Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez scored a comfortable election victory that could extend his rule to 20 years and vowed to deepen his self-styled socialist revolution that has polarised the South American Opec nation.
The new six-year term will let Chavez consolidate his control
over Venezuela's economy by extending a wave of nationalisations and continue his support for left-wing allies in Latin America and around the world.
"Truthfully this has been the perfect battle - a democratic battle," Chavez thundered from the balcony of the presidential palace on Sunday, waving a replica of the sword of independence hero Simon Bolivar.
It was an extraordinary victory for a leader who just a few months ago feared for his life as he tried to recover from cancer.
The global significance of the vote can be found hundreds of miles to the east in the oil-soaked Orinoco Belt.
According to studies, Venezuela has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become number one in the world for proven oil reserves, largely thanks to the heavy crude found in this vast alluvial plain.
Whether this multi-trillion dollar asset is controlled by Hugo Chavez or the opposition challenger, Henrique Capriles, will influence which countries and companies are given the priority to exploit them and how much drivers around the world pay at the pump.
According to a report this year by BP, Venezuela has reserves of 296.5 billion barrels, about 10% more than Saudi Arabia and 18% of the global total. At the country's current levels of production, this would last about 100 years.
While campaigning, Chavez had promised to ramp up production and reduce his country's dependence on the US market by doubling crude exports to Asia.
To further this goal, Venezuela plans to build a pipeline through Colombia to the Pacific which would reduce costs and transport times to China and other Asian markets.
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