Hugo Chavez brandishes the sword of independence hero Simón Bolívar to an enthusiastic crowd outside the Miraflores palace
By Caribbean News Now contributor
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Hugo Chavez was re-elected Venezuelan president on Sunday with 7,444,082 votes counted thus far, according to the Venezuelan National Electoral Council.
The number of votes in favour of Chavez represents 54.42 percent of all 13,667,934 valid votes. This means that Chavez beat his rival Henrique Carpriles by a margin of nearly 10 points. Capriles garnered 44.97 percent (6,151,544 votes), the president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, announced in a press conference after the vote counting. The margin of victory gives Chavez a strong democratic mandate until 2018.
Lucena stressed the massive turnout at the polls, which totalled 80.94 percent, was one of the largest participations by the people in an election over the past decades in Venezuela.
Chavez promised to further his government's brand of socialism during a new six-year term, in which he will face several economic challenges.
"Truthfully, this has been the perfect battle, a democratic battle," Chávez told an enthusiastic crowd outside the Miraflores palace. "Venezuela will continue along the path of democratic and Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century."
Chavez’s next presidential term will begin January 10, 2013.
Meanwhile, a former Grenada foreign minister welcomed Sunday’s successful re-election bid by Chavez, saying it would allow for the continuation of programs in Grenada sponsored by government and people of Venezuela.
“With all that he has been through, it must be a satisfying feeling for President Chavez to have on Sunday,” said MP Peter David, former Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister of Grenada.
“Mr Chavez must be congratulated and he is wished all the best as he continues his efforts at raising the living standards of Venezuela’s poor, and in extending solidarity and support to Grenada and other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.”
Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank, said what perhaps made the difference in the elections is the affinity and gratefulness Venezuela’s poor feel for Chavez.
“Despite his illness, I still think he retains a strong emotional connection with a lot of Venezuelans that I think were not prepared to vote against him,” Shifter said.
“They still think that he’s trying hard even if he’s not delivering what he promised; that he still has their best interests at heart.”
A Capriles victory would have brought a radical foreign policy shift, including a likely halt to the Petro Caribe oil arrangement that Venezuela has with Grenada and other regional countries.
Revenue from Petro Caribe is used to help meet payment shortfalls for many national programs in Grenada.
David said he looks forward to the finishing of Venezuelan-sponsored programs that are in the pipeline.
Cuban President Raul Castro also sent Chavez a message of congratulations on his victory.
“Your decisive victory guarantees the continuity of the struggle for genuine integration of our Americas,” Castro said.
Castro reiterated Cuba’s solidarity and support of the Venezuelan president.
The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, on Monday recognized Chavez’s victory and congratulated the Venezuelan people "for the exemplary election that took place yesterday, Sunday, in that country."
Insulza said, "The massive voter turnout at the polls for a presidential election, and the public spirit that prevailed throughout the day, speaks to the maturity of a people that knows how to overcome ideological differences when the main objective is the national interest."
The head of the OAS added, "Election days like the one held yesterday by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, are good for the region, because they show that the only choice for the people is democracy."
"Hopefully the people of Venezuelan, its political forces, its government and the opposition, can find, starting from this common democratic purpose, the paths of understanding needed to lead the country down a path of development of peace, justice and security," Insulza concluded.