Venezuela vote triumph a "present" for sick Chavez

Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:09pm EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) - Hugo Chavez's supporters dedicated their dominant regional election win to the absent Venezuelan president and turned attention back on Monday to his fight to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba.

Helped by sympathy for Chavez, the ruling Socialist Party swept the board in Sunday's vote, winning 20 out of 23 state governorships in the South American OPEC nation.

"That was the people's present for their commander, painting the country red," said the party's national election coordinator Jorge Rodriguez.

Government candidates slashed the opposition's control of seven states to just three - but some good news for the opposition came from Miranda, where its standard-bearer, Henrique Capriles, held on to his seat.

That left Capriles, a 40-year-old career politician and lawyer by training, as the opposition's clear candidate-in-waiting should Chavez have to step down and a new election be called.

Venezuela's highly traded global bonds predictably slipped in price on Monday, given investors' aversion to any good news for Chavez and hopes for a more market-friendly government.

In early trade on Monday, Venezuela's sovereign debt was off 2.2 percent according to JP Morgan's tracker, while the benchmark 2027 bond was down 2.4 pct.

Though celebrating his Miranda win, Capriles acknowledged that the overall national results were bad for the opposition. He accused the government of abusing state resources and exploiting emotions over Chavez's health during the campaign.   Continued...

Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles speaks during a news conference after being re-elected during Venezuela's regional elections in Caracas December 16, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins