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Venezuela panel agrees to review disputed election returns

April 19, 2013|By Mery Mogollon
  • Supporters of Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro show a portrait of late President Hugo Chavez as they gather in front of the Congress in Caracas before the inauguration ceremony for Maduro.
Supporters of Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro show a portrait… (Raul Arboleda / AFP/Getty…)

CARACAS, Venezuela -- As Venezuela prepared Friday to swear in a new president, the pro-government election tribunal surprised observers and agreed to opposition demands to review the controversial vote that gave Hugo Chavez heir Nicolas Maduro a narrow victory.

The National Electoral Council apparently bowed to public pressure. Large crowds have taken to the streets in recent nights, beating pots and pans in a time-honored Latin American tradition of protest. Each night, they have been greeted by pro-government demonstrators trying to drown them out with fireworks.

Eight people were killed in clashes following Sunday's election.

Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro by less than 2 percentage points according to official returns, said he was confident the review would prove he won. His campaign presented to the tribunal more than 3,000 alleged irregularities.

Tibisay Lucena, Electoral Council president, said the process will take 30 days and likely start next week.

“[We] take this decision in hopes of helping to preserve a climate of harmony among Venezuelans and also to isolate violent sectors that irresponsibly seek to harm democracy,” she said.

None of this was deterring Maduro, who was scheduled to take the oath of office later Friday. Thousands of Venezuelans dressed in Chavez red were marching down the capital’s central boulevards toward the plaza where the ceremony will take place, and delegations from at least 60 countries, including much of Latin America and Iran, were arriving in Caracas to witness the event. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said dignitaries will include 17 heads of state.

The United States, which has been calling for a recount, was not expected to send a high-level delegation.

Chavez, a socialist populist who ruled Venezuela since 1999, died March 5 of cancer after anointing Maduro, a former bus driver, union leader and loyal Cabinet member, as his successor.

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