President Hugo Chavez launched his campaign for a third straight term, dismissing his opponents as pawns of a Washington plan to discredit the December election and destabilise Venezuela.
Punching his fist in the air, Chavez was greeted by throngs of supporters who formed a sea of red - the colour of his political party - as he arrived at the electoral council's headquarters in downtown Caracas.
"I am the candidate of the revolution," Chavez said, "and without a doubt I am the candidate of the national majority, of those who continue transforming the country and saving it from the capitalist quagmire."
Chavez, who describes his government as a socialist revolution, faces a newly united opposition, with most rivals falling in behind a single candidate, the Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales.
Also running as something of a wild card is a comedian, Benjamin Rausseo, better known in Venezuela as the 'Count of Guacharo.'
Chavez dismissed all the other candidates as tools of the US government, which he frequently accuses of planning to invade. "All the candidates that until now have appeared are candidates of the right, of the counterrevolution and, I'd even say, of the US Empire," he said.
Accusing the opposition of an "imperialist plan" to boycott the election and undermine the electoral process, he warned that he was preparing a social and political "counterattack."
"You can be sure they'll regret it," he said, without elaborating. Chavez has previously said that if opposition parties boycott the vote, he would call a referendum on ending term limits - a move that could allow him to serve past 2012.