Venezuela′s President Maduro sworn in, despite disturbance | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 20.04.2013
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Venezuela's President Maduro sworn in, despite disturbance

New Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been inaugurated, despite a minor disturbance that held up proceedings. Election officials have agreed to carry out a full audit of the poll that brought him to office.

The presidential sash was placed around Maduro in Friday's ceremony by National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, assisted by the daughter of late President Hugo Chavez.

The 50-year-old took the oath of office alongside a framed photo of Chavez, who led the country for 14 years before losing a battle against cancer last month.

In his speech, Maduro, a former bus driver who became a foreign minister under Chavez, said he was ready to launch a dialogue with the opposition after a divisive election campaign.

"I call on them to converse in the different settings where conversations can be held," said Maduro. "I am ready to converse even with the devil."

Television broadcasts of the inauguration were interrupted as a young man who physically pushed Maduro during his address was removed by security officials. The man was heard to shout "Nicolas, my name is Yendrick, please help me," into the microphone before being tackled by the bodyguards.

Salsa all over Venezuela

While the inauguration was boycotted by the opposition, it was attended by 17 foreign leaders, including presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Mahmoud Ahmadinajad of Iran and Raul Castro of Cuba.

The opposition's Henrique Capriles urged his supporters to play salsa music and make noise to protest the inauguration. "Let's hear that salsa all over Venezuela! The voice of the people! This is a 'for now' government," Capriles tweeted.

Maduro narrowly beat opposition candidate Capriles in the presidential election for a successor to Chavez , in a contest that was far closer than had been expected.

However, Capriles has refused to accept the result and demanded a full recount, alleging that there were widespread voting irregularities including the intimidation of his supporters. Eight people died in post-election violence as Capriles' supporters took to the streets after the Maduro win. Maduro blamed the deaths on Capriles.

Ahead of the ceremony, Venezuela's electoral authority said it would widen an audit of electronic votes from a previous check of 54 percent of voting machines to 100 percent.

"We do this in order to preserve a climate of harmony ... and isolate violent sectors that are seeking to injure democracy," said Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council.

Although Venezuelans vote electronically, the machines print out paper receipts recording each vote, which are kept in boxes.

rc/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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