The fight for Venezuela's soul intensifies as the election for President nears, writes John Haylett in the Morning Star.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) is calling presidential candidates to order, insisting that they abide by strict election campaign rules.

CNE vice-president Sandra Oblitas announced that it would be investigating two public and two private media outlets suspected of infringing electoral rules in favour of one of the candidates.
State television channel VTV is to be probed for supporting incumbent Hugo Chavez, while government newspaper Correo del Orinoco is accused of publishing an image of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles without his permission.
Private national newspaper Ultimas Noticias and television channel Televen are accused of featuring election advertising from Capriles's campaign over permitted limits.
If found guilty, the media outlets could face fines of up to £94,000.
Oblitas said that CNE would act firmly during the campaign "to guarantee Venezuelans an orderly, clean and transparent process."
She confirmed that Chavez had already complied with a CNE request to stop wearing his Venezuelan flag motif campaign jacket, in line with the ban on candidates using material allusive to national or government symbols.
However, leading right-wing opposition candidate Capriles snubbed a similar request to desist from sporting his baseball cap with the same motif.
His campaign manager Armando Briquet confirmed that Capriles wouldn't abide by the CNE request, declaring that "you can't ban someone from using a cap to protect himself from the sun," as though the multimillionaire candidate owned only one cap.
Capriles himself used Twitter to sneer in a reference to the country's high murder rate: "Here they kill more than 40 Venezuelans every day and the issue for the government is the cap I wear."
Chavez suggested that his rival's defiance amounted to "a challenge to the referee, which signifies a challenge to our institutions."
This is the second time that the Capriles camp has publicly flouted a CNE request, leading Oblitas to wonder: "Are they seeking to make themselves victims of a possible sanction by CNE?"
Nor is this an idle comment, since the pro-imperialist opposition refuses to accept CNE as impartial - its members are appointed by the democratically elected parliament - and declines to pledge, unlike Chavez, that it will accept the people's verdict when the presidential election takes place on October 7.
Chavez's campaign has certainly been lifted by Venezuela's acceptance as a full member of regional trading bloc Mercosur on July 31 in the Brazilian capital Brasilia, joining existing members Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay after six years as an associate member.
Mercosur now represents 83.2 per cent of south America's GDP and a market of 270 million people.
Chavez said that Mercosur would help Venezuela to diversify its economy, calling it "the biggest engine to preserve our independence and speed up our total development."
Unable to oppose this success openly, Capriles sniffed that it would not translate into jobs or a better life for Venezuelans.
"Today we are a country that imports virtually everything, which means that those who benefit from Venezuela's entry into other markets are workers of other countries," he said.
If the election were to take place this weekend, the only point at issue, according to the opinion polls, would be whether Chavez would win by 15 points, 30 or somewhere in between.
However, the opposition dropped a bombshell last weekend by issuing a statement claiming without justification that Capriles was surging ahead of Chavez.
Opposition campaign director Luis Ignacio Planas stated: "Henrique Capriles is now winning in the polls. He passed the candidate of the past a while ago."
"Candidate of the past" is an epithet used by the opposition against Chavez to stress Capriles's youthful vigour against the 58-year-old president's serious health problems, which he insists are now behind him.
If anyone is a candidate of the past, Chavez told a Caracas rally on August 4, it is Capriles, who would end government social programmes and close schools and hospitals as the oligarchy did before the Bolivarian revolution.
"Chavez is what's new. Chavez is the future," the president roared, insisting that his lead in the polls was "irreversible" and that Capriles had more chance of being president of Mars than Venezuela.
Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) general secretary Oscar Figuera believes that it is possible to get too carried away by the opinion polls and urges party members to concentrate on the campaign in hand.
All revolutionaries should take "to the streets, to the neighbourhoods, to the workplaces to win over popular consciousness and make irreversible the revolutionary process which has as its head President Chavez," he said.
Figuera said that pro-Chavez forces should treat the polls carefully, pointing out that if their findings are sanctified by the left today it becomes more difficult to debunk them if future projections change direction.
He cautioned against revolutionary forces lapsing into complacency, citing journalist Jose Vicente Rangel's recent statement that "everything indicates a certain victory for Chavez."
"A certain victory? If there is a certain victory, then why should we spend time going from house to house, distributing pamphlets, convincing neighbours, debating the two models for the country, defending our candidate?" Figuera asked rhetorically.
And there's still two more months to go before this crucial electoral contest.