Hugo Chavez re-elected to extend socialist rule in Venezuela
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Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez won re-election on Sunday, quashing the opposition's best chance at unseating him in 14 years and cementing himself as a dominant figure in modern Latin American history.
The 58-year-old Chavez took 54.42 per cent of the vote, with 90 per cent of the ballots counted, to 44.97 per cent for the young opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, official results showed.
Chavez's victory would extend his rule of the OPEC member state to two decades, though he is recovering from cancer and the possibility of a recurrence hangs over his political future.
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.
Chavez fans partied and set off fireworks in the streets.
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.
Since taking power in 1999, the flamboyant former soldier has become a global flag bearer of anti-imperialism, gleefully baiting the U.S. government while befriending leaders from Iran to Belarus whom the West views with suspicion.
At home, casting himself as an heir to independence hero Simon Bolivar, Chavez has poured billions of dollars in oil revenues into anti-poverty programs, and skillfully used his humble roots and folksy oratory to build a close connection with the masses.
While that 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.
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