Amid an imploding economy, runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods, electricity blackouts, surging violence, and widespread accusations of voter fraud in Venezuela, socialist strongman Hugo Chávez allegedly won a narrow victory in Sunday’s presidential election, according to the nation’s National Electoral Council (CNE). Though the Venezuelan regime has a ban on publishing the results of exit polls, a widely cited survey conducted by the consulting firm Varianza showed opposition candidate Henrique Capriles ahead by a slim margin as the vote was coming to an end.
News reports and accounts from witnesses in Venezuela indicated that Chávez had ordered tanks and over 100,000 AK-47-wielding troops into the streets as fears about potential violence grew — the despotic self-styled socialist revolutionary had previously warned of civil war if he lost the election. On Twitter, meanwhile, angry Venezuelans accused Chávez of blatant voter fraud and threatened to leave the country or form their own. The phrase #FraudeEnVenezuela, or Fraud in Venezuela, was one of the top worldwide trends on the social networking service by Monday morning.
"How long are they going to maintain this fraud?" wrote a user named Mariu Pereira in Venezuela, one of countless individuals alleging that the election was stolen by Chávez and his minions. "We'll go into dictatorship if we don't do anything about this FRAUD! CAPRILES WON! If Capriles did not give up the presidency, Chávez was going to establish a self-coup!"
More than a few citizens also alleged that votes cast by Venezuelans overseas — many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to vote — were not properly counted. Other activists in Venezuela complained of irregularities with the controversial electronic voting system closer to home, saying there was no way Chávez could have won their city or state despite official results to the contrary. A popular tweet by Daniel Montoya said Chávez had ordered troops into the street when he realized Capriles was set to win by about five percent.
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Photo: Venezuela's strong man Hugo Chávez waves a Venezuelan flag as he greets supporters at the Miraflores presidential palace balcony in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 7, 2012: AP Images