"There is no possibility of any fraud in the election," electoral council official Vicente Diaz told the El Universal newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

 

Divided country

 

Venezuela is sharply polarised. Many poor people applaud Chavez's spending of oil income on health and education while some upper- and middle-class voters say he is a fledgling dictator determined to follow the lead of his ally, Cuba's Fidel Castro.

 

"There is no possibility of any fraud in the election"

Vicente Diaz, electoral council official

Send us your views

The most recent opinion survey, commissioned by the state oil company with a US pollster, showed Chavez with a 19-point lead over Rosales.

 

Rosales has mustered the opposition's most serious challenge to Chavez in years with populist promises to redistribute Venezuela's oil wealth and roll back policies he says are edging the country towards Cuban-style communism.

 

A Chavez victory would shore up his campaign to forge a regional alliance of leftist leaders to counter Washington's influence in Latin America. He applauded this week's victory by leftist Rafael Correa in Ecuador's presidential run-off.

   

A former paratrooper who led a botched coup six years before his 1998 election, Chavez says he is inspired by South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar to free Latin America from US-backed "imperialist" policies.