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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Chavez opponents make last push
By James Menendez
BBC, Caracas

Opposition rally
A river of people replaced the usual Caracas traffic jams
Hundreds of thousands of opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have been taking part in a final rally for Sunday's referendum.

Voters are to decide whether President Chavez should stay in office.

The opposition marched from six starting points in the capital Caracas before converging on a motorway junction in the east of the city.

Earlier President Chavez told journalists he would easily win the vote.

Whistles, chants and a river of people replaced the usual traffic jams along Caracas' busiest highway.

Confident mood

After a lacklustre campaign, this was the opposition's largest show of support for months.

Hugo Chavez
Chavez says defeat is practically impossible
They have been trying to hold a referendum for well over a year, but in the run-up to the vote the coalition of political parties, business leaders and trade unions has often seemed weak and disorganised.

Addressing the rally, opposition leader Enrique Mendoza urged the crowd to vote "yes" in Sunday's referendum.

In other words, "yes" to removing President Chavez from power. It was the only way, he said, for the country to defeat poverty, unemployment and crime.

But Mr Chavez was also in confident mood on Thursday. He told a news conference that defeat was practically impossible.

The government has campaigned heavily on its track record of reforms to health and education. These have made President Chavez extremely popular, at least among the poor.

But after a host of contradictory polls, few observers are willing to predict whether it is enough to stave off defeat at the ballot box.


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