Henrique Capriles is giving interim Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a vigorous run as the two make their final campaign appeals ahead of April 14 elections.
The vote comes in the wake of the death of the late President Hugo Chavez, who died several weeks ago after a two-year fight with cancer.
Capriles, who lost his first electoral run against Chavez in October, has posed a significant threat to Maduro, campaigning against the government’s economic policies and failing to raise oil production.
He noted that numerous companies were nationalized during the 14-year Chavez regime, and pointed out that Venezuela has increased its imports, blaming Maduro for the government’s problems.
The country has seen 10,000 murders in the past year, and at least 20 police officers were murdered in the first three months of this year alone, according to local media.
“People should be able to walk the streets of Venezuela at night without fear,” Capriles has emphasized during his campaign, whose Democratic Unity coalition draws opposition groups from across the spectrum.
The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Capriles himself is a Catholic, but has been the target nevertheless of subtle and not-so-subtle anti-Semitic innuendos during prior campaigns.
More than six million voters supported him nevertheless last October. He urged them to vote for him again this time around.
Although Chavez hand-picked Maduro as vice-president to be his successor, the country’s Constitution mandates new elections because Chavez was already too ill to attend his own inauguration in January after having been re-elected last October.
Following a fourth surgery in Cuba for cancer in December, Chavez spent weeks incommunicado, hanging between life and death. When he returned home to Caracas, he was taken straight to another hospital. He died on March 5.