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Profile: Manuel Rosales

Manuel Rosales at a news conferenc in March 2009
Manuel Rosales was elected mayor of Venezuela's second city in 2008

Manuel Rosales is the most prominent leader among the fractured ranks of Venezuela's opposition, frequently attracting the ire and disdain of President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Rosales is currently in Peru where he has requested political asylum, saying corruption charges brought against him in Venezuela are politically motivated.

His decision to leave Venezuela is the latest development in a long-running feud with Mr Chavez.

In 2006, Mr Rosales was the main opposition candidate in the presidential elections, in which he was heavily defeated by President Chavez by some 62% to 36% of the votes.

At the time he was the governor of Zulia, Venezuela's richest and most populous state. Prosecutors say it was during his time as governor that he amassed illicit wealth - charges he denies.

In the 2008 local polls, Mr Rosales was elected mayor of Venezuela's second city, Maracaibo. During the campaign, Mr Chavez railed against him, threatening him with prison and accusing him of corruption and plotting to assassinate him.

"I will confront everything I must...They are aiming to politically lynch all of us who are opposed to the coronation of Chavez," Mr Rosales said at the time.

'Confusion'

The source of the political antagonism can be traced back to 2002 when Mr Chavez was briefly deposed in a short-lived coup.

Government supporters accuse Mr Rosales of backing the attempt to oust the president.

Mr Rosales has insisted that it was an honest mistake in the confusion that followed the announcement of the president's resignation.

A former teacher, Mr Rosales, 56, rose through the ranks of Accion Democratica (Democratic Action), one of the two parties that dominated Venezuelan politics for most of the second half of the 20th Century.

In 2000, Mr Rosales, who has described himself as a social democrat, founded his own centre-left party which he called Un Nuevo Tiempo - A New Era.



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