World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez forecast he would win October's election with more than 60 percent of the vote after a new poll showed on Tuesday he held a large lead over his opposition rival.
The survey taken in May by respected local pollster Datanalisis found that 43.6 percent of voters in the South American OPEC nation favored Chavez, versus 27.7 percent for the Democratic Unity coalition's candidate, Henrique Capriles.
"The opposition know we are going to win the election. We have to win it by K.O. We are going to win the election with more than 60 percent of the votes," Chavez said on state TV.
Chavez's 15.9 point lead was slightly smaller than a 17.2-point margin in the previous month's survey by Datanalisis.
The portion of undecided voters in the poll was a substantial 28.7 percent - bearing out analysts' consensus that there is a lot left to play for.
The 57-year-old Chavez, who has been battling cancer for a year, remains popular in his 14th year in power due to his oil-financed welfare spending and his enduring emotional connection with the country's poor majority.
But Capriles, 39, a state governor, is drawing big crowds on the campaign trail and exuding an image of youth and energy that he counts on to tip the balance come voting day on Oct. 7.
The Datanalisis survey was in line with most of the country's best-known pollsters, who give Chavez a double-digit lead with less than four months remaining until the ballot.
"Almost 100 days now (before the vote)," Chavez said late on Tuesday. "A gap of 20 points ... is impossible to reverse."
"All the serious polls in this country, including one that is totally opposition, give Chavez an advantage of between 16 and 25 points," Information Minister Andres Izarra told Reuters.
"And the campaign has still not started," he added, referring to the formal July 1 beginning of the election race.
Polls show Chavez big win
A smaller phone survey conducted by Datanalisis after Chavez and Capriles formally registered their candidacies last week showed Chavez with 42.6 percent, and 28.8 percent for Capriles, a slightly narrower lead of 13.8 percent.
In a research note on Tuesday, JPMorgan said the latest polls would not change the market's perception that Chavez remains the strong favorite to win the election, if he can run.
"That said, polls of all ilk seem to be showing Chavez's lead over Capriles has stabilized, and in fact may be eroding on the margin," it said.
"We now think voters are paying more attention, and going forward the market should pay more attention to the polls ... Capriles has little time to waste, but we still think it is too early to rule out a more competitive landscape as we get closer to the vote."
While Chavez appears to be in a strong position, analysts said the volatility of Venezuelan voters and the mystery over his health meant the 2012 presidential race was far from over.
After three operations to remove two cancerous tumors in the past year, and lengthy absences in Cuba for treatment, Chavez has returned to the public limelight in the past two weeks with regular appearances on state TV and in public.
Details of his condition remain a state secret.
Although he is not walking much in public, Chavez has insisted he is recovering and will crush Capriles on election day.
Capriles said some opinion polls were skewed and that his nationwide "house-by-house" campaign was gathering steam and putting him on course to unseat the socialist leader.
Another survey on Tuesday - by pollster Gis XXI, which is run by a former Chavez minister - also gave the president a healthy lead with 57.8 percent of voter intentions versus 23 percent for Capriles.
The two candidates sparred on Monday over the possibility of a face-to-face televised campaign debate.
Chavez said he would be "ashamed" to square off with a "non-entity" like Capriles, while the opposition standard-bearer said the president was better at insulting than debating.
UN agency says civilians in South Sudan keep flocking to Ethiopia as fight between government forces, rebels continues
Around 1,000 migrants, refugees to be moved to 18 sites across Ile-de-France region
Victim's name will not be released until family is informed, says Turkey's embassy in Madrid
For his part, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told RTL radio that "the number of those who have been seriously injured may perhaps be even higher at around 17."
New York Police Department officials said the force would hold a press conference but declined to provide scheduling details.
Death toll feared to rise due to severe conditions of the many injured
The pickup truck, which had an improvised white wooden trailer constructed over the back, was transporting them in "overcrowded and unsanitary conditions," said a state police report seen by AFP.
At least 13 people were killed and more than 50 injured when a driver deliberately slammed his vehicle into crowds on Barcelona's most popular street -- Las Ramblas -- in what police qualified as a "terror attack."
The van attack that mowed down pedestrians on Barcelona's most famous street on Thursday killing at least 13 people was the latest fatal assault on a European city.
The agreement to open the market potentially worth $10 million a year came after US Vice President Mike Pence met this week with Argentina's president Mauricio Macri.
'The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed,' Trump says
"On the side of those who combat racism and xenophobia. Our common fight, yesterday and today. #Charlottesville," he wrote on Twitter.
Senior al-Shabaab militant responsible for multiple bombings killed in operation, says information minister
"The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc. Shame!," the US president wrote on Twitter.
A Red Cross official told AFP meanwhile that smaller mudslides had occurred since Monday in eastern Freetown and in Sierra Leone's second city of Bo, with the rainy season far from over.
Part of a mountain engulfed "a fisherman's camp after heavy rains caused a landslide" the deputy governor of Ituri province, Pacifique Keta, told AFP.