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Venezuela candidates rally voters

Chavez's chosen "son" Maduro and rival Capriles race make last-ditch appeals at mass rallies before Sunday's election.

Last Modified: 12 Apr 2013 00:33
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Nicolas Maduro is the favourite candidate for the election [Gabriel Elizondo]

Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro and his opposition rival, Henrique Capriles, have wrapped up their campaign to replace Hugo Chavez on the anniversary of a failed coup against the late leader.

One month after Chavez died, Maduro and Capriles head towards Sunday's election after a campaign marked by insults, allegations of assassination plots and the transformation of the fallen firebrand leftist into a religious-like figure.

Named by Chavez as his political heir, Maduro has a double-digit lead in opinion polls and has pledged to continue a socialist revolution that has brought popular education, health and food programmes to the poor.

The streets of Caracas are flooded with red-shirted backers of the man the recently deceased Venezuelan president tapped to succeed him.

However, the late leader left behind economic problems in the oil-rich nation hit by high inflation and basic food shortages. Venezuela also has the highest murder rate in South America, with 16,000 people murdered last year.

After criss-crossing the politically polarised nation for days, Maduro closed his campaign with a big rally in Caracas on Thursday with Argentine football player Diego Maradona on hand.

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Caracas, said three million supporters had been expected at the rally.

Final pitch

Capriles, for his part, made his final pitch in the northwestern state of Lara. His rally was attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters.

Al Jazeera's Latin America Editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Caracas, said that Chavez's legacy had been working against the opposition, but the gap between Capriles and Maduro had been lessening.

 

The last day of the campaign comes on the 11th anniversary of the April 11, 2002, coup against the former colonel.

Maduro has sought to link the opposition to the coup, which was led by business leaders with the help of rebellious military officers. Public television has run footage of the events all week.

The putsch lasted 47 hours, with loyal soldiers returning Chavez to power amid popular protests that left 19 people dead.

Capriles, who was a mayor at the time, has denied having any ties to the coup.

After 14 years in power, Chavez designated Maduro as his political heir before heading to a final round of cancer surgery in December. The 58-year-old president died on March 5.

Bombastic rhetoric

Maduro is a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader who rose to foreign minister and vice president under Chavez.

He has adopted his mentor's bombastic rhetoric while calling himself the "son" and "apostle" of Chavez.

Maduro invokes Chavez in religious terms, calling him "Christ the redeemer of the poor."

The opposition mocked him after he said the late president's spirit visited him in the form of a "little bird."

Maduro derided Capriles as a "little bourgeois", while Capriles dubbed his rival a "bull-chicken."

Maduro has claimed that the opposition wants to sabotage the nation's power grid to cause a blackout before the election.

He also alleged that former US officials and the Salvadoran right-wing plotted to kill him.

Andres Izarra, a member of Chavez's command, told Al Jazeera that his party was facing "the candidate of imperialism and the United States and all of its powers".

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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