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Chavez's health factors in re-election

March 29, 2012 at 7:32 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 29 (UPI) -- Hugo Chavez's health may be an issue in his re-election effort but his main opponent says the Venezuelan president still has a "powerful" connection to voters.

Chavez, who returned to Caracas Thursday from Cuba, where he had a third round of cancer treatment, has said he is committed to running for a third term in office, Voice of America reported.

However, the president has had two surgeries since being diagnosed last year and is undergoing radiation treatment for what is believed to be an aggressive cancer.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, said Chavez may still have a chance at re-election.

"If we have learned anything from Chavez over 13 years, it is that we shouldn't rule him out," said Shifter.

Chavez has been accused of mismanaging Venezuela's oil revenue, yet he did use the funds to boost social programs, the report said. Henrique Capriles, Chavez's main opponent in the Oct. 7 election, has vowed to further the social programs Chavez started.

"Chavez, despite the dismal results and terrible governance, still has a powerful and emotional connection with a lot of Venezuelans," he said. "Many Venezuelans, poor Venezuelans especially, think, believe, that he cares about them. And he is trying to do the best he can."

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