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Venezuela's Maduro takes office despite protests

© AFP

Video by Marc EDWARDS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-20

The Venezuelan opposition boycotted the swearing-in on Friday of President-elect Nicolas Maduro, hand-picked by the late Hugo Chavez, as the ruling party strengthened its grip on power and thousands of 'Chavistas' packed the streets of Caracas.

Venezuela’s ruling party moved to cement its grip on power Friday, packing thousands of red-clad supporters into the streets outside the inauguration of President-elect Nicolas Maduro, late leader Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor.

On Thursday, the country’s highest court rejected a petition against Maduro’s inauguration, and he was sworn in as president the following day, taking oath of office in front of National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello.

"I swear it before the eternal memory of the supreme commander," he said recalling the late Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer on March 5 after 14 years in power. Maduro was then suddenly pushed aside by a youth in a red shirt who ran on stage during his inaugural address and grabbed the microphone.

The incident caused momentary confusion as national television coverage of the event briefly went off the air, returning after Maduro had regained his composure and the youth had been moved off stage. The newly-invested President continued his speech and said he would later speak to the disrupter.

Cheers broke out in the packed assembly as the presidential sash was placed over the 50-year-old Maduro, who was elected president Sunday in snap elections to replace Chavez,

Close Chavez allies including Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran watched the ceremony along with leaders from other Latin American countries who rallied around oil-rich Venezuela's new government.

Maduro, 50, was declared the winner of the election by a slim 267,000-vote margin out of 14.9 million ballots cast. That did not include more than 100,000 votes cast abroad, where more than 90 percent were cast for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in an earlier election against Chavez last October.

Venezuelans voted on computers that issued paper receipts used to confirm the accuracy of the electronic vote. Authorities checked 54 percent of the electronic vote against the paper receipts and registers containing the names, signatures and fingerprints of each voter.

Yet, the opposition still disputed the results. Henrique Capriles said the audit announced Thursday night will prove he won the presidency, while government officials appear to be confident there will be no surprises after the weeks-long audit that's to begin days after Maduro's swearing-in.

Hundreds of red-clad Chavistas marched through Caracas ahead of the inauguration, shouting and blowing trumpets, led by riders on horseback and even massive bulls yoked in pairs. But the showing, at least by mid-morning according to the AFP, was a faint echo of the rallies that drew tens of thousands to the streets during the Chavez era.

Fireworks fired by Maduro supporters boomed across the city in celebration but the fainter sound of pots being banged in protest could also be heard, recalling that his narrow victory had been challenged by the opposition.
 

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-04-19

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