Venezuela vote a critical test for divided nation
‘‘I want to tell President Chavez, I want to tell him his cycle is over,’’ Capriles said at his final campaign rally Thursday.
Capriles accused Chavez of stirring up hatred, hobbling the economy by expropriating private businesses and squandering oil wealth. He criticized Chavez’s preferential deals supplying oil to allies, including one that lets Cuba pay with the services of Cuban doctors.
‘‘We aren’t going to finance the political model that exists in Cuba,’’ Capriles said in a televised interview last week. ‘‘But we aren’t going to break off relations with Cuba.’’
Chavez accumulated near-absolute power over the past decade thanks to his control of the National Assembly, friendly judges in the courts, and pliant institutions such as the Central Bank.
Gino Caso, an auto mechanic, said he would vote for Capriles because Chavez is power-hungry and out of touch with problems like crime. He said his son had been robbed as had neighboring shops.
‘‘I don’t know what planet he lives on,’’ Caso said, gesturing with hands blackened with grease. ‘‘He wants to be like Fidel Castro — end up with everything, take control of the country.’’
Political analyst Ricardo Sucre said he expected the election to show ‘‘two halves, more or less even.’’ Regardless of the result, he said, Venezuelans are likely to remain deeply divided by politics for years to come.
Associated Press writers Christopher Toothaker and Jorge Rueda contributed to this report.
Ian James on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ianjamesap