believes the court's decision is the "final point" in the opposition's attempt to defeat the measure.
But a lawyer representing Leopoldo Lopez _ the popular mayor of a Caracas municipality who is blocked from running _ said not all is lost.
Enrique Sanchez Falcon told Globovision television that they are waiting for the complete text of the decision before making an announcement.
"We need to get an exact sense of the decision," the lawyer said, adding that Lopez still has two judicial actions before the Supreme Court that could overturn the ban preventing him from running for mayor of Caracas.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores backed the court's decision, saying it reflected "citizens' desire to fight against impunity" in corruption cases.