Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shrugged off cancer and a unified opposition to triumph yet again at the ballot box and claim another six-year mandate to pursue his oil-funded socialist revolution.
Sunday proved a sterner test than previous elections in Chavez's 14-year tenure, but the bombastic anti-American leftist emerged victorious again despite health scares, growing discontent and a strong opposition challenge.
With nearly all the votes counted, Chavez had 7,731,972, or 54.66 percent, compared to 6,327,429, or 44.73 percent, for his youthful opponent, former Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles.
Addressing thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of his Miraflores presidential residence, Chavez sang the national anthem and vowed to be a better president.
“Viva Venezuela! Viva the fatherland!” exulted the leftist leader. “The battle was perfect and the victory was perfect.””I want to include everybody, including sectors of the opposition,” the 58-year-old Chavez, wearing his trademark red shirt, said in a tacit acceptance of the best electoral showing against him yet.
But, brandishing the sword of his 19th century idol, independence hero Simon Bolivar, he pledged to press ahead with a socialist revolution that has antagonized opponents, both at home and abroad.
“Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century,” he said. – Text by AFP, photos by Agencies