Venezuelan candidate Maduro puts curse on rival voters

Nicolas Maduro plays a drum while on the campaign trail in the state of Bolivar, Venezuela, 6 April Mr Maduro is seen here playing a drum while on the campaign trail in the state of Bolivar

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The acting president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has put a curse on citizens who do not vote for him in next week's election.

He likened his main rival candidate, Henrique Capriles, to Spanish conquerors fighting indigenous people in the 16th Century.

A centuries-old curse, he said, would fall on those who did not vote for him.

Mr Capriles responded by saying the only curse for Venezuelans would be if Mr Maduro won the election.

The country goes to the polls next Sunday to elect a successor to Hugo Chavez, the long-time leftist leader who died of cancer last month.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Maduro, who was Chavez's deputy, has a lead of at least 10 points over his rival.

'Curse of Maracapana'
Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles greets supporters during a campaign rally in the state of Tachira, 6 April Henrique Capriles was campaigning in the state of Tachira

Wearing a local indigenous hat at a rally in Amazonas state, a largely jungle territory on the borders of Brazil and Colombia, Mr Maduro said: "If anyone among the people votes against Nicolas Maduro, he is voting against himself, and the curse of Maracapana is falling on him."

He was referring to a 16th Century battle when Spanish colonial fighters defeated indigenous fighters decisively.

"If the bourgeoisie win, they are going to privatise health and education, they are going to take land from the Indians, the curse of Maracapana would come on you," the candidate continued.

Analysts say that Venezuela's mix of Catholic and animist beliefs, especially in the south-central plains and jungles, is fertile ground for talk of spirits and curses which may otherwise seem out of place in an election campaign.

Mr Capriles dismissed the election favourite's rhetoric.

"Anyone who threatens the people, who tells the people a curse can fall on them, has no right to govern this country," he said at a rally in the western state of Tachira.

"I tell you here, all Venezuelans, the real curse is that little group that we are going to get rid of on April 14."

There are five other candidates for the presidency but they trail far behind Mr Maduro and Mr Capriles.

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