Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski addressed thousands of supporters today as the official campaign period ended before the Oct. 7 election.
Chavez spoke for about 30 minutes while supporters packed as many as seven main avenues in downtown Caracas under heavy rains that left his clothing completely drenched.
“I won’t talk long because of the circumstances,” said Chavez, who also sang and danced on the wet stage. “I’m here, just as I said I would be. Thanks to you and thanks to God.”
The former paratrooper, who is recovering from three cancer surgeries over the 15 months, has picked up the pace of his campaign in the last week by holding rallies in about one-third of the country in order to win a “knock out” victory over Capriles. Chavez, 58, asked his supporters to wake up and vote early so that a victory would be “unquestionable by noon.”
Crowds chanted as Chavez sang the national anthem, and confetti was released as his speech ended. He changed his clothes before getting on a truck to caravan through crowds in the capital.
‘David against Goliath’
Capriles, the 40-year-old former governor of Miranda state, filled a stadium in the city of Barquisimeto in central Lara state, spoke for 55 minutes, thanked his supporters and said Chavez’s government was “tired” after almost 14 years.
“President Chavez, your time is over, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me the direction to take, it’s love not hate, light not darkness,” Capriles said. “You were a good contender without a doubt, you abused of your position of authority, but this was always a spiritual fight, David against Goliath, and we all know David wins.”
Chavez is facing his stiffest electoral challenge to date in his race to defeat Capriles, who has widened his lead to almost 5 percentage points in a poll conducted by Consultores 21 ahead of the Oct. 7 vote.
Capriles had 51.8 percent support against 47.2 percent for Chavez among Venezuelans who said they’re sure to vote, the Caracas-based company’s vice president Saul Cabrera said today. Other polls show Chavez with an advantage of about ten percentage points.
Bonds Rally This Year
The close election and speculation that Chavez’s illness may force him to step down before 2019 if he wins has caused Venezuelan bonds to rally this year, returning 30 percent year-to-date, the most among major emerging market economies, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global index.
The yield on the government’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 rose 4 basis points, or 0.04 percentage point to 10.53 percent at 4:35 p.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bond’s price fell 0.24 cents to 90.49 cents on the dollar.