Venezuelan rivals rally supporters

Updated: 2013-04-17 07:52

(China Daily/Agencies)

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President-elect Maduro dismisses opponent's demand for full recount

Venezuela's opposition planned more protests on Tuesday against the election of late leader Hugo Chavez's political heir as president, but it faced the prospect of rival demonstrations from the declared winner's party.

Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Caracas on Monday as the National Electoral Council certified the victory of acting President Nicolas Maduro against his opponent Henrique Capriles, who refused to concede defeat and demanded a full recount.

Venezuelan rivals rally supporters

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles protest in front of riot police in Caracas on Monday. Venezuela's opposition piled pressure on electoral authorities to recount the tight vote to replace late leader Hugo Chavez. Geraldo Caso / Agence France-Presse

At one spot, police dispersed a group of protesters with tear gas. Piles of trash burned along a central boulevard and later in the evening scores of Capriles supporters sped by in motorcycles, honking their horns.

"We are here because they stole our vote. They cheated us," said Selma Orjuela, 60, as she banged a pot. "We need Capriles to be president. That's why we voted, and we are sure we won."

In the city center, a divided district, government supporters tried to drown out the noise by setting off firecrackers. Some drove trucks with megaphones, shouting Chavista slogans through megaphones. Pedestrians shouted "Chavez lives! Maduro continues!".

Anti-Maduro protests also broke out in other regions, including Chavez's home state of Barinas.

With the opposition planning more protests on Tuesday and Wednesday, Maduro urged his supporters to demonstrate on the same days and "combat in peace" across the nation.

Maduro, who had voiced support for an audit of the vote shortly after the results were announced, now said that Capriles's demand for a full recount was the "whim of a bourgeois".

Earlier, the council handed the certified results to Maduro, saying he defeated Capriles 50.7 percent to 49.1 percent - a difference of 265,000 votes.

"I am the son of Chavez," Maduro said. "I am the first Chavista president after Hugo Chavez Frias, and I will fulfill his legacy to protect the poor, to protect our independence."

The 50-year-old former vice-president and foreign minister reached out to the opposition, saying Chavistas will recognize and respect the "half minority". "We want to work with the people who vote for the opposition," he said.

At the same time, he accused the opposition of having a "coup mentality".

"Those who would try to undo a democratic majority's will, what they are doing is carrying out, or pushing for, a coup d'etat," Maduro charged.

Late on Tuesday, Maduro announced he had met with a newly created "anti-coup" command at the military museum that holds Chavez's remains, without offering details.

But with the United States and the Organization of American States backing his demand for a recount, Capriles called Maduro an "illegitimate president".

Capriles, who wants the council to count all the backup ballots printed out by the voting machines, urged supporters to come out and protest to "let the world know our outrage, our anger".

The 40-year-old state governor also called on Venezuelans to peacefully protest in front of the council's offices on Tuesday and Wednesday to demand a full recount.

But council president Tibisay Lucena defended the electronic voting system, telling the opposition it should use "the legal path" instead of "threats" if it wants to contest the result, citing the 2000 US election that was decided by the Supreme Court.

Government leaders and military leaders closed ranks around Maduro on Monday in a series of television appearances to defend the official vote count and accuse Capriles of trying to foment violence.