Home Tags Posts tagged with "hugo chavez"

hugo chavez

0

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has surprisingly praised opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s jail release.

Leopoldo Lopez, one of Venezuela’s main opposition leaders, has been moved to house arrest after more than three years in jail.

He left a prison near Caracas and was reunited with his family on July 8.

Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza was serving a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014, a charge he has always denied. The Supreme Court said he was released on health grounds.

Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez Jailed for 13 Years and Nine Months

President Maduro said he “respected” and “supported” the Supreme Court’s decision but called for “a message of peace and rectification” in Venezuela.

Hours after being freed, Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to continue protesting in the streets against Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela’s opposition and international powers have long pressed for Lopez’s freedom. The head of the Organization of American States regional bloc, Luis Almagro, said the court’s decision offered an opportunity for national reconciliation.

Image source Flickr

Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles stressed “he must be given his full liberty together with all political prisoners”, Reuters reported.

Giving a glimpse of his son’s life behind bars, Leopoldo Lopez’s father told Spanish radio “a few days ago they had punished him with solitary confinement without light or water for three days”.

He said his son was now wearing an electronic tag so that the authorities could keep abreast of his movements.

Venezuela: Brazilian Senators Attacked After Trying to Meet Jailed Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez

Leopoldo Lopez’s wife had complained that she had not been allowed to see him for more than a month, but on July 7 she tweeted she had been allowed an hour-long meeting.

In May, a government lawmaker published a video of Leopoldo Lopez in his cell following rumors that he had been poisoned and taken to hospital.


In the video, Leopoldo Lopez – a Harvard-educated former mayor who has been prevented by the government from standing for public office – said he was well and did not know why he was being asked to prove he was still alive.

Venezuela has been experiencing a wave of anti-government protests similar to those over which Leopoldo Lopez was jailed.

The opposition is calling for early elections and the release of opposition politicians jailed in recent years, saying the socialist governments of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have mismanaged the economy since coming to power in 1999.

0

According to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, a referendum the opposition is trying to recall him will not take place this year.

There was no time to organize the recall referendum, said Nicolas Maduro.

On June 10 the National Electoral Council (CNE) declared more than 600,000 signatures on a petition for the referendum invalid.

Venezuela’s opposition says the electoral authorities are working alongside the government to derail the process.

Opposition leaders say their signatures on the petition have also been invalidated, revealing the electoral council’s bias.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles is among those who say their signatures have been ruled out for “failing to meet the requirements”.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, described the move as “shameful” and “a provocation”.

Nicolas Maduro accused the opposition of fraud and said he would ask the Supreme Court on June 13 to annul the process.

“If they meet the requirements, the recall referendum will take place next year, full stop” said Nicolas Maduro at a rally in Caracas.

“If they don’t meet the requirements, there will be no recall referendum, full stop.”

Timing is essential for both sides. If the referendum is held by January 10, 2017, and President Nicolas Maduro loses, a new election will be called.

If it is held after January 10, 2017, and the vote goes against Nicolas Maduro, his vice-president takes over and remains in power until the end of the presidential term, in January 2019.

The opposition handed over the petition on May 2.Nicolas Maduro mango

It said it had gathered the signatures of 1.85 million voters backing a recall referendum, many more than the 197,000 needed at this initial stage. The CNE said on June 10 there were 1.97 million signatures on the list.

The voters whose signatures have not been struck off by the CNE – more than 1.3 million people – will need to turn up at regional electoral offices to confirm their identities later this month.

They will have five days from June 20 to have their signatures checked, CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced on June 10.

Henrique Capriles urged voters to get ready to comply with the CNE demand and go to government offices to have their identities checked later this month.

Venezuela is in a serious economic crisis, which the opposition blames on mistaken left-wing policies of Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

The leader of Venezuela’s opposition, Henrique Capriles, has urged the army to choose whether it is “with the constitution or with [President Nicolas] Maduro”, after a state of emergency was declared.

President Nicolas Maduro has announced a 60-day emergency, giving soldiers and police wider powers to deal with the country’s spiraling economic crisis.

Henrique Capriles said the decree gave the president unconstitutional powers.

The opposition leader called on Venezuelans to ignore it and take to the streets on May 18.

He told reporters: “We, Venezuelans, will not accept this decree. This is Maduro putting himself above the constitution.

“To impose this, he’d better start preparing to deploy the war tanks and military jets.”

“And I tell the armed forces: The hour of truth is coming, to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” Henrique Capriles said.

He said the opposition was not calling for a military coup, but instead seeking a legal and constitutional way of ousting Nicolas Maduro through a recall referendum.

The state of emergency is in place for 60 days and can be renewed for another 60.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has rejected Henrique Capriles’ appeal against April's contested presidential election result

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has rejected Henrique Capriles’ appeal against April’s contested presidential election result

The decree was rejected by the opposition-held National Assembly late on May 17, but Nicolas Maduro had indicated that he would not abide by their decision.

At a press conference with foreign journalists in Caracas, Nicolas Maduro said the National Assembly had “lost political validity.

“It’s a matter of time before it disappears,” he added.

Nicolas Maduro also said that the opposition had missed the deadline for the referendum and falsified signatures.

Opposition politicians began the process two weeks ago by handing in a petition signed by 1.85 million people, well above the 1% of voters on the electoral roll needed to kick-start the process.

Venezuela’s constitution says that a referendum will be called to decide if the president remains in power if a second petition is signed by at least 20% of the electorate, or nearly four million people.

However, the government has already made it clear that the referendum will not go ahead.

Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of leading a plot to deploy foreign troops in his country, and force him from office.

He told foreign journalists that a US military plane entered Venezuelan air space twice last week without authorization.

Politicians and media from outside the country have been trying to sow chaos in Venezuela to justify intervention, he said.

“This whole campaign, has a centre. There is an axis: Madrid, Miami and Washington,” he said.

“But there is a centre of planning, of direction, lobbying, strength and funding. That centre is located in Washington.”

Nicolas Maduro promised to fight back and to do everything in his power “to continue winning the battle for internal peace”.

He also made reference to the recent suspension of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to face an impeachment trial.

Nicolas Maduro described the process as a coup, backed by foreign powers.

