(Photo: REUTERS/Tomas Bravo)
Seven people have been left dead in Venezuela following violent clashes on Monday in the wake of the disputed presidential elections that took place on Sunday.
The South American nation went to the polls over the weekend to elect a new leader to replace controversial Hugo Chavez. According to the results, President-elect Nicolas Maduro won 50.8 percent of the votes, while opposition leader Henrique Capriles received 49.0 percent.
The intensely close results prompted Capriles to demand a full recount, leading to supporters from both sides to flood the capital Caracas and engage in violence, with the police arresting 135 people and reporting 61 had been injured.
"This is the responsibility of those who have called for violence, who have ignored the constitution and the institutions," Maduro said in a speech to the nation on Tuesday, according to Reuters. "Their plan is a coup d'etat."
The country's new leader, who Chavez backed to take charge before his death in March, said that he will not allow Capriles supporters to march again on Wednesday in the nation's capital and continue calling for a recount. "It's time for a tough hand," Maduro said.
Chavez himself led a failed coup against the government, for which he spent time in prison in the '90s before gaining political power and beginning his 14-year-rule of the country. He survived a coup against him in 2002 and purged those questioning his socialist policies, managing to win re-election against Capriles in October 2012, before he succumbed to cancer last month.
Foreign Minister Elias Jaua described the scenes in the capital on Monday as "violent fascism," which he promised to defeat with democracy.
"Those who attempt to take with force what they could not acquire through elections are not democrats."
Capriles, on the other hand, has blamed the violence on the government for not giving into the people's demand for an election recount. According to numbers provided by the opposition, Capriles won the election by 300,000 votes – while official results give Maduro the victory by 265,000 votes.
"We are not going to ignore the will of the people. We believe we won ... we want this problem resolved peacefully," Capriles argued in a statement. "There is no majority here, there are two halves."
Many students took part in the protest on Monday, and one 20-year-old man described how demonstrators threw sticks and stones at police wearing body armor and shield.
"We will protest for as long as it takes. We will not give up the streets," said Carlos Cusumano.