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Venezuelans face long trips to vote

MIAMI — By bus and car, commercial flight and charter, US-based Venezuelans are traveling en masse to New Orleans in the coming days, spending hundreds of dollars and in some cases more than a day of their time to cast a vote in their country’s presidential election.

The government of President Hugo Chavez earlier this year closed the country’s consulate in Miami, where most Venezuelans living in the United States have cast ballots.

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It later said voters would have to travel to New Orleans if they want to participate in the Oct. 7 vote.

It is a hardship in terms of time and money for many potential voters. But some, especially those who want to stop Chavez from being reelected after 13 years in power, are determined to make the trip anyway.

Carolina Guevara, a 21-year-old college student, plans to take the 15-hour bus ride from Miami to New Orleans, an 870-mile trek.

‘‘We want to demonstrate to the government that even if they put obstacles in our path, we will practice our right to vote,’’ said Guevara, who hopes to return to Venezuela after completing her political science studies at Miami Dade College.

Chavez is in a closely fought race with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. A recent poll by the firm Consultores 21 put the candidates running roughly even in Venezuela, with 46.5 percent saying they would vote for Capriles and nearly 46 percent saying they would vote for Chavez.

Chavez, who is seeking another six-year term, gave a television interview Sunday in which he also weighed in on the US presidential race. Although he has been a strident critic of the United States, Chavez said he would vote for President Obama if he were a US voter, calling him “a good guy.’’

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