CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – President Hugo Chavez won re-election by a wide margin on Sunday, giving the firebrand leftist six more years to redistribute Venezuela’s vast oil wealth to the poor and press his campaign to counter U.S. influence in Latin America and beyond.

With 78 percent of voting stations reporting, Chavez had 61 percent to 38 percent for challenger Manuel Rosales, said Tibisay Lucena, head of the country’s elections council. Chavez had nearly 6 million votes versus 3.7 million for Rosales, according to the partial tally.

Turnout was 62 percent, according to an official bulletin of results, making Chavez’s lead insurmountable.

Minutes after the results were announced, Chavez appeared on the balcony of the presidential palace singing the national anthem.

“Long live the socialist revolution! Destiny has been written,” Chavez shouted to thousands of flag-waving supporters in a pouring rain.

Chavez said he would now try to deepen his social reforms to spread his country’s vast oil profits among the poor.

“No one should fear socialism,” he proclaimed. “Socialism is human. Socialism is love.”

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!”

A top Rosales adviser, Teodoro Petkoff, said the voting was carried out in a “satisfactory manner.” He said some irregularities had occurred but most were resolved. Another member of the Rosales camp had accused pro-Chavez soldiers of reopening closed polling stations and busing voters to them.


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