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Chavez, Rival Tied Ahead of Venezuela Election, Poll Shows

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks during a televised speech, backdropped by a framed image of Venezuela's independence hero Simon Bolivar, at an undisclosed location in Havana. Photographer: Marcelo Garcia/Miraflores Press Office/AP

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is locked in a statistical tie with his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski seven months before presidential elections, according to a poll by Consultores 21.

Chavez was favored by 46 percent of those surveyed compared with 45 percent for Capriles, said Saul Cabrera, vice president of the Caracas-based pollster. Another 9 percent of the 2,000 people polled between March 3 and 13 were undecided, Cabrera said today in an interview.

Chavez, who is battling cancer, had 47.3 percent support in a December poll by Consultores 21. That was before Capriles won a primary to select a single opposition candidate to oppose Chavez in the October vote and before the president underwent a third cancer operation in less than a year.

“Capriles received a boost after the primary,” Cabrera said in a phone interview. “The initial boost of sympathy for the president because of his health issues may dissipate as voters decide who’s best to lead over the next six years.”

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points, Cabrera said.

The 57-year-old former paratrooper is facing his toughest election to date during his 13-year presidency as radiation therapy to treat his undisclosed type of cancer will limit his ability to campaign. Capriles, 39, has began to tour the country in what he’s calling a “door-to-door” campaign to attract disenfranchised government supporters.

‘Engaged Voters’

The Consultores poll shows that when surveying the 72.5 percent “most engaged voters,” Chavez’s support rises to 51 percent versus Capriles’ 45 percent, with 4 percent saying they’re undecided.

Should Chavez be unfit to run in the October elections, Capriles would beat all four of the government officials best positioned to succeed the president, the poll shows.

Venezuelan bonds have rallied this year, returning 22 percent year-to-date as investors see an increased probability of a political change that may reverse Chavez’s socialist policies that have fueled inflation and dried up foreign investment.

The yield on Venezuela’s 9.25 percent benchmark bonds due in 2027 has fallen 265 basis points, or 2.65 percentage points, this year to 10.43 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Against Capriles’ 49 percent, Chavez’s brother Adan and vice president Elias Jaua would get 40 percent of the vote, foreign minister Nicolas Maduro would get 39 percent and head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, would win 38 percent, according to the poll.

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