Venezuela is facing a serious economic crisis, with high inflation and shortage of many basic goods.

Nicolas Maduro accuses Venezuela’s elite of boycotting the economy to achieve its political goals.

The opposition blames the mistaken policies of Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, for the crisis.

0

Venezuela has reversed a half-hour time change that was one of the signature measures of former president Hugo Chávez’s idiosyncratic 14-year rule starting with May 1.

The former leader turned Venezuela’s clocks back 30 minutes in 2007 so that children could wake up for school in daylight.

However, President Nicolás Maduro has decided to return to the previous system, four hours behind GMT, to ensure more daylight in the evening when energy consumption peaks.

The government already ordered rolling blackouts and reduced the working week for public sector workers to two days.

Nicolas Maduro has blamed the energy crisis on a severe drought.Venezuela stores working hours

He says the drought has drained the country’s hydroelectric dams and its capacity to generate power. His critics say the crisis is due to mismanagement of the energy sector.

The government has also ordered schools to close on Fridays and shopping malls to open only half time and generate their own energy.

When he announced the time change, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said the night-time use of lighting and air conditioning was especially draining for the national power grid.

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the middle of a deep economic crisis caused by a drop in global oil prices. The country is suffering from a shortage of basic goods and food.

Nicolas Maduro has said the situation has been caused by an “economic war” against his socialist government driven by Venezuela’s business elite and the United States.

The opposition in Congress which took over the legislature in December has accused Nicolas Maduro and his government of economic mismanagement and incompetence.

They have sworn to drive Nicolas Maduro from office and have begun gathering the signatures needed to begin organizing a referendum to remove him from the presidency.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s economic crisis has claimed another victim as the country’s largest brewer, Polar, suspended its operations.

Polar, the largest private company in Venezuela, brews about 70% of the country’s beer and Venezuela is one of the highest consumers of the beverage in Latin America.

Polar has argued that the government has not released enough dollars to allow it to import malted barley, which Venezuela does not produce.

Venezuelans are voting in congressional elections that are seen as the first serious challenge to the governing socialists in 17 years.

According to opinion polls, a broad opposition coalition could capitalize on widespread frustration over food shortages, inflation and crime.

Nicolas Maduro’s governing PSUV, however, retains wide support in rural areas, and will continue to control the presidency.

Voters will be electing all 167 National Assembly members.

Even if the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable captures a majority in the assembly, its power will be limited.

However, a win for the coalition – which includes center-left and centre-right groups – could mark a potential political shift in Venezuela.

The elections are widely regarded as a referendum on President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late president Hugo Chavez, and the party’s socialist policies.Venezuela elections 2015

The opposition accuses the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) of mismanaging the economy and of squandering the country’s oil wealth.

Nicolas Maduro says his party defends the interests of ordinary Venezuelans and wants to complete Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”.

“They say they’re winning in the polls – it’s the same story of the last 17 years,” Nicolas Maduro said at one election rally.

“Let them win in the polls, we will win in the streets.”

Among the concerns are chronic food shortages of staples – such as milk, rice, coffee, sugar, corn flour and cooking oil.

Nicolas Maduro has blamed the situation on an “economic war” waged against his government by the opposition.

The opposition also accuses the government of increasing authoritarianism.

Earlier this year opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was given a 13-year prison sentence for inciting violence – a charge critics say was politically motivated.

Venezuela has invited election monitors from regional body UNASUR but has rejected those from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU.

Venezuelan educator and opposition leader Manuel Rosales has been arrested on his return to the country after 6 years of self-imposed exile.

Manuel Rosales, who said he wanted to take part in December’s parliamentary elections, was detained shortly after landing in the city of Maracaibo.

The politician ran against the late President Hugo Chavez in 2006.

Manuel Rosales, 62, fled to Peru in 2009 amid corruption allegations, which he says are politically motivated.

He was arrested on October 15 as he arrived at Maracaibo from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. He is expected to appear in court in Caracas shortly.

Manuel Rosales is charged with corruption during his term as governor of Zulia state between 2000 and 2008.

He had announced on October 9 that he was planning to return to Venezuela.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Shortly before departing from Aruba Manuel Rosales posted a picture of him boarding.

He tweeted: “With God and the Virgin Mary, preparing to go to Venezuela to meet my people again.”

Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz had warned that there was an arrest warrant against him.

Venezuelans go to the polls on December 6 for the first parliamentary elections since President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.

Venezuela is facing a serious economic crisis, which the opposition blames on failed socialist policies of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro.

The government says Venezuela has been hit by a sharp drop in international oil prices, but it also accuses powerful groups of boycotting the economy to destabilize Nicolas Maduro.

Several other opposition leaders have also been detained since last year.

Last month, prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014 in which 43 people – from both sides of the political divide – were killed.

Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.

The US government and the UN have called for the release of the opposition politicians.

Venezuela’s key party – United Socialist Party (PSUV) – has begun its first congress since President Hugo Chavez died in March 2013.

Party leaders have urged delegates to consider proposals that will help consolidate the program of social reforms initiated by Hugo Chavez in 1999.

The conference, which ends on July 31, goes ahead after months of anti-government protests across the country.

The opposition blames the economic crisis on failed left-wing policies.

The government says the protests are part of a right-wing plot.

Venezuela’s PSUV is holding its first congress since Hugo Chavez died

Venezuela’s PSUV is holding its first congress since Hugo Chavez died

“Neo-fascists are trying to take over power in Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Palestine. But they won’t succeed,” President Nicolas Maduro said earlier this week.

Nicolas Maduro was elected by a narrow margin to succeed Hugo Chavez in April last year.

Since then, Venezuela has become more politically polarized and the economic crisis has deepened.

The 537 delegates gathered in Caracas have been encouraged to be inspired by the left-wing ideas and determination of Hugo Chavez.

The head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, said the Third Congress of the PSUV will consolidate the party.

The PSUV was founded in 2008, amalgamating some 10 left-wing parties that supported Hugo Chavez.

“This is a revolutionary country. The right thinks they will return to power in this country. No! They won’t come back,” said Diosdado Cabello, who’s also the party’s first vice-president.

