* Protesters clash with police after call for recount
* Maduro beat Capriles by just 2 pct despite Chavez backing
* Election authority dismisses request for full recount
By Brian Ellsworth and Diego Ore
CARACAS, April 15 Hundreds of protesters clashed
with police in the Venezuelan capital on Monday after opposition
presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called for
demonstrations to demand a recount of votes from Sunday's
election to replace the late Hugo Chavez.
Police used tear gas to disperse young demonstrators who
threw rocks and sticks in an upscale district of Caracas.
Capriles has refused to accept the official election result
that gave a narrow victory to ruling Socialist Party candidate
Nicolas Maduro, and he earlier called for peaceful protests to
press his demands for a full recount.
While Capriles stressed that he wanted supporters to eschew
violence, his call for protests raises the stakes in the
"What happened yesterday was fraud, a lie. The opposition
won and they know it," said Briand Alvar, who was among the
protesters involved the fight with police.
Opposition sources told Reuters their count showed Capriles
won by more than 300,000 votes. His team says it has evidence of
some 3,200 election day irregularities, ranging from allegations
of voters using fake IDs to intimidation of volunteers at
Venezuela's electoral authority on Monday formally declared
Maduro the winner of the election, saying he won 50.8 percent of
the vote, against 49.0 percent for Capriles.
"I will fulfill the legacy of protecting the humble, the
poor, to protect the fatherland," said Maduro, who was
handpicked by Chavez to continue his self-declared socialist
revolution just weeks before dying of cancer on March 5.
In a sharply worded speech, the electoral council's head
shot down Capriles' call for a recount and excoriated him for
being disrespectful of Venezuelan law and institutions.
"Threats and intimidation will not be the path to appeal the
decisions of the CNE," said Tibisay Lucena, who opposition
critics call a stooge of the ruling Socialist Party.
She also accused the U.S. government and the Organization of
American States of trying to interfere in Venezuelan affairs
after they backed the idea of a recount.
The official results showed Maduro winning by 265,000 votes
but Capriles says he is sure he won and that he will only
concede defeat if there is a full recount.
"All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the
will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be
counted, every little piece of paper. That paper isn't for
recycling, it's proof," Capriles said earlier in the day.
About 200 pro-opposition students protested in another
upscale district, trying to enter a hotel where unofficial
foreign election observers were meeting. Outside opposition
campaign headquarters, protesters shouted "No more fraud."
The controversy around Venezuela's first presidential
election without Chavez on the ballot in two decades ushered in
new uncertainty in the OPEC nation of 29 million people.
It also raised doubts about the future of "Chavismo,"
Chavez's self-proclaimed socialist movement, without its
In his last public speech, Chavez named his longtime protege
Maduro as his preferred successor, giving the burly former bus
driver a huge boost heading into Sunday's election.
But neither the endorsement nor the burst of sympathy
following Chavez's death were enough to ensure an easy victory.
Maduro, who does not have Chavez's charm, saw his poll lead
shrink in the final days of the campaign. Even then, the vote
was a lot closer than most people expected.
Maduro's slim victory raises the possibility that he could
face challenges from rivals within the disparate coalition that
united around the towering figure of Chavez, who was an icon of
the Latin American left.
Chavez comfortably beat Capriles by 11 percentage points and
1.6 million votes in October.
In this campaign, Capriles slammed Maduro as an incompetent
and a poor copy of Chavez unable to fix the nation's many
problems. He also offered a Brazilian-style mix of pro-business
policies and strong welfare programs.
Maduro was unable to match his former boss's electrifying
speeches but nevertheless benefited from a well-oiled party
machine and poor Venezuelans' fears that the opposition might
abolish Chavez's slum development projects.