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Chavez sets the tone

When news emerged last year that Hugo Chavez was being treated for cancer, Henrique Capriles– who will oppose him in Venezuela’s October presidential election– graciously said he wanted Chavez fit and healthy for a fair fight in front of the Venezuelan voters and political change via the ballot box.

Now Chavez has responded in his own special way, by calling Capriles a “low-life pig”:

“Now we have the loser, welcome! We’re going to pulverise you,” he told an audience of medical students. “You have a pig’s tail, a pig’s ears, you snort like a pig, you’re a low-life pig. You’re a pig, don’t try and hide it.” He avoided calling Capriles by name, referring instead to “el majunche”, slang for “the crappy one”.

The speech, which all radio and television stations were obliged to broadcast live, followed Capriles’s victory last Sunday in opposition primaries. The state governor won almost two-thirds of 3m votes cast, a higher than expected turnout which jolted the government.

Since then state media have launched multiple accusations at the wealthy 39-year-old challenger, calling him, among other things, a mendacious gay Nazi Zionist.

The state news agency’s report of Thursday’s speech omitted the pig references and used a Chávez quote as its headline: “You’re going to have to stand up or run away, crappy one.”

Panic, or does Chavez simply not know any other way of conducting politics?

Update: If that’s not enough: Chavez warns that an opposition victory could unleash “a war”