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Dhaka Tribune

Venezuela opposition leader threatened with jail

Update : 28 Apr 2013, 08:26 AM

The fallout from Venezuela's disputed presidential election continued to spread this week as the government of Nicolás Maduro threatened to jail the opposition candidate and arrested an American filmmaker accused of working for US intelligence, Reported The Guardian.

While electoral officials prepared a wider audit of the narrow vote on 14 April, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles added to the tension on Thursday by demanding scrutiny of registers containing voters' signatures and fingerprints.

Capriles has refused to accept the declared result, according to which he was defeated by less than 2%. Alleging thousands of cases of vote-rigging and other electoral law violations, he called on his supporters to stage peaceful cacerolazo – a popular form of protest where people bang on pots and pans.

The protests have been called off but the government said the demonstrations last week led to nine deaths, 78 people injured and the burning down of clinics and party headquarters. This too is disputed, but the ruling United Socialist party initiated an investigation in the national assembly this week into whether Capriles should be held responsible.

“The deaths ordered by the fascist murderer Capriles cannot go unpunished,” Diosdado Cabello, the head of the national assembly noted on Twitter on Thursday. “The investigations are going forward.”

The prisons minister, Iris Valera, said she had a cell waiting for the opposition leader. “Capriles is the intellectual author of these crimes and will not go unpunished,” Varela said on state television. “The only good news for you is that the prison waiting for you, Capriles Radonski, is not like the ones we inherited from the previous governments.”

Capriles said he was ready to go to jail rather than accept what he describes as a “stolen” election but he denied instigating violence.

“If they want to bring me to trial what's their reason?” Capriles said on Wednesday. “For asking that the vote boxes be opened? For asking people to bang pots and pans? If that's the cost then do it fast. Don't keep threatening.”

Capriles spent 119 days in prison for his alleged involvement in a violent protest outside the Cuban embassy after a failed coup against former president Hugo Chávez in 2002.

The ruling camp has promised to audit the vote yet claimed the result is “irreversible”. Capriles supporters say the audit will not be valid and will be boycotted by his movement unless it includes detailed information from voting notebooks as well as checks on whether people voted more than once and whether votes were registered in the names of dead people.

The ruling party and its supporters believe the unrest is the latest attempt by the United States 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.

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