Earlier this week, the trial of Leopoldo Lopez, one of Venezuela’s main opposition leaders, began in Caracas.

He has been in custody since February, accused of inciting violence at an anti-government protest.

Leopoldo Lopez accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of “jailing Venezuelans for seeking democratic change”.

0

The first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death is being marked in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez died of cancer after 14 years as president.

His successor, Nicolas Maduro, is leading a parade and a ceremony later at the military headquarters in Caracas where Hugo Chavez is buried.

The anniversary comes at a time of tension, with people staging daily anti-government demonstrations.

Venezuelans are deeply divided about Hugo Chavez’s legacy.

His supporters point to the significant reductions in inequality, poverty and malnutrition which Venezuela experienced under his leadership to explain their unwavering backing for “Chavismo”, his distinct brand of socialism.

The first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death is being marked in Venezuela

The first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death is being marked in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez’s critics accused him of being “dictatorial” and of championing the poor at the expense of Venezuela’s middle class.

They say he and current President Nicolas Maduro, who has promised to continue the policies of his predecessor, have ruined the economy of the oil-rich country by alienating foreign investors.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in marches over the past month demanding that more be done to curb insecurity and improve the economy.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder rates and official figures published in December put inflation at 56.2%.

There have also been pro-government marches, during which thousands of people have expressed their support for Nicolas Maduro, whom they describe as Hugo Chavez’s “son” and “heir”.

Wednesday’s ceremonies will be attended by left-wing leaders from the region, including Cuba’s Raul Castro, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

Opposition leaders have asked their supporters to “respect” the anniversary and to avoid further clashes with security forces, although a march has been scheduled to take place in the central city of Valencia.

[youtube jcb38OXweco 650]

Police and opposition demonstrators have clashed in Venezuela at the end of a march that gathered tens of thousands of people in Caracas.

Several people were injured, as police fired tear gas and activists hurled stones in the Altamira district.

Supporters of left-wing President Nicolas Maduro marched in central Caracas and other cities.

Ten people have now died in nearly two weeks of protests, which Nicolas Maduro has called a coup attempt.

Nicolas Maduro says the violence is part of a strategy devised by right-wing groups, with the support of the US, to destabilize his government.

“We have a strong democracy. What we don’t have in Venezuela is a democratic opposition,” Nicolas Maduro told thousands of his supporters in Caracas.

Police and opposition demonstrators have clashed in Venezuela at the end of a march that gathered tens of thousands of people in Caracas

Police and opposition demonstrators have clashed in Venezuela at the end of a march that gathered tens of thousands of people in Caracas

Nicolas Maduro was elected last April, following the death of Hugo Chavez, who was in office for 14 years.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was defeated in last year’s presidential election, led a march in the capital.

He spoke against the arrest, on Tuesday, of fellow opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, accused by the government of inciting violence.

Henrique Capriles called on his supporters to carry on protesting, but to avoid any form of violence.

“There are millions of reasons to protest, there are so many problems, so many people suffering. But his movement we have built must be different,” he said.

The opposition’s main grievances are rampant crime, high inflation and the shortage of many staples. It blames the economic problems on the left-wing policies of the past 15 years.

Opposition demonstrators also took part in marches in western Tachira and Merida states.

The current wave of protests began on 12 February. Three people were shot dead at the end of those marches in Caracas by unknown gunmen.

Daily protests have been held in Caracas for the past 11 days.

[youtube YgHPybDbDks 650]

According to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, the governing United Socialist Party (USP) has won the greatest share of the vote in Sunday’s local elections.

With most votes counted, the USP has 49% while the opposition has about 43%.

The opposition was ahead in most of the larger cities, including the capital, Caracas, while the governing party won in rural areas.

The elections have been seen as a key test for President Nicolas Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez in April.

Since November, Nicolas Maduro has been ruling by decree, promising to tackle corruption and control price rises.

The opposition accuses Nicolas Maduro of failing to deal with crime, inflation and a shortage of basic goods.

Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party has won the greatest share of the vote in Venezuela's local elections

Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party has won the greatest share of the vote in Venezuela’s local elections

Local elections in Venezuela are usually low key, but this one was filled with expectations for the government and the opposition.

Voters were electing mayors to 337 municipalities and officials to more than 2,000 city councils.

The opposition won mayoral races in the capital, Caracas, and the country’s second city. Maracaibo. They also won the capital of Barinas, from where former Hugo Chavez hailed.

So far, the USP has won in 196 of the municipalities being contested, while the opposition took 53, and independents another eight. The remainder have yet to be declared.

Nicolas Maduro called the results a “grand victory”, telling supporters at a rally in Caracas that “the Bolivarian Revolution continues now with more strength”.

The opposition’s failure to win a majority of the votes cast or significantly increase the number of municipalities under its control from the 46 won in the 2008 local elections was a disappointment to its leader Henrique Capriles.

Sunday’s elections coincided with the anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s famous speech in which he announced that his cancer had returned and named Nicolas Maduro as his preferred successor.

[youtube iRGPn5Swiqc 650]

President Nicolas Maduro has signed a decree controlling the price of new and second-hand cars in Venezuela.

New cars are currently hard to find, and Venezuelans often have to pay very high prices for an used car.

Nicolas Maduro, who previously legislated on the prices of electronics, toys and clothes, has accused criminal gangs of creating artificially high prices in the used car market.

The legislation says old cars cannot be sold at prices higher than new cars.

More details will be available when the legislation (decree number 625) is published on Thursday.

Nicolas Maduro has signed a decree controlling the price of new and second-hand cars in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro has signed a decree controlling the price of new and second-hand cars in Venezuela

People will be “expressly forbidden to speculate on the prices of second-hand vehicles as though they were new,” Nicolas Maduro told the official Agencia Venezoelana de Noticias.

Those who break the new law will face jail sentences of six to 12 years, Nicolas Maduro said.

The government hopes that the regulations will put a halt to a popular loophole used by Venezuelans to guard against one of the world’s highest inflation rates (21.1% in 2012).

But critics say government intervention will encourage the black market.

They blame the government’s left-wing policies for keeping foreign investment away and hurting the economy.

Nicolas Maduro was elected in March by a narrow margin, succeeding the late President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer after 14 years in office.

