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Riots break out in Venezuela after elections

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Riots have swept across the South American nation of Venezuela following a hotly contested presidential election. The victor in that election was the late President Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro. At least seven people have been killed in clashes with government troops.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has demanded a recount of votes from last weekend's election after results showed a narrow victory for Maduro. The election authority has since ruled out a recount.

There are widespread fears about further political instability in Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves. The country saw waves of street protests during various parts of former President Chavez's tumultuous 14-year socialist rule.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in parts of the capital Caracas, blocking streets, burning tires and fighting with security forces in some cases. The seven people were killed during these demonstrations. Officials say that 135 people have been arrested in the post-election violence.

"We will defeat this violent fascism with democracy," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said, describing incidents and showing video footage to a group of ambassadors.

"Those who attempt to take with force what they could not acquire through elections are not democrats."

Supporters of Capriles have reiterated demands for peaceful protests as thousands of his supporters marched to regional election offices around the country.

Capriles refused to recognize the results after Sunday's elections, and his followers poured into the streets. Opposition supporters banged pots and pans in the streets of Caracas while Maduro backers responded with fireworks and music.

Capriles maintains that he won the election and he wants a full recount. The National Electoral Council said an audit of 54 percent of the voting stations, in a widely respected electronic vote system, had already been carried out.

The election was triggered by the death of Chavez last month after he lost his battle with cancer. He named Maduro as his successor before he died and his protégé won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote against Capriles' 49.0 percent.

"Where are the opposition politicians who believe in democracy?" Maduro said, blaming Capriles for the violence.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, hopes to highlight the weakness of Maduro's mandate. Analysts say that this strategy could backfire if demonstrations turn into prolonged disturbances, such as those the opposition led between 2002 and 2004, which annoyed many Venezuelans.


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