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Venezuela’s opposition leader and two-times presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said on Friday he has been banned from holding public office for 15 years – the latest escalation in the crackdown on dissent by the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro.

“I inform the country and the international public opinion that I am being notified right now that of a 15 year disqualification,” Mr Capriles said on Twitter. He currently occupies the position of the governor of the state of Miranda, and last year spearheaded a campaign for a constitutionally-allowed referendum to oust Mr Maduro.

The campaign was squashed by electoral judges loyal to the government. Over the past week Mr Capriles, who heads one of the country’s main opposition parties, Primero Justicia, has been a vocal critic of an abortive power grab on the opposition-controlled legislature by the government-controlled Supreme Court.

He has called the attempt as a “coup d’etat”, and asked Venezuelans to take to the streets. Protesters demanding the resignation of the court judges, early elections, and the release of jailed dissidents clashed with security forces on Tuesday and Thursday. One person was killed by a gunshot during the unrest.

Amid a dire economic crisis and with the word “dictatorship” increasingly on Venezuelans’ lips, Mr Capriles has called for further demonstrations on Saturday. Tomás Guanipa, a lawmaker with Mr Capriles party tweeted the ban on Mr Capriles “is another demonstration that this is a dictatorial government.”

Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organisation of American State, criticised the move by Venezuelan authorities: “This is the typical measure of a dictatorship that violates civil and political rights.”

Leopoldo López, another leading dissenter, has been locked up since 2014.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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