Nicolás Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election

maduroCAE6MSVZJim Wyss (Miami Herald) writes that “Hugo Chávez proved his power from beyond the grave,” as his handpicked successor won the presidency of Venezuela. He underlines that many see this victory as a tribute to “the fallen socialist firebrand.” Meanwhile Henrique Capriles supporters are demanding a recount, calling this victory a fraud.

Nicolás Maduro, 50, a long-time ally of the late president, narrowly edged out rival Henrique Capriles in a race that will be contested. Maduro won 7.505 million votes, or 50.6 percent, vs. Capriles’ 7.270 million, or 49.1 percent, the National Electoral Council (CNE) said. With 99 percent of the vote counted, the results were conclusive, the CNE said. During his victory speech, Maduro, the interim president, said he would agree to a complete recount. “Let the boxes speak and let them tell the truth,” he said. Venezuela’s voting is electronic but the system produces an auditable paper trial.

[. . .] Capriles said his camp had counted 3,200 campaign violations during the day and that his internal count proves he won. He demanded a complete recount. [. . .] Maduro said presidents in the United States and Mexico had won by narrower margins and were allowed to govern in peace.

But the tight race was a rude shock for the administration. Chávez had defeated Capriles by 11 percentage points just six months ago, and Maduro went into the race leading many polls by double digits. Maduro said his campaign had been the victim of a “psychological war” and shadowy mercenaries who were trying to spark violence and sabotage the electrical system. He also said it was the first vote in 14 years that took place without “father” Chávez.

“Now his son is going to be president of the republic and will prove what he’s capable of,” Maduro said. “We are going to build a new and powerful majority.” He also warned the opposition against trying to take power through a coup. “If they do try it, we’ll know how to respond,” he said. [. . .] Maduro, 50, takes the helm of a deeply divided nation plagued by violence, and struggling under record inflation, power outages and food shortages. Maduro has vowed to make crime and the economy his two top priorities, but offered few olive branches to the administration’s traditional “enemies.”

Asked whether he would seek reconciliation with the opposition, Maduro said his administration is always open to dialogue but not “pacts with the right wing.” He also said there could be no rapprochement with the United States until Washington “respects” Venezuela. In March, the government expelled two U.S. diplomats it accused of “conspiring” with members of the armed forces. On Sunday, Maduro said his government would offer additional details about U.S. meddling here. “We will never accept it,” he said of U.S. interference. “While I am president and the revolution is governing we will not allow any empire to humiliate us.”

[. . .] On Sunday, Maduro said he was going to visit the hilltop gravesite of his hero. “Commander,” Maduro said. “Mission accomplished.”

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