Court clears Venezuela candidate to challenge Chavez

September 17, 2011 03:57


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CARACAS - A Venezuelan opposition leader was cleared by an international court on Friday to run against President Hugo Chavez in 2012, a ruling sure to heat up the race to lead Latin America's top oil exporting country.

Centrist candidate Leopoldo Lopez had been banned from campaigning by Venezuelan authorities who accuse him of corruption, but the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in his favor.

"We are cleared to run!" a beaming Lopez shouted to supporters at a rally after the ruling where he promised to unite the opposition.

The court is part of the Organization of American States, or OAS, and its decisions are supposed to be binding. But Venezuela's government said the Lopez ruling was politically motivated and it may still keep the Harvard-educated politician out of the presidential campaign.

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