Last month, Nicolas Maduro requested special powers to rule by decree for a year to deal with the economic crisis.

This is the third decree Nicolas Maduro has signed since he was granted the controversial special powers.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has helped President Nicolas Maduro to move closer to decree powers.

Under the new measures Venezuela’s president would be able to govern by decree for 12 months.

The bill still needs to be revised by a special commission and debated for a second time, but correspondents do not expect significant changes to be made.

Nicolas Maduro says he will use it to tackle corruption and the economic crisis. However, critics fear he may use it to silence the opposition.

The approval of the first reading of the bill comes after a member of parliament, Maria Aranguren, who defected to the opposition was stripped of her parliamentary immunity on Tuesday, being replaced by a government loyalist.

This provided the one remaining vote that the government was missing to achieve the 99 votes needed for the approval of the “Ley Habilitante”, or Enabling Act.

Nicolas Maduro says he will use the special powers to tackle corruption and the economic crisis

Nicolas Maduro says he will use the special powers to tackle corruption and the economic crisis

The vote did not come as a surprise, but the opposition has openly criticized the move saying the government will use it to clamp down on opponents ahead of local elections in December.

“The only objective of this enacting is to persecute government critical voices in society, the NGOs and the political parties with different views,” opposition parliamentary Eduardo Gomez Sigala told EFE news agency.

Nicolas Maduro first asked parliament in October to grant him special powers to fight corruption and what he called “economic sabotage”.

The country is facing shortages of food and essential goods, power cuts and around 54% annual inflation.

The government recently seized many high street shops selling its merchandise at reduced prices, because they were allegedly overcharging consumers.

Venezuela also imposed strict controls over the sale of foreign currency to combat the growing black market of dollars.

Former President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March, resorted to Enabling Acts four times during his 14 years in power.

Nicolas Maduro has pledged to continue his policies but does not command the same support enjoyed by Hugo Chavez.

[youtube r6wBb9eREBE 650]

0

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has asked parliament to give him special powers to fight corruption and what he called economic sabotage.

Venezuela is currently facing shortages of food and essential goods, power cuts and soaring inflation.

The measure, used on four occasions by his predecessor Hugo Chavez, would allow Nicolas Maduro to govern by decree for a set period of time.

The opposition fears he will use his powers to stifle any dissent.

A vote to implement the so-called Enabling Law is due to be held in the National Assembly next week.

President Nicolas Maduro has asked parliament to give him special powers to fight corruption and what he called economic sabotage

President Nicolas Maduro has asked parliament to give him special powers to fight corruption and what he called economic sabotage

In a three-hour speech to the assembly, Nicolas Maduro called it a “matter of life or death” for the country’s socialist revolution.

“If corruption keeps expanding and perpetuating its destructive capitalist logic, there will be no socialism here,” he said.

Nicolas Maduro vowed to root out corruption in all aspects of Venezuelan life, stressing that even members of the governing Unified Socialist Party would not be exempt from scrutiny.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition presidential candidate who narrowly lost the election to Nicolas Maduro earlier this year, said the decree would not solve the country’s problems.

“I don’t think this law will bring any economic or social benefit to Venezuelans,” he said.

“They’re going to use the law to persecute and distract the people from their real problems.”

Although Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, its people are suffering from the highest inflation in Latin America, sluggish growth and shortages.

A power cut last month left more than two-thirds of the country without electricity.

Finance Minister Nelson Merentes has conceded that while the social-oriented policies of Hugo Chavez have improved the living standards of many Venezuelans, they did not solve the “structural problems” of the economy.

Hugo Chavez died of cancer in March after 14 years in power.

His vice-president and handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has pledged to continue his policies but does not command the same support enjoyed by Hugo Chavez.

[youtube hN1g-K5lrso]

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by opposition leader Henrique Capriles against April’s contested presidential election result.

The Supreme Court of Justice described the appeal as “inadmissible”.

After the ruling Henrique Capriles tweeted that there was a “lack of justice” in Venezuela.

Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s handpicked successor, won the election by less than 1.5 percentage points – about 200,000 votes.

The opposition alleged that the vote had been marred by fraud.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has rejected Henrique Capriles’ appeal against April's contested presidential election result

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has rejected Henrique Capriles’ appeal against April’s contested presidential election result

In June the Venezuelan National Electoral Commission (CNE) confirmed President Nicolas Maduro’s victory in an audit on millions of votes, but Henrique Capriles denounced the audit as “a fake”.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Justice Gladys Gutierrez said the opposition had not offered “sufficient proof” to back up their allegations.

The 10-point appeal had been lodged by Henrique Capriles, the opposition coalition and several citizens.

On Tuesday, Henrique Capriles criticized the court’s delay in making a ruling and said that he would take the case to “international bodies”.

April’s election was called after the death of Hugo Chavez on March 5 following a long battle against cancer.

[youtube P2dpfa1VSLg]

Venezuela is holding a week-long festivities honoring late Hugo Chavez’s birthday, almost five months since his death on March 5.

Hugo Chavez, who dominated Venezuela’s political scene from the moment he took office in 1999 to his death on March 5, would have turned 59 on Sunday.

President Nicolas Maduro is marking the occasion with public dances and concerts. He even plans to go house-to-house in some neighborhoods bearing gifts and a message from the “supreme comandante.”

Hugo Chavez’s legacy however has divided the country, with about half the population blaming him or Nicolas Maduro for the country’s miserable economy and sky-high crime rate.

Ground zero for the Chavez worship is the Cuartel de la Montana, an old fort on a Caracas hillside deep within a working-class pro-government neighborhood. Over the years it has housed a military academy, government offices, and a military museum.

Today it is also a mausoleum for the late leader, who died after a long battle with cancer that captivated the nation’s attention for months.

Venezuela is holding a week-long festivities honoring late Hugo Chavez's birthday

Venezuela is holding a week-long festivities honoring late Hugo Chavez’s birthday

Hugo Chavez’s marble sarcophagus is protected by an honor guard, and every day at 4:25 p.m. a cannon is fired to mark the moment he died.

Nicolas Maduro was at the Cuartel on Sunday, and surrounded by the most senior government and military officials he celebrated Hugo Chavez’s birthday by vowing to continue the late leader’s policies.

