Venezuela’s opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski filled the baseball stadium of President Hugo Chavez’s favorite team yesterday in a rally marking the close of his campaign in the central state of Carabobo.
Capriles supporters packed the stands and field of the Jose Bernardo Perez stadium in the state capital Valencia, the home of the Navegantes del Magallanes baseball team with seating capacity of 15,000 people, waving flags and holding umbrellas under a light rain.
“The president is like a pitcher whose arm is tired,” Capriles said in a speech carried on Globovision Network. “We need a new one with a fresh arm to win the game.”
Capriles is holding large rallies in 20 states during 11 days to close his campaign that has seen him visit more than 250 towns and build momentum after making house-to-house visits to offer his message of unity, progress and private investment. Capriles is ahead in several polls while trailing by as much as 15 percentage points in others as he tries to unseat Chavez on Oct. 7.
“They say that if I win that I’ll take away benefits, but the only one who has expropriated things from you is this government,” Capriles said. “After visiting all around our Venezuela, I don’t have a doubt that we will win.”
The speech ended with the crowd tossing confetti all around and a firework display.
Capriles, a 40-year-old former governor of Miranda, has played up his youth and fitness to offer a stark contrast to the condition of his 58-year-old opponent who is coming off three operations related to an unknown cancer in the past 15 months.
Chavez says he’s recovered from his illness and prepared to win by “knock out” extending his near 14-year rule through 2019.
The president often talks about his support for one of Venezuela’s top baseball clubs, Magallanes, and recalls his aspirations to pitch for the team when he was younger.
Capriles, who is from Caracas, supports the eternal rival of Magallanes, the Leones de Caracas.
“Not even in a Caracas-Magallanes game have there been so many people,” Capriles told the crowd yesterday.
At an evening news conference in Caracas, the president remained upbeat and buoyant.
“Chavez will win on Oct. 7,” the president told reporters. “It’s impossible for them to win.”