Preparations for Venezuela’s presidential campaign took a notable step forward yesterday when President Hugo Chávez registered his candidacy with the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE). Chávez used the occasion to gather thousands of his supporters and public employees, and to project an image of physical strength amid ongoing speculation about his nearly year-long battle with cancer.
Following the event, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said, “The opposition believes the fable that the president was not going to register, that he would not go in person…This is the hour of the fatherland. We are going to register Hugo Chávez for the great victory we will achieve.” Only 24 hours prior to the president’s rally, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski filed his candidacy after a 6.2-mile (10 kilometer) march through Caracas, surrounded by what he estimated to be more than 1 million people.
With the registration of his candidacy, Chávez is entering his third presidential electoral battle. Current polls indicate that he is still the favorite to defeat Capriles in the country’s October 7 election. But concerns over the president’s health, along with voter dissatisfaction on issues ranging from the economy to public security have undermined Chávez’ support and given momentum to Capriles. Venezuela’s presidential campaign officially begins on July 1.