CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro accused the opposition yesterday of planning a coup against him after seven government supporters were killed in clashes over his disputed election victory.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles wants a full recount of votes from Sunday’s election after official results showed a narrow victory for Maduro, who is late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor.
Opposition demonstrations outside electoral authority offices around the country passed off peacefully yesterday, in contrast to Monday night when youths in Caracas and other cities blocked streets, burned tires and fought with police.
The authorities said the seven deaths included two people shot by opposition sympathizers while celebrating Maduro’s win in a middle-class area of the capital, and one person killed in an attack on a government-run clinic.
“This is the responsibility of those who have called for violence, who have ignored the constitution and the institutions,” a furious Maduro said in a speech to the nation.
“Their plan is a coup d’etat.”
Officials also said more than 60 people had been injured, including one woman whom protesters tried to burn alive, and 170 people were arrested.
OPPOSITION MARCH CANCELED
Maduro said he would not allow an opposition march that had been planned for today in Caracas.
Capriles later called off the rally, accusing the government of plotting to “infiltrate” the gathering to cause violence, and then blame it on the opposition.
The opposition has not responded to specific allegations relating to the deaths, but Capriles has repeatedly called for only peaceful demonstrations and said that the government was responsible for violence by denying the call for a recount. The prospect of prolonged instability in the OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves has unnerved markets.
Venezuela’s volatile and highly traded debt has tumbled on the dispute and unrest, with the benchmark 2027 bond off more than 3.0 percent yesterday.
A continuation of violent protests, despite Capriles’ entreaties, could damage the opposition’s credibility.
Maduro has played up attacks by rock-throwing protesters on popular government programs such as clinics staffed by Cuban doctors and subsidized state-run supermarkets, saying they prove Capriles wants to scrap Chavez-era social welfare programs.
That accusation was a principal plank of Maduro’s campaign.
State TV has played images of burning buildings and masked demonstrators, along with footage of a failed 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chavez but led many Venezuelans to question the opposition’s democratic credentials.