As Hugo Chavez’s mentor Fidel Castro likes to say, theirs is a battle of ideas. And the only way they can win that battle is to silence and destroy those who have different ideas. For that reason, the Venezuelan dictator is refusing to debate his presidential opponent Henrique Capriles.
Hugo Chavez refuses to hold election debate with “nonentity” rival
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has ruled out holding a pre-election debate with opponent Henrique Capriles, saying he would be “ashamed” to measure himself against such a “nonentity.”
Stepping up the rhetoric in the polarised South American nation’s run-up to the Oct 7 vote, Mr Capriles replied that Venezuelans were tired of the socialist leader’s stream of insults.
Battling a recurrence of cancer that has kept him off the street, Chavez, 57, leads most major opinion polls by a double-digit margin and officials are exuding confidence of a comfortable re-election win.
Mr Capriles’ camp, though, insists some polls are skewed, many Venezuelans are scared of expressing their real opinions, and their grassroots campaigning is beginning to make headway.
Asked at a news conference if he would be prepared to debate Mr Capriles, Mr Chavez replied: “I’d be ashamed because what you have there is nothing … I’d have liked to face a heavyweight, not a nonentity.”
Since Mr Capriles, a centre-left young state governor, won the opposition coalition’s primary in February, Mr Chavez has not mentioned him by name, preferring to use a stream of insults including “pig” and “loser”.
Mr Capriles has sought to focus his campaign on Venezuelans’ daily problems – crime, unemployment and stuttering social services – rather than be drawn into a rhetorical fight.
Yet he responded sharply on Monday to Mr Chavez’s latest salvo.
“The candidate of backwardness could never debate with anyone, he only knows how to insult and discredit people – a worn-out and tedious speech,” he said via Twitter.
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