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Chavez opponent wants to be a uniter

From Fernando Ramos for CNN
May 16, 2012 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Henrique Capriles is running against Hugo Chavez in the presidential election
  • He spoke to CNN en Español during a campaign tour
  • Capriles wants to see Chavez defeated at the polls, not by cancer

(CNN) -- He is running against one of the world's most recognized presidential strongmen, but Henrique Capriles, the governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda, exudes confidence.

His opponent, President Hugo Chavez, has dashed the hopes of opposition candidates repeatedly in the past, but Capriles is certain this time will be different.

"If I know something, it is winning elections. I've never lost an election," Capriles told CNN en Español.

Capriles, 39, spoke to CNN en Español aboard his campaign bus during a trip to the state of Barinas, Chavez's home turf.

Chavez quells rumors about death

The governor, who has also served as a mayor and a congressman, must walk a tightrope in his campaign. Chavez is a tough opponent as an incumbent, but he is also suffering from cancer.

"We don't wish ill to anyone," Capriles said. He hopes that his opponent in October's election is Chavez. He wants Chavez's tenure to come to an end at the ballot box.

Chavez has been criticized at home and abroad for consolidating power in the presidency and undermining the independence of the judiciary, but he was elected and re-elected democratically.

But as he did away with presidential term limits and clamped down on the opposition, it created a government that does not serve the people, Capriles said.

"I think a government for too long is a bad thing," he said. Chavez leads "a government that is more concerned with trying to convince Venezuelans that the problems don't exist, instead of solving them."

He cited Simon Bolivar, the Latin American liberator idolized by Chavez, as someone who preached that being in power too long creates tyranny and abuses.

"I aspire to be president, but president of all Venezuelans, not one group," Capriles said.

Chavez's support in large part comes from the country's poor, who felt ignored and marginalized by previous governments. Chavez found electoral success as a populist leader who pitted the elite against the lower classes.

Capriles, unlike other past opposition candidates, rejects those past governments, too.

There is a "difference of 180 degrees" between him and the governments that preceded Chavez, he said.

"I am not part of the past. I belong to the future," he said.

He even gives Chavez some credit.

"This government did a good job of identifying problems, giving them a name, giving them a face, but that is not enough," he said.

In his lengthy interview with CNN en Español, that was as close to a compliment as Capriles gave Chavez.

Chavez, Capriles said, is "good with verbs but not with action. I'm the opposite. I'm not much of a talker, I am a worker."

"With my government we won't return to the past. We are heading to the future," he said.

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