Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has mocked President
Hugo Chavez's grandiose presidential campaign pledges, even as thousands
of Chavez supporters thronged the streets of the capital Caracas.
Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, said the socialist leader was
more interested in promoting his self-styled revolution around the
globe than in addressing local issues such as power cuts, unemployment
and high crime rates.
Speaking on Saturday at a presidential campaign rally in southern
Bolivar state, Capriles brandished the proposals by Chavez's campaign in
a leaflet bearing the slogan "The Candidate of the Fatherland".
"I invite you all to read this. This is what the government is
interested in: ... 'guarantee world peace, preserve the life of the
planet and save the human species,'" he said to laughs and jeers from
"They want to take this revolution, this political project, to other
countries, and use our resources to finance it. ... I don't see anything
about solving the problems with electricity, the problems with water,
with public services."
Chavez, who has helped to support leftist governments in Latin
America and elsewhere, is seeking a fresh six-year term in a close race
ahead of the October 7 presidential election.
The 58-year-old, who has undergone cancer surgery three times since
June 2011, remains very popular with many in the country's poor majority
thanks to heavy state spending on social development projects, as well
as his own humble roots.
For the first time, however, he is facing a particularly energetic
candidate in Capriles, who is backed by a united opposition coalition
that has waged a tireless campaign, criss-crossing Venezuela for months.
'Social missions' stressed
In the capital Caracas on Saturday, thousands of Chavez supporters
took to the streets, stressing his social programmes as the main reason
behind their support.
Throngs of marchers, decked out in the ruling party's signature
red-coloured clothing, walked through downtown Caracas toward Plaza
O'Leary, chanting boisterously: "Hi Ho. Chavez is not going to go."
"We are here defending the [social] missions, which are the most
humble thing, the most human thing, President Chavez's love," shouted
one unnamed youth on VTV state television, which broadcast the event in
The country is highly polarised between the two camps and earlier
this month the Carter Center, a human rights organisation founded by
former US president Jimmy Carter, urged the two candidates to ease
tensions so as to avert post-election violence.
Chavez himself was not at the event, but he reached out to supporters
via Twitter, saying thanks "for so much love ... Bravo for the [social]
The president is currently leading the country's best-known opinion
polls, but the results of said surveys are often controversial. Both
sides have discounted unfavourable polls and insist that their candidate
Late on Friday, Chavez said the opposition planned to cry fraud and
would try to destabilise the country - whatever the result of the vote.
"They are getting ready to cry fraud and reject the people's triumph.
I advise them not to dare," he told a rally in the western mountain
city of Merida. "I urge the rational, serious, democratic members of the
right to take control."
The campaign has so far been more peaceful than some Venezuelans had
feared, but there remains the risk of a more serious confrontation -
possibly over a count contested by either side.