Hugo Chávez wins Venezuelan presidential election

Chávez, who has led Venezuela for nearly 14 years, won 54.42 percent of the vote against former Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles last night.

Tomas Bravo/Reuters
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez holds the national flag while celebrating from a balcony at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas October 7. Venezuela's socialist President Chavez won re-election in Sunday's vote with 54 percent of the ballot to beat opposition challenger Henrique Capriles.

President Hugo Chávez - the former soldier and Latin American socialist who has led this nation for almost 14 years - won an additional six-year term Sunday night.

Chávez won 54.42 percent of the vote against former Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles, the National Election Council, or CNE, reported.

As the results were announced the skies of Caracas lighted up with red fireworks and crowds began to gather at the Miraflores presidential palace.

Authorities said turnout for the vote was 80.94 percent - a decades-long record for this oil-rich nation.

"We have written another brilliant page in our democratic history," CNE President Tibisay Lucena said.

RELATED: Think you know Hugo Chavez? Take our quiz!

The results capped a day where many of the country's 19 million registered voters swarmed the polls in a process that was largely free of violence despite the incendiary rhetoric that marked the race.

Chávez, 58, has been in power since 1999 and used the nation's oil wealth to promote socialist reforms and welfare programs that have made him a hero to the poor. He said he would use the additional six years to deepen his "21st Century Socialism" to build more public housing, end unemployment and create 10 new public universities.

Capriles, 40, had pledged to bridge the country's deep ideological divides and roll out Brazilian-style reforms that would jump-start the economy without leaving the poor behind.

Wearing a long-sleeve blue shirt, Chávez cast his vote in the working-class 23 de Enero neighborhood surrounded by family, Cabinet members and international celebrities, including Hollywood's Danny Glover and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala.

Amid speculation that Chávez  might be reluctant to hand over power, the leader vowed early in the day to respect the outcome.

"Whether it's a one-vote difference or 3 million votes, the responsible political actors must recognize the results," he said. "Also, this is an electoral system that is absolutely transparent."

Minutes later, Capriles cast his vote in the municipality of Baruta, where he was once mayor.

After pushing through a crowd of supporters and showing reporters his "lucky shoes" that have helped him win four consecutive elections, he also vowed to play by the rules.

"What the people say today is a sacred word," Capriles said. "To know how to win, you also have to know how to lose."

The words seemed to have a calming effect on a nation that often fretted that either side might not accept defeat. In the waning days of the campaign, Chávez had gone as far as to suggest that if he were to lose, it might spark a civil war.

Carolina Haskour, 41, was wearing a shirt that read "You snooze you lose" and waiting at the Baruta polling station hoping to catch a glimpse of Capriles.

She said she voted for the former mayor, governor and legislator because she's tired of the nation's political polarization and soaring crime rate.

"I want the country to be what it was before," she said. "There's so much hate now. I want a country where we don't fight with each other just because we have different political views."

But others still see Chávez as the only person willing to fight for them.

"I am 82 years old and I can tell you we've never had a president as good as this," said Maria Pinzon, who lives in Antimano. "He's made mistakes, but there's no one else like him."

On the campaign trail, Chávez highlighted his social programs and presented himself in his motto and jingles as the "heart of the nation."

If that's the case, then "I voted for a heart transplant," said Jorge San Martin, a 48-year-old computer engineer. San Martin said he had to wait three hours due to voting-machine failures in his neighborhood, La Florida.

For many, the day kicked off at 3 a.m. when fireworks began popping over Caracas, followed later by sound trucks playing reveille. Chávez had told supporters to rise early to assure his victory before noon.

At several voting centers, groups of pro-government motorcycle drivers, known as motorizados, honked their horns and popped wheelies. Many feared these groups might stir up trouble or disrupt the vote.

But as of 7 p.m., Gen. Wilmer Barrientos, who is in charge of election security, said it was a largely peaceful event with no major incidents to report.

Even so, Capriles campaign officials asked the military to control the gangs Sunday night.

"Please restrict these bands of motorcyclists," Capriles' campaign manager Armando Briquet, the campaign manager, asked the military, "because we want a night that was like our day - peaceful."

RELATED: Think you know Hugo Chavez? Take our quiz!

At a polling station in Caricuao, a group of Chávez supporters huddled under a red tent and kept a list of everyone in their community who had voted. The effort is part of the administration's plan to minimize abstention, which tends to hurt the ruling party.

"We're seeing a massive turnout," said Tania Pena, one of the organizers. "We're here because we want socialism, equality and all the social missions."

At the technical school where Chávez cast his vote, the walls are covered in pictures of the young president and Karl Marx. It also has a quote from Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar scrawled on one wall that might apply to either candidate.

"You can lose all of the battles," it reads, "except for the last one."

*El Nuevo Herald staff writer Juan Tamayo contributed to this report from Caracas.

Read more here:
Read more here:

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Hugo Chávez wins Venezuelan presidential election
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today