Chávez's Victory Appeases Latin American Left, Creates Questions For Venezuela
Earning 54.42 percent of the national vote, the socialist leader defeated neoliberal candidate Henrique Capriles by more than nine percentage points.
"Venezuela will never return to neoliberalism and will continue in the transition to socialism of the 21st century," Chávez said in his victory speech.
Capriles, the 40-year-old lawyer and former governor who emphasized job growth and crime reduction throughout his campaign, addressed his supporters Sunday night, promising to continue his political career in Venezuela.
"There are more than 6 million people who are looking for a better future, and I want to tell those more than 6 million Venezuelans to count on me," he said.
Voters, both domestic and abroad, turned out in record numbers Sunday. According to venezuelanalysis.com, almost 81 percent of the country's registered voters cast ballots.
Although the removal of Venezuelan consulates in major U.S. cities deterred expatriate votes, it was reported that more than 8,000 expatriates from across the southern United States traveled to New Orleans to vote for Capriles.
"We feel proud that we made the effort," said Becky Prado, an expatriate living in Miami, in an interview with Reuters. "Unfortunately, the result isn't what we hoped for."
News of Chávez's victory was well-received, however, by Venezuela's left-wing allies in Latin America.
"In the name of the government and people of Cuba, I congratulate you on this historic triumph, which demonstrates the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution and its unquestionable popular support," said Cuban President Raúl Castro. "Your decisive victory assures the continuity of the struggle for the genuine integration of Our America."
Bolivian President Evo Morales called Chávez's victory monumental in the fight against imperialism in Latin America.
"It is a triumph of the people," he said. "We are in times of the people, not of empires."
Chávez's re-election affirms Venezuela's continued leadership in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the socialist cooperative that emphasizes political, economic and social integration among Latin American and Caribbean nations.
Domestically, concerns about oil production, Chávez's deteriorating health and national violence accompany the president's fourth term in Caracas:
- According to Forbes, six more years of Chávez indicates stability for Venezuela's wealthy oil industry, although a gradual decrease in total production is probable. Accounting for more than 95 percent of the nation's hard currency revenue, oil production is expected to be reduced by 40,000 barrels a day, partly in due to the aggressive growth of PDSVA, Venezuela's national oil company. Scaring large-scale international producers from maintaining their investments in the country's rich Orinoco Oil Belt, Venezuela will likely be forced to make up for lost production through spending cuts.
- The 58-year-old president has battled cancer since early 2011. After three surgeries in Cuba, he claims to be cancer-free, but with no running mate or designated successor, Chávez has given the public little security should the disease remove him from office. According to Fox News Latino, if Chávez dies within the first four years of his term, his vice president would take office until new elections could be held; if he were to die during the last two years of his term, the vice president would serve until the next election cycle. Chávez has yet to decide upon a vice president.
- Under Chávez, the nation has experienced record homicide rates, reporting more than 155,000 murders since 1999 (as of June 2012). According to research conducted by The Guardian, the intentional homicide rate per 100,000 individuals has risen from 25 to 45.1 in 12 years. Such violence has placed Venezuela alongside Iraq as one of the deadliest nations of the past decade.