He said Venezuelans would provide an example of democracy to the world and brushed back suggestions thaty he was taking the country down an authoritarian path.
“It’s offensive when they say the Venezuelan people are falling under dictatorship,” he said after voting, adding that if he were to win the election, he would seek an understanding with his opponents on a way forward for the crisis-wracked country. “I’m going to stubbornly and obsessively insist in dialogue for peace.”
In the opposition stronghold of eastern Caracas not all voters heeded a call to stay indoors in protest.
Nayra Martinez, a city employee and opposition activist, bucked her party’s call to abstain from casting her ballot, saying it was no time to stop fighting.
“If you’re sick and the doctor gives you few days to live, you don’t lay in bed waiting to die,” she said. “You seek treatment.”
But in the opposition stronghold of eastern Caracas, the leafy streets were largely empty.
In the neighborhood of Los Palos Grandes, opposition supporter Henri Roldan, 62, said he wasn’t voting. Instead, he was going to eat out at a restaurant, a luxury he now limits himself to once a month since inflation has devoured his pension check.
“Our money just doesn’t stretch as far as it should,” said Roldan, a retired computer technician, stopping near fountains at his neighborhood plaza to chat with friends. “Eating out is so expensive.”
The election drew broad criticism because some of Maduro’s most popular rivals were barred from running and several more were forced into exile. Echoing the views of Venezuela’s tattered opposition movement, the United States, the European Union and many Latin American countries have already said they won’t recognize the results.