Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday claimed his political rivals had hatched a plot to deny him a victory in the upcoming October 7 presidential vote.
“They say I am trampling on things, that I am violating laws. It is absurd ... but what is behind it all is not absurd: a conspiracy to try to deny the will of the people,” Chavez, 57, charged at a military promotion ceremony.
The opposition “is out there in Europe and the United States, charging that the National Electoral Council is controlled by Chavez. All of that is part of the destabilising plan,” he added.
The leftist firebrand said he was sure that “no military official or general ever again will allow himself to bow down to that grotesque Venezuelan bourgeoisie”.
On Sunday Chavez staged a huge rally despite his lingering health concerns as he and rival Henrique Capriles formally launched their campaigns ahead of October elections.
After 13 years in power, Chavez is facing his first serious election challenge as he vies for a new term that would cement his legacy both at home and abroad as Latin America's leading leftist.
Chavez - a socialist who has been battling cancer for more than a year - could rack up 20 years in office if he is re-elected on October 7 and serves out his full term.
The youthful and telegenic Capriles, 39, is the former governor of Miranda state.
Venezuela's sometimes fractious opposition has united behind Capriles, a centre-leftist who says he admires Brazil's model of addressing poverty while fostering liberal economic development as opposed to Chavez's embrace of nationalisation at home and confrontational bluster abroad.
Most opinion polls put staunch US critic Chavez firmly in the lead, but Capriles is counting on undecided voters - estimated at 35 percent of the electorate - to help him win.
Capriles has claimed he will handily defeat Chavez, even predicting a 10-point margin of victory. He has vowed to tackle what he calls the country's three main problems - poverty, unemployment and violence.
The Venezuelan government has disclosed few details about Chavez's health. In May, Chavez sought treatment in Cuba, his closest regional ally, after a recurrence of the cancer he first disclosed last year.
Doctors in Havana removed a tumour from his pelvic area last June, but after pronouncing himself fully recovered from cancer, Chavez reported a new lesion in February and returned to Cuba for additional surgery and radiation therapy. - Sapa-AFP