The self-declared “first Chavista president”, 50 year-old former bus driver Nicolas Maduro promised to battle crime and corruption, and urged Venezuelans to have faith in the government’s policies.

“There are two models: that of the stateless bourgeoisie and the Chavista and Bolivarian, but only one path – that which Chavez left us,” Nicolas Maduro concluded, amid a burst of fireworks and as musicians began to play Happy Birthday.

Just outside the Cuartel, at the crest of a hill of tightly-packed dwellings adorned with murals of Hugo Chavez, stands a small chapel with painted wood walls and tin roof that overflows with flowers and candles.

At the altar a poster of the “eternal comandante” is placed under a cross and next to a clay bust of the late leader.

Many Venezuelans are still adapting to the post-Chavez world, but as time goes by the shock of his death is giving way to the struggles of everyday life.

Many loyalists, or Chavistas, acknowledge that things are tough and support Nicolas Maduro – but others grumble that Maduro isn’t up to the task.

Critics say Hugo Chavez’s 14 years in power were a disaster, and point to Venezuela’s 25% inflation rate, the erratic availability of goods, and a hair-raising crime rate that resulted in 16,000 murders in 2012.

Henrique Capriles has been careful to avoid offending Hugo Chavez in public and has asked the government to let the late president “rest in peace”. But he has let loose on Nicolas Maduro, accusing him of using the image of his charismatic predecessor to “cover up the problems” of Venezuela – which he claims have worsened since Maduro took office.

[youtube 3ssit1Gbj2I]

Venezuela announces it has “ended” steps towards restoring diplomatic ties with the US, after comments made by Samantha Power, who was nominated as the next envoy to the UN.

Samantha Power said this week she would seek to combat what she called the “crackdown on civil society” in countries including Venezuela.

She was speaking at a US Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

The remarks prompted an angry response from Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela hereby ends the process… of finally normalizing our diplomatic relations,” said Venezuela’s foreign ministry in a statement.

It objected to Samantha Power’s “interventionist agenda”, noting that her “disrespectful opinions” were later endorsed by the state department, “contradicting in tone and in content” earlier statements by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Venezuela announces it has "ended" steps towards restoring diplomatic ties with the US, after comments made by Samantha Power

Venezuela announces it has “ended” steps towards restoring diplomatic ties with the US, after comments made by Samantha Power

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been strained in recent years. They last had ambassadors in each other’s capitals in 2010.

Washington angered Caracas by backing the Venezuelan opposition’s demand for a full recount of the presidential election in April to replace Hugo Chavez, who died in March.

Hugo Chavez’s anointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, won the vote by less than two percentage points.

In June, the two countries had tentatively agreed to work towards improving their strained relations, after Venezuela freed and deported a US filmmaker who had been held on conspiracy charges.

During a regional summit in Guatemala, John Kerry said he had agreed with Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on an “ongoing, continuing dialogue” in order to “establish a more constructive and positive relationship”.

He said the US wanted to “begin to change the dialogue between our countries and hopefully quickly move the appointments of ambassadors between our nations”.

Elias Jaua said at the time that for Venezuela it was important to build a relationship based on the principles of mutual respect and no interference in internal affairs.

[youtube 6iJqF5R36E0]

Venezuela’s National Assembly has backed the country’s plans to import 39 million rolls of toilet paper, in an effort to relieve a chronic shortage.

Lawmakers voted to approve a $79 million credit for the country’s ministry of commerce, which will also be used to buy toothpaste and soap.

The products are currently in short supply in Venezuelan shops.

The oil-rich nation relies on imports, but currency controls have restricted its ability to pay for foreign goods.

President Nicolas Maduro, who won a narrow majority in April’s presidential elections, maintains that the country’s periodic shortages of basic goods are the result of a conspiracy campaign by the opposition and rich sectors of society.

Venezuela's National Assembly has backed the country’s plans to import 39 million rolls of toilet paper, in an effort to relieve a chronic shortage

Venezuela’s National Assembly has backed the country’s plans to import 39 million rolls of toilet paper, in an effort to relieve a chronic shortage

Nicolas Maduro has vowed to uphold the legacy of his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, whose “21st-Century socialism” involved sweeping nationalization and extensive social programmes.

Analysts say that the government’s attempts to impose state control on the economy have created huge imbalances that have led to the shortages.

“Price controls, for example, act as a disincentive to local producers, forcing them to cut output,” says the survey organization Consensus Economics.

“The resulting scarcity forces up inflation, defeating the entire purpose of price controls in the first place.”

Venezuela’s inflation is the highest in Latin America and is currently running at about 25%.

The Venezuelan currency, bolivar, has been devalued repeatedly in recent years, most recently by 32% in February.

[youtube RZoRUN-flQ8]

[youtube WW2aBNSDfJE]

Several opposition MP’s are reportedly being injured during a brawl that have broken out in Venezuela’s parliament over the recent disputed presidential election.

Several legislators were left bloodied and bruised, with both opposition and pro-government lawmakers accusing each other of starting the fight.

A measure was earlier passed denying MPs the right to speak until they recognized Nicolas Maduro as president.

Official results show he narrowly beat opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has demanded a full recount.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) – which has rejected Henrique Capriles’ demand – on Monday said Nicolas Maduro had won by 1.49 percentage points, or fewer than 225,000 votes.

This came after the council had amended the final result, taking into account votes cast abroad.

In all, 99.79% of the votes have now been counted.

Earlier figures had shown a 1.8 percentage victory for Nicolas Maduro, who stood in the poll as the chosen successor of the late President Hugo Chavez.

On Tuesday, the opposition said a number of its lawmakers were attacked and hurt in the parliament – the National Assembly.

One of the MPs, Julio Borges, later appeared on a local TV station with facial bruises.

Opposition deputy Julio Borges appeared on a local TV station with facial bruises after Venezuela’s parliament brawl

Opposition deputy Julio Borges appeared on a local TV station with facial bruises after Venezuela’s parliament brawl

“They can beat us, jail us, kill us, but we will not sell out our principles,” Julio Borges was quoted as saying.

“These blows give us more strength.”

