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February 11, 2012

Venezuela Chooses Chavez Challenger

Venezuela's opposition coalition says Henrique Capriles has won its primary and will be the sole candidate to challenge President Hugo Chavez in the October presidential elections.

Opposition officials announced Sunday that Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, earned about 62 percent of the vote, more than double his nearest rival, Pablo Perez.  

The election board said 2.9 million people voted - a higher turnout than some had predicted, but still a small percentage of the pool of 18 million registered voters.

The 57-year-old Mr. Chavez, who is seeking a third six-year term in office, remains popular.

Opinion polls show Mr. Chavez leading Capriles, who is 39, in a prospective contest. But Capriles got a boost from a popular Venezuelan politician, Leopoldo Lopez, who dropped out of the primary race last month and endorsed him.

Mr. Chavez underwent chemotherapy in Caracas and Havana last year and now says he is cancer-free. He was first elected in 1998 and then won elections in 2000 and 2006.  

Mr. Chavez is a vehement critic of the United States and an ally of communist-ruled Cuba.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.