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Venezuela Election Results: Hugo Chavez Declared Winner

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- President Hugo Chávez has retained power in Venezuela after defeating opponent Henrique Capriles on Sunday by a comfortable victory of 900,000 votes.

Chávez, the longest serving president in Latin America, has been re-elected for the third time.  His new term will be from 2013 to 2019.  He was first elected to power in 1998.

Shortly after his victory was announced by Venezuela's National Electoral Council at 10:15 p.m. local time, fireworks went off in several Caracas neighborhoods.  Thousands of Chávez supporters in red shirts headed towards the Presidential Palace in Caracas to watch the socialist leader speak.

"The candidate of the right and his campaign team have just announced that they have recognized our victory," Chávez told an ecstatic crowd.  "And that is a very important step towards the construction of peace and coexistence in Venezuela."

In the months leading up to the election, Capriles had been widely portrayed by the international press as Chávez's toughest opponent thus far, with some polls saying that Capriles could win the vote.

In Sunday's election however, Chávez got 54 percent of the vote, while Capriles secured 45 percent.  The victory margin for Chávez was smaller than what he had attained in previous elections, in which he had defeated his opponents by 15 points or more.  But it was still a significant difference over Capriles, a social democrat who had promised to run Venezuela as a market economy with strong social programs, in the mold of Brazil.

Chávez has promised to deepen his socialist revolution, which has been characterized by the nationalization of key industries, tight exchange controls and price controls on certain basic goods.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio