Ramon Espinosa / The Associated PressDemonstrators, one holding a poster of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, confront riot police from behind a burning barricade in the Altamira neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013.
National Guard troops are firing tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse students protesting the official results in Venezuela’s disputed presidential election.
The students are hurling chunks of concrete and stones back at the troops on a highway in the capital of Caracas.
The students are trying to reach the western part of Caracas, where most of the government is headquartered and where Nicolas Maduro is being declared winner of Sunday’s election to replace the deceased Hugo Chavez.
Citizens around the capital also are banging pots and pans to protest the proclamation of Maduro as the victor.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has challenged his narrow loss to Maduro and is demanding a recount.
Fernando Llano / The Associated PressRiot police fire rubber bullets as demonstrators throw rocks against them during clashes after opposition supporters and students blocked a highway in the Altamira neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013.
Meanwhile, Cubans were relieved Monday by the announcement that Chavez’s hand-picked successor had been elected Venezuela’s new president, apparently allowing their country to dodge a threatened cutoff of billions of dollars in subsidized oil.
Cuban President Raul Castro sent a congratulatory message to Maduro, who is seen as an ideological ally who will want to continue the countries’ special relationship as he serves out the remainder of Chavez’s six-year term.
“The main thing from Cuba’s point of view is that he’s won, if it’s ratified,” said Paul Webster Hare, a lecturer in international relations at Boston University and former British diplomatic envoy to both Venezuela and Cuba.
AFP Photo / Juan BarretoVenezuelan President elect Nicolas Maduro (L) celebrates with his wife Cilia Flores after knowing the election results in Caracas on April 14, 2013
“They will probably be thinking that they now have perhaps a maximum of five years of Venezuelan subsidies left,” Hare said, “because if the trend continues moving against him, as I think is likely, this will be the last term even if they are able to continue all the subsidies for that period. … The clock’s ticking for that relationship.”
Venezuela ships an estimated 92,000 barrels of oil per day worth $3.2 billion a year to the island, providing for about half its consumption. Cuba accounts for about half that figure through barter deals, sending legions of medics, sports trainers, political advisers and other specialists to the South American nation. The remainder is covered by 25-year, 1 percent interest loans.
Ramon Espinosa / The Associated PressDemonstrators confront the National Guard as they protest against the official results of last Sunday’s presidential elections in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013.
“The difference in votes is very small, and I think that it will be very hard for Maduro to govern,” said Maite Romero, a 74-year-old retiree. “For us in Cuba, I’m very pessimistic. I think it will be a debacle.”
“This result demonstrated that Maduro decidedly is not Chavez, and now is the time for him to show that he is the worthy successor,” added Diego Franco, 69. “Once more it is clear that we have to solve our problems ourselves and not continue to depend on others.”
Others were more optimistic.
Maduro “will go forward like Chavez, his ideals and thoughts always supporting the Cuban people,” said Felix Montero, a construction worker. “He will always have the support of the Cuban people.”
Fernando Llano / The Associated PressAn opposition supporter does a wheelie on his motorcycle as others bang pots during a protest against interim President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 15, 2013.