"Venezuela goes to the polls a week today, and a charismatic young leader is poised to end the President's 14-year rule.
Criss-crossing the country for most of 2012, the business-friendly law graduate first won an opposition primary with ease and has been gathering steam, and honing his style, ever since. A devout Catholic, he has based his strategy on a "house-by-house" tour, from remote Amazon villages and Andean highlands to cattle ranches and city slums. Dashing around by bus and plane, he typically visits three or four places a day, often joining in basketball games, highlighting his youth and energy. He bears scratches from female admirers grabbing at him in the crowds, downs Red Bulls to keep his energy up, and has earned the affectionate nickname El Flaquito (Skinny).
Lately, he has been going for Chavez's jugular. When the President begins one of his hours-long speeches, his rival sometimes tweets mocking ripostes. In the past week, he has been waving Chavez's manifesto while scoffing at its pledges to "save mankind" and strive for a "new international geopolitic" dynamic. "But who takes care of the electricity cuts?" he asked last week, homing in on one of the subjects dear to voters, who also worry about high crime rates, rising prices and lack of jobs."