7 killed in Venezuela postelection violence
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s attorney general said Tuesday that seven people had been killed and 61 injured in post-presidential election clashes between police, supporters of newly elected President Nicolas Maduro and challenger Henrique Capriles, who has demanded a recount.
Atty. Gen. Luisa Ortega Diaz also said that 135 people had been arrested since election results were announced late Sunday that gave Maduro a victory by 1.5 percentage points. Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, has charged that Maduro stole the election, citing 3,200 alleged irregularities in Sunday’s balloting.
Ortega Diaz said violence across Venezuela included the burning of several medical clinics, offices of the national telephone company, grocery stores and other businesses.
The developments Tuesday included Maduro, favored by the late former President Hugo Chavez as his successor, saying in a nationally televised speech that he would not permit an opposition march planned for Wednesday to the Caracas headquarters of the National Electoral Council.
“I will apply a firm hand against fascism and those who threaten democracy,” Maduro said during the opening of a new government facility in Miranda state.
Capriles later called off the march, saying that his supporters should instead participate in protests called cacerolazos, which consist of the clanging of pots and pans.
Capriles urged supporters to be nonviolent and stepped up his call for a recount of the nearly 15 million votes cast Sunday, which he said is his legal right. He invited the government to negotiate a resolution to the “crisis we are living.”
“The government wants there to be death in this country,” Capriles said at a news conference in Caracas. “I’m interested in the country being at peace. The government wants violence so that attention is diverted from the issue at hand.”
A spokeswoman for the state of Miranda said groups of armed supporters of Maduro’s socialist party tried to enter state offices in Los Teques, a Caracas suburb, but were repelled by riot police.
Marches on electoral council offices by groups of Capriles supporters were held in Maracaibo, San Cristobal, Maracay, Barquisimeto and other cities, news agencies reported.
Meanwhile, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, also a close ally of Chavez, who died March 5, said in a Twitter message that he would ask the legislature to launch a criminal investigation of Capriles. Chavista members of the assembly enjoy a nearly two-thirds majority.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, on Monday rejected Capriles’ call that all ballots be manually recounted and proclaimed Maduro the victor. His formal swearing-in ceremony will be Friday.
In a late night interview on state-run television Monday, Maduro said that the opposition has a “plan similar to what they did in Libya and Syria.”
“They want to fill the country with various scenes of violence,” Maduro said, “but that’s not going to happen.”
Special correspondents Mogollon reported from Caracas and Kraul reported from Bogota, Colombia.
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