Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez will personally go to register his candidacy for the October 7 election on Monday, officials said, brushing aside rumors he might be too unwell from cancer or considering a successor.Chavez, 57, is after re-election despite a year-long battle against an unspecified cancer.
“A sea of people will join our candidate, the candidate of the fatherland” his campaign chief Jorge Rodriguez told reporters on announcing plans for rallies in Caracas.
Chavez’s rival, young state governor Henrique Capriles, is the opposition’s best hope for defeating him at the ballot box in the last 13 years, but is trailing in the polls.
Capriles, 39, plans to march 14 kilometers with supporters on Sunday to register his candidacy with the national election board in downtown Caracas.
Since his recurrence of cancer in February, Chavez has seldom been seen in public, preferring to communicate in phone calls to state media or via Twitter.
After three operations to remove two cancerous tumors, the populist president says he is recovering but there are constant rumors that he has a life-threatening condition.
That fuelled speculation over how Chavez would register his candidacy – traditionally a tumultuous public show – while not exposing to impressions of physical weakness.
“How many kilometers is Chavez going to walk? Let’s leave that to the candidate. Remember he’s a parachutist, maybe he’ll jump from a parachute!” joked Rodriguez.
Capriles held a rally on Wednesday to hand over the running of Miranda state while he focuses on his presidential tilt.
“A woman from the other (ruling) party told me the other day ‘hey, skinny, I’m going to tell you something – you have the look of a president’,” he said to roars from supporters.
Trying to breach a double-digit gap with Chavez in most surveys by Venezuela’s best-known pollsters, Capriles is promising to replace Chavez’s radical left-wing populism with a Brazilian-style “modern left” government.
He says he will end the controversial nationalizations that have characterized Chavez’s rule – and cowed the private sector – while maintaining his wildly popular social welfare policies.
Upping the rhetoric, Capriles turned one of Chavez’s main accusations against the opposition – that they are flag bearers of the “bourgeoisie” – back on him.
“They criticize and talk of the oligarchy, and the bourgeoisie and all that. It’s they who are stuck in their bourgeois ways inside a palace they don’t come out of,” said Capriles, who has contrasted his “house-by-house” campaign tour of Venezuela with Chavez’s avoidance of the streets.