Venezuelan opposition leader rejects election audit plan

Henrique Capriles calls for fresh ballot and detailed examination of electoral registers after narrowly losing to Nicolás Maduro

The Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has rejected official plans for an audit of the presidential vote that he narrowly lost to Nicolás Maduro this month.

Capriles is calling for a fresh ballot, but this is certain to be refused by senior ruling party officials, who have threatened to have Capriles arrested for allegedly colluding with the US to foment unrest.

The government detained 270 protesters during clashes that followed the disputed vote on 14 April. On Thursday it held an American film-maker who was accused of working for US intelligence to sow discord among students.

Capriles had initially expressed satisfaction with the authorities' promise last week to audit the declared result, in which Maduro – the political heir of Hugo Chávez – won by 262,000 votes out of 14.9m cast.

But with the audit yet to begin and unlikely to meet opposition demands that it should include a detailed examination of registers containing voters' signatures and fingerprints, the issue has flared up again.

The electoral council, which is packed with supporters of the ruling United Socialist party, has promised to compare the tallies from the computerised voting system with individual receipts, and declared the result irreversible.

Outside observers have declared the voting system to be among the best in the world. But the opposition says there have been at least 3,000 violations, including votes registered in the name of the dead, double voting, statistically unlikely 100% Maduro votes in remote communities, and intimidation of voters.

Capriles said: "We consider this to be a joke. If we don't have access to the registers, we are not going to participate." He said would appeal to the supreme court, though that too is loaded with Chávez appointees.

Senior government politicians initiated an investigation in the national assembly this week into whether Capriles should be held responsible for the post-election violence. The official toll is nine dead and 78 injured, and there have been arson attacks on party offices and clinics staffed by Cuban doctors.

Human rights groups such as Provea and the Observatory of Social Conflict dispute the official toll, saying the government may have included victims of casual crime, ignored fatalities of opposition supporters and exaggerated reports that clinics were burned down.

Diosdado Cabello, the head of the national assembly, said on Twitter on Thursday: "The deaths ordered by the fascist murderer Capriles cannot go unpunished. The investigations are going forward." The prisons minister, Iris Valera, said she had a cell waiting for the opposition leader.

Cabello said on Thursday night that he would not pay salaries to members of congress who refused to recognise Maduro. "It is logical and coherent … If they don't work, they can't charge, and they don't work because they don't recognise Maduro," he said.

The ruling party and its supporters believe the unrest is the latest attempt by the US to delegitimise a hostile government that is sitting on the world's biggest oil resources. The US has been reluctant to recognise Maduro as president and called for a recount.

On Thursday authorities detained a US citizen, Timothy Hallet Tracy, whom they accused of trying to destabilise the country on behalf of an unnamed US intelligence agency. "We detected the presence of an American who began developing close relations with these [students]," said the interior minister, Miguel Rodríguez. "His actions clearly show training as an intelligence agent, there can be no doubt about it. He knows how to work in clandestine operations."

Rodriguez said Tracy, 35, from Michigan, had received financing from a foreign non-profit organisation and had redirected those funds towards student organisations. The ultimate aim was to provoke civil war, he said.

Friends and family of Tracy told the Associated Press that he had been in Venezuela since last year making a documentary. "They don't have CIA in custody. They don't have a journalist in custody. They have a kid with a camera," said Aengus James, a friend and associate of Tracy's in Hollywood, California.

In Washington, a state department spokesman, William Ostick, said US consular officials in Venezuela were attempting to meet and speak with Tracy. He rejected Maduro's repeated allegations that the US was attempting to undermine Venezuela's government.


Virginia Lopez in Caracas and Jonathan Watts

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Venezuelan opposition challenges Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy
Allegations of abuse of power and constitutional fraud bring end to brief truce between government and opposition

Rory Carroll and Virginia Lopez in Caracas

09, Mar, 2013 @12:06 AM

Article image
Venezuelan opposition defeats Maduro candidate in Chávez’s home state
Regime suffers symbolic blow as little-known Sergio Garrido secures victory in Barinas governorship election

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

10, Jan, 2022 @2:00 PM

Newsprint crisis hits Venezuelan press

Publishers fear closures because of paper shortage

Roy Greenslade

09, Sep, 2013 @7:59 AM

Article image
Venezuelan presidential candidates hold closing rallies - video

Venezuelan presidential candidates Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles bring their electoral campaigns to a close ahead of the nation's elections on Sunday

12, Apr, 2013 @2:37 PM

Article image
Venezuelan opposition leader urges China to abandon Maduro
Call from Juan Guaidó comes after Beijing hints support may not be everlasting

Tom Phillips in Caracas

03, Feb, 2019 @5:45 PM

Article image
Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo López, tells his allies to keep fighting
Message from jail adds to leadership credentials of politician who was little known to outside world until a week ago

Jonathan Watts, Latin America correspondent

21, Feb, 2014 @6:58 PM

Letters: Venezuelan election
Letters: With a turnout of just under 79%, the results mean 40% of the Venezuelan electorate voted for Maduro, more than Thatcher in 1979 (33%) and Blair in 1997 (31%)

17, Apr, 2013 @8:00 PM

Article image
Venezuelan activist urges Raab to back ICC Maduro torture case
Tamara Sujú visits London to seek support for six countries pressing for investigation

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

12, Aug, 2019 @11:52 AM

Article image
Venezuelan president's discounts on white goods may not help in vote
Nicolás Maduro's economic measures may have gained chavista candidates extra votes or stopped his descent

Virginia López in Caracas

06, Dec, 2013 @3:31 PM

Article image
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro: 'We are all a little bit hippy, a little bohemian' – video interview

Seumas Milne travels to Caracas to meet Nicolás Maduro, the late Hugo Chávez's successor as president of Venezuela

Seumas Milne, Richard Sprenger, Jonathan Watts, Irene Baqué and Mustafa Khalili

08, Apr, 2014 @12:20 PM