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Venezuela council's election audit backs outcome

Sunday - 6/9/2013, 9:21pm  ET

CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's Electoral Council has completed an audit of results from April's bitterly contested presidential election, and as expected it confirmed Nicolas Maduro's 1.5 percentage-point victory.

No government official appeared publicly to comment on the outcome, but an official at the council confirmed on Sunday a report by the state-run AVN news agency that the audit supported the official vote count. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to divulge the information.

The opposition has complained that the council ignored its demand for a full recount. That would have included not just comparing votes electronically registered by machines with the paper ballot receipts they emitted, but also comparing those with the poll station registries that contain voter signatures and with digitally recorded fingerprints.

Backers of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles claim rampant irregularities included the intimidation of voters and manipulating the outcome through votes cast in the names of dead people still on voting rolls.

"It has no validity," Gerardo Blyde, an opposition politician allied with Capriles, said of the audit's results. "It was a rudimentary audit that was incomplete."

"It's a show," Blyde added in a telephone interview.

Capriles has called the audit a farce.

He has challenged the April 13 election results at the Supreme Court, which like the National Electoral Council is dominated by the political heirs of President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March after anointing Maduro as his successor.

The state-run AVN news agency reported Friday evening that the audit showed that 99.98 percent of the paper receipts from electronic voting machines coincided with the results tallied by the machines and those appearing in the electoral council's central computers.

The council official said that report was accurate, but the agency's board of directors would not formally present an official report of the audit results until sometime this week.

Capriles launched an international campaign to seek support in the region for his demand for a full recount but no Latin American government has backed him.

Capriles also argues that the government's overwhelming use of state resources, including its dominance of broadcast media and pressuring 2.5 million public employees to back the ruling party, gave Maduro the edge.

Among nations, only the United States has insisted on a full recount. But those calls fell silent after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuela's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, last week and the two agreed on accelerating efforts to restore relations at the ambassador level, lacking since 2010.


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