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June 23, 2017

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Chavez calls for pre-dawn turnout at polls

YARITAGUA/CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged his supporters to vote early at Sunday's election, saying the key to him winning another six-year term as leader of South America's biggest oil exporter was organization and logistics.

Chavez, 58, is in a close race with 40-year-old state governor Henrique Capriles, and both camps are now focused on their final rallies and getting their supporters to the polls.

The socialist president, a former army officer, called on his followers to rouse their neighbors with trumpets and bugles in a military-style, pre-dawn wake-up call that has been used in previous elections.

"It should be at 3 a.m. Get some nice coffee, some good chocolate, an early breakfast. We have to work very hard in the logistics, the deployment. Water, food for the troops, transport to the polls, to the voting centers," Chavez told thousands of red-shirted "Chavistas" in the central city of Yaritagua.

"We have to take good care of all these aspects, the strategy the tactics ... What's at stake is too important: the next 100 years of the fatherland."

Among the half dozen or so major local pollsters, most put Chavez ahead, but Capriles has been creeping up thanks to an energetic campaign. Two surveys gave him a slight edge.

Chavez has stepped up his campaign in recent days, although he is still recovering from three cancer operations and various treatments since June 2011.

If he wins, questions will remain about his health, and the lack of a clear successor from his ruling Socialist Party.

Capriles, who would be Venezuela's youngest leader if he wins, is expected to end heavy intervention by the president in the economy.

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