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Just days ahead of Venezuelan election, how are the Capriles and Chávez campaigns looking?

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Rodrigo Abd/AP

(Read caption) Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez looks at the crowd through binoculars during a campaign rally in Maracay, Venezuela, Wednesday, Oct. 3. Chávez is running for re-election against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in presidential elections on Oct. 7.

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Four days from now, the votes should be counted in Venezuela’s first presidential election in six years and people can stop speculating about how the race will turn out. Unlike the vast majority of elections around the world, this one could change the politics, policy, and even demographics of a significant-sized and reasonably important chunk of the world – and the place that may have more accessible oil than anywhere else.

For now, we’re in the campaign, and from what little I have seen in two days in Venezuela, the excitement is greater on the side supporting incumbent President Hugo Chávez, rather than challenger Governor Henrique Capriles.

That is exactly the opposite of what I’ve read on most of my favorite English language websites about the country, but it’s the truth. To put it very simply, Capriles’ campaign looks like a very well run, professional campaign, and not a grassroots movement. Chávez’s campaign has elements of both.

For example, as I have wandered through Caracas’ richer east end and poorer center for the last two days, I have seen more cars and buses decorated with Chávez slogans than with Capriles slogans. I see very little graffiti, stickers, or lapel pins in favor of either side. I see a lot of people wearing pro-Chávez T-shirts that read “Misión 7 Octubre,” a reference to election day. I see far more street stencils for Chávez. I see people driving around supporting Chávez in vehicle and motorcycle caravans. At a kiosk in the center of Caracas today, a worker offered me a silkscreen print of “CHAVEZ” if I came back with a T-shirt. Tonight in Altamira Plaza, the spiritual heart of the upscale east end, there was a very good punk and ska show in favour of Chávez.


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