Venezuela says seven dead in post-election violence

16 April 2013 22:07  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--Seven people have been killed in violent clashes in Venezuela following Nicolas Maduro’s narrow victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, the country’s state news agency (AVN) said on Tuesday.

After a bitterly fought campaign triggered by the death of former leader Hugo Chavez in March, acting president Maduro beat opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by just 1.6 percentage points with 99% of the votes counted, according to the country’s electoral commission (CNE).

Capriles has contested the outcome of the election, calling the result “illegitimate”, and has demanded a full recount of the vote, which the CNE has ruled out.

The violence threatens to escalate into widespread civil conflict and raises serious questions concerning Maduro’s capacity to govern a deeply divided country.

According to AVN, the deaths occurred in the states of Miranda, Zulia and Sucre. The agency also reported widespread disturbances in the capital Caracas, as well as attempts to burn down public property.

Local media have shown footage of police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors.

During a televised appearance on Tuesday, a clearly agitated Maduro condemned Capriles personally for the post-election violence and accused the opposition of attempting a coup.

“You are responsible for the dead that we are mourning today,” he said.

The president-elect also warned against a planned protest against the CNE by opposition supporters on Wednesday.

“We will come down hard on the fascists and those who threaten democracy,” he said. “If they want to overthrow me, let them come.”

Capriles responded to the provocation by suggesting that the violence is the government’s fault for not authorizing a recount of votes.

“The illegitimate one and his government ordered the violence to avoid a count of the votes,” Capriles said on Twitter. “They are responsible!”

Those who expected an easy win for Maduro – some pre-election polls had put the ruling party candidate 15 percentage points ahead of Capriles – were shocked at the slender victory margin. The new president is due to be officially sworn in on Friday.

In light of the violence and the clear political cleavages in Venezuela, questions will be asked about Maduro’s capacity to lead the country and indeed the future of “Chavismo” – the former leader’s self-styled socialist revolution.

Rina Quijada, chief executive of petrochemical consultancy Intellichem, said that Maduro’s victory would be regarded as unfinished business for most voters.

“This will continue to fuel the polarization of the population during Maduro’s mandate,” she said.

Furthermore, the new president will require the political and economic expertise to manoeuvre the nation back to stability.

“If these are not part of the president’s political DNA, his mandate could be short-lived,” Quijada added.

By: Simon West

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