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Monday, December 7, 1998 Published at 00:14 GMT

World: Americas

Venezuela landslide result

Supporters of Hugo Chavez wearing his trademark red beret

By Raymond Colitt in Caracas

The populist former coup leader, Hugo Chavez, has won a landslide election victory to become the next President of Venezuela.

Waving banners, honking their horns and chanting, "El Comandante!", crowds have filled the streets of Caracas to celebrate the landslide victory. Mr Chavez called on his supporters to remain calm, respect private property and celebrate the victory with humility.

[ image: There was heavy security but voting was reported to be calm]
There was heavy security but voting was reported to be calm
Election officials give Hugo Chavez, who led a coup attempt against the government in 1992 , 56% of the vote. The business favourite and former governor, Henrique Salas, trails with only 39%.

Mr Chavez' popularity has surged on a wave of widespread discontent with traditional politicians, who are accused of corruption and mismanagement of the country's vast oilwells.

His populist rhetoric and authoritarian background have the business establishment and foreign investors worried - analysts expect capital to leave the country and pressure on the currency to mount in coming days.

Mr Chavez' proposals to radically reform the constitution could lead to conflict with the traditional political parties which still dominate Congress.

He is also unpopular with senior military officers because of his 1992 rebellion. Yet President Rafael Caldera has insisted the armed forces will respect the election results.

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