Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told a "red tide" of hundreds of thousands of supporters on Sunday that he will dedicate his expected re-election victory to the ailing leader of communist Cuba, Fidel Castro.
Chavez, a close ally of Castro, noted that the December 3 vote would be held the same weekend as Cuba's 50th anniversary celebration of the landing of the yacht that carried Castro and his armed band to Cuba to launch their guerrilla war.
"This victory on December 3 ... we're going to dedicate it to the 50 years since the arrival of the revolutionary boat Granma led by Fidel Castro to the coast of Cuba," Chavez said to cheers.
"Fidel, applause from Venezuela! Long live Cuba! Long live revolutionary Cuba!"
Chavez considers the Cuban leader a mentor, but has often said that the socialism he seeks for Venezuela does not aim to copy Cuba's system.
His critics, including leading opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, have accused Chavez of trying to bring Venezuela to Cuba-style authoritarianism.
Peering through a pair of binoculars down a major avenue packed with supporters wearing the color of his party, Chavez admired what he called the "red tide."
"Our goal is not to win" the election, Chavez said amid the thunder of fireworks. "We must outdo our previous triumphs. ...
We are going to win in a way that is overwhelming, crushing." Sunday's rally, the largest in support of Chavez since campaigning began in August, appeared to number in the hundreds of thousands and Chavez claimed millions. There were no official estimates by police or other agencies.
Journalists on the scene said it appeared somewhat smaller than an opposition rally a day earlier that flooded a major highway in one of the largest anti-Chavez demonstrations in years.
Chavez welcomed international election observers from the European Union, Organization of American States, the Carter Center and other bodies.
"You will be witnesses to another of the great victories of the Bolivarian people," said Chavez, invoking the legacy of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.