Pro-opposition crowds pack Caracus

FABIOLA SANCHEZ
Last updated 11:19 01/10/2012
Venezuela
Reuters

PACKED: Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Caracas.

Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles
REUTERS
READY FOR ACTION: Henrique Capriles.

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A huge crowd filled the streets of Venezuela's capital on Sunday (local time), cheering for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, waving flags in a show of support one week before the country's hotly contested presidential election.

Capriles waved from a truck that rolled through the vast expanse of supporters. The crowd overflowed from Bolivar Avenue, the widest downtown thoroughfare, which according to some estimates has a capacity to hold about 260,000 people. The authorities didn't provide a crowd estimate.

"Bolivar Avenue is too small for us," Capriles shouted to the crowd.

While President Hugo Chavez was leading weekend rallies elsewhere in the country, authorities were investigating the killings of two men in a shooting that erupted during an opposition campaign caravan in western Barinas state on Saturday.

Capriles condemned the killings in his speech.

"On October 7 we're going to defeat violence in Venezuela," Capriles said. "Our country is tired of the violence, of the division, of the confrontation."

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said in a message on Twitter that a suspect was arrested in the killings, but he didn't immediately identify the suspect.

Opposition lawmaker Julio Cesar Reyes said on Saturday that a group of Chavez's supporters blocked the caravan and people on both sides were arguing when a gunman appeared and started shooting.

Opposition officials said both men killed were participants in the motorcade of Capriles supporters.

He also criticised Chavez for what he called a long list of unfulfilled promises, noting that years ago the president pledged to clean up the sewage-filled Guaire River in Caracas and it remains badly polluted.

"Where's the cleanup? Pure chatter," Capriles told the crowd.

The opposition leader criticised what he called gifts by Chavez's government to other countries, and rattled off a list including a donation to a Puerto Rican music group, a hospital in Uruguay and prefabricated homes in Guatemala.

Chavez rallied thousands of supporters on Saturday in Guarenas, a town east of Caracas, telling them: "It's impossible for us to lose."

Chavez's supporters grabbed at red T-shirts that were thrown into the crowd. Some stood on rooftops cheering, and women screamed as Chavez passed. The crowd chanted: "Ooh, Ahh, Chavez won't go!"

While Chavez touted his achievements during his speech, he also said "self-criticism" is important and acknowledged that problems including a housing shortage and sporadic blackouts remain.

"There are reasons for many people to be dissatisfied with this government that I lead," Chavez told the crowd. But, he added, "On October 7, it isn't at stake whether the light went out or not... whether they've given me a house or not."

"Those are very important problems and we're working to solve them," Chavez said. "My socialist government is going to continue solving our big problems."

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- AP

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