CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and won re-election this month, acknowledged that campaigning while in recovery cost him votes.
Chavez on Saturday said in a meeting shown on state television VTV that after radiation therapy, he had only done “10 percent” of what he would have normally done on the campaign trail, adding he would have done more if he had been “fully fit.”
The 58-year-old populist socialist leader, in power since 1999, won 55.26 percent of the vote on October 7, against 44.13 percent for challenger Henrique Capriles, a businessman and governor of Miranda state.
“If I had been … fully fit, I would have beaten the (opposition) candidate by at least 20 percent,” boasted Chavez, who was criticized by the opposition for keeping details of his illness close to the vest, and for seeking treatment in Cuba.
The anti-US firebrand has vowed to deepen his oil-funded socialist revolution after a “perfect” victory.
But he also reached out to disenchanted voters by pledging to work with the opposition, a tacit acceptance that this was a narrower victory than in the past and that Venezuela is a country very much divided.
The fate of Chavez, the leading voice of Latin America’s left, was closely watched by communist ally Cuba, which heavily depends on Venezuela’s oil, and other regional partners.