Political tensions over Venezuela’s disputed presidential election boiled over Tuesday in the National Assembly as government and opposition lawmakers said they physically clashed.
”I'm not the only one who has been beaten. They have struck several lawmakers. (Assembly speaker) Diosdado Cabello has to be held to account personally, said opposition lawmaker Julio Borges.
He said he was denied the right to speak in the assembly by the body, which is controlled by a majority loyal to socialist President Nicolas Maduro, because opposition lawmakers have not recognized Maduro's reelection.
So the ruling party majority voted to deny opposition lawmakers their right to speak in the forum to which they were elected, Borges said.
A combative Cabello told the opposition legislators -- many of whom shouted in protest and frantically blew whistles -- that as long as (national) authorities are not recognized and the Republic's institutions are not recognized... the ladies and gentlemen of the opposition can go talk to (TV network) Globovision, to (newspaper) El Nacional.
But they won't be doing it here in the assembly, Cabello said.
Authorities on Monday began a partial audit of the disputed election won by Maduro, the late Hugo Chavez's handpicked successor, as the opposition rejected the move as insufficient.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who says he was the real winner of the April 14 presidential vote, has accused election officials of rejecting his appeal for a full recount on the orders of the ruling Socialist Party.
The National Electoral Board has ruled that Maduro won by 1.49% of the vote, amending an earlier tally that had Maduro up by 1.8%. The Board has insisted it is legally impossible to carry out a full recount, and that no audit can reverse Maduro's win.
Capriles, a businessman, lawyer and Miranda state governor, has said he will not accept anything short of a full recount and alleges that some voters cast multiple ballots or even voted on behalf of the dead.
Both the government and the opposition have urged their supporters to turn out for massive street demonstrations planned for May 1.
Spain has offered to mediate between government and the opposition. But on Tuesday Maduro shot down the offer with an insult, calling the Spanish Foreign Minister impertinent.
Mr Foreign Minister, get your snout out of Venezuela.... Just get out of here, you impertinent Spanish foreign minister, he said. ”Respect Venezuela”.