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Hugo Chávez to 'deepen' revolution as opponents miss mark

Chávez's victory last night gives him another six-year term, frustrating opponents who say his policies and management style have squandered the country's biggest-ever oil boom.

By Steven BodzinCorrespondent / October 8, 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez waves to the press upon his arrival to a polling station during the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday.

Fernando Llano/AP

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Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez won a mandate to stay in office for another six years, giving him and his allies a chance to consolidate the "Bolivarian 21st-century Socialism" that they have promoted for the past 14 years.

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Mr. Chávez's campaign vowed to keep his policies on their present course. It's a path that frustrates opponents, who say his policies and management style have squandered the country's biggest-ever oil boom on unfinished projects, wasteful sole-source contracts, and aid to other countries. But the status quo is just fine with many Chávez supporters celebrating in the street.

"This reaffirms the revolutionary process in Venezuela," says Blanca Paredes, a self-employed dessert-maker, at a spontaneous street party in the overwhelmingly anti-Chávez borough of Chacao. "I want to see continuation of the housing policies, the inclusion of the poor, youth employment, and also policies that limit crime." She quibbled with some policies, like currency controls, but says Chávez is on the right track.

In the lead-up to the election, the government committed itself to building millions of new homes, among other expanded social programs. The challenge will now be to fulfill these promises, as the country faces many demands on its checkbook. It has been advancing the development of the Orinoco Belt, the world's biggest oil deposit. That will cost $250 billion over the next six years, the state oil company says.

"Half of Venezuela doesn't like the revolution," says Carlos Romero, a political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela. "Some of the supporters of Chávez complain about the inefficiency of the Bolivarian revolution."

Opposition fails to shed image of oligarchs

The opposition backed a youthful candidate this year – Henrique Capriles Radonski – surrounding him with campaigners who were barely out of university when Chávez first burst onto the political scene in 1992.

But the opposition was unable to shed its decade-old image of being right-wing oligarchs with pretensions to dictatorship. That stereotype of the opposition largely comes from a period of instability in 2002 and 2003, when opponents of Chávez mounted a strike in the oil industry, led massive street marches, and briefly ousted the president in a coup.

"The opposition is in shock and retreat," says Francisco Toro of "Caracas Chronicles," an English-language blog about Venezuela. "I don't see people rushing to take the mantle of opposition leader."

Thousands of Chávez opponents flew to Venezuela for yesterday's vote, such as Manuel Ochoa, who has lived in Virginia for 20 years.

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