Chavez foe demands limits on leader`s on-air talks

Capriles is demanding election officials prevent Prez Chavez from taking over airwaves of TV and radio stations for lengthy speeches for re-election.

Caracas: Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles is demanding election officials prevent President Hugo Chavez from taking over the airwaves of the nation`s TV and radio stations for lengthy speeches while campaigning for re-election.

Capriles criticised his adversary on Tuesday for attempting to take political advantage of special broadcasts ahead of Venezuela`s October 7 presidential election, and he demanded the National Electoral Council intervene.

The council`s directors have approved campaign regulations that prohibit television and radio messages that favour a presidential candidate to run longer than three minutes.

The new rules take effect Sunday when the campaign officially starts. It`s unclear whether they will limit the president`s frequent and lengthy use of special broadcasts known as "cadenas," which all networks are required to air.

"We are demanding that there by no cadenas starting on Sunday," said Capriles at a news conference in Caracas. "He can lead his campaign on television, but without using cadenas."

Chavez has not responded to Capriles` remarks. He has been making frequent use of his ability to take over the airwaves in recent weeks, talking on television and radio for several hours a couple times a week.

The Leftist President has frequently warned Venezuelans that Capriles would roll back his banner social programs for the poor. He`s also trumpeting his government`s plans to resolve pressing domestic problems such as widespread violent crime and soaring inflation.

In the past year, Chavez has undergone two surgeries that removed tumours from his pelvic region, most recently in February. That`s meant Chavez has appeared in public less frequently than in the past, a dramatic shift for his 13-year-old presidency.

Recently, however, he has been stepping up his public appearances and has mentioned his health less frequently.

"I`ve been recovering, doing exercise, walking, jogging," Chavez said yesterday after meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. "I`m not like the horse I was 20 years ago, but we`re moving along and we`re going to win these elections."

Capriles has spent recent months travelling across the country to drum up support for his candidacy.