Venezuelan presidential campaign already heating up

Hugo chavez

REPORTING FROM CARACAS –- Venezuelans quickly got a taste of how nasty this year’s presidential campaign will be, as President Hugo Chavez speaking at a function in eastern Bolivar state on Wednesday, launched various broadsides at Henrique Capriles, winner of Sunday’s opposition primary.

“He is the anti-homeland candidate, capitalism’s candidate, the Yanquis’ candidate,” Chavez said, again hinting, as he has numerous times in recent months, that a change in government after the Oct. 7 election could bring chaos. “We are the guarantors of stability in this country, they are the ones of instability.”

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ordered the opposition to turn over voting registries to the national electoral commission that the united anti-Chavez factions had promised to destroy so as to protect the identities of those who turned out at the polls.

The promise was made in response to widespread fears among anti-Chavistas  that Chavez opponents would be blackballed from government jobs and contracts. On Wednesday, Chavez denied any such allegations. “Stop using those fallacious arguments. Here there is no persecution.”

The court ordered police on Tuesday to seize records of some of the 3 million votes cast, after mayoral candidate Rafael Velasquez in Yaracuy state disputed the result. But the records already had been destroyed. El Universal newspaper reported that the president of the court then ruled that those responsible for the records now are subject to arrest.

The Capriles camp claims that Chavez is using state-controlled media to smear their candidate. In a blog posting on National Radio of Venezuela, a state-controlled station, the writer accused Capriles, who is born of Jewish parents but who is a practicing Catholic, of “representing our worst enemy, Zionism.”

On the TV show called La Hojilla broadcast over government channel Venezuelan TV, host Mario Silva in recent weeks frequently has described Capriles, a bachelor, as gay.

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-- Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul

Photo: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets supporters Wednesday in Ciudad Bolivar. Credit: Associated Press / Miraflores Press Office 

 
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