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Chavez Allies Sweep Venezuela Governor Elections

Allies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dominated the country's gubernatorial elections held over the weekend, winning the governorships in nearly all but three of the country's 23 states.

The results announced by country's election council on Monday indicated that Chavez's Socialist Party won the governorships in 20 states, two more than last time, while the opposition coalition managed to hold on to just three.

The states secured by the opposition included Miranda, where Henrique Capriles defeated former Vice-President Elias Jaua to win re-election as governor. Capriles had lost the October presidential election to Chavez despite being the only opposition candidate.

Chavez is currently recovering in Cuba after undergoing a cancer surgery in Havana last week. It was the Venezuelan president's fourth cancer-related surgery after he was first diagnosed with the disease last year.

Earlier this month, Chavez admitted that he needed surgery to remove "some malignant cells" from the same area from where tumors were previously removed. He said that the return of the cancerous cells were revealed in tests carried out in Cuba.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro had said on national television last Wednesday that Chavez faces a "complex and difficult" recovery process after his latest cancer surgery in Cuba. He also called on all Venezuelans to remain united and pray for Chavez's fast recovery, and urged them to remain calm during the forthcoming "hard days."

Ahead of traveling to Cuba for the surgery on December 10, Chavez had promoted his defense minister, Diego Molero, to the rank of admiral in chief, and named his vice-president and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as his preferred successor if "something were to happen that would incapacitate" him.

In case of the sudden death of the president, the Venezuelan constitution stipulates that the vice-president must assume presidency until new elections can be held. The charter also states that fresh elections must be held within 30 days if the president leaves office in the first four years of his term.

Chavez was re-elected as the Latin American country's President for a fourth consecutive six-year term in October, defeating his lone rival Henrique Capriles by a margin of nearly ten percentage points. He is due to be sworn in on January 10.

Chavez had actively campaigned for the polls, stressing that he needed six more years in office to consolidate his socialist policies. During the campaign, Chavez declared himself "cancer free" and pledged to complete his term in office if re-elected. He also vowed to accept the poll outcome even if he were to be defeated.

Prior to the polls, Chavez had been shuttling between Venezuela and Cuba after he underwent an initial surgery in the Cuban capital on June 20, 2011 to remove a cancerous tumor in his pelvic area. He later underwent another surgery at Havana's Cimeq Hospital in February to remove a lesion found in the same place where the tumor was extracted previously. He has also undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, three of which were in Cuba.

The maverick socialist has been ruling Venezuela since 1998 by winning repeated elections. He has considerable support in his home country, mainly due to the massive government spending on social programs targeting the poor.

Chavez has already nationalized several key sectors of the oil-rich nation's economy as part of his socialist agenda. Nevertheless, the opposition parties made major inroads into the ruling party's strongholds in last year's parliamentary elections, denying it a crucial two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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