Venezuela’s government on Monday defended a presidential election that authorities said gave interim leader Nicolas Maduro a six-year term, backtracking on a pledge he had made to permit an audit of ballots demanded by the opposition after the razor-thin victory. Henrique Capriles, who had challenged Maduro in the Sunday election, which was held six weeks after President Hugo Chavez’s death, insisted that he had won the vote and called for a hand count of all the paper ballots.
Maduro, though, was proclaimed the winner Monday by the National Electoral Council, which certified the victory in a ceremony broadcast on national television, paving the way for his inauguration Friday.
“There is no doubt here about who won the election,” Elias Jaua, the foreign minister and a former vice president, said in a speech in which he defended the election result and characterized the country’s electoral system as the best in the world. “Venezuelans, let’s feel proud of yesterday’s vote.”
Soon after Maduro’s victory was announced Sunday night, Vicente Diaz, one of the rectors of the electoral council, called for an audit of the vote.
Minutes later, Maduro announced to a crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace, “We’re going to do it.”
“We’re not afraid. Let the boxes talk — that the truth be told,” said Maduro, 50, referring to the cardboard boxes that hold ballots.