By now, you’ve probably heard that Hugo Chavez has secured his third six-year term as Venezuela’s president (but not before sending tanks out into the street on Sunday when it looked like things might be going badly), although notably, it looks like it was by his slimmest margin yet.
With a turnout of 81 percent, Chavez only got 551,902 more votes this time around than he did six years ago, while the opposition boosted its tally by about 2.1 million. Chavez appeared to acknowledge the opposition’s growing clout during a boisterous victory speech late Sunday night.
“I extend from here my recognition of all who voted against us, recognition of their democratic weight,” he told thousands of cheering supporters from a balcony of the presidential palace after midnight.
Capriles, a former state governor, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly using Venezuela’s oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near-total control of state institutions.
Still, he accepted defeat as Chavez swept to a 10-point victory margin. The former army paratroop commander won nearly 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles with more than 95 percent of the vote counted.
According to exit polling, however, the results seem more than a little dubious, and not everyone is convinced that it was really a “free and fair” election.
The world may never know — but hey, at least Chavez vowed to continue keeping Venezuela’s nose to the grindstone of Bolivarian socialism, right? There’s that, I guess.
“Truthfully, this has been the perfect battle, a democratic battle,” Chávez told the euphoric crowd outside the Miraflores palace. “Venezuela will continue along the path of democratic and Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century.”
The White House was okay with it, seeing as how President Obama’s “main concern” for Venezuela of hosting “free and fair” elections was at least apparently satisfied, via Politico:
White House press secretary Jay Carney congratulated the Venezuelan people on their recent election, despite exit polls showing the opposition to President Hugo Chavez winning.
Carney, speaking to reporters traveling with President Obama on Air Force One, added that the U.S. has its differences with Chavez.
Of course, circling rumors about the real state of Chavez’s health and cancer concerns mean that he may not even live to serve out his entire third term, but until such a time, the corruption, abuse, and vigorous anti-American sentiment typical of Chavez’s reign so far are sure to keep on keepin’ on. Goody.