CARACAS – Nicolas Maduro was sworn-in on Friday as Venezuela’s president even as the CNE electoral board prepared to review all the ballots from last weekend’s election in response to opposition demands.
Voters in the oil-rich Andean nation went to the polls Sunday to choose someone to serve out the 2013-2019 term of left-leaning nationalist President Hugo Chavez, who died last month after nearly 14 years in office.
Maduro, who became acting president when Chavez died, defeated Capriles by 50.78 percent to 48.95 percent amid turnout of 79 percent, according to the CNE, which Tuesday proclaimed Maduro as president-elect.
The Venezuelan electoral system relies on electronic voting backed up by paper ballots and the CNE automatically reviews a random sample of 54 percent of the votes to detect discrepancies between the electronic tabulation and the paper records.
But Capriles said he would not accept the outcome without a full recount, and the CNE agreed late Thursday to review 100 percent of the vote.
The inauguration took place Friday as scheduled, with 17 heads of state and government in attendance, mostly from Latin America.
Sixty-five opposition lawmakers boycotted the ceremony in the National Assembly.
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, expressed an openness to dialogue with his opponents, yet he likened Capriles to Pedro Carmona, the businessman who led a short-lived junta during the abortive April 2002 coup against Chavez.
“I am willing to talk even to the devil, may God forgive me, even with the new Carmona if it is necessary in order for him to cease his hatred against me, against the people,” the new president said in his inaugural address.
Eight people – seven of them Maduro supporters – were killed and 61 others injured early this week in post-election violence.
“I extend my hand to you, I want to work with you,” Maduro said Friday, addressing those who voted for Capriles, though he branded a portion of the opposition as racist and fascist.
Maduro’s speech was briefly interrupted by a man who leapt up on the platform, grabbed the microphone and shouted: “Nicolas, I am Yohendri. Help me, please.”
“The security has failed, absolutely,” Maduro acknowledged immediately after the incident. “They could have shot me here.”
The president later wondered aloud about the intruder’s level of desperation and said he would talk to the man. EFE