Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Venezuela: Violence Erupts After Contentious Election

Tensions remain high in Venezuela less than 48 hours since Nicolás Maduro was declared winner of a contested presidential election.

Authorities claimed that at least seven people died and sixty-one were on Monday after violence erupted in several major cities.  Officials added that 135 people were arrested as thousands of people took to the streets banging pots and pans in protest against Sunday’s electoral results.  

This afternoon an estimated 2000 protesters clashed with riot police shooting tear gas and rubber bullets in Barinas, the home state of the late President Hugo Chávez.

Senior government figures have raised the possibility of legal action against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, while Maduro accused him of trying to orchestrate a coup d’état.

“I won’t allow (the opposition) to march to downtown Caracas (which is) filled with death and blood…Do whatever you want.  There will be a strong hand against fascism and intolerance,” declared Maduro in televised remarks.

Capriles responded by blaming the “illegitimate” government for having “ordered violence to prevent the counting of votes” after the election.

"Those who are with me stand for peace!  Nobody should leave that path!  The government wants violence!” Capriles mentioned via his Twitter account.

Pro-Capriles protesters continued their demonstrations today in areas such as Carabobo state where hundreds of people accompanied local opposition leaders seeking to file a complaint of widespread fraud at the electoral council (CNE, in Spanish) offices. 

Yesterday the CNE confirmed Maduro as President-elect with 50.8% of the vote compared to the 49.0% obtained by Capriles.  The narrow margin of victory represented approximately 262,000 of the nearly15 million total votes.

The Venezuelan opposition, the White House, the European Union and the Organization of American States all called for a full recount of the votes but CNE president Tibisay Lucena quashed that notion. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell responded today by finding it “hard to believe” that Maduro would be “confirmed so rapidly” without a “prudent and necessary” recount.

The presidents of countries allied to the late Chávez including Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina and Bolivia’s Evo Morales have confirmed their presence at the inauguration of Maduro this Friday.  Furthermore, the center-right heads of state from Mexico and Chile have sent congratulatory messages to Maduro and words of support to the Venezuelan electoral process.

Much like their compatriots in Venezuela, expats throughout the Americas disappointed with the election results also held their own cacerolazo protests.  Groups of protesters in Buenos Aires, Miami, Washington and Lima gathered in front of Venezuelan embassies and consulates to voice their discontent.

Video Source– YouTube via euronews

Online Sources - Reuters; Miami Herald; El Tiempo; Twitter; Noticiero Venevision; The Latin Americanist; El Universal; El Nacional; BBC Mundo

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