Venezuela's presidental race enters final straight

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Venezuela's presidental race enters final straight

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Venezuela’s rival presidential candidates have held their final mass rallies ahead of Sunday’s election and what has been billed as the country’s closest contest in more than a decade.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to hear the Social Democrat challenger Henrique Capriles attempt to gain some last minute votes.

He told the crowd he wants Hugo Chavez to leave office peacefully.

“I wish him a long life, because I want him to see a generation changing Venezuela,” he said, perhaps reflecting concerns that violence may erupt after three of his supporters were shot dead last month as they tried to take part in a rally for President Chavez.

Recent polls put the incumbent ahead with the gap narrowing. But Chavez sought to assure his supporters that an early pre-dawn turn-out would be crucial to him winning a third term.

“Nobody should let their guard down, on the contrary, we will increase our efforts during the remaining days,” he said.

Although Chavez is recovering from three cancer operations and various treatments, if he wins questions will remain about his health and the lack of a clear successor from his ruling Socialist party.