Venezuela: Politicians fight amid rising tension

Venezuelan opposition party member Julio Borges arrives at a news conference with a bruised face and a black eye. Picture: Reuters
Venezuelan opposition party member Julio Borges arrives at a news conference with a bruised face and a black eye. Picture: Reuters
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POLITICIANS fought each other on the floor of Venezuela’s parliament amid rising tensions over the nation’s presidential election.


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The punch-up on Tuesday night left at least one opposition supporter badly bruised and bleeding, and video showed groups of National Assembly members shoving and pushing each other on the floor.

Pro-government politicians started throwing punches after opposition coalition members unfurled a banner protesting against a post-election ban 
stripping them of most of their powers.

Assembly member Julio Borges appeared on independent TV soon after the brawl with blood running down one side of his swollen face. The opposition said at least 17 of its allies and five pro-government deputies were injured.

Pro-government politicians appeared on state TV accusing opposition members of attacking them.

The opposition has refused to accept president Nicolas Maduro’s narrow 14 April victory. They say the government’s 1.49 per cent winning margin resulted from fraud, including votes cast in the names of the thousands of dead people found on current electoral rolls.

In retaliation, the government-dominated assembly has barred opposition politicians from public speaking and sitting on legislative committees.

Tuesday’s fracas was the second in which opposition members claimed the other side attacked them for protesting against the ban.

Since the election, the government has arrested dozens of protesters, mostly students. Most have been released but say they were subjected to physical abuse and humiliation while detained.

The government has also arrested a 35-year-old American filmmaker, and a retired general who became a prominent member of the opposition.

Both men are charged with illegally aiding demonstrations the government says were aimed at destabilising the country.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is boycotting an audit of the election and plans to lodge a challenge seeking to overturn it in court.

Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, has barred opposition politicians from speaking until they publicly recognise Mr Maduro’s victory.

Mr Maduro accused the opposition of provoking the violence, which he condemned and called on the country to work out its disputes peacefully.

“We don’t agree with violence,” he said. “This can’t be repeated. We spoke personally with Diosdado Cabello and he’s going to take the disciplinary measures needed so that these events don’t repeat themselves.”