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Venezuelan candidates mobilize backers before vote

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Some government opponents have also raised concerns that public employees and other voters who rely on government social programs are being pressured to vote for Chavez.

In fact, one group of Capriles supporters has appeared at his campaign marches wearing paper bags over their heads, saying they need to remain anonymous because they fear losing their government jobs or benefits.

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The opposition candidate has called them "Chaca Chaca," an amalgram of Chavez and Capriles’ names, and told public employees they have nothing to fear. He’s also assured them their votes will be kept secure by the country’s electronic balloting system and checks have shown that safeguards are in place to keep ballots secret.

However, some Capriles supporters still express fears that thumbprint readers used at polling centers could intimidate opposition-leaning voters.

Given intense interest in the race, analysts predict a high turnout.

In the last presidential vote in 2006, about 75 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The latest Datanalisis poll found that more than 79 percent said they are "very sure" they will vote on Oct. 7.

At a recent campaign march in the town of Los Teques, hundreds of opposition supporters blew whistles and horns as they paraded through the streets past a red tent where a group of Chavez supporters handed out campaign fliers.

Rafael Carrillo, a Chavez supporter who belongs to the Communist Party of Venezuela, paid little attention to the passing crowd as he danced and loudly sang along with the campaign jingle playing on some nearby speakers.

"We’re going to give 10 million votes to our commander," Carrillo said. He said he thinks voting will proceed peacefully but that Chavez’s supporters must be organized, including "to detect any type of sabotage" by government opponents.

"We’re the majority," he said, "and we’re going to show it on the 7th with votes."

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