Venezuela's Capriles says presidential election 'stolen'
CARACAS, Venezuela (2nd UPDATE) - Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, refusing to concede defeat, accused Nicolas Maduro's government Wednesday, April 24, of stealing the country's recent presidential elections.
"The truth -- and it is as big as our country is wide -- is that you stole the election. That is the truth. You stole this electoral process, and you have to explain that to this country and to the world," a defiant Capriles told a news conference.
Maduro, Hugo Chavez's political heir, won the April 14 elections to replace the late leader by a very narrow 1.8 percent, according to the National Electoral Board.
But opposition members allege cases of voter fraud, claiming some cast multiple ballots or even used ballots belonging to people who had died.
Capriles demanded that the National Electoral Board begin reviewing the balloting process and electoral proceedings. He wants a full recount, which the board says is legally impossible.
"We are giving you your deadline: it's tomorrow. We are not going to wait any more," Capriles said in a nationally televised address.
"You (the board) made a commitment to the Venezuelan people. Well, I made a commitment to the Venezuelan people too."
The board had agreed last week to a partial review of ballots, yet all the while insisting that whatever the outcome, it would not, and could not, change the outcome of the election. The board also never said when the partial electoral review would begin.
Patience clearly has run out, and the South American OPEC member sitting atop the world's largest proven crude reserves again was plunging into political uncertainty.
Indeed, just as Capriles challenged the government, television transmission of his speech was interrupted by mandatory government broadcasting on all TV and radio networks.
The interruption showed video footage in which Capriles was blamed for unleashing post-electoral violence that left nine dead and scores wounded.
In reaction to the cutoff, some Capriles supporters immediately started a pot-banging demonstration in some areas of Caracas.
"So why is the (government) feed being piped in now? To keep people from hearing the truth?" Capriles asked, claiming the interruption was another clear sign of the government's fear that the people would learn the truth.
Political tensions had already soared earlier Wednesday when both the government and Capriles called massive street rallies for May 1. - Rappler.com