Venezuela’s opposition watched its options dwindle Wednesday after the head of the Supreme Court said there could be no recount of the razor-thin presidential election victory by Hugo Chavez’s heir, leaving many government foes feeling the only chance at power is to wait for the ruling socialists to stumble. Opposition activists and independent observers called the judge’s declaration blatant and legally unfounded favoritism from a purportedly independent body that is packed with confederates of President-elect Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor. The recount issue isn’t before the court, but its president, Luisa Morales, appeared on television at midday to declare that the opposition call for an examination of each and every paper vote receipt had “angered many Venezuelans.”
It was an unsubtle reminder that virtually every lever of power in Venezuela sits in the hands of a ruling party unafraid to use almost all means at its disposal to marginalize its opponents.
“In Venezuela the system is absolutely automatic, in such a way that manual recounts don’t exist,” Morales said.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles kept silent, shying away from what experts called his only remaining option: public protest. By late afternoon, the normally vociferous state governor had simply called on Twitter for his followers to remain calm and resist provocations to violence from the government.
A day earlier, Capriles canceled a march in the capital planned for Wednesday, saying the government planned to react with violence. That decision came after Maduro urged his own supporters to take to the streets Wednesday. With the Capriles march called off, only a small crowd of Chavistas rallied outside the electoral council’s offices.