CARACAS, Venezuela -- Tensions were on the rise in Venezuela amid reports of violence that has taken seven lives at election-related protests over the past two days. And in a move intended to reduce further violence, the opposition called off a major protest planned for today to demand a complete recount of Sunday's contentious vote.
President-elect Nicolas Maduro, who was declared the winner with a 275,000-vote lead, accused the opposition of trying to discredit his administration and lay the groundwork for a coup.
The government says offices of the ruling PSUV party were attacked in three states, and that groups had damaged installations of the National Electoral Council, or CNE, and threatened workers. The president-elect said seven people were killed Monday by opposition "hordes."
"They have unleashed the demons of intolerance," Mr. Maduro said, vowing to prosecute those responsible. "They want to get their hands on the power and deny the will of the people."
Mr. Maduro's rival in Sunday's race, Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles, said at a news conference that he called off today's march because he received intelligence reports that the government planned to infiltrate the protest to provoke bloodshed. He had demanded a ballot-by-ballot recount because, he said, the election was plagued with irregularities. Mr. Capriles said Mr. Maduro was seeking confrontation to keep the nation distracted from the recount petition, which is guaranteed by the constitution.
With 99.34 percent of the vote counted, the CNE says Mr. Maduro won 50.78 percent of the vote, versus Mr. Capriles' 48.95 percent. Almost 80 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
Mr. Maduro, who had previously favored a recount, accused Mr. Capriles of wanting to spark a coup similar to the one in 2002 that briefly ousted Mr. Chavez.
Fernando Julio, 56, a carpenter, said Venezuela had grown used to losing civil liberties during the 14-year rule of late President Hugo Chavez. "Protests work when there's the rule of law and respect," he said. "But here, they just send the National Guard after you, or Chavistas, and you're forced to go home."
Venezuela uses an electronic voting system that produces a paper trail, and the CNE said 54 percent of the vote was automatically audited Sunday night, and there were no reports of problems.
On Tuesday, however, Jorge Ocejo Moreno, head of the Christian Democrat Organization of America, one of the groups invited to watch the vote, said the auditing numbers are overstated.