Venezuelan party picks presidential contender

AP News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2011 5:11 PM
Venezuelan party picks presidential contender

One of Venezuela's main opposition parties announced its candidate Wednesday to compete in a February primary that will choose a single presidential candidate to face President Hugo Chavez in next year's election.

The party Un Nuevo Tiempo said it will be backing Pablo Perez, the governor of western Zulia state and a longtime ally of the party's leader, former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales.

Rosales announced the choice in a televised speech from an undisclosed location. Rosales, also a former governor of Zulia state, lost to Chavez in the last election in 2006 and has been in exile in Peru for two years after being accused of corruption. Rosales insists he is innocent.

Rosales said he decided not to return to compete in the primary because he fears he could be jailed. He said if he were to come back, he would become a "factor of distraction."

A survey by the polling firm Datanalisis last month said that Perez, 42, had the third highest support among opposition politicians, after Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles and former Caracas district mayor Leopoldo Lopez.

At least five opposition politicians have confirmed plans to compete in a primary Feb. 12. The presidential vote is expected in late 2012, but a date has not yet been set.