Venezuela opposition demands vote recount
Updated: 2013-04-16 10:31
CARACAS - Hundreds of protesters clashed with police in the Venezuelan capital on Monday after opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called for demonstrations to demand a recount of votes from Sunday's election to replace the late Hugo Chavez.
Police used tear gas to disperse young demonstrators who threw rocks and sticks in an upscale district of Caracas.
Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles face off against riot police as they demonstrated for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
Capriles has refused to accept the official election result that gave a narrow victory to ruling Socialist Party candidate Nicolas Maduro, and he earlier called for peaceful protests to press his demands for a full recount.
While Capriles stressed that he wanted supporters to eschew violence, his call for protests raises the stakes in the post-electoral crisis.
"What happened yesterday was fraud, a lie. The opposition won and they know it," said Briand Alvar, who was among the protesters involved the fight with police.
Opposition sources told Reuters their count showed Capriles won by more than 300,000 votes. His team says it has evidence of some 3,200 election day irregularities, ranging from allegations of voters using fake IDs to intimidation of volunteers at polling centers.
Venezuela's electoral authority on Monday formally declared Maduro the winner of the election, saying he won 50.8 percent of the vote, against 49.0 percent for Capriles.
"I will fulfill the legacy of protecting the humble, the poor, to protect the fatherland," said Maduro, who was handpicked by Chavez to continue his self-declared socialist revolution just weeks before dying of cancer on March 5.
In a sharply worded speech, the electoral council's head shot down Capriles' call for a recount and excoriated him for being disrespectful of Venezuelan law and institutions.
"Threats and intimidation will not be the path to appeal the decisions of the CNE," said Tibisay Lucena, who opposition critics call a stooge of the ruling Socialist Party.
She also accused the U.S. government and the Organization of American States of trying to interfere in Venezuelan affairs after they backed the idea of a recount.
The official results showed Maduro winning by 265,000 votes but Capriles says he is sure he won and that he will only concede defeat if there is a full recount.
"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," Capriles said earlier in the day.