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Venezuelans Head to Polls to Choose Chavez Successor

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Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Venezuelans headed to the polls on Sunday morning to decide, once and for all, who will be the official successor of the widely beloved, and now deceased, Hugo Chavez.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is live blogging the day from Venezuela here.

"From the country's Caribbean coastline to its cities and jungle interior," polling centers were due to open from 6 a.m. (0630 EST) until 6 p.m. (1830 EST), Reuters reports, though voting could run longer if there are still lines.

The voters will chose between acting president, and former vice president, Nicolas Maduro, who had a double-digit lead in most opinion polls throughout the race, and Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in elections this past October.

Chavez had nominated Maduro — a former bus driver and union activist — as vice president following his victory at the polls in October. Chavez lost his battle against cancer on March 5, at aged 58, leaving Maduro as temporary head of state.

Maduro has promised to push forward Chavez's "21st century socialism" if he wins.

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"We're going to have a giant victory. The bigger the margin, the more peaceful the country will be," Maduro said. "If the gap is smaller, it is only because they (the opposition) managed to confuse a group of Venezuelans."

Much is at stake for Latin America and, subsequently, for global politics in the election. As Reuters reports:

The winner will inherit control of the world's biggest oil reserves in an OPEC nation whose stark political polarization is one of Chavez's many legacies.

Also at stake is the generous economic aid Chavez provided to left-leaning Latin American governments from Cuba to Bolivia.

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