By Brian Padden
There are long lines at Venezuelan polling stations as voters wait to cast their ballots in the tightly contested presidential election between President Hugo Chavez and his opponent Henrique Capriles, a former state governor.
In the Caracas neighborhood of Catia, a traditional stronghold for President Hugo Chavez, voters like Sarkes de a Hache have come out in force to vote for the president. “Because he is doing well for poor people. He helps the poor,” he said.
The polls opened at 6:00 am and while the lines have been long, voters say the process has been well organized.
At one polling station in Catia there was no apparent political pressure being applied, but there was a pro-Chavez poster hanging near the entrance, an area that is supposed to be free of political advertising.
The ballot may seem a bit confusing because the two candidates’ photos appear in multiple boxes representing different political parties. Voters much choose not just the candidate, but also the party they support.
If Chavez wins a new six-year term, he will be free to further his socialist policies using the country’s oil wealth and continue to support anti-U.S. governments around the world, while if challenger Henrique Capriles wins, Venezuela will likely embrace more capitalist-oriented polices and shift its foreign policy.
In the well-to-do neighborhood of Mercedes, supporters for Capriles have also come out in force to vote for their candidate. Evelyn Jimenez who lives in the United States came home to Venezuela to vote for change. “I am against communist, socialist, I do not believe in that. I believe in the best for each country all around the world,” she said.
Around 19-million voters are expected to participate in Sunday’s election and preliminary results could be announced by late Sunday.