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Chavez loyalists mobilize on eve of Venezuela vote

Government and opposition exchange accusations over the violations of the presidential election campaign rules on the eve of the vote to choose a successor to Hugo Chavez

AFP , Saturday 13 Apr 2013
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Venezuela's government mobilized behind Hugo Chavez's image Saturday as the opposition complained that campaign rules were being ignored on the eve of a vote to choose a successor to the late leader.

Although the campaign officially ended late Thursday, acting President Nicolas Maduro has regularly appeared on state-run television, calling on voters to flock to the polls Sunday and vowing to carry on his mentor's socialist revolution.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who accused the government of unfairly using state media and funds during the campaign, wrote on Twitter that channel VTV was "shamelessly violating the electoral rules."

Maduro planned to visit the Caracas hillside barracks where Chavez was laid to rest to commemorate the creation of a civilian militia formed by the late president after a short-lived coup against him in April 2002.

The event will "celebrate Chavez's return to power" 11 years ago on April 13, when loyal troops brought him back to the presidency after his brief, 47-hour ouster, a presidency source told AFP.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas called for a "tuitazo," or a massive Twitter campaign to send messages about Chavez. He also wrote a series of Tweets criticizing the opposition.

Maduro already visited the tomb on Friday with Argentine football icon Diego Maradona, a close friend of Chavez, and he used the airtime to urge Venezuelans to vote to "continue the legacy" of the late president.

The acting president railed against the "putschist right-wing" after claiming throughout the campaign that opponents and former US officials were plotting to destabilize the nation.

On Friday, Vice President Jorge Arreaza and other top officials displayed gun magazines that were seized from a company and announced that alleged Colombian paramilitaries were detained.

The opposition voiced doubts about the latest claims and countered that the government's accusations were "completely false."

Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, national coordinator of the MUD opposition coalition, said voters should be allowed the "reflect and make their decision in peace."

The election follows a lightning campaign dominated by Chavez's legacy, with the late leader casting a religious-like shadow over the election.

The leftist leader, who died on March 5, left behind a country with less poverty thanks to oil-funded social projects that brought health, education and food programs to once neglected poor areas.

But his successor will inherit South America's biggest murder rate, with 16,000 killed last year, and a weak economy with high inflation, soaring debt and chronic shortages of basic foods.

Chavez named Maduro -- a 50-year-old former bus driver who rose to foreign minister and vice president -- as his successor before undergoing his last round of cancer surgery in December.

Maduro is favored to complete the deceased leader's six-year term, casting himself as his mentor's "son" and "apostle."

Opinion polls have given him leads of up to 20 percent, though the most recent showed he had a 9.7-point advantage.

Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, has promised to maintain the social "missions" while bringing a more business-friendly economic model inspired by Brazil's center-left.

The opposition candidate lost to Chavez in last October's presidential election by 11 points.

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