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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Mass Venezuela opposition rally
By Greg Morsbach
BBC News, Caracas

Opposition supporters fill central Caracas
The rally was on a scale not seen since 2004
Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in support of the main opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales.

Mr Rosales will face President Hugo Chavez in December's presidential poll.

The march, which filled the main avenues of the city centre, was the biggest opposition rally Venezuela has seen since early 2004.

Then, protesters made an unsuccessful bid to oust Mr Chavez from power in a recall referendum.

Chance to unite

Young and old took to the streets to throw their weight behind the campaign of Mr Rosales, a middle-class Social Democrat who governs the state of Zulia, on the Colombian border.

Many claimed that they were seeking liberty and democracy and that made Mr Rosales their only option:

Manuel Rosales
Rosales criticised Chavez's policy on Venezuela's oil
"The problem of the opposition is that before we had a lot of candidates and people couldn't make up their minds whom to support," one woman said.

"Right now we have just one candidate and I believe that we have a better shot if we have just one candidate against Chavez."

For some it was simply a day out to enjoy the sunshine, but for most it was a chance to listen to a speech by Mr Rosales, who declared that Venezuela was "at a crossroads".

Mr Rosales condemned what he called the cheque book diplomacy of Mr Chavez, accusing him of giving away Venezuela's oil wealth to foreign powers.

If Mr Rosales can keep up this kind of pressure against his rival, the election results may not necessarily be a foregone conclusion.

But for now, Mr Chavez still enjoys a clear lead in opinion polls because of a sense of loyalty that poor and working-class voters feel towards him.




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