The opposition said it was being “silenced” by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

“I am going to ask you: Mr. Deputy, do you recognize Nicolas Maduro?” Diosdado Cabello asked one of them. “If you say no, you don’t get to speak in the assembly.”

Pro-government representatives blamed the opposition for starting the clashes.

“Today again I had to defend [Hugo Chavez’s] legacy,” lawmaker Odalis Monzon was quoted as saying by Reuters.

She added that she and several of her colleagues were attacked and beaten during the fighting.

The CNE declared President Nicolas Maduro the winner on April 15, after he had gained what it called an “irreversible majority”. He was sworn in as Venezuela’s president on April 19.

Henrique Capriles has demanded a vote-by-vote recount, but the CNE said it would be legally impossible to carry out.

It has, however, agreed to carry out a partial audit, which is expected to take until June. During the audit, 56% of the votes cast will be examined.

The CNE says the remaining 44% had been checked immediately after the election.

On Monday, Henrique Capriles said Nicolas Maduro had “illegitimately stolen the presidency”,

He has until May 6 to lodge his request with the Supreme Court contesting the election result.

Henrique Capriles said he had “no doubt that this will end up before an international body”.

Both Henrique Capriles and Nicolas Maduro have urged their supporters to turn out for separate demonstrations on May 1st, sparking fears the two camps could clash.

Nicolas Maduro on Monday said he had changed the route of his march because he “did not want problems”.

But the opposition says it continues to be targeted by the government, citing the arrest on Saturday of retired General Antonio Rivero as proof.

The opposition politician has been charged with criminal instigation and criminal association, after prosecutors blamed him for outbreaks of post-election violence.

Relatives of General Antonio Rivero say he is on a hunger strike in protest.

[youtube C7Wk82dHA6E]

Venezuela’s electoral council has amended the final result of the April 14 presidential election for Hugo Chavez’s successor after finishing counting votes cast abroad.

The council said that according to its latest figures, Nicolas Maduro won the election by 1.49 percentage points, or fewer than 225,000 votes.

Earlier official figures had suggested Nicolas Maduro won by 1.8 percentage points.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski has demanded a full recount, which the council has rejected.

Figures released by the National Electoral Council (CNE) on Monday revealed that Henrique Capriles had won 93.13% of the votes cast abroad.

With 99.79% of the votes counted, the margin between the two candidates had narrowed to 1.49 percentage points, it said.

Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela’s election by 1.49 percentage points, or fewer than 225,000 votes

Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela’s election by 1.49 percentage points, or fewer than 225,000 votes

The CNE declared President Nicolas Maduro the winner on April 15, after he had gained what it called an “irreversible majority”. He was sworn in on April 19.

Henrique Capriles has demanded a vote-by-vote recount, but the CNE said it would be legally impossible to carry out.

It has, however, agreed to carry out a partial audit, which is expected to take until June. During the audit, 56% of the votes cast will be examined.

The CNE says the remaining 44% had been checked immediately after the election.

On Monday, Henrique Capriles said Nicolas Maduro had “illegitimately stolen the presidency”.

He has until May 6 to lodge his request with the Supreme Court contesting the election result.

Henrique Capriles said he had “no doubt that this will end up before an international body”.

Supporters and opponents of Nicolas Maduro have also been clashing in Venezuela’s parliament, the National Assembly.

Opposition politicians have complained about being “silenced” by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

“I am going to ask you: Mr. Deputy, do you recognize Nicolas Maduro?” Diosdado Cabello asked one of them.

“If you say no, you don’t get to speak in the assembly.”

Both Henrique Capriles and Nicolas Maduro have urged their supporters to turn out for separate demonstrations on May 1st, sparking fears the two camps could clash.

On Monday, Nicolas Maduro said he had changed the route of his march because he “did not want problems”.

But the opposition says it continues to be targeted by the government, citing the arrest on Saturday of retired General Antonio Rivero as proof.

The opposition politician has been charged with criminal instigation and criminal association, after prosecutors blamed him for outbreaks of post-election violence.

Relatives of General Antonio Rivero says he is on a hunger strike in protest.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate for Venezuela’s presidency, has threatened to take action over disputed votes he claims were “stolen” by Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Henrique Capriles Radonski demanded details of an audit of the vote the electoral council says it will carry out.

He said the council had a “deadline” of Thursday, but did not specify what action he would take.

Nicolas Maduro won the April 14 election by less than two percentage points.

He was sworn in as president last week, succeeding his mentor Hugo Chavez, who died in March of cancer.

Henrique Capriles has threatened to take action over disputed votes he claims were "stolen" by Nicolas Maduro's government

Henrique Capriles has threatened to take action over disputed votes he claims were “stolen” by Nicolas Maduro’s government

But the opposition cried foul, and tensions in the divided country have reached fever pitch, with the government accusing the opposition of fomenting coup attempts and the opposition accusing the government of “desperate lies”.

Nine people died in post-election protests and both the government and opposition are planning more protests on 1st of May.

Henrique Capriles says the vote was marred by thousands of irregularities, including voter intimidation, and has demanded a full recount.

The national electoral council (CNE) offered an electronic audit of the vote last week, to begin this week, but says Nicolas Maduro’s victory remains “irreversible”.

It has so far failed to give any details of the audit and on Wednesday Henrique Capriles said he would wait only until Thursday.

“We will not accept a joke audit,” Henrique Capriles said at a news conference.

“It’s time to get serious.”

Henrique Capriles repeated his accusations that Nicolas Maduro had manipulated poll results, telling a news conference: “The truth – and it is as big as our country is wide – is that you stole the election. That is the truth.

“You stole this electoral process, and you have to explain that to this country and to the world.”

The government, meanwhile, accuses the opposition of stirring up the post-election violence in a bid to engender a coup, and the government-controlled National Assembly has now announced a commission to investigate whether Henrique Capriles was responsible.

Pedro Carreno, who will head the commission, dubbed Henrique Capriles a “murderer” as he announced its formation – joining the National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello, who has called him a “fascist murderer”.

Prisons Minister Iris Varela, meanwhile, has said a jail cell awaits Henrique Capriles.

