Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Celebrates An Overwhelming Victory in the National Elections

Monday December 4, 8:49 PM

Venezuela's Chavez celebrates re-election, promises 'revolutionary democracy'

Venezuela's firebrand President Hugo Chavez has celebrated his re-election, vowing to launch a "revolutionary democracy," taunting the US administration and saluting Cuba's ailing communist leader.

"More than 60 percent voted for the socialist project," a jubilant Chavez told cheering supporters, from a balcony of the presidential palace in Caracas on Monday, as salvoes of thunderous fireworks echoed in the night sky.

Venezuelans "voted for 21st century socialism, this new era of socialist democracy ... the expansion of the revolution, of a revolutionary democracy."

The new Venezuela, Chavez said late Sunday, would have a political, social and economic system based on equality, adding, "Venezuela is red, very red."

Crying out "down with imperialism," the flamboyant leftist leader lashed out at George W. Bush, using some of his favorite terms for the US president, to the delight of the crowd that braved a torrential downpour.

"This is another defeat for the empire of Mr. Danger," he said in reference to a blue-eyed American in a 1929 novel who robs land from unwary Venezuelan peasants.

"This is another defeat for the devil who wants to dominate the world," said Chavez, clad, like many of his supporters in a red shirt that has become symbolic of his self-styled revolution.

He sent out a "brotherly" salute to Cuba's ailing communist leader Fidel Castro, and, his arms reaching out toward a statue of Jesus Christ, asked for divine guidance during his mandate.

"What we have here is a revolution," said Juan Carlos Bracamonte, a worker who traveled 450 kilometers to celebrate Chavez's victory outside the presidential palace.

A little later state governor Manuel Rosales conceded defeat as partial results gave Chavez 61 percent of the votes and a lead of 23 points over his rival.

A former paratrooper who once led a failed military coup, Chavez, 52, has survived a two-day ouster, a recall referendum and a massive oil strike aimed at forcing him to step down.

Flush with petrodollars, he vowed to boost social programs that have kept him popular among the millions of impoverished Venezuelans who played a key role in giving him landslide electoral victories in 1998 and in 2000.

"Chavez enjoys widespread support for his signature social programs among the Venezuelan poor who make up the majority of the population," said pollster Alex Evans.

"It is this support, combined with his personal charisma, that are responsible for his re-election today," said Evans, who conducted voter polls for a Venezuelan state-run company.

Chavez has also cultivated his image as a virulent critic of the US administration, even though Venezuela exports about half its daily oil production of more than three million barrels a day to the United States.

The Venezuelan election capped a busy electoral year in Latin America where six leftist leaders, including Chavez, have been voted into office or won another term.

Chavez, who had been accused of meddling in some of the elections in the region, hailed the recent leftist victories, which he said would give impetus to his plan for regional economic integration he hopes will lessen US influence in the region.

At home, the leftist leader had accused Washington during his campaign of seeking to sew discord in Venezuela, and denounced his electoral rival as a lackey of the "US empire."

Rosales, for his part, claimed Chavez planned to turn Venezuela into a communist state and called him "a puppet seated on Castro's lap."

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