Venezuelan Socialist Champion Chavez Reelected
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now a South American critic of the United States will stay in office. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, won yesterday's election and now has six more years to promote and broaden what he describes as a socialist revolution. During that campaign, Chavez highlighted the Bush administration, which he accuse of attempting to dominate the world, and he won 61 percent of the vote.
NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Caracas.
JULIE MCCARTHY: When Hugo Chavez, who has an almost magic rapport with his audiences, appeared on a balcony of the presidential palace, euphoric supporters poured into the plaza, paying no heed to the driving rain.
President HUGO CHAVEZ (Venezuela): (Speaking foreign language)
MCCARTHY: Let's unite and we'll be free, he said. This is another defeat for the U.S. empire, another defeat for the devil - a reference to President Bush, who he also called Mr. Danger. Chavez added, Venezuela has liberated itself, and it will never again be a North American colony. Addressing a sea of red, the signature color of the Chavez campaign, Latin America's most outspoken critic of the U.S. administration vowed to expand his Bolivarian revolution, named from the independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Slicing the air for emphasis, he declared socialism is human and sought to put a Christian overlay on his political project that he implored the world to join.
President CHAVEZ: (Speaking foreign language)
MCCARTHY: Addressing the continents, Chavez said we need a new world, a multi-polar world where human rights and people's sovereignty are respected.
Unidentified Child: Hugo Chavez!
(Soundbite of fireworks)
MCCARTHY: While Chavez declared a new era, supporters spontaneously erupted around the capital Caracas. Monica Demostoy(ph), a 39-year-old graphic designer, brushed aside claims by the opposition that Chavez is fashioning himself in the mold of Fidel Castro and Cuba's one-man rule.
Ms. MONICA DEMOSTOY: (Through translator) How can you tell me that this is a dictatorship? This is the fourth national vote that Chavez has won. This is the most open and beautiful democracy in all of Latin America, and the eyes of the world are on Chavez.
(Soundbite of cheering)
MCCARTHY: As loyalists to the opposition clamored at their headquarters, one of their leading politicians, Roberto Smith, accused Chavez of using the national treasury to advance both a socialist agenda and a cult of personality.
Mr. ROBERTO SMITH (Former Venezuelan Presidential Candidate): We are competing against a guy that has spent millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in propaganda basically promoting the pop idol mentality and the pop idol concert around Chavez.
MCCARTHY: Chavez pointedly told supporters last night that the day did not belong to him but to the millions of Venezuelans who cast their lot with him for six more years.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Caracas.