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Venezuelans Vote for Chavez Successor

Polls have closed in Venezuela where voters made their choice Sunday for the South American country's next president, after the death of former president Hugo Chavez last month.

After a brief and bitter campaign, the divided, oil-rich nation waits for electoral authorities to announce the victor in the race between Mr. Chavez's hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro, who is acting president, and challenger and opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister, began the campaign with a double-digit lead in the polls that shrank considerably in the lead-up to the election.

Capriles is a 40-year-old state governor who lost to Mr. Chavez by 11 percentage points in last year's presidential election. He accuses Maduro and the Chavez government of doing little to solve Venezuela's economic problems, food shortages and soaring crime rate.

Maduro touts his working-class roots and says the middle-class Capriles cannot identify with the poor. Maduro says he will continue what he calls the Chavez revolution, which supporters say used oil wealth to lift millions out of poverty.



Mr. Chavez died last month after a two-year battle with cancer.

He was a staunch socialist who was first elected president in 1998. He earned the enmity of the United States and others for such policies as nationalizing major companies and courting world leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

The opposition accused him of becoming a dictator, but he was revered by many of Venezuela's poor.

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