CARACAS, Venezuela – The Latest on Sunday's presidential election in Venezuela (all times local):
Pope Francis is praying that "beloved" Venezuela's people and rulers will wisely choose peace and unity as the nation elects a new president.
Francis, addressing faithful in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, asked that the "Holy Spirit give all the Venezuelan people, everyone, leaders, people, the wisdom to find the path of peace and unity."
He also prayed for prison inmates who died Saturday. Human rights advocates say 11 people were killed in a Venezuelan prison riot last week sparked by inmates who wrestled a gun from jailers.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a second term in the election, despite food shortages and soaring inflation. His main rivals are boycotting due to distrust of the electoral council, which is controlled by government loyalists.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cast his ballot in Caracas shortly after fireworks and loud speakers blasting a military hymn roused Venezuelans from sleep around 5 a.m. local time.
He said Venezuelans would provide an example of democracy to the world and brushed back suggestions 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."
Maduro is expected to win a second six-year term in Sunday's election, despite a deepening crisis that's made food scarce and inflation soar as oil production in the once wealthy nation plummets.