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Venezuela: Post-Election Suspicion and Uncertainty Spark Violence

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where indicated.]

Public discussion [en] about the results of the elections held on April 14 continue in the streets and on the Internet.

A number of clashes have occurred in some Venezuelan cities, and social networks are overflowing with accusations and angry messages on both sides of the line that, now more than ever, separates followers of Chavismo from opponents of the government. The latter are demanding [en] a recount now that Nicolás Maduro has been declared president-elect of the Republic.

As a lead-up to the confrontations, several protests took place outside the different headquarters of the National Electoral Council (CNE in Spanish), which can be seen in the photographs shared by Carlos Bauza on Facebook. He also published images from Caracas of tire burning and pot banging [en] by the opposition while the director of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, addressed the country through the public media.

CNE Valencia, 15/04/13. Foto del usuario de Flickr Marco Hernández, bajo licencia Creative Commons  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

CNE Valencia, 15/04/13. Photo by Flickr user Marco Hernández, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Many pictures taken in prior years of soldiers throwing out paper ballots were also shared on the Internet in order to prove the irregularities being denounced. The photographs made a big impact online, which provoked heated arguments and the arrest [en] of one of the users who published the “destabilizing” photos.

Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles is accused of inciting the violence that occurred in various parts of the country.  Pedro Carreño (@PedroCarreno_e), a member of the National Assembly and leader of the parliamentary faction of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), wrote on Twitter:

@PedroCarreno_e: Eso de responsabilizar a CAPriles es pura paja. Donde esta el ministerio publico para que lo mande a detener y que asuma su responsabilidad

@PedroCarreno_e: This holding CAPriles responsible is a complete lie. Where is the Public Prosecutor so an arrest warrant can be issued and he can take responsibility

These accusations are reflected in the tweets of the followers of Chavismo, who see Capriles as the intellectual author of the confrontations and the victims of the alleged attacks on diagnostic centers (CDI). Sonia Quishpe (@SoniaQuishpe) echoed these accusations:

@SoniaQuishpe@hcapriles ya van 12 CDI quemados, 2 casas del PSUV, carros, 2 dirigentes del PSUV muertos q mas quieres fascista? Ese era el camino?”

@SoniaQuishpe@hcapriles 12 CDI have been burned, 2 PSUV offices, cars, 2 directors of the PSUV dead what more do you want fascist? Was this the way?”

At the same time user @joseanton1990 responded:

@joseanton1990: Sí alguien tiene las fotos de los 20 CDI quemados q las muestre y con gente de la oposición generando el incendio más rápido para q las suba

@joseanton1990: If anyone has photos of the 20 burned CDI they should show them with people from the opposition starting the fire uploading them as soon as possible

In the following days, however, a few photographs of the diagnostic centers were shared to refute attack claims.

For his part, Héctor Ruribarri published a video on his Facebook channel in which he maintains that pro-government groups ”attacked a peaceful demonstration in the CNE headquarters in Maracaibo.”

User Illdiego published a video on YouTube in which he points out that groups belonging to the Communist Party of Venezuela and the Communist Youth Party “recovered” one of the headquarters of the National Electoral Council, which had been “taken by Caprilistas”.

The opposition also published videos and photos with which they accuse police and armed groups who support the government of using firearms against opposition supporters.

As the hours pass, tension is increasing and, although there is an effort to maintain calm in the streets, order is being eroded. In social networks, arguments grow more intense, confusing, and widespread. Nevertheless, online space has fostered some sober reflection that opens the door to new dialogue, standing in contrast to physical attacks and confrontations. The outcome still remains open and ambiguous.

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