MEXICO CITY -- Governments in Latin America quickly congratulated Hugo Chavez on his reelection Sunday as president of Venezuela, a sign of his convincing win over strong opposition challenger Henrique Capriles.
With Chavez's victory, Venezuela's socialist government is set to remain in power at least through 2019 and maintain its position as a regional leader for leftist governments that are Bolivarian ideological allies or depend on Venezuela's oil and subsidies.
The congratulations were effusive and personally directed at the president who has been in office for more than 13 years, making Chavez, 58, the longest-serving leader in Latin America.
"Your decisive victory assures the continuation of the struggle for the genuine integration of Our America," said Cuban President Raul Castro, in a statement released by the communist country's embassy in Mexico City.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa called Chavez "compa" -- short for compadre -- via Twitter and declared: "All of Latin American is with you and with our beloved Venezuela. ... Next battle: Ecuador!"
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales called Chavez's victory a win for "the nations of Latin America that fight for their sovereign dignity," according to the official Bolivian Information Agency (links in Spanish).
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sent an emotional tweet to the Venezuelan leader, saying: "Hugo, today I wish to tell you that you have plowed the earth, you have sown it, you have watered it, and today you have picked up the harvest."
Capriles conceded after voting Sunday showed Chavez winning by nearly 10 percentage points with 90% of votes counted. Despite the narrowing in his margin of victory over past elections, Chavez overcame the challenge due partly to what one pollster called an "irrational and emotional devotion" to him among poor Venezuelans.
By Monday, other regional players, including ideologically conservative governments that share closer ties to the United States, also recognized Chavez's win. The foreign relations ministries of Colombia and Mexico pledged in short statements to continue working with the Venezuela president, who has struggled against cancer.
"The government of Mexico reiterates its full disposition to keep strengthening the relations of friendship and cooperation that unite Mexico and Venezuela," the Foreign Ministry in Mexico City said.
-- Daniel Hernandez