HAVANA TIMES — With each considering themselves the winner, interim Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles received endorsements in mass rallies today, the last day of campaigning before Sunday’s election, reported dpa news.
Maduro concluded his campaign with a massive rally in the capital, bringing with him as “reinforcement” former soccer star Diego Maradona, who appeared with the candidate to remember his friend the late president Hugo Chavez.
Capriles ended his campaign in the western city of Barquisimeto, where several thousand supporters cheered his closing speech.
Before their respective crowds, each candidate proclaimed themself the winner, each vowing to take up their 2013-2019 mandate after being sworn in on April 19, when the country will also commemorate the first movement for independence, initiated in 1810.
Venezuelans will vote on Sunday to choose one of them to replace Chavez, who died March 5.
Maduro told the red wave concentrated on the centrally located Bolivar Avenue that he wanted to become the “president of security,” admitting that the country faces a growing crime problem.
He devoted much of his speech to remember Chavez and the attempted coup that ousted him for two days on April 11, 2002.
“I hope to live up to the responsibility he (Chavez) gave me. I aspire to live up to the demands of our people. The poor can know they will have me as their protector, their father, their president. I will be the president of the poor, the humble, the needy, the sick, of our girls and boys. I swear to this in front of you,” he said.
With tears, Maduro said he hoped someday to meet Chavez again, who he called his “protector.”
He also warned that “imperialism and the decadent and parasitic Venezuelan bourgeoisie believe the revolution is over” with Chavez’s death.
“They think that because we lost our commander physically, Chavismo is over. This is what they say. We are responding with humility and conviction, but with a conscience, since now we will have Chavez for a long time,” he said.
For his part, Capriles said on Sunday that the Lara region of Venezuela will soon begin a new political cycle, unlike what it experienced under the ruling Bolivarian Revolution.
“I am asking Venezuelans not to make a mistake. On Sunday I think it’s time to open a new cycle, you have to take advantage of this opportunity for this situation to change,” he said.
In his speech, Capriles said it’s possible to attack and solve problems such as street crime, food shortages and inflation that plague the country, indicating that he has a group of specialists working on solutions.
He said the commitment he wants to make to the people is based on improving personal security, increasing domestic production and increasing the purchasing power of wages.
“I want them to dream that’s we’re heading, so that all those who go into a market have money to buy whatever they want. In Venezuela we’re not going to impose the Cuban model. We’re Venezuelans and we want this country to move forward,” he said, alluding to the closeness of Maduro with the Cuban government.
At the same time, he asked his followers to turn the “emotion and strength” of the rallies into votes.
Capriles warned that a “small group in government,” who he called the enchufados (the connected), “like to cheat” and they’re using rumors to mislead people.
“I’m asking you not to fall for their provocations, don’t pay attention to their rumors. The only rumor that’s going to be a truth that’s the size of this country is that we’re going to win Sunday’s election. Don’t be provoked by anyone,” he said.
He stated that the “connected” have begun to “despair,” and now they’re beginning to “generate rumors to frighten the people.” “Any threat has to be answered with more votes, more strongly,” he said.
He said Maduro, who he called “fresh lie,” was a “fraudulent candidate.”
“We have a lot of patience, a lot of tolerance. The other candidate doesn’t have any. That’s not our fault, he collapsed on his own because truth runs through the streets of Venezuela,” he said.
Capriles also urged the armed forces to defend and respect the decision of the people on Sunday.
“I am asking the vast majority of our Armed Forces to enforce the Constitution and the will of our people. We are prepared to recognize the will of our people and for that I’m asking for tolerance, for patience. We know what’s going to happen on Sunday – there will be millions of votes to elect a new president,” he said.
Capriles said his government would represent “democracy” and wouldn’t persecute anyone for their thinking.
“On Sunday we will tell the clique that rules: ‘You will become the opposition.’ I want to say welcome to them, because the next Venezuela will be a Venezuela of democracy, where there will be an opportunity to think differently, where everyone can say what they feel,” he said.