Media coverage of the post-election violence has been at odds, with state media describing pro-opposition mobs torching health clinics but opposition media saying many reports of the violence were fabricated.

[youtube JLppZPzN604]

Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month.

Thousands gathered on the streets of Caracas to show their support for Nicolas Maduro and to celebrate independence.

The inauguration ceremony follows a decision by the electoral body to carry out a full audit on all of the votes cast in Sunday’s disputed presidential poll.

Nicolas Maduro beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski by 1.5% of the vote.

Henrique Capriles, who believed there were voting irregularities, says he accepts the electoral audit.

Opposition supporters were expected to protest against Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration by banging on pots and pans, and playing salsa music.

Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month

Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month

Dozens of leaders from across the region (including Brazil, Cuba and Colombia), Iran and some Arab countries attended the ceremony.

Henrique Capriles made an appeal for peaceful protests in a bid to avoid further violence after clashes left seven people dead on Monday.

The National Electoral Council’s decision to audit all the paper receipts of electronic votes is seen as a major concession to the opposition.

The council had earlier audited 54% of the vote and said this showed that Nicolas Maduro, the chosen successor of the late President Hugo Chavez, had won a slim majority.

The official count indicates Nicolas Maduro won 50.8% of votes to Henrique Capriles’s 49.0%.

Henrique Capriles said he believed the crucial votes that cost him the presidency are among the unaudited 46% of the vote.

He said there were more than 3,000 incidents from Sunday’s poll that needed to be examined.

Correspondents say the announcement comes as a surprise to many after the electoral body initially said the results, which it announced on Sunday night, were “irreversible”.

The council’s president, Tibisay Lucena, told AFP news agency that the expanded audit was not a recount but would cover all ballot boxes not audited on election day by reviewing a sample two-thirds of them over the next month.

Venezuela uses electronic voting machines which register an elector’s decision and then emit a printed receipt for the voter to deposit into a sealed ballot box. For the audit, the receipts will be compared with the electronic tallies, to check for any irregularities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the first heads of state to congratulate Nicolas Maduro on his win.

The governments of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina, among others, have also voiced their backing for Nicolas Maduro’s victory.

But the US has so far refused to recognize Nicolas Maduro’s win, calling for an audit of the results.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was not yet ready to validate the results of Sunday’s poll.

Several opposition-led protests erupted across the country after the official results were announced on Sunday.

[youtube 1ONcmUSe5Wc]

Nicolas Maduro has been formally proclaimed by Venezuela’s election authority as the winner of Sunday’s closely-fought presidential election.

The National Electoral Council backed the slender victory of Nicolas Maduro, the acting president, despite protests from opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

The official count indicates Nicolas Maduro won 50.7% of votes to Henrique Capriles’ 49.1%.

Following the announcement, clashes broke out between protesters and police in the capital Caracas.

Police fired tear gas at hundreds of students demonstrating in one part of the city, while elsewhere opposition supporters took to their balconies and the streets to bang pots and pans in protest.

Nicolas Maduro has been formally proclaimed by Venezuela's election authority as the winner of Sunday's closely-fought presidential election

Nicolas Maduro has been formally proclaimed by Venezuela’s election authority as the winner of Sunday’s closely-fought presidential election

Henrique Capriles had earlier urged national protests and a march on the electoral offices in the capital in the event that Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner.

He called on the National Electoral Council not to confirm the election result, citing voting irregularities, and demanded a recount.

Henrique Capriles said he regarded the election of Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate”.

The poll was called after President Hugo Chavez died of cancer last month.

Nicolas Maduro is a former bus driver who rose to become Hugo Chavez’s vice-president and heir apparent.

Henrique Capriles said there were more than 3,200 “incidents” from Sunday’s poll that needed to be examined.

“All we’re asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper,” he told a news conference broadcast on national television.

But while it has agreed to an audit of the electronic counting system, the government is rejecting calls that the ballot boxes be opened for a manual recount.

Monday saw opposition students briefly invade a hotel where international election observers are staying, demanding to know why the vote had been declared free and fair.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the first heads of state to congratulate Nicolas Maduro on his win.

But the US has called for an audit of the results.

[youtube 1KLzUawXY_I]

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate, has demanded a recount of votes, rejecting the election of Hugo Chavez’s successor as “illegitimate”.

Henrique Capriles, 40, said there were more than 300,000 incidents from Sunday’s poll that needed to be examined.

However, the electoral authorities said Socialist Nicolas Maduro would be confirmed as the winner.

Nicolas Maduro has called for the results to be respected.

The National Electoral Council is due to formally proclaim Nicolas Maduro’s victory at a ceremony and rally in Caracas later on Monday.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate, has demanded a recount of votes, rejecting the election of Nicolas Maduro

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate, has demanded a recount of votes, rejecting the election of Nicolas Maduro

The election was called after Hugo Chavez’s death from cancer last month.

Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver whom Hugo Chavez had named as his preferred heir, won 50.7% of the vote against 49.1% for Henrique Capriles.

The National Electoral Council said the results, which it announced on Sunday night, were “irreversible”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the first heads of state to congratulate Nicolas Maduro on his win.

Meanwhile the US has called for an audit of the results.

“This appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results,” a White House spokesman said.

As the news of Nicolas Maduro’s victory emerged, celebrations erupted in the capital, Caracas.

Thousands of jubilant supporters took to the streets, dancing, singing and blasting car horns, while fireworks lit up the night sky. Opposition voters banged pots and pans in protest.

Speaking outside the presidential palace, Nicolas Maduro told crowds that the result was “just, legal and constitutional”.

He said his election showed Hugo Chavez “continues to be invincible, that he continues to win battles”.

Nicolas Maduro, who was wearing a tracksuit top in the colors of the Venezuelan flag, said he had spoken to Henrique Capriles on the phone, and that he would allow an audit of the election result.

He called for those who had not voted for him to “work together” for the country.

Nicolas Maduro’s margin of victory was far narrower than that achieved by Chavez at elections last October, when he beat Henrique Capriles by more than 10 percentage points.

Almost immediately, one member of the National Electoral Council who does not have government sympathies called on the authorities to carry out a recount by hand, a call later echoed by Henrique Capriles himself.

