Venezuela's presidential race is set to get under way, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles agreeing to run against acting President Nicolas Maduro. Voters are to choose Hugo Chavez's elected successor on April 14.
Henrique Capriles has accepted the opposition coalition's candidacy to run for president in Venezuela next month. He is to face off against Hugo Chavez's vice president and hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro.
In accepting the nomination, Capriles, 40, expressed his frustrations with recent events, accusing Maduro of monopolizing on Chavez's illness to begin campaigning and continuing to use national grief to garner support.
"You have used the body of the president for political campaigning," Capriles said of Maduro, according to the Reuters news agency.
In taking up the challenge, Capriles made it clear that he plans to give Maduro a proper fight for votes.
"Nicolas, I won't leave you an open path, mate. You will have to defeat me with votes," he said as he accepted the nomination, the AFP news agency reported
The national election commission has said the polls would be held on April 14, with official campaigning starting 12 days prior to the vote.
Maduro, the acting president, has already said he would run as the candidate for Chavez's Socialist Party. He insisted that his bid for the top spot had nothing to do with vanity or personal ambition, and that he was merely acting out of loyalty to Chavez.
"I am not Chavez," Maduro said. "In terms of intelligence, charisma, historical force, or capacity to lead ... But I am a Chavista and I live and die for him."
Who will the voters choose?
Venezuela's poor, who widely felt enfranchised by Chavez, are expected to throw their support behind Maduro.
Analysts believe Capriles has a tough fight on his hands trying to gain support in a nation overwhelmed with grief for their deceased leader. But Capriles did manage to win 44 percent of the votes in the October election against Chavez, which proved to be the opposition's most successful bid to defeat the late president.
Maduro was sworn in on Friday as the caretaker president, and he called immediately for the upcoming vote. He is expected to file election papers on Monday.
Venezuela said farewell to Chavez on Friday in a state funeral viewed by many world leaders and celebrities, as well as thousands of Venezuelan mourners. Chavez lost his two-year battle with cancer last Tuesday, aged 58.
The election on April 14 will decide whether Venezuela continues with Chavez's socialist revolution.
tm/pfd (AFP, AP, Reuters)