President Hugo Chavez told hundreds of thousands of red-clad supporters Sunday that he will win re-election next weekend by an overwhelming margin and dedicate his victory to ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Chavez noted the Dec. 3 election will be the same weekend that Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of Castro’s arrival in Cuba with other armed rebels aboard a yacht to launch the guerrilla war that eventually brought him to power.
“This victory on Dec. 3 ... we’re going to dedicate it to the 50 years since the arrival of the revolutionary boat Granma led by Fidel Castro to the coast of Cuba,” Chavez said to cheers. “Fidel, applause from Venezuela! Long live Cuba! Long live revolutionary Cuba!”
Chavez, a staunch opponent of Washington, considers the ailing Cuban leader a mentor but has often said the socialism he seeks for Venezuela does not aim to copy Cuba’s system. His critics, including his main election rival Manuel Rosales, accuse Chavez of moving toward Cuba-style authoritarianism.
In his speech, Chavez suggested Rosales was a pawn of the U.S. government and revisited an attack he used against President Bush during an address at the U.N. in September, when he called the U.S. leader the devil.
“Let’s not forget that we are facing the very devil. On Dec. 3, we face at the ballot box the imperialist government of the United States of America. That is our real adversary,” Chavez said in his speech Sunday.
Peering through a pair of binoculars down a major avenue packed with supporters wearing the color of his party, Chavez said he admired what he called the “red tide.”
“Our goal is not to win” the election, Chavez said amid the thunder of fireworks. “We must outdo our previous triumphs. ... We are going to win in a way that is overwhelming, crushing.”
Sunday’s rally was the largest in support of Chavez since campaigning began in August and appeared to number in the hundreds of thousands. There were no official estimate by police.
His rally came a day after hundreds of thousands of Rosales supporters flooded a major highway in one of the largest anti-Chavez demonstrations in years. Rosales, a state governor who favors a free-market economy, trailed Chavez by a wide margin in an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month.