Nightly News   |  April 14, 2013

Venezuela votes for new president

After passionate campaigning, Venezuelans went to the polls to choose who will replace the late Hugo Chavez. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> this is presidential election day. venezuela . five weeks after the death of hugo chavez . the question being asked tonight is whether it will be business as usual for a government that had a long and hostile relationship with the u.s. nbc's mark cotter is in caracas tonight.

>> reporter: long lines at the polls formed early in the morning and drew again in the afternoon. as this politically divided country cast its votes. the ten-day campaigns to replace the laying hugo chavez as president of venezuela have been passionate and loud. the incoming president hand-picked by chavez as his successor promises to extend chavez ' socialist programs for the poor. the 50-year-old has led in most of the polls and insists he is visited by chavez 's spirit in the form of a bird. he frequently lashes out against the united states which many believe will continue if he wins.

>> it might even get stronger because nationalism is the one thing that he can rely on to make sure that he maintains his popularity.

>> reporter: his opponent is a 40-year-old governor popular with the young who scoffs at the claim that meduro is chavez 's successor. he says he wants to reduce oil subsidies to cuba venezuela supplies 8% of crude oil imports but also buys gasoline and diesel from the united states . experts say u.s. gas prices are unlikely to be affected by whoever wins.

>> it's really been one of the forces for stability within the relationship between the two countries.

>> reporter: venezuela 's new president will face serious domestic problems, including food shortages, one of the worst murder rates in the world, inflation and declining oil production which many blame on 14 years of chavez rule. now in many ways, this country is now at a crossroads being courted by two candidates with dramatically different visions for the future of venezuela . we expect the election results some time later tonight.

>> mark potter in caracas for us, thank you.