Venezuelan opposition accused of coup plot

Chávez heir Maduro initially accepted recount

Nicolás Maduro – the handpicked heir of Hugo Chávez – was proclaimed president after a wafer-thin and fiercely disputed vote.

Nicolás Maduro – the handpicked heir of Hugo Chávez – was proclaimed president after a wafer-thin and fiercely disputed vote.

Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 07:01

Venezuelan security forces quelled protests as Nicolás Maduro – the handpicked heir of Hugo Chávez – was proclaimed president after a wafer-thin and fiercely disputed vote.

The election on Sunday gave Mr Maduro a 1.6 percentage point victory over his pro-business rival, Henrique Capriles, according to the national electoral council.

The closest vote the country has seen in more than 40 years has sparked accusations of fraud and attempts to destabilise the oil-rich South American nation.

Mr Capriles has refused to accept the result and called for a recount and peaceful street demonstrations. The ruling camp have accused the opposition of plotting a coup.

Signs of unrest are already apparent. El Universal newspaper reported protests in six cities. In Caracas, troops dispersed a crowd of thousands. Twelve protesters were reportedly injured in the city of Barquisimeto. Images spread by Twitter showed apparently injured protesters being carried away. The scale of the unrest is, as yet, hard to verify.

Mr Maduro initially said he was willing to accept a recount. On Monday, however, the council – which is skewed towards the ruling camp – said the result was irreversible and proclaimed Mr Maduro acting president later the same day. An inauguration is set for April 19th.


Outrage
With no sign of a recount, the decision has sparked outrage among opposition supporters.

Claiming 3,000 election irregularities, Mr Capriles said he would consider the government illegitimate without a recount and called on his supporters to show their unhappiness with cacerolazo – a popular form of protest where people bang on pots and pans.

“If both parties said that they agreed to count all votes, why the hurry? What are they hiding?” Mr Capriles said.

Ruling camp officials say the allegations of electoral impropriety are part of a US-sponsored plot to destabilise the country and undermine the legitimacy of its elected leader. The head of Mr Maduro’s campaign team, Jorge Rodríguez, said Mr Capriles’s rejection of the results and appeal for protests constituted a coup attempt. – (Guardian service)