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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK
Comic signs up to take on Chavez
Comedian Benjamin Rausseo arrives at the national electoral council in Caracas to register as a presidential candidate
Rausseo is said to have charisma and popular appeal
Accompanied by a donkey, a popular Venezuela comedian on Wednesday signed up as a candidate to challenge Hugo Chavez in presidential elections.

Benjamin Rausseo - better known as his stage persona, a country bumpkin called the Count of Guacharo - was greeted by hundreds of cheering supporters.

Mr Rausseo said Mr Chavez's seven years in power had brought "only words, speeches and hate".

Polls put Mr Chavez far ahead of his rivals in December's elections.

Despite finding fame as a TV funny man, Mr Rausseo said his challenge to Mr Chavez was serious.

"This is a solemn event," he said as he arrived to register dressed in a pinstriped suit and tie.

"I've temporarily separated myself from the Count of Guacharo character, but he's going to help me in the campaign," he added, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Opposition's task

Mr Rausseo, 45, has set up a one-man party - the Independent Party for Advanced Answers, known by the acronym Piedra (Stone).

But he says he may pull out of the running if another candidate seems better placed to defeat Mr Chavez - who polls at present suggest far outstrips his closest rival.

Much of Venezuela's often divided opposition has attempted to rally round Manuel Rosales, governor of the oil-rich Zulia state.

However some analysts suggest Mr Rausseo has the charisma and popular appeal to take votes from Mr Chavez.

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