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Chavez's shadow looms over Sunday presidential vote in Venezuela

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

CARACAS — Nicolas Maduro has been hoping to ride a tide of grief into Venezuela's special presidential election on Sunday and win voters' endorsement to succeed the late Hugo Chavez.

That will mean inheriting both a loyal following among the poor and multiple problems left behind by Chavez — troubles that have been harped on by opposition challenger Henrique Capriles.

Although he's still favored, Maduro's early big lead in opinion polls sharply narrowed in the past week as Venezuelans grappled with a litany of woes many blame on Chavez's mismanagement of the economy and infrastructure: chronic power outages, double-digit inflation, food and medicine shortages.

Maduro, 50, hewed to a simple message, a theme of the October presidential campaign: “I am Chavez. We are all Chavez.” He promised to expand myriad anti-poverty programs established by the man he called the “Jesus Christ of Latin America” and funded by $1 trillion in oil revenues during Chavez's 14-year rule.

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