Monday, April 15, 2013

White House Urges Venezuelan Presidential Election Recount (Updated)

The U.S. government has called on Venezuelan authorities to recount the country’s presidential election that was apparently won by interim leader Nicolás Maduro.
"Given the tightness of the result - around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates - the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results," said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday.

"This appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results," mentioned Carney. "In our view rushing to a decision in these circumstances would be inconsistent with the expectations of Venezuelans for a clear and democratic outcome."

(Update: Venezuelan electoral board chief Tibisay Lucena rejected calls by the Venezuelan opposition and international diplomats to recall all the votes from Sunday's presidential election.

She warned that a manual recall would be "vulnerable" and cited the results of the contested U.S. presidential election of 2000 to reject the suggestion of an electoral audit). 

The CNE on Sunday night declared Maduro as the victor with 50.66% of the votes compared to the 49.07% obtained by main opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.  The razor-thin margin of victory represented approximately 250,000 of the roughly 15 million total votes according to CNE president Tibisay Lucena.

Capriles replied yesterday that he would not accept the results until all the votes are recounted “one-by-one.”  Moments ago he reiterated his call for a recount and he urged electoral authorities to halt the planned confirmation of Maduro as President-elect later this afternoon.

“If you (Maduro) accept the presidency then you are illegitimate,” declared Capriles at a press conference from his campaign headquarters.  He who also called on his backers to protest in the streets tonight and mass demonstrations in front of local CNE offices on Tuesday if a recall is not done.

Other international diplomats echoed Carney’s remarks and supported the notion of an electoral recount in Venezuela.

A press release from the Organization of American States (OAS) said, “Secretary General (José Miguel) Insulza expressed his support for this initiative and made ​​available to Venezuela the OAS team of electoral experts, of recognized prestige and long experience in the field”. 

 “It’s important that the election is recognized by all parties,” said European Union spokesperson Maja Kocijancic.  “We’re confident that any recount done by the National Electoral Council (CNE, in Spanish) will be done rapidly and with complete transparency.” 

International observers invited by the Venezuelan opposition also called for a recount to “ensure that fraud was committed” and noted that the elections were not “totally clean.”  Wilfredo Penco, an Uruguay representative for the UNASUR, said that the bloc’s delegation would not act like “prosecutors or defense officials” over an electoral result that Venezuelan officials “need to define.

The next Venezuelan president faces numerous challenges including high rates of crime and inflation as well as food shortages and power cuts.  Perhaps the most pressing problem at this time may be the political polarization that has deepened in the aftermath of Sunday’s election.

Video Source– YouTube via Associated Press

Online Sources – CNBC, The Latin Americanist, Organization of American States, RPP, La Hora, El Nuevo Herald

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