National Guard troops have fired tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse students protesting against the official results in Venezuela’s disputed presidential election as Nicolas Maduro, the acting president, was formally declared the winner of Sunday’s vote.
The students hurled chunks of concrete and stones back at the troops on a highway in Caracas on Monday.
The demonstrators were trying to reach the western part of the capital, where most of the government is headquartered.
Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, had earlier called on electoral authorities to suspend plans to officially proclaim Maduro as the winner of the election.
Repeating his call for a vote recount, Capriles said on Monday that Maduro would be an “illegitimate president” if he was proclaimed president.
Capriles urged Venezuelans to bang their kitchen pans later in the day if the proclamation went forward – a popular Latin American form of protest known as a cacerolazo – to “let the world know our outrage, our anger”.
Following his confirmation, Maduro urged his supporters on Monday to demonstrate across the nation on the same days that the opposition planned further protests.
“I continue calling for peace, and I call the people to combat in peace,” Maduro said on state-run television, calling for “mobilizations across the country” on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has now said that seven people have been killed and 61 injured in the protests encouraged by both the ‘president-elect’ and his opponent, following presidential elections in which the opposition candidate is demanding a recount.
The chief prosecutor said those killed were humble members of the working class, a suggestion that the opposition might be to blame. And Maduro, who said in a nationally televised appearance that he knew of five people shot to death in protests on Monday, blamed his opponent, Henrique Capriles for their deaths.
“You are responsible for the dead that we are mourning today,” Maduro said.
Capriles issued a message on Twitter blaming the government he says stole the election.
“The illegitimate one and his government ordered that there be violence to avoid counting the votes,” he said. “They are responsible!”
Throughout the campaign, Maduro blamed Venezuela’s frequent power blackouts on sabotage by government enemies and said food shortages are caused by hoarding by the private sector. So did Chavez before he died, but Sunday’s election results showed that a growing numbers of Venezuelans are no longer buying it.
Maduro, a former bus driver who rose to become foreign minister and vice president under Chavez, offered no ideas of his own for resolving the country’s problems. He did suggest at the news conference Monday night that a Cabinet shake-up was in the works, though he quickly added that he would ratify Vice President Jorge Arreaza, Chavez’s son-in-law, in his post.
A recount would have done the country some good and clear the air on whether there were irregularities in the election, analysts said.