The moment Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called Henrique Capriles "a low-life pig" last week, he dispelled any hopes that the ailing, firebrand president would behave graciously or even with something resembling dignity toward his opponent in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
The crass language, and what followed, also made it clear that Chávez will pull out all the stops in pursuing Venezuela's top job for the fourth time, doing everything within his considerable power to remain in office for life.
Had the opposition shown its traditional signs of weakness in advance of the October elections, Chávez might have had the luxury of playing it cool. But the energy and unity arrayed against him this time have made him visibly nervous. And Chávez, whose health remains the subject of feverish speculation, is not taking any chances.