Can Henrique Capriles Defeat Venezuela's Socialist Establishment?

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Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a political science professor at Caracas' Andres Bello University, thinks that the elections could actually go either way.

He points out that the surveys, which give Maduro a big lead, were all conducted with data taken around March 20 when the interim president was still basking in sympathy over Chavez's death.

Carrasquero added that historically in Venezuela votes for the government decrease drastically in elections where Chavez is not on the ballot himself, while opposition votes have been slowly growing.

"This time around the fate of Chavez himself is not at stake," Carrasquero said, "That could deter many Chavistas [from participating] and give the opposition a greater chance of winning."

Maduro has worked to try and keep that from happening. He's campaigned heavily on promises that he will "further" Chavez's social project, he has portrayed himself as "the son" of Chavez, and talked about this election as a "battle" to keep Chavez's revolution alive. He even said that Chavez appeared to him in the form of a bird, and told him that he had his blessing.

But Carrasquero says that since Maduro took over he has had to devaluate the national currency by 40 percent and that inflation continues to rise. He says that people used to "forgive," the charismatic Chavez for problems like these, but there is no guarantee that they will not castigate the new Chavista candidate by voting against him, or by not voting at all.

Andrew Rosati contributed reporting for this story

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