Venezuela extended a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez into a second day, after a record turnout and malfunctioning ballot machines kept voters in line for as long as 10 hours.
Chavez, a 50-year-old former paratrooper who survived both a military coup and two-month strike by oil workers, said after voting yesterday that he would respect the outcome. In a televised speech, Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza, a leader of the opposition, urged Venezuelans to endure the wait and vote.
Concern that the vote could prompt violence and disrupt supplies from the fourth-largest oil exporter to the U.S. pushed up the price of crude to a record. A gunman in Caracas yesterday sprayed bullets at voters, killing one person and injuring 12, the city's Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno said in an interview.
''There is a fear factor that something may go wrong after the referendum,'' Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington-based research company specializing in energy security, said in an interview. ''If Chavez is removed that could create violence. This guy will not leave quietly. There could be sabotage. There could be agitations.''
The National Electoral Council, which yesterday had extended polling eight hours to midnight in Caracas, was meeting early today to decide its next steps, a spokeswoman for the council in Caracas said. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who is among international observers in Venezuela, said at a press conference from the council's headquarters yesterday that polls would stay open until the last voter in line casts a ballot.