HAVANA TIMES — Nearly 19 million eligible Venezuelans began voting Sunday morning in presidential elections to choose a successor to late president Hugo Chavez, who himself was elected in 1999 and held office until his death on March 5, reported dpa news.
Through their social network accounts on Twitter, the official candidate and interim president Nicolas Maduro, as well as the opposition leader Henrique Capriles, both invited citizens to vote starting at dawn.
We’re going to “break the record for participation in our mobilized democracy. The sovereign will of the people is going to decide the course of Bolivar’s homeland,” said Maduro.
“Day break has come in Venezuela … Let’s vote!” he urged.
“Hope, faith and courage!” said Capriles, who added: “A very good morning to all, the big day has come! A big hug to all members of the election committee, observers, members of our FANB! (the armed forces).”
Most polling stations opened their doors at 6:00 local time (10:30 GMT) and will remain open until 18:00 (22:30 GMT), although those people who are still in line may vote beyond that time.
In any case, thousands of Venezuelans were waiting at the doors of voting centers at the crack of dawn.
At 3:00 a.m. the sounds of motorcycles and vehicles could already be heard in Caracas as these were being used to call on citizens to vote.
In Plaza Venezuela, a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem was played on loud speakers, with this accompanied by sounds simulating the singing of birds (a reference to Maduro’s comment during the election campaign that the president had appeared in front of him in the form of a little bird).
The election process will be followed by 3,435 national observers and 240 international ones, including the former president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez; and former Guatemalan head of state Alvaro Colom.
International contingents will also be participating. The main one is from UNASUR, composed of 40 technicians of its member countries, which include Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and Argentina. They will be led by Carlos Alvarez, the secretary general of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).
The observer’s role is to monitor the elections, though according to the law their functions are limited to making recommendations.