Venezuela’s acting president and former leader Hugo Chavez’s preferred successor, Nicolas Maduro, commands a 14 percent lead over his rival in the run-up to the country's April 14 presidential election, according to a poll published on Monday, the first major poll since Chavez’s death on Mar. 5.
Maduro leads the race with 49.2 percent of the presidential vote compared with 34.8 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, the survey by pollster Datanalisis predicted, according to Reuters.
The results of the poll, which surveyed 800 people from Mar. 11-13, were released by investment bank Barclays Capital and has a margin of error of 3.4 points.
"Considering the short campaign period, the sympathy effect in the wake of Chavez's death, restrictions on the media, and the demobilization of the opposition after two defeats last year, Maduro remains the favorite," Barclays said.
The poll also found that the percentage of Venezuelans with a positive image of the country's outlook dropped from 67 percent last year to 56 percent this month. Only 47 percent of Venezuelans gave the country's economic performance a positive evaluation, the Associated Press reported.
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A poll conducted prior to Chavez’s death had found that Maduro would win a presidential vote should the president fail to recover. In a Feb. 18 poll, local pollster Hinterlaces gave Maduro 50 percent of potential votes compared with 36 percent for Capriles, Reuters reported.
Capriles, the governor of Miranda state and the candidate for the umbrella opposition group Table for Democratic Unity (MUD), had won 44 percent of the vote in the presidential election in October, accounting for the strongest showing by any opposition candidate against Chavez.
Chavez and allied candidates swept 20 of the 23 governorships in state elections in December.
On Sunday, Maduro, who represents the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), had alleged that the CIA and Pentagon were plotting to assassinate Capriles and to blame it on the Venezuelan government, and he urged President Barack Obama to halt the plan.
“I call on President Obama -- Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, officials at the Pentagon and at the CIA are behind a plan to assassinate the right-wing presidential candidate to create chaos,” Maduro said, referring to former Bush administration officials Noriega and Reich, Reuters reported.
The U.S. State Department has rejected the charges.
“The United States categorically rejects allegations of any U.S. government involvement in any plot to destabilize the Venezuelan government or to harm anyone in Venezuela,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in a press briefing.