“Chávez says he’s the heart of the nation,” said San Martin, citing the president’s campaign slogan. “But I voted for a heart transplant.
At several voting centers, groups of pro-government motorcycle drivers, known as motorizados, honked their horns and popped wheelies.
Wilmer Fuentes, a member of a notorious group called the Lina Ron Commando — named after a gun-toting Chavista who died last year of a heart attack — said there were reports that opposition gangs were “having their way” and might have caused injuries. But Fuentes said he had no details and there were no similar reports.
Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva told Globovision that there were “some groups that planned to alter public order” in the afternoon, but provided no additional details.
But as of 2:30 p.m. CNE Vice President Sandra Oblitas and Gen. Wilmer Barrientos, who is in charge of election security, said there were no major incidents.
Even so, Caracas’ Catholic Archbishop Jorge Urosa called for calm and said no one should be intimidated into voting one way or another.
“Violence doesn’t win elections, votes win elections,” he said.
While both sides have polls that give them decisive leads, most analysts say the race is too close to call.
The government is trying to keep a lid on exit polls and has vowed to crack down on media outlets that claim a winner before the official announcement.
The close race seemed to be energizing voters, and many people said lines were unusually long on Sunday.
Sulaima McConlley, 38, brought her own chair to wait in line at 4 a.m. to vote in the community of La Quebradita.
“The race is so close, I think a lot of people are very excited about voting,” she said.
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Juan Tamayo contributed to this report.