Venezuela Vote Audit To Be Boycotted By Opposition

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VENEZUELA VOTE AUDIT
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles holds-up a copy of Venezuela's constitution during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, late Thursday, April 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) | AP

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles announced Thursday that his movement will boycott an audit of election results and push the government to hold a new presidential ballot.

He said the opposition would not participate in the audit because the National Electoral Council did not meet its demand for an examination of registers containing voters' signatures and fingerprints.

Capriles said the opposition would go to the Supreme Court to challenge the results of the April 14 presidential vote, which was narrowly won by Hugo Chavez's political heir, Nicolas Maduro.

The electoral council, which is dominated by Chavista loyalists, announced last week that it would allow an audit of 46 percent of the vote not already audited. It said it would compare vote tallies from each machine with individual vote receipts from that machine.

"We consider this to be a joke," said Capriles, who contends the election was stolen from him.

"If we don't have access to the registers, we are not going to participate," he said.

Capriles said he was not optimistic that the Supreme Court, which also is packed with allies of the late Chavez, would overturn the election result.

"This is a fight for the truth," he said. "This fight is not over."

Earlier, Capriles had called on the council to allow his team to also examine registers containing voters' signatures and fingerprints. It would be impossible for the opposition's technicians to pinpoint irregularities without access to the registers, he said.

Allies of Capriles have received 3,200 complaints of irregularities – all by pro-government forces.

Opposition politician Diego Scharifker said a complete audit would reduce tensions on both sides of Venezuela's political divide.

"The country wants to end the election chapter, but with the truth," Scharifker, a former student leader, said in an email sent to The Associated Press.

As Capriles sought to pressure the council, Maduro's allies threatened to prosecute him over violence that erupted after the vote.

Iris Varela, an official responsible for overseeing Venezuela's penitentiary system, suggested that Capriles would soon be behind bars.

"We are preparing a cell for you because you must pay for your crimes," Varela said.

Capriles vehemently denies responsibility for isolated acts of violence committed by some of his supporters. On numerous occasions since his narrow election defeat, Capriles has said he's leading "a peaceful struggle" to force the council to agree to a complete audit.

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Christopher Toothaker on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ctoothaker

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