On Monday, less than 24 hours after the results of the first presidential election since Hugo Chávez died last month, police and protesters were coming to blows on the streets of Caracas. Opposition supporters had gathered in the Venezuelan capital to rage at the fact that Chávez's chosen heir Nicolás Maduro had beaten Henrique Capriles Radonski by a margin of just 1.6 percentage points, or 235,000 votes. The opposition, who've been waiting for victory for the duration of Chávez’s 14-year tenure, cried fraud and are calling for a recount. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
At a news conference following the vote, Capriles asked supporters to peacefully protest at offices of the country’s electoral council, as well as to bang pots and pans in the streets in what is a common form of protest across the region, known as Cacerolazo. Maduro, hours after being proclaimed president, also called for protest: “I call for the people to fight peacefully, to mobilise all over the country.” However, there is little chance that any demonstrations from either side will remain peaceful, largely because guns are ridiculously easy to get hold of in Venezuela, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
So far, the death toll from yesterday's violence stands at seven. With more protests coming in the next few days, that figure may well rise.
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