Venezuela: Chavez wins re-election with guerrilla support

Tanks and Ak-47s were evident in Caracas as Venezuelans went to vote. Exit polls showed Capriles the winner, but the government-controlled electoral college gave the win to Chavez who has been in power for 14 years.

 

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez won re-election as president of the oil-rich South American country on October 7, defeating Henrique Capriles. National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena said that Chavez had garnered more than 54 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was 81 percent of the nearly  19 million voters. Chavez tweeted “Thank you, my God. Thank you to everyone.” Chavez won re-election with more than 7.4 million votes, beating his opponent by 1.2 million. This is the red-shirted former military man’s third re-election victory in nearly fourteen years in office.

The victory gives Chavez yet another six-year term in office in order to further press his socialist aims in Venezuela and his shrill anti-U.S. posture. Setting the tone for his South American allies, such as Argentina and Brazil, Chavez can also now further deepen his relations with Iran and Russia. He can bank on Venezuela’s petroleum reserves, which are the greatest in the world.

The youthful Capriles (40), a former state governor, philosophically accepted defeat. “To know how to win you have to know how to lose. The will of the Venezuelan people is sacred.” The photogenic Capriles and his campaign compelled Chavez, who has been in treatment for prostate cancer for nearly two years, to show that he still had the right stuff. In the weeks before his re-election, Chavez was seen shooting hoops and making appearances with popular Venezuela rap music artists, for example.

Democracy advocates and Capriles supporters might not take the defeat easily. Armored vehicles and security forces wielding automatic weapons were seen on the streets of Caracas and other areas on election day, leading to accusations of voter intimidation. Also, the Varianza polling firm from Spain heralded a victory for Capriles, noting exit polls that gave Capriles 51.3 percent over 48,06 for Chávez. in Caracas and several other locals. In addition, polls were closed one hour before the stipulated closing time. 

The run-up to the election was not without some violence and vituperation. For example, Chavez's critics said he exacerbated class and partisan divisions with slander by labeling his opponents “fascists,” ''Yankees“ and ”neo-Nazis.” Also, on the weekend prior to the election, two Capriles campaigners were shot to death in the western state of Barinas. During the campaign, rallies were subjected to shootings and rock throwing.  In the days before the election, Alberto ‘Chino’ Carías – leader of the armed Tupamaro pro-Chavez leftist, promised “Bullets for the opposition if they do not accept Hugo Chavez’s certain victory.” The Tupamaros, also known as the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, hold sway over entire neighborhoods in Caracas where police are afraid to tread. The group refuses to put down its arms even while it participates in electoral politics. It is named for an Inca political leader who was executed by Spanish colonial authorities in the late 1500s. It bears an ideological resemblance to a guerrilla group of a similar name that conducted assassinations and bombings in Uruguay in the 1970s.



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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