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Balloting begins in Venezuela's presidential election

April 14, 2013|By Chris Kraul and Mery Mogollon

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Polls have opened their doors for Venezuelans to elect a new president today to replace the late Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer last month.

In the campaign to fill out the six-year term of Chavez, state Gov. Henrique Capriles has repeatedly labeled front-runner opponent Nicolas Maduro, who is Chavez’s political heir, a liar, incompetent and corrupt.

Maduro, who holds the position of interim president, is favored to win largely on the strength of sympathy for Chavez. The late president named the former bus driver and union leader as his heir in December before departing for his final surgery in Cuba.

Maduro has sworn to continue Chavez’s policies of redistributing billions in oil wealth into health, subsidized food and education programs for the poor.

But Capriles' aggressive strategy, which also includes slamming government inaction on rising inflation, spiraling crime and food shortages, seemed to be resonating among voters in the run-up to the election.

The last major opinion poll showed Maduro’s lead over Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, had shrunk to 7 percentage points from 15 at the end of March.

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