Venezuela’s opposition leader Henrique Capriles confirmed late Sunday that he will contest the presidential election Apr. 14 against late President Hugo Chavez’s preferred successor.
Capriles, the 40-year-old center-left governor of Miranda state, will be pitted against acting President Nicolas Maduro whom Chavez named as his successor last year.
"I am going to fight," Capriles said at a news conference in Caracas. "Nicolas, I am not going to give you a free pass. You will have to beat me with votes."
Minutes after Capriles announced his candidacy, Maduro, who will represent the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), went on state television saying the opposition leader is a “fascist.”
Chavez, who won re-election last Oct. 7, died Mar. 5 after a two-year battle against cancer.
"You all elect Nicolas Maduro as president," Chavez had said Dec. 9 from the presidential palace, flanked by ministers. "We should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution.”
Former Vice President Maduro, had been one of Chavez’s closest advisors. He is described by people close to him as a quiet and calm man who appears to have a spiritual side. He and his wife used to travel to India to listen to the teachings of Indian spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba who died in 2011, a BBC report stated.
Despite his quiet disposition, Maduro is said to be friendly and jovial and enjoys socializing, and at the same time is credited with being a wily operator and a skilled negotiator, the report stated.
A poll conducted prior to Chavez’s death had found that Maduro would win a presidential vote should the president fail to recover.
Local pollster Hinterlaces gave Maduro 50 percent of potential votes Feb. 18 in comparison to 36 percent for Capriles, Reuters news agency reported.
Capriles, who has criticized Hinterlaces at various points during the presidential campaign, again accused its director, Oscar Schemel, of bias in the latest survey of 1,230 people conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 9.
"That man is not a pollster, he's on the government's payroll," Capriles told local television, as reported by Reuters.
Hinterlaces had successfully predicted Chavez's win with 55 percent of the vote in October election.
Capriles, the candidate for the umbrella opposition group Table for Democratic Unity (MUD), won 44 percent of the vote in the presidential election, accounting for the strongest showing by any opposition candidate against Chavez.
The opposition boycotted Maduro's inauguration ceremony as the acting president Friday, claiming that the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, should be the one to take over as acting president, as per Venezuela’s constitution. Capriles had called the move fraudulent.