CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has banned a second opposition member, former mayor Vicencio Scarano, from holding public office for a year, meaning he will not be able to run in December’s parliamentary election.
The measure against Scarano, jailed last year for failing to clear street barricades in his San Diego town during protests against President Nicolas Maduro, followed a similar move this week against another opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado.
The socialist government says hardline activists are paying the price for criminal activities, including stoking violence and coup plots. But the opposition says Maduro is carrying out a political witch hunt ahead of a vote that he is afraid of losing.
With an economic crisis weighing heavily on the electorate, the ruling “Chavista” movement, named for Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez who ruled between 1999-2013, is forecast by pollsters to lose the National Assembly in the Dec. 6 vote.
That could embolden the opposition to seek a recall referendum in 2016, as allowed under the constitution half-way through a presidential term, to try to oust Maduro.
Scarano, 52, who had been allowed to serve the end of his 10-month sentence at home earlier this year, announced the move against him by publishing a letter from the comptroller’s office on his Twitter account @enzoscarano.
“The systematic violation of my human rights continues,” he said. “I am going to appeal this arbitrary decision.”
The precise reason for the ban was unclear.
The comptroller’s office, which has in the past disqualified candidates from holding public office for alleged corruption, did not immediately respond to requests for more information.
Machado, accused of disclosure failures in her wealth declaration, has said she will run for parliament anyway in December, regardless of the ban.
“What’s coming, Nicolas Maduro and your corrupt elite, is a historic popular defeat,” wrote opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Twitter, offering his support to Scarano.
“Not even with the comptroller’s office can you avoid it.”
Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ken Wills