* Demonstrators 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 Venezuela's capital on Monday as the government
rejected opposition demands for a vote recount after Sunday's
contested election to replace the late Hugo Chavez.
Police fired tear gas to disperse young demonstrators who
threw rocks in an upscale district of Caracas after opposition
presidential candidate Henrique Capriles refused to recognize
the narrow victory of Chavez's preferred successor, Nicolas
Maduro, and called for peaceful demonstrations.
"What happened yesterday was fraud, a lie. The opposition
won and they know it," said Briand Alvar, who was among the
protesters involved in the battle with police.
Capriles hopes protests will highlight the weakness of
Maduro's mandate and stir up opposition outrage over accusations
that the electoral authority is biased in favor of the ruling
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver, called on his
supporters to mobilize peacefully on Tuesday. He is due to be
sworn in on Friday, likely leaving Capriles' call for
demonstrations as a symbolic show of defiance.
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.
"The majority is the majority. Democracy must be respected,"
said Maduro, who was handpicked by Chavez to continue his
self-declared socialist revolution just weeks before dying of
cancer on March 5. "The opposition cannot launch an ambush to
jeopardize the will of the people."
In a sharply worded speech, the head of the National
Electoral Council (CNE) shot down Capriles' call for a recount
and excoriated him for being disrespectful of Venezuelan law and
"Threats and intimidation are not 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.
Opposition sympathizers flooded Twitter with the hashtag
#CaprilesWonTibisayLied, which in the afternoon was the
micro-blogging site's third most popular topic worldwide.
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 and 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, urging his supporters to keep
"We went out yesterday to vote against violence," he said.
"We can never put ourselves on the side of violence."
FUTURE OF CHAVISMO
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 him 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.