CARACAS, Venezuela – Emboldened by a resounding re-election, President Hugo Chavez pledged to shake up Venezuela with a more radical version of socialism and forge a wider front against the United States in Latin America.
Opposition contender Manuel Rosales accepted defeat Sunday night, but promised to continue countering a leader whom he accuses of becoming increasingly authoritarian.
Touting his victory in a speech to thousands, Chavez said Venezuelans should expect an “expansion of the revolution” aimed at redistributing the country’s oil wealth among the poor.
“Long live the revolution!” Chavez shouted from the balcony of the presidential palace. “Venezuela is demonstrating that a new and better world is possible, and we are building it.”
With 78 percent of voting stations reporting, Chavez had 61 percent of the vote, to 38 percent for Rosales.
Chavez has won a loyal following among the poor through multibillion-dollar social programs including subsidized food, free university education and cash benefits for single mothers.
Chavez, who says he sees Fidel Castro as a father, dedicated his victory to the ailing 80-year-old Cuban leader, and called it a blow against President Bush.
“It’s another defeat for the devil, who tries to dominate the world,” Chavez told the crowd of red-shirted supporters, who listened to him under pouring rain. “Down with imperialism. We need a new world.”
Even before polls closed, Chavez supporters celebrated in the streets, setting off fireworks and cruising Caracas honking horns and shouting “Chavez isn’t going anywhere!”