Venezuelan president Chávez’s colossal rallies look set to win him the upcoming election
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez staged a major rally in capital Caracas on Thursday, 4th October, to solidify his support in the country’s tightest presidential race in over a decade.
Hundreds of thousands of supporters stood in the pouring rain, dressed in red shirts pledging their votes. Success in the upcoming Sunday election would carry Chávez into his third term in power since 1998.
His rival, 40-year-old lawyer Henrique Capriles, promises to create jobs and build roads and schools. He staged a similar but smaller rally on Sunday, 30th September, in the north-western city of Barquisimeto to finish his campaign. Despite huge turnouts of support at Capriles’ various rallies, he is still significantly behind in the polls for the vote that shall take place this coming Sunday.
Chávez has appeared less in the public eye this year due to a battle with cancer. However, he put on a robust display that included leading a chorus of the national anthem, bringing his family on stage to large applause, dancing and playing air guitar. He addressed the crowd: “We are playing for life. In our hands we will not lose the fatherland, we will not lose the future of the fatherland.”
Critics of Chávez blame his poor management for the country’s declining infrastructure and growing security and economic concerns. During his campaign, Capriles voiced criticism that Chávez has run out of energy over his long rule: “Fourteen years is enough, 20 is too much.”
Addressing his critics while speaking at another rally last Sunday, Chávez continued a new habit of speaking about himself in third person: “I have made many mistakes, but I am here with all my soul. Chávez is not me. Chávez is the people. Chávez will not fail you the next term … during the next term he will be a better president, more efficient, a better companion.”
Supporters of the current president claim no former leader of the country has done so much to help the country’s poor, transforming the lives and prospects of many inhabitants.
Although some believe Capriles could still be victorious on Sunday, poll figures suggest Chávez will win the election. Considering the unusual closeness of the two candidates, many fear a president coming to power with only a slight victory will cause outbreaks of violence. In response to the unease, presidential aides say Chávez will accept the result of the vote, no matter the outcome.