Girish Gupta

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Opponents of Chavez stunned at his re-election
Oct. 8, 2012 — Caracas, Venezuela

Published by USA Today [PDF]

Lining up Monday for the bank in a wealthier district of Caracas, Alejandro Colmenarez, 32, an engineer, was ready to pack his bags.

"Half of Venezuela is speechless," he said of the re-election of Hugo Chavez, 58, to a fourth term as president . "We were looking for something better after 14 years.

"With all the insecurity, all the problems, I'm going to leave the country," he said. "I'm thinking Spain."

With 90% of the ballots counted, Chavez won a six-year term with 54.4% of the vote over challenger and former state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, who got 45%. It was Chavez's fourth presidential win.

While his margin of victory was much tighter than the 2006 presidential election, it did not come close to the predictions of a close race suggested by several media polls and exit polls. Chavez got 550,000 more votes Sunday than he did six years ago, while the opposition increased its vote total by about 2.1 million.

Capriles asked his supporters to accept the results but lashed out at Chavez's use of the country's oil wealth to slosh money at his backers in the form of new social spending that he called "vote buying."

Capriles' supporters on Monday also groused about Chavez's monopolizing of the state media television system leading up to Sunday's election. TV broadcasters covered hours of Chavez appearances on the campaign trail daily and devoted little if any coverage to Capriles' events.

Capriles said he would continue to work for Venezuela despite the loss.

"I gave it my all, and I'm proud of what we built," he said.

Capriles had campaigned on ending corruption and crime he blamed on Chavez's policies. He said Chavez's state control of the economy was causing high food prices and poor production in the largest oil reserves in the world in Venezuela.

Chavez, who has been receiving treatments for cancer, indicated in victory that he would take his socialist policies even deeper. "Venezuela will continue along the path of democratic socialism for the 21st century," he said at the Miraflores presidential palace to the tens of thousands who had gathered there.

Chavez supporters were ecstatic. They lit fireworks outside Miraflores Sunday night and Monday.

"We've got the most trustworthy electoral system in the world," said 27-year-old teacher Isa Ramos as she leaned on the wall of the palace Sunday night. "It's a demonstration of the popular will."

Filed from
Caracas, Venezuela






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© Girish Gupta