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Governor latest opposition leader targeted in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Friday that a government agency has banned him from seeking office for 15 years. The governor of Miranda state, who came within a whisker of defeating President Nicolas Maduro in 2013 elections, is the latest in a number of prominent opposition politicians to be targeted by the embattled socialist government. Among the others:

— LEOPOLDO LOPEZ: Venezuela’s most-famous political prisoner was arrested in 2014 and later sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison on what are widely seen as trumped-up charges of inciting violence tied to 2014 anti-government protests. His Popular Will party, which President Maduro calls a terrorist organization, asserts that more than 260 of its members have either been detained, charged or face harassment related to their political activity.

— ANTONIO LEDEZMA: The mayor of Caracas was arrested in February 2015 for allegedly being part of a U.S.-backed plot to topple Maduro. Three months later, he was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial.

— MIGUEL HENRIQUE OTERO: The editor of El Nacional, the last remaining national newspaper critical of the government, was barred from leaving Venezuela in 2015 after the powerful head of the socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, sued him for slander for republishing an article from the Spanish newspaper ABC accusing him of ties to drug cartels. Otero, who was outside of the country when the court order was issued, runs the seven-decade-old newspaper from exile in Spain. Several other media executives were charged in the same case.

— MARIA CORINA MACHADO: The most-voted-for lawmaker in Venezuela’s 2010 congressional elections, Machado was stripped of office in 2014, had her passport taken and was barred from competing in elections the following year. She still faces charges of conspiracy.

— DANIEL CEBALLOS: The former student activist was jailed in 2014 during the wave of anti-government protests that had as its epicenter the restive western city of San Cristobal, where he was mayor.

— MANUEL ROSALES: The former governor and presidential candidate was arrested in 2015 upon his return from exile in Peru, where he fled to escape charges of stealing public funds that he says were politically motivated. He is currently under house arrest awaiting trial.


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