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‘It’s time for a tough hand’

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles face off against riot police as they demonstrated for a recount of the votes in Sunday’s election in Caracas. Photo: Reuters

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles face off against riot police as they demonstrated for a recount of the votes in Sunday’s election in Caracas. Photo: Reuters

Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro accused the opposition yesterday of planning a coup against him after seven people were killed in violent clashes over his disputed election victory.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has demanded a full recount of votes from Sunday’s election after official results showed a narrow victory for Maduro, who is late President Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor.

The deaths occurred on Monday when hundreds of protesters took to the streets in various parts of the capital Caracas and other cities, blocking streets, burning tires and fighting with security forces in some cases.

Officials also said 61 people had been injured and 135 people arrested in the violence. Protesters tried to burn alive one of the injured people, the Government said.

“This is the responsibility of those who have called for violence, who have ignored the constitution and the institutions,” a furious Maduro said in a speech to the nation yesterday. “Their plan is a coup d’etat.”

Maduro also said he will not allow a big opposition march planned for today in Caracas to demand a vote recount. “It’s time for a tough hand,” he said.

The electoral authority has ruled out a recount, so Capriles called for street protests to press his demands in the quickly worsening standoff in the South American OPEC nation, which has the world’s largest oil reserves.

Venezuela saw waves of street protests during various parts of Chavez’s tumultuous 14-year rule, including a short-lived coup against him in 2002. He was briefly toppled from power but bounced back, purged critics inside the armed forces and stepped up the pace of his socialist policies.

State media and officials said the fatalities on Monday included two people shot by opposition sympathizers while celebrating Maduro’s victory in a middle-class area of Caracas.

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