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Opponents jostle to take on Chavez

Opposition leaders will hold the nation's first primary election to choose the strongest challenger to the populist President, Hugo Chavez.

The front-runner in Sunday's election is Henrique Capriles, a 39-year-old state governor who has won a large following as a youthful alternative to the 57-year-old Mr Chavez.

Other contenders include Pablo Pérez, the popular state governor of Zulia, and Maria Corina Machado, a congresswoman who is an outspoken critic of Mr Chavez and his attempts to bring socialism to Venezuela.