In his first press conference since launching his reelection bid, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez vowed to win the Oct. 7 race and said he had fully recovered from an undisclosed form of cancer. Chávez also accused the opposition of trying to undermine the election and called rival Henrique Capriles a political lightweight.
Dressed in a blue jacket and red shirt, Chávez sounded energetic as he told anecdotes and joked with reporters for almost four hours. Asked about his health, Chávez said that it had been eight weeks since finishing his last radiation session in Cuba and that he started jogging again on Sunday.
“I’ll be ready to play baseball soon,” he said. When reporters asked if he was free of cancer, he said “I’m totally free.”
The 57-year-old socialist has been battling cancer for more than a year, and relapsed in February after claiming he was cured.
On Monday, he suggested that his health was less of an obstacle than Capriles’ lack of ideas.
“You can overcome physical limitations,” he said. “But it’s difficult to overcome big intellectual limitations.”
Chávez has routinely accused his 39-year-old rival of lacking ideas and has said he wouldn’t stoop to debating him.
“Can you imagine Chávez debating the nothing?” he said Monday. “There’s no way, no where.”
With just over three months to the election, most polls give Chávez and his PSUV party the lead. However, a few surveys, including one by Consultores 21, suggest he’s in a dead heat with Capriles, who has been barnstorming the country.
The opposition has also asked Chávez to quit requiring national television stations to broadcast his marathon speeches, in what are known as cadenas
, and cease using state resources to fund his campaign. On Monday, Chávez said such demands were the equivalent of asking a baseball player to quit throwing fastballs.
“They are preparing to not recognize the nation’s triumph,” he said. “They are going to say ‘he did cadenas so we won’t recognize the victory.’”
Chávez also denied claims that the country has grown more polarized during his 13 years in office. He said that when he took power, the nation was divided between the rich and the poor. “Now, thanks to the revolution and our inclusive policies, those divisions are less traumatic,” he said.
Hoping to win another six-year term, Chávez said his administration is brimming with new ideas, citing plans to build a satellite, start a national lumber company and work with the Chinese to map gold deposits.
“We’re the new ones and they are prehistory,” he said of the opposition. “But of course, they are wearing a mask of being new.”