Fresh from winning an unprecedented fourth term this past weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday said that his victory over his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, was the defeat of "an international coalition" that wanted to get rid of him and his self-styled socialist revolution.
The leftist Chávez, who has been in office since 1999, won Sunday's race with more than 54 percent of the vote, while Capriles, the opposition coalition candidate, garnered more than 44 percent. Chávez won in 22 of Venezuela's 24 states, in an election with a record turnout of 81 percent.
"The most we won from this election was the preservation of national independence, because behind the candidate from the right was a proposal to set up a colonial society," the 58-year-old Chávez said during a news conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. "It was a great battle; a beautiful, perfect battle."
For his part, Capriles, who described himself as a center-of-left candidate, told his disappointed supporters that it was he - not them - who had lost this election, and asked them to stick together. "Radicalism and counter-politics have caused us a lot of harm," said the 40-year-old Capriles, who will resume his post as governor of Miranda state, on Twitter as he tried to cheer up his devastated supporters. "Let us not fall back into this rut; it is not worth it.
Later, at a news conference, he told his supporters that "Chávez can be defeated" in the future, and promised to work toward winning the next elections. It was the first time since Chávez came to government that the long-fractured opposition agreed to back a single candidate.
On Sunday, Chávez supporters celebrated across the nation after the first results were announced by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Some in the opposition claimed that many polling stations around the country remained open even after the official closing deadline, which was 6pm local time. However, no major violence was reported and international observers said that the polling had proceeded smoothly.
The months-long campaign had been a tense one, with Chávez regularly hurling insults at his opponent. Among other things, he called Capriles a "pig," "little boy," and "the one who doesn't know how to talk."
On Monday Capriles spoke to Chávez by telephone for the first time since the campaign began. "I told him, Mr President, I hope we will stop hearing those insults and defamatory remarks coming from the government's side," he told reporters, adding that for the first time Chávez had used Capriles' name when addressing him.
The most we won from this race was to preserve national independence"
Chávez, who underwent two surgeries in Cuba for a cancerous tumor near the pelvic area, said he has been cured of his illness. But any recurrence of the cancer within the next six years of his new term could change the political landscape in a nation that appears divided. But during the news conference, he denied that Venezuela is polarized, calling it "another invention of the media."
"This always comes out in the reports - that Venezuela is divided. [...] All countries are divided. [...] Even Spain is divided," he said.
"I believe that if we had won with 90 percent of the vote, they would still say that we are divided."
Chávez's inauguration will be held in January.