Los Angeles Times.com
December 4, 2006
The leftist aims to alter the constitution so he can serve indefinitely.
CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was resoundingly reelected Sunday, setting the scene for a promised "deepening" of his socialist revolution and a broader role as leftist lightning rod on the world stage.
With about 80% of the ballots counted, Chavez had captured 61% of the vote, compared with 38% for Manuel Rosales, election officials said.
His reelection is expected to further Latin America's move to the left after victories by five left-leaning presidential candidates in the region in little more than a year.
Chavez, who pledges to revise his nation's constitution to allow him to serve indefinitely, may try to fill the leadership void created in July by the illness of Cuba's Fidel Castro, supporters say.
Relations between the firebrand Chavez and the United States are at an ebb because of suspicion by the Bush administration over Chavez's overtures to Iran, his billion-dollar arms purchase agreements with Russia, and what Washington says is his lack of cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking.
Venezuela is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, and revenue generated by high crude oil prices has allowed Chavez to wield considerable influence among his neighbors through energy subsidies and aid programs.
Chavez, addressing a crowd in front of the presidential palace, bellowed, "Long live the preordained popular victory. Long live the reign of socialism, the future of Venezuela…. Another defeat for the North American empire. Another defeat for the devil. Down with imperialism."