Voting Begins in Venezuela

Campaign posters of Chavez and Capriles.

HAVANA TIMES — Polling places opened at 6:00 a.m. local time in Venezuela on Sunday for crucial presidential elections with the current leader Hugo Chavez, 58, seeking a third term that would keep him in office through 2019.

His opponent is Henrique Capriles, 40, a former governor of the state of Miranda (2008-2012) and the united opposition candidate, seeking to bring an end to Chavez “Bolivarian” Revolution, which takes its name from independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Chavez first took office in 1999 after winning the elections with 56.5% of the vote in December 1998. In 2006,  Chavez won reelection by a wider 63-37% margin over his rival Manuel Rosales.

Venezuela is Cuba’s leading trade partner and supplier of all of the oil it imports.  In return, Cuba provides Chavez’s social programs with over 30,000 doctors, nurses, educators, sports trainers.

Capriles says he would maintain Chavez’s popular social programs but would seek to rengotiate the terms involved in the exchange to make them more favorable to Venezuela.

Therefore the voting in the South American country takes on extraordinary importance in Cuba, as well as in Nicaragua, whose leaders depend on assistance provided by Chavez.