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Hugo Chavez wins presidential contest in Venezuela

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AP/ABC7- President Hugo Chavez put to rest any doubts about his masterful political touch in winning a third consecutive six-year term after a bitterly fought race against a youthful rival who has galvanized Venezuela's opposition.

The state governor who lost Sunday's presidential vote, Henrique Capriles, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly leveraging to his advantage Venezuela's oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near total control of state institutions.

Capriles also narrowed Chavez's margin of victory to his smallest yet in a presidential contest. This time, the former army paratroop commander who led a failed 1992 coup won 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles, with 98 percent of the vote counted.

In 2006, Chavez's margin of victory was 27 points.

Big crowds of Venezuelan natives living in the DC area lined up at their embassy in Northwest to vote in their home country's election Sunday.

Many voted for Henrique Capriles, a challenger looking to unseat longtime socialist president Hugo Chavez.

"We were so excited," said three-year U.S. resident Eliana Carreno of the chance to vote in the close election in her homeland.

Carreno and several other customers dining at the Venezuelan restaurant La Caraquena believe Chavez is destroying their country.

"It's not safe there," said Beatrize Camacho. "There are no jobs...our family got onto the black list, and they couldn't get jobs."

Beatrize and husband Francisco moved the DC area 17 years ago. They originally planned to stay for about five years and move back -- but then Chavez came to power.

"With Chavez in power, no way," Beatrize said.

A visit to the country several years ago confirmed the couple's worst fears of what was happening there.

"We could tell with our eyes what was happening, and what we saw -- we didn't like it," said Francisco.

Many local Venezuelan-Americans tell tales of how decisions by Chavez made it nearly impossible for they or their families to find work.

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