CARACAS: Emboldened by a resounding re-election, President Hugo Chavez has
all the political capital he needs to drive Venezuela more firmly towards
socialism while posing an increasing challenge to US influence.
In a speech to thousands, Chavez said Venezuelans should expect an "expansion
of the revolution" aimed at redistributing the country's oil wealth among the
"Long live the revolution!" Chavez shouted from the balcony of the
presidential palace. "Venezuela is demonstrating that a new and better world is
possible, and we are building it."
Opposition contender Manuel Rosales accepted defeat on Sunday night, but
promised to continue countering Chavez.
"We will continue in this struggle," Rosales told cheering supporters at his
With 78 per cent of voting stations reporting, Chavez had 61 per cent of the
vote, to 38 per cent for Rosales.
Partial results from Sunday's vote showed Chavez had nearly 6 million votes
versus 3.7 million for Rosales. Final turnout figures among the 15.9 million
eligible voters weren't available but an official bulletin showed turnout at
more than 70 per cent.
Chavez has won a loyal following among the poor through multibillion-dollar
social programmes including subsidized food, free university education and cash
benefits for single mothers.
Chavez called his victory a blow against US President George W. Bush. "It's
another defeat for the devil, who tries to dominate the world," Chavez told the
crowd of red-shirted supporters, who listened to him under pouring rain. "Down
with imperialism. We need a new world."
Chavez has increasingly posed a challenge to the United States while leading
a growing bloc of Latin American leftists, influencing elections across the
region, and allying himself with US enemies like Iran and Syria.
The United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil, but Chavez has
sought to gradually diversify to new clients in Latin America.
Many who voted for Chavez said they think his oil-funded social programmes
are making a difference.
"We're here to support our president, who has helped us so much," said Jose
Domingo Izaguirre, a factory worker whose family recently moved into new
Conflict and ambition have marked the rise of Chavez, 52, from a boy selling
homemade sweets to a failed coup commander in 1992. Constitutional reforms he
oversaw in 1999 triggered new elections the following year that he easily won.
Loyalists helped him survive a 2002 coup and a 2004 recall referendum.
Chinese analysts believe his re-election would help boost friendly
China-Venezuela relations. "It is conducive to stable development of bilateral
ties," said Yuan Dongzhen, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social
Chavez has forged strong relations with Beijing since taking office. He
visited China four times during his first term.
In his latest trip four months ago, he signed a series of accords on energy,
finance, tourism and education collaboration. He also vowed to export 500,000
barrels of oil a day to China by 2009.
Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, currently sells 150,000
barrels of oil a day to China.
Agencies - China Daily
(China Daily 12/05/2006 page1)