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Hugo Chavez wins Venezuela’s presidential election

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has won a fourth term in office, after opposition leader Henrique Capriles admitted defeat.

Hugo Chavez won 54% of the vote, the country’s electoral council announced, with turnout at about 81%.

Noisy celebrations among Hugo Chavez supporters erupted across the capital, Caracas, following the result.

Hugo Chavez said Venezuela would continue its march towards socialism but also vowed he would be a “better president”.

Electoral council president Tibisay Lucena announced that with 90% of votes counted Hugo Chavez had taken 54.42% of the vote with Henrique Capriles on 44.97%.

“The revolution has triumphed,” President Hugo Chavez told a cheering crowd from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.

“Viva Venezuela! Viva the fatherland! The battle was perfect and the victory was perfect,” he said.

However, Hugo Chavez also sounded a conciliatory note, saying he wanted to “include everybody”, adding: “I commit to being a better president than I’ve been these past few years.”

A subdued Henrique Capriles congratulated Hugo Chavez but told opposition supporters not to feel defeated.

“I want to congratulate the candidate, the president of the republic,” he said at his campaign headquarters.

He added: “We have planted many seeds across Venezuela and I know that these seeds are going to produce many trees.”

Jubilant Hugo Chavez supporters held impromptu street parties in central Caracas, blaring horns and waving flags.

“I’m celebrating with a big heart – Chavez is the hope of the people and of Latin America,” said Chavez supporter Mary Reina.

Construction worker Edgar Gonzalez said: “I can’t describe the relief and happiness I feel right now.

“The revolution will continue, thanks to God and the people of this great country.”

At the Capriles’ campaign headquarters, some opposition supporters were in tears at the news.

Henrique Capriles said he hoped Hugo Chavez would recognize that almost half the country disagreed with his policies.

Henrique Capriles said: “There’s a country that is divided and to be a good president means to work for all Venezuelans, to work for the solution of all Venezuelans’ problems.”

Hugo Chavez, 58, was diagnosed with cancer last year but says he is now fully recovered.

He has been in power since 1999 and said he needed another six-year term to continue his “Bolivarian revolution” towards socialism.

During his time in office Hugo Chavez has nationalized key sectors of the country’s economy.

Venezuela is a major oil producer and high oil prices have allowed his government to fund healthcare, education programmes and social housing.

In his campaign, Henrique Capriles, who headed a coalition of 30 opposition parties, said the president’s policies had led to bureaucracy, inefficiency and shortages.

Earlier, Defence Minister Henry Rangel Silva said the armed forces had identified some groups planning to cause public disturbances but said violence was “unlikely”.

A week before the election, three opposition activists were killed during a campaign rally, while four people were injured in a shooting during a voting rehearsal in September.

From Saturday evening to Monday evening, the sale of alcohol has been banned and only the security forces are allowed to carry arms.

Analysts say Hugo Chavez’s victory will also be welcomed by several countries in the region – including Cuba and Nicaragua – that benefit from his Petrocaribe scheme which provides Venezuelan oil at preferential rates.

He also has strong ties to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, backing Argentina’s sovereignty dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

After the election result was announced, she tweeted: “Your victory is our victory! And the victory of South America and the Caribbean!”

President Hugo Chavez’s new six-year term will begin on 10 January.

Hugo Chavez

• Born 28 July 1954 in Sabaneta, Barinas state, the son of schoolteachers

• Graduated from military academy in 1975

• Has four children

• Keen baseball player

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