15 April 2013

VENEZUELA : 19 April UPDATE: Maduro Sworn In; Larger Electronic Vote Audit Proceeds; 8 Dead, 61 Injured, 135 Arrested In Post Election Clashes; Analysis: Maduro's Embarrassingly Slim Win.

    On Friday...President-elect Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for the next 6 years.
    There were tense moments...when a man broke thru security and rushed the microphone...but he was quickly taken away.
    Maduro spoke for an hour.
    Also...in a sudden reversal...the national election board agreed to a larger electronic vote audit...that could take 30 days to complete.
     On Wednesday...the opposition had called off a rally demanding an audit after President-elect Maduro banned it.
     On Thursday...Brasil and other members of UNASUR reportedly lobbied hard...and successfully...for Maduro to agree to a vote audit...and defuse the tense stand-off.
     Since the election results were released...Capriles and his supporters have protested the refusal of an election board to do a full vote recount.
      Maduro was quickly declared winner by the national election board controlled by his supporters. 
    The Supreme Court had ruled that no manual recount is possible.
    The USA State Dept. announced it would delay recognition of Maduro's election...until a full vote review was conducted.
     In Caracas and other cities...hundreds protested violently over election results... resulting in 8 deaths...61 injuries...and over 135 arrests.
     Maduro has promised to use a 'hard hand' on any violent protests.
     Experts say Venezuela has entered a very unstable period. 
    Also ominous for oil dependent Caracas...May WTI hovered around $87 bbl...and Brent fell below $98.
      By a very narrow margin...the national election board said that acting President Nicolas Maduro, 50...had won a full 6-year term...with 50.76% of the vote.
      Opposition candidate...Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski garnered 49.1% of Sunday's vote.
      Capriles called for a hand recount...and Maduro had initially agreed to it.
       Capriles claimed there were over 3,200 'incidents' at polling places.
      "They can do whatever audit they want to do. We trust the Venezuelan electoral system. We welcome an audit,'' Maduro had said...but later backed-away from requiring it.
      Most of the 14,000 polling places were equipped with electronic voting...that included fingerprints.
      240 international observers also monitored voting.
      But there were numerous videotaped recordings of alleged voter irregularities.
      The candidates were separated by only 234,935 votes out of 14.9 million cast.
       Voter turnout was 78%.
       Supporters of the winning ruling Socialist Party celebrated wildly with fireworks in Caracas and elsewhere. 
      A close victory is bad news for Maduro.
      Some predict it will lead to party fractures...and infighting...over an economy that suffers from a projected 30% inflation, high budget deficits, food shortages, electricity blackouts and soaring murder and crime rates.
         ANALYSIS !!! TIME LatAm reporter Tim Padgett deciphers Maduro's slim win.
    Results make it obvious that Maduro...Cuba's candidate...is no Chavez.
    Capriles described the ruling party as a 'castle of sand.'
    Chavez always won elections by a 10% margin...or more.
    Some fear Maduro will now 'go after dissent to make-up for his weak position.'

      TO READ: Original Election coverage.