Venezuela candidate: Govt exploits Chavez death

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 10, 2013 at 10:27 pm •  Published: March 10, 2013
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Sunday launched what many consider a doomed candidacy to replace Hugo Chavez with a no-holds-barred attack against a government he accused of coldly betraying Venezuelans' trust.

Chavez's political heirs have toyed with Venezuelans' hopes, lying to them about his deteriorating health by suggesting he could recover and even producing decrees he supposedly signed, said Capriles, whom Chavez defeated by a 12-point margin in October.

He did not make direct reference to the decision to embalm Chavez and put him on permanent display, but he said: "You are playing politics with the president's body."

Capriles accused the socialist government that Chavez left behind after 14 years in power of meticulously planning a campaign to assure the election of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's desired successor.

"Who knows when President Chavez (really) died," he asked. The government says Chavez succumbed to cancer on Tuesday after a nearly two-year battle. It has offered almost no clinical information.

Capriles also called Defense Minister Diego Molero a "disgrace" for publicly backing Maduro. The constitution forbids the military from taking political sides.

"Don't fool yourselves that you're the good and we're the bad," Capriles said in a 45-minute speech at his eastern Caracas campaign headquarters. "No, you're no better than us. I don't play with death. I don't play with pain."

A picture of Chavez behind him, Maduro appeared almost immediately afterward on state TV, accusing "the losing, miserable candidate" of defaming Chavez and his family.

He called Capriles a "fascist" trying to provoke violence by insulting the "crystalline, pure image of Commander Chavez."

"You have made the biggest mistake of your life," Maduro said. He said that if Chavez's family seeks legal action "don't say afterward that you are being politically persecuted."

Capriles, a state governor, acknowledged facing long odds against a candidate who wields vast public resources and a state media machine — and has the backing of the country's electoral council.

"As one person said today, 'Capriles, they are taking you to a slaughterhouse. Are you going to be lowered into its meat grinder?'" he said.

Capriles said, however, that he felt he had no other choice.

"How am I not going to fight?" he said. "How are we not going to fight? This is not Capriles' fight. This is everybody's fight."