A prominent opponent of President Hugo Chavez launched his campaign for Venezuela's presidency on Wednesday, promising a more business-friendly approach than the socialist policies of the country's leader.
Addressing thousands of supporters in a Caracas stadium, Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles vowed to usher in an era of prosperity for Venezuela under the slogan: "There's a road to the future."
"Together we have the power to seek the path," he said. "We're convinced that achieving a better life is possible."
Venezuela's presidential election is scheduled for Oct. 7, 2012, and the previously fragmented opposition will hold a primary to choose a single candidate to challenge Chavez.
Capriles, an athletic 39-year-old with a charismatic personality, is among the top contenders heading into the Feb. 12 primary. He is a soft-spoken politician who tries to avoid confrontation and describes his politics as middle of the road _ approaches that sharply contrast with Chavez's combative style and socialist vision.
"Power is for seeking solutions to the people's problems, not creating conflict," said Capriles, accusing Chavez and his allies of dividing the South American country's citizens.
"We must follow the road toward unity," Capriles added.
Supporters chanted: "See it! Feel it! Capriles for president!"
Capriles has gained a reputation as a capable administrator in Miranda, which is the country's second-most populous state and includes parts of Caracas and largely impoverished towns in the surrounding hills.
Capriles served as mayor of the capital's mostly middle-class district of Baruta before he was elected governor in 2008, defeating a close ally of Chavez. He is also a former congressman.