* Socialist leader re-elected with 55 pct of vote
* Opposition's Henrique Capriles contemplates future
* Bonds fall on investor gloom at Chavez victory
By Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS, Oct 9 An ebullient President Hugo
Chavez on Tuesday hailed his comfortable re-election as evidence
of Venezuela's "perfect" democracy and mocked his foes'
depiction of him as a dictator.
The long-serving socialist leader won Sunday's poll with 55
percent of the votes on record turnout of 81 percent. The result
was quickly accepted by losing opposition candidate Henrique
Chavez's election win would extend his rule to 20 years,
delighting both his power base among the South American
country's poor and allies from Cuba to Bolivia, who depend on
his cheap oil shipments and other aid.
"Some media keep talking about Venezuela's dictatorship, the
tyrant Chavez," he told reporters.
"Well we have a democracy here that has again been
reaffirmed and ratified, a totally transparent, quick and
efficient system ... If you want to see a vigorous, solid
democracy, come to Venezuela. It was a perfect day."
The opposition has long characterized the 58-year-old Chavez
as an autocrat, citing his style of government, aggressive
rhetoric, tough treatment of critics at home, and friendships
with authoritarian leaders around the world.
Chavez and his supporters, however, point to his dozen or so
vote wins during his 14-year-rule, the devolution of power and
resources to grass-roots local authorities, and his own humble
background, as proof of his democratic credentials.
While there were no serious complaints about Sunday's
electronic vote system, critics say the campaign was unfairly
stacked in Chavez's favor due to his use of state resources and
excessive use of TV time.
As is his custom after election victories, Chavez has been
projecting a more moderate image, even telephoning Capriles with
whom he had not spoken during the fractious campaign.
CHAVEZ FINALLY USES CAPRILES' NAME
Chavez again commended Capriles' quick acceptance of defeat,
speaking his name on Tuesday for the first time after routinely
insulting him as a "pig," a "loser" and a "fascist" over the
past few weeks.
Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, ran a
vigorous campaign and contrasted his youth and energy with
Chavez's more subdued condition after a year of cancer
treatment. Capriles had also sought to capitalize on
Venezuelans' widespread weariness with crime, corruption and
inefficient public services.
Capriles took 44 percent of the vote, a good showing for an
opposition candidate against Chavez, but still a disappointment.
"Where there is life, there is hope," Capriles said on
Twitter as he tried to cheer his devastated supporters.
Chavez won in 22 of Venezuela's 24 states, thanks to his
personal chemistry with the poor, together with heavy government
spending on welfare projects in the slums.
Attention is now focused on Chavez's health. Any recurrence
of his cancer would dramatically change the political landscape
and interfere with his plans for a new six-year term starting in
He has promised to deepen socialism in Venezuela, which some
interpret as meaning more nationalizations are on the way,
possibly in the banking, healthcare or food sectors.
Capriles, who united and galvanized the opposition as never
before under Chavez, must now decide whether he will return to
his job as governor of Miranda or seek some sort of national
Having suffered his first electoral defeat in a two-decade
political career, Capriles is widely expected to have another
crack at the presidency, especially if ill health afflicts
Chavez again in the next few years.
"He would be wise to be patient and persistent," said U.S.
analyst Michael Shifter. "After all, it took Lula, now widely
regarded as Latin America's premier political wizard, four
attempts before he attained the Brazilian presidency," he said,
referring to ex-Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
VENEZUELA DEBT FALLS
Venezuela's widely traded sovereign debt fell on investor
disappointment at Chavez's win, though losses were limited
because of doubts that he is healthy enough to serve his full
The benchmark 2027 Global bond fell roughly 3.5 points in
price on Tuesday to bid around 87.
A retired army lieutenant colonel who first came to fame
with a failed 1992 coup, Chavez has become Latin America's main
anti-U.S. agitator, criticizing Washington while forging
relationships with its adversaries such as Syria and Iran.
Chavez sends discounted oil to more than a dozen Central and
South American countries. Communist Cuba receives more than
100,000 barrels a day of crude oil in exchange for services from
more than 40,000 Cuban medics and others in Venezuela.
Despite fears of violence during the election, the nation
has been relatively quiet after the vote.
A small knot of protesters burned tires in one rich part of
Caracas late on Monday, alleging vote fraud, but were chided by
Capriles. "Radicalism did us a lot of damage (in the past),
let's not succumb to that again," he said.
"We are millions and this struggle is not over."