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Opposition protests election in Venezuela

By Frank Bajak and Vivian Sequera

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 15 2013 11:33 p.m. MDT

An Opposition member carry a portrait of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles on a highway in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013. National Guard troops dispersed students protesting the official results of Venezuela's disputed presidential election. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has challenged his narrow loss to Nicolas Maduro and is demanding a recount. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's government-friendly electoral council quickly certified the razor-thin presidential victory of Hugo Chavez' hand-picked successor Monday, apparently ignoring opposition demands for a recount as anti-government protests broke out in the bitterly polarized nation.

People stood on their balconies in Caracas apartment buildings banging pots and pans in protest as the electoral council's president proclaimed Nicolas Maduro president for the next six years.

Across town, thousands of students clashed with National Guard troops in riot gear who fired tear gas and plastic bullets to turn the protesters back from marching on the city center. Students threw stones and pieces of concrete.

The city was otherwise peaceful, although protests were reported in provincial cities. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Maduro was elected Sunday by a margin of 50.8 percent to 49 percent over challenger Henrique Capriles — a difference of just 262,000 votes out of 14.9 million cast, according to an updated official count released Monday.

Sworn in as acting president after Chavez's March 5 death from cancer, Maduro squandered a double-digit advantage in opinion polls in two weeks as Capriles highlighted what he called the ruling Chavistas' abysmal management of the oil-rich country's economy and infrastructure, citing myriad woes including food and medicine shortages, worsening power outages and rampant crime.

By contrast, Chavez had defeated Capriles by a nearly 11-point margin in October.

Until every vote is counted, Venezuela has an "illegitimate president and we denounce that to the world," Capriles tweeted.

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