Sat, Oct 06, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Election looms as Chavez, rival close poll campaigns


Venezuelans packed the streets of Caracas and other cities on Thursday to hear Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and opposition rival Henrique Capriles make their final pitches ahead of weekend elections.

As a downpour fell on Caracas, Chavez, who is seeking a new six-year term in Sunday’s presidential vote, addressed hundreds of thousands of supporters who waved flags, danced and chanted: “Ooh! Aah! Chavez won’t go!”

“You have to vote early, so that by noon victory is indisputable,” the leftist leader said as he took the stage, skipping past his covered podium to address the crowd under the rain on the last day of official campaigning.

“Wake up at 3am, drink a good coffee, chocolate, eat breakfast and everybody vote for the future, life ... vote for Chavez,” said the 58-year-old president, who has led Venezuela for almost 14 years.

While Chavez remains the odds-on favorite to win, Capriles has given the former paratrooper his biggest election challenge.

Capriles cut the president’s lead by half to 10 points over the past four months, accusing Chavez of dividing the country while failing to curb a crime wave, end food shortages and provide proper housing to millions.

Chavez says Capriles represents a corrupt, far-right old guard that would take the country backward by undoing his socialist agenda.

Rosa Castro, 50, a dog groomer with a Chavez tattoo on her back, said the president deserved a new term to continue his leftist policies.

“This country used to be down, we are just starting to get up on our feet,” she said, waving a flag that read “Chavez, heart of my nation.”

Capriles, a 40-year-old former Miranda state governor, took his door-to-door campaign to the states of Cojedes, Apure and Lara.

“Nobody must forget to vote and every one of you must also bring other people to vote,” Capriles told supporters in San Carlos, in the western state of Cojedes.

“End the divisions, the confrontations and the fights,” he said in the southwestern state of Apure.

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