Venezuelans are awaiting the outcome of presidential elections that incumbent Hugo Chavez hopes will propel him to another six-year term.
The voting officially ended Sunday afternoon at four p.m. local time (2000 UTC) but stations were staying open to allow the last person in line to vote. Preliminary results were expected early Monday.
Most pre-election polls favored the president, but his main rival, Zulia state Governor Manuel Rosales, predicted that late momentum in the campaign would propel him to victory.
Earlier, President Chavez cast his ballot at a Caracas polling station after arriving in a red Volkswagen Beetle. He encouraged Venezuelans to vote, remain calm and wait for the results.
Voters in Caracas lined up at polling stations before dawn for the closely monitored election. Hundreds of international observers are in Venezuela, and some polling stations are equipped with a new electronic voting system.
After voting in his home state, Mr. Rosales denounced cases in which people reported that their vote had not been recorded on a paper receipt, after electronically casting their ballots. Mr. Rosales also criticized a fingerprint identity verification system, calling it useless and disruptive to the electoral process.
Mr. Rosales has led the opposition's most serious challenge to the president in years, accusing Mr. Chavez of turning Venezuela into a communist dictatorship.
Mr. Chavez says if he wins, he will begin a new phase of his so-called "Bolivarian Revolution." Named after the 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar, it directs much of Venezuela's oil wealth toward social programs for the poor.
Mr. Chavez says the election is a contest between Venezuela and what he describes as "the empire" of the United States.
The Venezuelan leader is a close political ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has long fought against what he calls American imperialism.
Mr. Chavez has strongly criticized the Bush administration, raising concerns in Washington about the leftist politician's influence throughout Latin America.