Monday, April 15, 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Certified as President-Elect Amidst Protests (Updated)

Venezuelan electoral board chief Tibisay Lucena confirmed Nicolás Maduro as President-elect in the midst of increased tensions over Sunday’s electoral results.

Maduro accused his opposition rivals who are “run by the foreign bourgeoisie” of “caring only about power” and refusing to admit defeat.

He claimed that the Venezuelan constitution guarantees democracy in the country and that it’s a “gift from (ex-President Hugo) Chávez to the world.  Nobody can come and erase that.”

Prior to Maduro’s speech Lucena rejected the suggestion of enacting a manual recount of all the votes, which was requested by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

She accused the White House and the Organization of American States of “foreign interference” by urging a recall of the election where the margin of victory was roughly 230,000 votes.

Lucena also warned that a manual recall would be "vulnerable" and cited the U.S. Supreme Court case of Bush vs. Gore as evidence of why a recall wouldn’t work.

Capriles has steadfastly refused to accept the electoral results until all the votes are recounted.

“All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper, that paper isn't for recycling, it's proof,” said the Miranda state governor on Monday.

He also called on his backers to protest in the streets tonight and “bang pots and pans” if the demand for a recall were to be rejected.

Impromptu protests are reportedly occurring in several major Venezuelan cities like Caracas where crowds are gathering outside the offices of the federal electoral board.  It’s also being reported that five people were injured at a demonstration in Lara state after police fired tear gas to disperse the multitude.

(Update: Thousands of cacerolazo protesters continue to demonstrate throughout Venezuela on Monday evening.  These demonstrators have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the lack of a full recount of Sunday's presidential election results.

"What happened yesterday was fraud, a lie. The opposition won and they know it," said Briand Alvar, one of the dozens of protesters who clashed with police in Caracas.

Capriles once again reiterated his demand that all votes should be recounted "one by one" and urged the Venezuelan people to "not allow yourselves to be diverted from the path of democracy."   

"The majority is the majority. Democracy must be respected...The opposition cannot launch an ambush to jeopardize the will of the people," said Maduro during the ceremony where he was formally declared the election winner).  

Earlier in the day, Maduro campaign chief Jorge Rodríguez accused Capriles of trying to incite violence.

“Some representatives of the extreme right and the candidate Capriles Radonski are seeking brothers to combat brothers,” said Rodríguez.  They have been doing this secretly in the last few days in order to ignore the voice of the people. 

Aside from exacerbating political tensions, the election has already affected the Venezuelan economy as the country’s bonds tumbled the most in two months while the default risk rose.  According to several financial analysts interviewed by Businessweek, Venezuela’s economy could be hurt with the uncertainty of the post-election period:
“This is a scenario where you have a lot of instability in the short term, with the opposition going for the recount of the votes,” Alejandro Arreaza, an analyst at Barclays Plc in New York, said in a telephone interview…
“If the results at the recount don’t reveal any major fraud, then that could be a midterm positive if this result would then narrow a bit the freedom for Maduro’s policy,” (senior portfolio manager Claudia) Calich said in an interview in London. “He may have to appease now 50 percent of the country who did not vote for him.”
Online Sources including Update– Reuters, Huffington Post, El Nacional, El Universal, Businessweek, El Espectador

Video Source - YouTube via user videsoelinforme (Protesters gathered outside of the local national electoral council offices in the western Venezuelan city of San Crstobal).

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