Ill Chavez upbeat as Venezuela campaign opens

Sep 14, 2011, 12:43 p.m.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez talks to the media during a meeting with the representatives of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas September 9, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Opposition supporters trust that Venezuelans' increasing frustration with failing services like electricity, untamed inflation, and crime levels on par with war zones, will outweigh Chavez's advantages including the sympathy factor.

"Chavez's downward tendency will continue when daily realities displace the vicissitudes of the president's health among citizens' worries," pro-opposition newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff said. "Everything points toward victory."

Chavez, though, retains fanatical support among many of Venezuela's poor majority and has a big war-chest to spend thanks to the high price of oil. Already, he has launched a massive house-building campaign to try and address one of Venezuelans' biggest complaints in time for the election.

Markets will watch every twist and turn in the campaign.

"Next year's presidential election is Venezuela's most important non-oil credit driver," Nomura bank said in a report titled "Let the games begin."

"The possibility of a democratic transition of power could reverse ongoing credit deterioration."

The favorite to win the opposition's primary is Henrique Capriles Radonski, the 39-year-old governor of Miranda state whose political model is former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's mix of social justice and market economics.

"I'm ready to give peace to the nation," he said.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore, Enrique Andres Pretel, Marianna Parraga; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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