The election to determine who will replace Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela is two weeks away with an opposition reformer locked in a vicious campaign against a hand-picked successor who currently leads in the polls.
Henriques Capriles Radonski, the decendent of Jewish Holocaust survivors, continues his uphill climb campaigning against Nicolas Maduro, the vice president under Chavez and acting president until the April 14 elections.
A poll conducted on March 18, roughly two weeks after Chavez's death, reported Maduro had over 49 percent support, versus almost 35 percent for Capriles. Current poll numbers remain unclear, though some news reports rate the point spread at only 7 percent.
Venezuelan state news service AVN predicts Capriles will lose the election with 44.7 percent against Maduro's 55.3 percent.
"[Capriles] doesn't have a very good chance of winning. Maduro is pretty much set to be the next president," says Karen Hooper, Latin America expert at private security firm Stratfor.
The U.S. has always had an interest in disseminating anti-Chavez and anti-left news and social media in Venezuela, she says, but the state controlled media service, which wholly supports Maduro, is still the primary source of news for most locals.
The next president of Venezuela will have to face skyrocketing inflation rates among other economic issues following Chavez's attempts to nationalize most industries during his tenure. That will be the next "big story" following the April election, Hooper says.
"We're sort of in a holding pattern right now," she says. "Go time is April 14. That's the point at which this story really starts."
Maduro employed harsh rhetoric on Saturday against the opposition in Venezuela, calling them the "heirs of Hitler" and "Nazis." He claimed they targeted the Cuban doctors Chavez organized to travel to Venezuela roughly 10 years ago to offer free treatment in poor neighborhoods.
"The campaign against Cuba is just like the campaign against the Jews in Hitler's Germany," Reuters reports Maduro as saying. "The heirs of Hitler are leading a campaign in Venezuela against the people of Cuba."
Capriles' grandparents on his mother's side fled occupied Poland during World War II for Venezuela. He was raised Catholic.
Capriles is the governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and narrowly lost to Chavez in his fourth successful bid for president. Maduro spent part of the weekend claiming Capriles was purposefully trying to incite violence while both candidates campaigned in Barinas, a region in western Venezuela and birthplace of Chavez. A spokesman for Capriles said the false claims are evidence that the Maduro campaign is nervous about the election.
Chavez died on March 5 of after a long bout with cancer. Maduro quickly pinned his death on Western intervention. The White House issued a statement shortly after that offered no condolences.
"The United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights," it said.
The former president's reputation in his native land has taken on a religious aura during its Holy Week. Maduro rallies still incorporate a recording of "El Comandante" singing the Venezuelan national anthem blasted over loudspeakers.
"All of the prophecies of Hugo Chavez, the prophet of Christ on this earth, have come true," Reuters reports Maduro saying at an event to celebrate Chavez's release from prison following a failed coup in 1992.