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Presidential candidates hold dueling rallies in Venezuela

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 1, 2012 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Hugo Chavez rallies supporters in Zulia
  • Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles packs streets in Caracas
  • The two will face off in elections on October 7

(CNN) -- Venezuelan presidential candidates held competing rallies Sunday, as the campaigns heated up exactly one week before the election.

President Hugo Chavez, who has led Venezuela since 1999, is facing his strongest challenge in years. Yet the outspoken, socialist leader predicted a sweeping victory.

"We will work, without rest, all the days that remain (before the election) ... to win the largest possible difference in votes," Chavez said, before throngs of supporters wearing red shirts in the state of Zulia.

"With this, we will show the world on which side is the heart of Venezuela."

The president condemned the deaths of two people killed Saturday in the western state of Barinas. According to the opposition, local leaders were gunned down when their caravan was stopped at a blockade.

Clashes have flared in the campaign before, but Saturday was thought to mark the first deaths.

Venezuelan Justice and Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami vowed to hold those responsible for the violence accountable, and in fact, announced the arrest of the crime's "author" on his Twitter account Sunday.

No other details were provided.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles likewise mentioned the deaths during his rally in Caracas, though he said that three people were killed.

The 40-year-old former governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda sported a baseball cap, and a shirt with the yellow, blue and red stripes of the country's flag. His voice strained at times as he struggled to make himself heard above the cheering crowds.

"On October 7, we will defeat violence in Venezuela. The people are tired of the violence, the division and the confrontation," he said.

Capriles cruised to a win in February's opposition primary, casting himself as a center-left candidate seeking to appeal to voters across the political spectrum.

More: China launches second satellite for Venezuela

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