(TheBlaze/AP) — Venezuela’s electoral council says President Hugo Chavez has won re-election, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles.
National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena says that with most votes counted, Chavez had about 54 percent of the vote. So far, Lucena says Chavez won more than 7.4 million votes, beating Capriles by more than 1.2 million.
It marks Chavez’s third re-election victory in nearly 14 years in office. The victory gives Chavez another six-year term to cement his legacy and press more forcefully for a transition to socialism in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Reuters has more:
Jubilant supporters poured onto the streets of Caracas to celebrate the victory of a man who has near-Messianic status among Venezuela’s poor, and there was relief too among leftist allies around the region – from Cuba to Bolivia – who rely on his oil-financed generosity.
“I’m celebrating with a big heart,” said Mary Reina, a 62-year-old Chavez supporter who lives in the hillside slum where the president cast his vote. “Chavez is the hope of the people and of Latin America.”
The mood was grim at Capriles’ campaign headquarters, where opposition supporters broke into tears. The opposition will now have to regroup quickly for state elections in December.
Though Chavez’s battle with cancer has weakened him somewhat, Chavez reportedly appears as energetic as he did when he first assumed power in 1999.
While that connection ensured his re-election, the opposition’s big share of the vote reflected a real and growing anger at Chavez’s failure to fix basic problems such as violent crime, potholed roads, electricity blackouts, and entrenched corruption at all levels.
Attention will now shift to Chavez’s plans for a new six-year term at the helm of South America’s biggest oil exporter. The government spent lavishly during the campaign to boost Chavez’s chances, likely ensuring healthy growth of 4 to 5 percent this year but potentially paving the way for an inflation-fueled economic hangover in 2013.
Capriles gave a gracious congratulations to Chavez, but told his supporters not to feel defeated.
“We have planted many seeds across Venezuela and I know that these seeds are going to produce many trees,” he said late Sunday.
But hundreds of young red-shirted Chavistas had already taken to the streets on motorcycles, saying they were ready to begin celebrating.
“Let them accept defeat,” Kleiver Gutierrez remarked of the opposition.
When asked why she voted for the incumbent, one woman said it was because of how much he cares.
She explained: “There is corruption, there’s plenty of bureaucracy, but the people have never had a leader who cared about this country…That’s why the people are going to re-elect Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.”
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.