A woman casts her ballot in the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela. (Ramon Espinosa / Associated…)
CARACAS, Venezuela — Voting appeared relatively light and lines moved smoothly in the early hours of Venezuela’s presidential election, marking a contrast from the hours-long wait for voting in Hugo Chavez’s last election in October, which saw record turnout.
On a picture-perfect spring day in the capital, Caracas, voters moved quickly through polling places, where they were choosing between Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, and his more conservative challenger, Henrique Capriles. Opinion polls showed Maduro leading heading into the election, but Capriles closing the gap.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council, said at a news conference Sunday mornng that so far voter turnout has been lighter than in past elections.
Pablo Garcia, an economics instructor at the Central University of Venezuela, said he only waited a minute or two to vote Sunday in the South San Agustin barrio, a poor neighborhood in south Caracas. In October, he said, he waited five hours.
“It was much more fluid this time, with much less paperwork and confusion,” he said. He credited elections officials with breaking up a single line that led into the polls last fall. “Now there are many lines and not just one,” he said.
Garcia said he voted for Capriles. But his neighborhood is considered a Maduro stronghold, composed largely of the poor voters who were Chavez’s greatest supporters. Jose Ramon Gamero, a traveling fabric salesman, voted at the same polling place, and cast his ballot for Maduro. “We have to continue the revolutionary process, which has benefited so many people, especially the poor,” he said. "Capriles would be a step backward,” Gamero said, “and we don’t want to go there.”
Angela Orellana, a physician, voted in the more affluent neighborhood of Acacias close to Fort Tiuna, where Chavez’ body lay in repose for a week after he died and where tens of thousands of Venezuelans went to pay homage. Orellana said voting this time was “rapidisimo” -- extremely fast.
“No problems like the ones I’ve had in the past with eternal waiting,” she said. Her choice: Capriles, because “we have to do away with this government of inefficiency, abuses and corruption, and Capriles can show us the way.”
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