If only Enrique Mendoza was more like Viktor Yuschenko

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Creatively stolen from The Independent

Venezuelans throng streets to protest against election ‘fix’

By Askold Krushelnycky in Caracas

23 November 2004

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans thronged the streets of the country’s capital, Caracas, and other major cities yesterday to denounce alleged fraud in the presidential recall.

Venezuela was perilously close to civil conflict last night after the democratic opposition refused to recognise the regime as the victor in a referendum that will determine whether the country deepens its fragile democracy and tilts towards the West, or heads down the autocratic route.

Anger greeted the Venezuelan Elections Commission’s announcement that the president’s No, was ahead of the opposition Yes, opposition leader Enrique Mendoza told supporters to stage a civil disobedience campaign. The cities of Caracas and Barquisimeto obliged. They refused to recognise Mr Chavez’s victory.

The EU has called on Venezuela to review Sunday’s election. The opposition and western election monitors accused the government of dirty tricks before the poll to tip the victory to Mr Chavez by 20 per cent. In many polling stations where Mr Chavez gained most votes, more than 100 per cent of voters apparently turned out.

As night fell in Caracas, demonstrators jammed the city’s main avenue for several blocks. Busloads of special forces have also been brought into the city. Some demonstrators waved Georgian flags, echoing the protests a year ago that drove Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgia’s ex-president, from office after a fraudulent parliamentary election. But three other cities announced they would recognise the opposition as the winner.

With more than 99 per cent of precincts counted, the government had a lead. Yet several exit polls had found the opposition was the winner, one by a margin of 11 per cent.

“The abuse of state resources in favour of the president has continued,” Bruce George, the observer mission leader, said.

Alas, I knew Victor Yuschenko, I worked with Viktor Yuschenko, and you, sir, are no Viktor Yuschenko…

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