Chavez, Capriles Trade Barbs in Venezuela Campaign Stops

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski said President Hugo Chavez has nothing left to offer the country after almost 14 years in power and the Oct. 7 election will be a choice between the “future and more of the same.”

Capriles, 40, toured Cojedes state today as part of his town-by-town campaign, and said residents complained of deteriorating public services, violence and unemployment.

“This government has nothing new to offer the country, 14 years are enough,” Capriles said in a speech broadcast on Globovision and also carried by state television. “This is a choice between a people that want to progress and a government that wants to stay in power.”

Capriles has broadened his strategy since the official start of the campaign on July 1 by visiting several towns in a state in a day after calling on residents house-by-house following his landslide win in a February primary election. The former governor of Miranda state said that he would strengthen the government’s current social programs.

Little Red Riding Hood

Chavez, who campaigned today in the oil-producing state of Anzoategui in an attempt to persuade voters that his battle with cancer hasn’t diminished his vitality, urged thousands of supporters not to trust opposition promises that they would maintain social spending in the South American country.

“They’re trying to play the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood that dresses up as the grandmother,” Chavez said today in a speech carried on state television. “The bourgeois campaign is the campaign of lies. It’s the most hypocritical one that I’ve ever seen.”

Chavez, who spoke for about two hours and wore a blue jacket more typical of the color often worn by Capriles supporters, sang folk songs and quoted Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Venezuela will maintain an “expansive” fiscal policy in its 2013 budget, he said.

Venezuela’s economy grew 5.6 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, the fastest rate in almost four years, as the government increases public spending and imports ahead of the elections. The country’s money supply has risen 53 percent in the last 12 months on the back of outlays, while annual inflation stood at 21.3 percent in June.

“I’m not just me anymore, I am the people,” said Chavez. “Don’t underestimate the adversary, no matter how much of a loser he is.”

Electoral Council

Chavez, 57, said July 9 that he’s “totally free” of a cancer whose exact type and location he’s refused to reveal. The comment echoes similar remarks in October 2011 that he later retracted after the discovery of a second tumor in February saw him travel to Cuba for surgery and radiation treatment.

Venezuela’s electoral council will ask the Chavez and Capriles campaigns to sign a formal agreement to accept the results of the election, Tibisay Lucena, head of the electoral organization known as CNE, said today on state television.

The proposal, which the CNE will present to both campaigns next week, will also ask the candidates to agree to abide by the Venezuelan constitution and all electoral laws, said Lucena.

“I’ll sign it today,” said Chavez. Capriles said on July 9 that he would accept the results of the vote.

Recent opinion polls have varied widely. Chavez had 45.9 percent support against 45.8 percent for Capriles in a Consultores 21 poll of 1,000 people taken between June 15 and June 26. The survey had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points. In a June poll by Caracas-based Datanalisis, Chavez had a 14 percentage-point lead.

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