Skip to main content

Tensions mount after tight Venezuelan vote; government says 7 killed in post-election violence

By Paula Newton and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
April 17, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Capriles: "The right to demand the counting of votes...cannot be a crime"
  • Protesters bang pots and pans in a continued push for a recount
  • 7 people have died in post-election protests, state news agency reports
  • Maduro: "If they continue with the violence, we can radicalize this revolution"

Are you in Venezuela? Send us your thoughts and experiences.

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- The sounds of clanking pots and pans and bursting fireworks rang out in Caracas on Tuesday night as tensions mounted over Venezuela's tight election results.

It was a clear sign that days after Sunday's presidential vote, fierce political battles are far from over in the deeply divided country.

Supporters of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski banged pots and pans to protest the government's refusal to recount the votes, while supporters of President-elect Nicolas Maduro set off fireworks to celebrate his victory and drown out the noise.

Maduro, former President Hugo Chavez's handpicked successor, is scheduled to be sworn in on Friday. Election authorities proclaimed him president-elect on Monday despite Capriles' demand for a recount.

On Tuesday, Venezuela's top prosecutor said at least seven people had been killed and 61 had been injured in post-election violence across the country.

Chaos in Caracas post-vote
Did Maduro win fair and square?
Capriles to Maduro: 'You are the loser'

And the state-run AVN news agency reported that authorities had arrested 135 people in connection with political violence.

The government news agency tied the deaths to opposition protests and said the victims were all followers of Maduro. Government health clinics, food distribution centers, a bank and a preschool program were the targets of violence, officials said.

CNN could not independently confirm the government reports of violence, and it was unknown whether there were any opposition injuries or fatalities.

Maduro secured 50.8% of votes in Sunday's election, while opposition candidate Capriles won 49%, Venezuela's National Electoral Council said.

Since the tally was announced, both Capriles and Maduro have publicly urged supporters to remain peaceful while also accusing each other of inciting violence.

The issue of post-election clashes swiftly became a flashpoint for a new round of political sparring Tuesday, as Capriles repeated his calls for a recount and Maduro vowed to use an iron fist to crack down on any attempts to unseat him from the presidency.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Capriles presented a list of alleged election violations that he said impacted hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, including problems with voting machines, inconsistencies in tallies reported by voting centers and reports that opposition witnesses were forced out of hundreds of polls.

"The right to demand the counting of votes in a country where there is democracy....cannot be a crime," he told CNN en Español in an exclusive interview Tuesday night.

Capriles called off plans to protest at the central office of Venezuela's election authority in Caracas on Wednesday, saying the government had planned to infiltrate their ranks and provoke violence. Anyone who takes to the streets Wednesday, he said, is not affiliated with his campaign.

"The government wants there to be deaths in the country," he said, accusing authorities of using violence to distract from his push for a recount.

"We are not going to step into that trap," Capriles told CNN en Español.

Hours before the protest was canceled, Maduro had said the planned opposition protest in Caracas was illegal and accused opposition leaders of a plot to massacre their own people and later blame the government.

Maduro has not responded to CNN's interview requests.

In nationally televised remarks Tuesday, he accused the U.S. Embassy of fueling opposition violence.

"The U.S. Embassy is the one who has financed and directed all the acts of violence in this country. It has financed these neo-Nazi groups," he said.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to Maduro's accusation, but last month a spokeswoman said "the United States categorically rejects allegations of any U.S. government involvement in any plots to destabilize the Venezuelan government or to harm anyone in Venezuela."

If violence surges, Maduro said he would not hold back from taking action.

"If they continue with the violence," he said, "what we can do is radicalize this revolution."

As heated public comments from Maduro and Capriles filled the airwaves, sharp accusations surged in social media.

In a series of Twitter posts Tuesday, a top official in Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela blamed Capriles for the violence and called for a criminal investigation of the opposition candidate.

"Fascist Capriles, I will personally see that you pay for all of the damage that you're doing to our homeland and our people," said Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela's National Assembly. "They chased after doctors, burned dwellings, you caused all of this, Capriles, you irresponsible one."

Another congressman, Pedro Carreno, said in a Twitter post that authorities should arrest Capriles. A spokesman for Carreno's office told CNN that the congressman planned to call for a debate on the issue in the National Assembly Tuesday.

Andres Izarra, a top official for Maduro's campaign, said in a Twitter post that Capriles should be imprisoned.

As the National Assembly met Tuesday, Cabello told lawmakers that he would only recognize those who recognize Maduro as president.

"If you do not recognize the president, I do not recognize you as congressmen," he said, "because you were elected by the same (system)."

Analysis: Why Venezuela is so divided?

CNN's Paula Newton reported from Caracas. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta. CNN's Fernando del Rincon, Jose Armijo and journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 0358 GMT (1158 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT