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Venezuelan challenger edges closer to Chavez, but close enough?

With elections only days away in Venezuela, opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, has gained ground in an opinion poll, though he still lags behind President Hugo Chavez.


Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles (l.) greets supporters during a campaign rally in La Guaira outside Caracas September 24.

Carlos Garcia/Reuters

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Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles edged closer to President Hugo Chavez in an opinion poll but remained 10 percentage points behind the socialist leader in the run-up to the Oct. 7 election, according to two sources who have seen the poll.

Recent Datanalisis' polls show support for Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, growing in the waning days of the campaign as he continues campaigning across the country.

Capriles' has vowed to create a Brazilian-style "modern left" that balances free enterprise with social welfare programs. Investors expect him to end a five-year nationalization crusade and reduce state intervention in the economy.

Chavez, who has been in office for 14 years, says he will deepen his oil-financed socialism if he wins another six-year term. That would likely feature continued confrontation with the private sector and efforts to support leftist allies in the region.

Capriles on Monday led a massive caravan in the sweltering state of Vargas, alongside the Caribbean Sea, waving to supporters from atop a truck. He at times narrowly averted being dragged to the ground by female fans trying to hug him.

"Let me tell you, someone who hasn't done what they were supposed to do in 14 years is not going to do it in the next six years," Capriles told supporters, who sang and danced to salsa in the spirit of Venezuela's political rallies, which often look more like street parties.


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