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Venezuela confirms Chavez in power, but opposition rejects results

National Electoral Agency claimed early in the morning that President Chavez had won the recall vote 58% to 41%, but the opposition rejected results as a fraud.
One Chavez’s supporter was killed and two other shot in confusing episodes.

Officials from the National Electoral Council claimed Monday morning that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias won the recall vote over his rule and could remain in office until it expires in 2006. With 94% of the ballots counted, the agency said Mr. Chavez had obtained 58% of the voices, as the opposition that organized the referendum to oust him could only obtained a 41% share.

President Chavez said in an aired speech that this was a victory of the Venezuelan people as “it was impossible that the victory of the ‘no’ be revised”. As Chavez talked to an enthusiastic crowd at the gates of the Palace of Government, the opposition rejected the results insisting they had won.

The results came as shock to the opposition, which only hours before looked confident about Chavez recall. With 16% ahead of the opposition, Chavez led in the poll is now unassailable and he will stay in office until January 2007.

Foreign observers, who did not questioned any single procedure during the vote, are expected to address on the results. However, some of them have already anticipated that they had no objection to make as the election went through absolute normality.

In the first ever recall vote in Latin American history, Venezuelan’s massively attended to polls on Sunday to decide over the future of the constitutional President Hugo Chavez. The international community had to wait until early in Monday’s morning to learn about official results, as the electoral agency had to extend voting time until midnight local time due to the massive participation of the Venezuelan people.

Late in the night, Chavez’s foes and supporters filled the streets proclaiming victory to their side. During the day, three people were killed in confusing episodes presumably not related with politics, according to sources from both sides. However, it became known later that one Chavez supporter was shot.

Activists on both sides set off fireworks and blared recordings of bugle music to wake voters hours before dawn, hoping for a flood of early votes in their favor. With army soldiers looking on, thousands lined up at polls before they opened at 6:00 a.m. as many stood there until midnight as the new electronic system tightened controls to avoid any sort of fraud.

To oust Chavez, the opposition needed at least 3.6 million votes –the same amount Chavez obtained when reelected in 2000-, and surpass the votes in support of the President.

During his statement, Chavez promised stability on Venezuela’s oil market, which means an important assurance for internationa watchers, as this South American country is the world’s fifth oil exporter.

Hernan Etchaleco

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