(Page 2 of 2)
Ties to Cuba are likely to remain a central part of the campaign. Capriles for months accused authorities of compromising the country’s sovereignty by letting Chavez govern for two months from a Havana hospital.
Venezuela provides close to 100,000 barrels per day of oil to Cuba in exchange for a host of services including doctors that staff free health clinics in slums and rural areas.
Supporters say it has helped expand access to health care, while critics call it a mere subsidy to the Castro government.
Maduro’s frequent visits to the island during Chavez’s two-month convalescence there led opposition leaders to joke that he had picked up a Cuban accent.
The emotional outpouring of affection for Chavez following his March 5 death, along with ample use of government television broadcasts, has helped give Maduro a leg up in the race.
Millions of bereaved supporters have lined up before Chavez’s remains to pay respects to a leader who was loved by many of the country’s poor but reviled by adversaries who called him a fledgling dictator.
Two recent opinion polls showed Capriles trailing Maduro.
Respected local pollster Datanalisis gave Maduro 46.4 percent versus 34.3 percent for Capriles in a survey carried out before Chavez’s death.
He enraged Maduro by accusing him of repeatedly lying about the late president’s two-year battle with cancer, and of then cynically using his death as a campaign tool. He later apologized to Chavez’s family if his words had offended them.
Maduro last week described a plot by “far right” U.S. elements linked to two senior former members of the George W. Bush administration to kill Capriles. Both officials denied the charges.