The United States held back recognition of President-elect Nicolas Maduro and called on the Venezuelan government on Wednesday to respect the right of free assembly after violence at opposition protests over a disputed election.
The call received an immediate reply from president-elect Maduro who said on national television that he ‘does not care’ whether the US recognizes his election victory.
The tight weekend election victory by Maduro, the chosen successor of the late socialist President Hugo Chavez, has been rejected by his rival, Henrique Capriles, who is alleging voting irregularities and calling for an audit of the ballots. Eight Seven people have been killed in opposition-led protests.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had not decided whether to recognize Maduro as president.
That evaluation has to be made and I haven't made it, Kerry told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. We think there ought to be a recount.
Obviously, if there are huge irregularities, we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that government, he added.
His comments drew a stern response from Maduro, who said Wednesday in national broadcast remarks Wednesday that he does not care whether the United States recognizes his election victory.
Don't recognize anything. Your recognition does not matter to us, Maduro said. We have decided to be free and we are going to be free and independent, with you or without you. Your opinion is not important to us.
White House spokesman Jay Carney urged all sides to refrain from violence and other actions that could raise tensions in the South American oil-producing nation.
We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech, Carney said in a statement.
He said Washington notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results.
Maduro initially accepted the proposal for a full audit of the close election, but backtracked and hardened his stance against it.