Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez scored a comfortable election victory that could extend his rule to 20 years and vowed to deepen his self-styled socialist revolution that has polarized the South American OPEC nation.
Tens of thousands of ecstatic supporters thronged the streets around the presidential palace in downtown Caracas, pumping fists in the air and shouting Chavez’s name after the former soldier beat opposition Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles by more than 9 percentage points.
The new six-year term will let Chavez consolidate his control over Venezuela’s economy, possibly by extending a wave of nationalizations, and continue his support for left-wing allies in Latin America and around the world.
“Truthfully, this has been the perfect battle, a democratic battle,” Chavez thundered from the balcony of the palace late on Sunday, holding up a replica of the sword of independence hero Simon Bolivar. “Venezuela will continue along the path of democratic and Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century.”
It was an extraordinary victory for a leader who just a few months ago feared for his life as he struggled to recover from cancer. He won 54.4 percent of the vote, with 90 percent of the ballots counted, compared with 45 percent for Capriles.
More than 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Supporters dripping with sweat strained to catch a glimpse of Chavez from the street below the palace while dancing and drinking rum.
“Chavez, the people are with you,” they chanted.
The victory was considerably slimmer than his win by 25 percentage points in 2006, reflecting growing frustration at his failure to fix problems such as crime, blackouts and corruption.
In a nod to those complaints, Chavez said he would be more focused in his new term beginning on Jan. 10.
“Today, we start a new cycle of government, in which we must respond with greater efficacy and efficiency to the needs of our people,” he said. “I promise you I’ll be a better president.”
A retired lieutenant colonel who first won fame with a failed 1992 coup, Chavez has become Latin America’s main anti-US agitator, criticizing Washington, while getting close to its adversaries, including Cuba, Syria and Iran.
A decade-long oil boom has given him tens of billions of dollars for social investments that range from free health clinics to newly built apartment complexes, helping him build a strong following among the poor. Following his victory on Sunday, Chavez could order new nationalizations in some largely untouched corners of the economy, including the banking, food and health industries. He took advantage of his landslide win in 2006 to order takeovers in the telecoms, electricity and oil sectors.
However, any recurrence of the cancer that has already forced him to undergo three operations in Havana since June last year could derail his plans.
Opposition leaders were crushed by the loss. It followed nearly a month of euphoria among Capriles supporters as the 40-year-old polished his stump speeches, held increasingly fervent rallies and appeared be to gaining ground in the polls.
The youthful state governor put on a brave face, hailing his “house-by-house” campaign as the start of a long road to changing the direction of the country.
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit