Election authorities in Venezuela have declared incumbent Hugo Chavez the winner of the presidential election.
Officials said Chavez captured 54 percent of the October 7 vote, while challenger Henrique Capriles won around 45 percent.
The result marks Chavez's third reelection victory and will give the socialist politician another six-year term as president of Venezuela, whose proven reserves of heavy crude oil are thought to be the largest in the world.
Election officials said more than 80 percent of nearly 19 million registered voters cast ballots.
Addressing thousands of cheering supporters in the capital, Caracas, Chavez pledged to press ahead with the socialist revolution.
"I send my words of recognition to all of those who voted against us," Chavez said. "I send out a special recognition of your democratic talent, of your participation, of the civic demonstration that you have given today despite disagreeing with the Bolivarian program."
Opposition candidate Capriles, the 40-year-old former governor of the state of Miranda, conceded defeat and congratulated Chavez on his victory.
"I send my congratulations to the candidate, the president of the republic," Capriles said in his concession speech. "From here, I want to send him my congratulations and I want to say to him that hopefully he understands the people's will expressed today."
Chavez, an ally of the Russian, Belarusian, and Iranian governments, has been in power since 1999, longer than any other elected president in Latin America.
Foreign governments began acknowledging the victory on October 8.
In the United States, the White House noted “differences” with the socialist Chavez but extended congratulations to the Venezuelan people.
The U.S. State Department noted the high voter turnout and the “generally peaceful” conduct of the vote. It also noted that more than 6 million Venezuelans voted for opposition candidate Capriles.
In Russia, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin congratulated Chavez during a telephone conversation and said both leaders backed the strengthening of Russian-Venezuelan ties.
Support Among The Poor
If he serves to the end of his new term, he will have led Venezuela for two decades, making him a major figure in modern Latin American history.
Chavez has said his mission as president is to improve the conditions for Venezuela’s impoverished majority. He has pursued what are seen as radical reforms, including nationalizing some industries.
The 58-year-old former lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan military enjoys wide support among the poor, due in part to his government’s massive spending to expand health care and education programs, financed by income from Venezuela’s oil exports.
Chavez speaks in a colorful, populist style and frequently references his youth in an impoverished family in the Venezuelan plains, or “llanos.”
Chavez is also known for frequently criticizing what he describes as U.S.-led “imperialism” across the globe.
He is considered close to the Cuban former communist leader Fidel Castro, and has sought to forge alliances with governments viewed with suspicion by Western powers, including Iran, Belarus, and Russia.
Human rights and press freedom groups have criticized Chavez for repressive measures targeting critics of his rule. Business groups accuse him of scaring away investors and dragging down the economy by seizing and nationalizing a broad range of enterprises.
Critics also denounce his leadership over Venezuela's high levels of violent crime, bloated government bureaucracies, and widespread corruption.
Concerns also remain about Chavez’s health. In 2011, he announced he was being treated for cancer. He underwent three operations in Cuba, and doctors removed two malignant tumors.
In July, Chavez declared that he was completely cured.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP