Official: Venezuela to audit election results
Audit to take about 30 days
Venezuela's top election official said Thursday that authorities will complete a 100% audit of votes cast in Sunday's presidential election.
Tibisay Lucena, president of Venezuela's National Electoral Council, said officials decided on the audit after a lengthy debate.
Officials had already audited 54% of ballot boxes, and now will audit the remaining 46%, she said.
The decision comes after opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski filed complaints with election officials about thousands of alleged violations during Sunday's vote.
"The electoral power is making this decision in order to preserve a climate of harmony between Venezuelans, but also to isolate violent sectors that are irresponsibly trying to harm democracy," Lucena said.
Capriles said he accepted the council's decision Thursday because he believes that the problems his campaign spotted would be detected in the audit of the remaining 46%.
"I want to congratulate our people, because this was your fight," Capriles said late Thursday.
Earlier this week, Lucena certified the election results and declared Nicolas Maduro president-elect, despite Capriles' calls for a vote-by-vote recount.
Maduro secured 50.8% of votes in Sunday's election, while Capriles won 49%, election officials said earlier this week.
Maduro is scheduled to be sworn in at a ceremony in Caracas on Friday. It was unclear late Thursday whether the audit would impact plans for his inauguration.
The audit will take about 30 days and will involve comparing results from voting machines with printed reports and registries containing voters' signatures, Venezuelan constitutional lawyer Jose Vicente Haro told CNN en Español.
At the time of the electoral council's announcement, the president-elect was in Lima, Peru, where South American presidents were in an emergency meeting to discuss Venezuela's elections.
The narrow vote margin has sparked mounting tensions in Venezuela after the closely watched election to pick Hugo Chavez's successor to the presidency.
Venezuela's state-run AVN news agency said at least eight people have been killed in postelection violence across the country. The government news agency tied the deaths to opposition protests and said the victims were all followers of Maduro. CNN could not independently confirm the government reports of violence, and it was unknown whether there were any opposition injuries or fatalities.
On nights since the hotly contested vote, supporters of Capriles have banged pots and pans to protest the government's refusal to recount the votes, while supporters of Maduro have set off fireworks to celebrate his victory and drown out the noise.
Before he departed for Lima Thursday, Maduro sharply criticized the opposition in Venezuela and accused them of staging a coup against him.
"In Venezuela we do not have an opposition. ... We have a conspiracy," he said.
Despite protests, he said he would be inaugurated on Friday with a large ceremony and a military parade "because our only commitment is to the people and to the memory of Hugo Chavez.""
A smiling Capriles urged his supporters Thursday not to be discouraged by Friday's ceremony, and to stay home listening to salsa music.
"This fight has not finished. ... I am sure that sooner rather than later the truth will come out," he said.
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