CARACAS -- With less than a month to go before Venezuela’s presidential elections, the opposition said it was forced to keep its candidate, Henrique Capriles, from attending a rally Sunday because of fears that pro-government forces posed a threat.
Capriles’ campaign chief, Armando Briquet, said that an event planned for the La Pastora neighborhood, a longtime government stronghold that is part of greater Caracas, had to be called off amid reports that there were armed supporters of President Hugo Chávez who were bent on stopping the rally.
Briquet said that photos and video of the disturbances showing members of the ruling PSUV party agitating the crowds would be handed over to police. He also called on Chávez to rein in supporters.
“If [Chávez] does not condemn the events then he’s an accomplice and should be held accountable for whatever happens in the remaining days of the campaign,” Briquet said. “The more obstacles they put up the more powerful our victory will be.”
State-run media said that there were no signs of disturbances, save spirited supporters of each camp yelling at each other. The accusations came as Chávez led a rally in the community of Charallave, in Miranda state, where he repeated claims that he has an unassailable lead.
“We’re going to give the right a lesson,” he told a crowd of supporters. “That bourgeoisie candidate [Capriles] represents the worst of Venezuela.”
Capriles, 40, the former governor of Miranda state, has been barnstorming the nation as he tries to convince Venezuelans that 14 years under Chávez’s rule has been long enough.
For his part, Chávez, 58, says he needs another six-year term to cement the gains of his “Socialist Revolution.”
Polls and analysts suggest it will be a tight election.