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Options running out for angry Venezuelan opposition

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-18

A full recount in Venezuela’s recent presidential vote was looking increasingly unlikely on Thursday as regional leaders called an emergency meeting to discuss the political crisis.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles filed a formal request for a vote-by-vote recount in Venezuela's contested presidential election on Wednesday. But it seemed unlikely a new tally would be approved by the authorities as the political crisis in the oil-rich nation became the subject of regional and international debate.

Capriles' campaign chiefs took their demands for a full recount –an automatic recount of 54% of voting machines was already completed– to the headquarters of the National Election Council. The president of the election authority, Tibisay Lucena, received the complaint, telling the media that “the right to protest and the right to dissent must be respected.”

The narrow victory by Nicolas Maduro, handpicked by the late Hugo Chavez as his successor, and the allegation of thousands of voting irregularities sparked deadly protests across Venezuela on Monday night.

Violence has subsided as Capriles called on supporters to show restraint, but the opposition leader’s patience could be running out.

On Wednesday, even before filing the recount request, he was rebuffed by the head of the Supreme Court, who said a vote-by-vote recount was impossible. “In Venezuela the system is absolutely automatic, in such a way that manual recounts don't exist,” head judge Luisa Morales said on national television.

The issue of a recount is not in the domain of Venezuela’s top court, and the judge’s declaration was for many evidence that all levels of the government were stacked with allies of Chavez’ PSUV party who were appointed during his 14-years in power, and who were incapable of acting impartially.

Members of the ruling PSUV have vowed legal action against Capriles and others whom they accuse of stirring up violence against its backers.

Usually a loud critic of the government, Capriles kept silent after judge Morales’ TV appearance, shying away from what experts called his only remaining option: public protest.

Regional allies call emergency meeting

Several South American presidents accepted to take part in an emergency meeting of the regional block Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to discuss Venezuela’s crisis on Thursday.

The presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay have confirmed they will participate in the meeting, but it was not clear if the gathering would produce a show of support for Maduro, or whether the leaders wanted to make a collective call for calm.

The governments of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and Mexico have already recognized Maduro's victory, but Washington has not.

Washington and Madrid have hesitated to recognize Maduro as the winner of the poll, and have backed the opposition’s call for a recount.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-04-18

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