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Hugo Chavez Defies Doubters As He Wins A New Term

Turnout, Tensions High as Venezuelans Head to the Polls

Common Dreams staff

UPDATE: 10:41 PM ET: Official results: With 81 percent voter participation, Chavez - 54.43 percent; Capriles - 44.47 percent of the vote. (Remaining going to minor candidates.).

Venezuelans went to the polls on Sunday bringing an end to a vibrant presidential race between the 16 year presidency of Hugo Chavez and his challenger Henrique Capriles, a lawyer and state governor proposing vast deregulation and privatization of the country's economy.

Chávez has maintained, at times, a substantial lead in polls, but Capriles allegedly narrowed the margin towards the end of the race. Polls have varied greatly throughout the race.

Supporters swarmed to each respective candidates rallies last week, showing both sides with a mobilized voter base. In a Capriles rally in Caracas last night, supporters banged pots and pans and chanted slogans. During Chavez's final rally Thursday in Caracas, he shouted to the crowd of 3 million supporters: "We're going to give the bourgeoisie a beating!"

Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The outcome of Venezuela’s election on Sunday, October 7 will not only determine who governs Venezuela for the next six years but also who controls the most important proven oil deposits in the world. Regionally, the Chávez election in 1998 became the first of many left electoral gains in Latin America including Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. Therefore, the outcome of these elections will reverberate throughout Latin America, Washington, Beijing and other world capitals."

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is providing a live blog of the elections here.

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