The election was marred with thousands of voting irregularities, according to third-party observers. The violence has included at least seven deaths in riots, hundreds arrested, and vandalism against Cuban-staffed health clinics across the country. Maduro — taking a cue from his mentor and predecessor, the late President Hugo Chavez — blamed the United States government for the unrest. The U.S. government has yet to rule on whether the election was legitimate, and Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a full recount.
Al Jazeera reported that the violence is a result of the narrow margin-of-victory for the incumbent socialist party. “The violence follows Sunday's tight presidential election when Socialist Party candidate Nicolas Maduro beat opposition challenger Henrique Capriles by a margin of about 1.5 percent, or less than 300,000 votes. The opposition alleges the vote was unfair and is demanding a recount of ballots.”
Capriles has claimed voter fraud in the election. “Until every vote is counted, Venezuela has an “illegitimate president and we denounce that to the world,” Capriles tweeted the day after the election, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Maduro countered with the claim that “Let 100 percent of the ballot boxes be opened.... We’re going to do it; we have no fear.”
But the courts created under the Chavez and Maduro regime appear to be blocking a manual recount, and are even claiming it cannot happen. “In Venezuela the electoral system is completely automated. Therefore, a manual count does not exist. Anyone who thought that could really happen has been deceived," Venezuelan Chief Justice Luisa Estella Morales told the press after the election results were disputed. "The majority of those who are asking for a manual count know it and are clear about it. Elections are not audited ballot by ballot but through the system.”
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Photo of demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 15: AP Images