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Tensions rise in Venezuela; opposition scraps protest

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By The Miami Herald
Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 10:06 p.m.

CARACAS — Tensions were on the rise in Venezuela amid reports of violence that has claimed seven lives at election-related protests during the past two days. And in a move intended to reduce further violence, the opposition called off a major protest planned for Wednesday to demand a complete recount of Sunday's contentious vote.

President-elect Nicolas Maduro, who was declared the winner with a 275,000-vote lead, accused the opposition of trying to discredit his administration and lay the groundwork for a coup.

The government says offices of the ruling PSUV party were attacked in three states and that groups had damaged installations of the National Electoral Council, or CNE, and threatened workers. Maduro said seven people were killed Monday by opposition “hordes.”

“They have unleashed the demons of intolerance,” Maduro said, vowing to prosecute those responsible.

Maduro's rival in Sunday's race, Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles, said at a news conference that he called off the march on Wednesday because he received intelligence reports that the government planned to infiltrate the protest to provoke bloodshed. He had demanded a ballot-by-ballot recount because, he said, the election was plagued with irregularities.

Capriles said Maduro was seeking confrontation to keep the nation distracted from the recount petition, which is guaranteed by the constitution.

“Mr. Maduro doesn't want us to talk about a vote recount,” Capriles said. “He wants to plunge the country into violence.”

With 99.34 percent of the vote counted, the CNE says Maduro won 50.78 percent of the vote, versus Capriles' 48.95 percent. Almost 80 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.

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