CARACAS (Reuters) - Facing his toughest-ever re-election challenge, socialist President Hugo Chavez teared up during a campaign speech on Saturday, lamenting his lost freedom to roam anonymously through Venezuela's towns and countryside.
The 58-year-old self-styled revolutionary, who has battled cancer over the past year, is known for long speeches during which he often bursts into song and digresses into the folksy anecdotes that have endeared him to many of the country's poor.
But the lament for his lost liberty during his 14 years in power caught his audience of supporters by surprise during a rally in the southwestern cattle-ranching town of San Fernando less than a month before the October 7 election.
"If it were up to me, you know I'd get down off this stage, and I'd go walking, as in times past," he said, his voice quivering and tears rolling down his cheek.
"My last dream is to free myself ... free myself of all of this, but only after we have made the country that we dream of a reality," Chavez said to loud applause.
He faces 40-year-old challenger Henrique Capriles, who promises a more business-friendly approach to running the OPEC-member country.
(Reporting By Deisy Buitrago and Enrique Pretel, Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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