Venezuelan voters explain choices for president
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — On the streets of Venezuela's capital, six people explain their choices to vote for either President Hugo Chavez or his challenger Henrique Capriles on Sunday:
GUSTAVO CHOURIO, 54
From underneath a bridge, Gustavo Chourio sells used books and promotes the president's bid for re-election with posters plastered on a concrete wall nearby.
Government workers recently replaced the closet-sized kiosk Chourio used to sell his books and replaced it, along with dozens of others under the same bridge, with larger concrete and reinforced steel structures.
Chourio praised Chavez for such efforts to help Venezuelans, and to lift millions of his compatriots out of poverty.
"He's our savior," Chourio said. "He has awakened the people and now the people are conscious of what solidarity and compassion truly mean."
YOLANDA MOLINA, 60
Domestic problems ranging from rampant violent crime to Latin America's highest inflation rate, along with the president's caustic attacks on political foes, spurred Yolanda Molina's antipathy toward Chavez.
Molina said she sees Capriles as the first opposition leader in 13 years who has not been associated with parties that dominated Venezuelan politics before Chavez was first elected in 1998.
The retired secretary criticized the political old guard for failing to wipe out widespread corruption and improve living condition for the poor, opening the way for Chavez's rise to power.
"Capriles doesn't represent the old means of practicing politics and he's very different from Chavez, who is always insulting his adversaries," Molina said as she sat on a tree-shaded park bench with her pet dog.
CARLOS RIERA, 56
Reading discarded newspapers and begging spare change from pedestrians passing on a trash-strewn avenue, Carlos Riera is a huge Chavez supporter.
Because of a Chavez government program aimed at feeding and sheltering the homeless, the unemployed Riera gets a roof over his head and a hot meal every night.
The former brick mason wears a red T-shirt and a baseball hat emblazoned with images of the Venezuelan president. Riera said he cannot work because of a serious injury that left his right leg permanently impaired, and added that he will be forever thankful to Chavez for getting him off Caracas' crime-ridden streets.
"He's given me help and hope, things that nobody else has given me," said Riera. "I owe Chavez everything."
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