Victory Tightens Chávez Grip on Power

Financed in part with a $40 billion revolving loan from China paid for by Venezuelan oil, Mr. Chávez has accelerated government spending, especially on housing. All over Caracas, construction workers are building squat apartment blocks, which are draped with enormous billboards of Mr. Chávez touting the benefits of his revolution.

A mural depicting Mr. Chávez in Caracas on Monday. The president called Sunday’s election ‘a perfect democratic battle,’ but critics say his control of petrodollars let him sway voters.

Another decisive electoral victory for Hugo Chávez has convinced many Venezuelans in the opposition that his only vulnerabilities are a turn for the worse in the ailing president’s health or a sharp drop in oil prices.

On Sunday, Mr. Chávez, 58, won his third re-election by a margin of nine percentage points over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a young state governor who ran a dynamic campaign that temporarily gave the opposition hope it could unseat the president.

“This has been a perfect battle, a democratic battle,” Mr. Chávez, a former tank commander who first achieved national prominence as one of the leaders of a failed coup in 1992, told thousands of red-shirted supporters following the victory.

Mr. Chávez, who has battled an undisclosed type of cancer for nearly two years, won all but two of the country’s 24 states, including Mr. Capriles’s home state of Miranda, in an election that boasted a record turnout of 81% of registered voters.

The win allows Mr. Chávez to press ahead with his Socialist revolution, deepening government intervention in the economy, including price controls and nationalizations. Observers see him as likely to continue his role as the leading voice against U.S. interests in the region, enhancing alliances with everyone from Tehran to Beijing.


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