[youtube NPdKOex1Y_Q]

Socialist Nicolas Maduro has won a narrow victory in Venezuela’s presidential being officially elected as the successor of the late leader Hugo Chavez.

Nicolas Maduro won 50.7% of the vote against 49.1% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Henrique Capriles has demanded a recount, saying Nicolas Maduro was now “even more loaded with illegitimacy”.

The opposition candidate said there were more than 300,000 incidents from Sunday’s poll that would need to be examined.

The electoral commission said the results were “irreversible”.

Socialist Nicolas Maduro has won a narrow victory in Venezuela's presidential being officially elected as the successor of the late leader Hugo Chavez

Socialist Nicolas Maduro has won a narrow victory in Venezuela’s presidential being officially elected as the successor of the late leader Hugo Chavez

When the results were announced at 23:15 local time, celebrations erupted in the capital, Caracas, where Nicolas Maduro’s jubilant supporters set off fireworks and blasted car horns. Opposition voters banged pots and pans in protest.

In a victory speech outside the presidential palace, Nicolas Maduro, wearing the colors of the Venezuelan flag, told crowds that the result was “just, legal and constitutional”.

He said his election showed Hugo Chavez “continues to be invincible, that he continues to win battles”.

Nicolas Maduro said he had spoken to Henrique Capriles on the phone, and that he would allow an audit of the election result.

The former Venezuela’s vice president, who was hand-picked by Hugo Chavez as his successor, called for those who had not voted for him to “work together” for the country.

However, Nicolas Maduro’s margin of victory was far narrower than that achieved by Hugo Chavez at elections last October, when he beat Henrique Capriles by more than 10%.

At Henrique Capriles’ campaign headquarters the mood was sombre, as his supporters watched the results on television. Some cried, while others hung their heads in dismay.

Shortly afterwards, Henrique Capriles emerged, angry and defiant.

“It is the government that has been defeated,” he said.

Then, addressing Nicolas Maduro directly, Henrique Capriles said: “The biggest loser today is you. The people don’t love you.”

Nicolas Maduro had been serving as acting president since Hugo Chavez died of an unknown type of cancer on March 5.

He is due to be sworn in on April 19 and serve until January 2019 to complete the six-year term that Hugo Chavez would have begun in January.

Hugo Chavez was a divisive leader. To his supporters he was the reforming president whose idiosyncratic brand of socialism defeated the political elite and gave hope to the poorest Venezuelans.

He effectively used his country’s vast oil reserves to boost Venezuela’s international clout, and his strident criticism of the US won him many political allies in Latin America.

However, Hugo Chavez’s political opponents accused him of being an autocrat, intent on building a one-party state.

Hugo Chavez bequeaths a nation beset by crumbling infrastructure, unsustainable public spending and under-performing industry.

[youtube 8OegEI2JnGY]

Venezuela is voting in new presidential election, called after the death of Hugo Chavez last month.

Venezuela’s Acting President Nicolas Maduro, chosen by Hugo Chavez as his successor, is running against Henrique Capriles Radonski, currently governor of Miranda state.

Henrique Capriles narrowly lost to Hugo Chavez in elections last October.

On the eve of polls opening, he accused Nicolas Maduro of breaking election laws by continuing its campaign on state television.

Electoral authorities say voting has been going smoothly. Security had been stepped up for the vote.

Nicolas Maduro, 50, whose campaign has focused on his close relationship to Hugo Chavez, was shown visiting the tomb of the late leader, a move Henrique Capriles, 40, said was “violating all the electoral norms”.

Both candidates have to some extent broken the media silence they are supposed to have maintained since campaigning officially ended on Thursday.

Almost 19 million Venezuelans have the right to vote in the poll.

Venezuela’s Acting President Nicolas Maduro, chosen by Hugo Chavez as his successor, is running against Henrique Capriles Radonski, currently governor of Miranda state

Venezuela’s Acting President Nicolas Maduro, chosen by Hugo Chavez as his successor, is running against Henrique Capriles Radonski, currently governor of Miranda state

Nicolas Maduro cast his vote in the Catia area of the capital Caracas, accompanied by Hugo Chavez’s two daughters. Henrique Capriles voted in the Las Mercedes district of the capital.

Hundreds of election monitors are present from different countries and international organizations to ensure the poll is free and fair.

The vote is electronic – one machine will identify voters’ fingerprints, and a second will recognize identity card numbers and register the vote anonymously.

Polls will stay open until all those queuing at closing time have voted.

Official results are expected about three hours after the polls close.

Both presidential candidates wrote on Twitter early in the morning.

Nicolas Maduro invited Venezuelans to vote to guarantee the future and the perpetual peace of their country.

Meanwhile opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said: “The big day is here!” and used a hashtag urging people to “vote without fear”.

Former President Hugo Chavez died on March 5, after a two-year battle against an undisclosed type of cancer, prompting a short electoral campaign period before Sunday’s elections.

The winner is due to be sworn in on April 19 and serve until January 2019, to complete the six-year term that Hugo Chavez was supposed to have begun in January.

Hugo Chavez was a divisive leader. To his supporters he was the reforming president whose idiosyncratic brand of socialism defeated the political elite and gave hope to the poorest Venezuelans.

He effectively used his country’s vast oil reserves to boost Venezuela’s international clout, and his strident criticism of the US won him many political allies in Latin America.

However, Hugo Chavez’s political opponents accuse him of being an autocrat, intent on building a one-party state.

Hugo Chavez bequeaths a nation beset by crumbling infrastructure, unsustainable public spending and under-performing industry.

His handpicked candidate Nicolas Maduro is seen as the front-runner, but recent polls suggested the gap between him and his rival was narrowing.

Nicolas Maduro:

  • Named by Hugo Chavez as preferred successor; currently Venezuela’s acting president
  • Served as vice-president and foreign minister under Hugo Chavez
  • Former bus driver, lifelong socialist and trade unionist

Henrique Capriles Radonski:

  • Trained as a lawyer, currently governor of state of Miranda
  • Gained 44% of vote against Hugo Chavez in 2012 elections
  • Describes policies as “centrist” and cites former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as inspiration

[youtube Fj_xbejad4U]