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Youthful Challenger Takes On Chavez In Venezuela

Chavez has warned voters that if they don't re-elect him, his social programs called "missions" would vanish. That threat, though disputed by Capriles, could have an influence on some in the run-up to the vote.

Many working-class Venezuelans say they still believe in Chavez and his socialist-inspired program, even as some "Chavistas" openly complain of inefficiency and corruption within his government.

"There are good things and bad things because nobody's perfect, but ... he's helped poor people a lot," said Heidi Lopez, a 33-year-old who raves about the discounted food at government-run markets and plans to vote for Chavez again.

Some of Capriles' supporters say they think he has a good chance of winning over Venezuelans who otherwise might lean pro-Chavez because he has taken a largely non-confrontational approach while promising solutions to problems including 26-percent inflation and one of the highest murder rates in Latin America.

Diego Prada, a 23-year-old marketing manager, said Capriles' inclusive approach resonates among many.

"People are tired of so much confrontation," Prada said.

____

Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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