Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has shaken off his struggle with cancer to launch a bid for re-election.
Health problems have taken their toll on the left-wing leader but he has recently said he is in full recovery.
At a huge rally in the central town of Maracay, his energy levels and fighting talk appeared to be surging in time for the campaign.
“I say to the Venezuelan bourgeoisie which hates us so much and which has presented its own candidate, ‘we are going to pulverise you on October 7,” Chavez, 57, told tens of thousands of supporters.
The so-called ‘candidate of the bourgeoisie’ is young ex-state governor Henrique Capriles, 39. Keen to show he is, in fact, a man of the people, he went to border areas near Brazil and Colombia to highlight alleged government neglect of remote communities.
“Today the campaign starts but I believe this is more than the beginning of a campaign; this is the beginning of the decision to be made on October 7 for the future of Venezuela and all Venezuelans,” Capriles told supporters.
With three months to go, Chavez has a double-digit lead in most polls. His challenger will find it hard to overcome the president’s unique rapport with the poor – and spending power thanks to vast oil revenues.