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Venezuela high court rules opposition candidate ineligible to run for president

The Supreme Court of Venezuela [official website, in Spanish] ruled [judgment, in Spanish] Monday that presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez remains banned from running in next year's elections. Lopez, an opposition leader, is considered to be a threat [Bloomberg report] to current President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. As a result of corruption allegations, he was banned from public office through 2014 by the country's comptroller general. However, a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] restored Lopez's political right to run for office. Monday's decision by the high court has again revoked this right. In a statement [text, in Spanish], the court summarized its reasons for overturning the decision of the IACHR. Among these was its belief that, where the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights [text]—which created the IACHR and defines the human rights which the ratifying States, including Venezuela, have agreed to respect and ensure—conflict with those in the respective country's constitution, that conflict must be resolved by the high court.

Last month, Chavez criticized the IACHR [JURIST report] for ruling in favor of Lopez. Chavez called the ruling politically motivated [CSM report]. He further claimed that the Costa Rica-based international court is part of a system that protects corrupt behavior and is influenced by the US and the wealthy. The Venezuelan presidential primary election, where voters will select an opposition leader to challenge Chavez, will be held in February, and the presidential election will be held in October 2012. This is not the first time the Venezuelan government and the IACHR have disagreed. In June 2010, the IACHR sent a letter to the Venezuelan government expressing concern [JURIST report] over the increasing threat to freedom of expression [press release] in the country, citing three recent cases that caused particular concern. In February 2010, the IACHR released a report [JURIST report] providing a detailed analysis on the state of human rights in Venezuela, which ultimately concluded that not all citizens are ensured full enjoyment of their basic human rights. The top Venezuelan human rights official criticized the report [JURIST report] and said that the report makes unfair characterizations and undermines Venezuelan democracy.

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