Venezuela goes to the polls today to chose a new president in what many believe will produce an election result by the narrowest of margins.
President Hugo Chavez, who has easily won in the past, is seeking a third term to consolidate his social reforms, but this time he appears not to be certain of victory.
On the eve of the vote, the charismatic leader whose power base is among the poor after lavishing vast sums of oil revenues on social programmes, called for calm. He asked everyone from all political camps to accept the result whatever happens.
Supporters of 40-year-old Henrique Capriles are determined to vote for their man.
Venezuelans living in Miami where there is a large anti-Chavez expat community, have chartered dozens busses to travel some sixteen hours to New Orleans to cast their ballots. Chavez recently closed their local consulate.
“We have been tolerating this man for the last 14 years, this outgoing president. He’s been a complete failure for the country,” said one Miami voter.
Victory for Chavez would allow him to take more control of the economy while Capriles is vowing to open up competition and create more jobs.
Although not the only candidates, Chavez and Capriles appear to have polarised Venezuela’s 19 million strong electorate.