Venezuela's President-elect Nicolas Maduro gestures as Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), reads a certificate confirming him as winner of Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013. The day after Venezuela's election board declared acting President Maduro winner of Sunday's presidential vote by a tight margin, rival candidate Henrique Capriles insisted the opposition's own count showed he was the victor and accused the government of conspiring to hide the truth to remain in power.    REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
VENEZUELA

Did Venezuela’s New Leader Just Order the Arrest of His Political Rivals?

If the tweets of an opposition leader in Venezuela are to be believed, newly elected president Nicolas Maduro is beginning his term in power with a heavy hand.

“People’s Will” party leader Leopoldo Lopez tweeted last night that arrest warrants have been issued for himself and the man he endorsed, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Capriles demanded a recount after Sunday’s election which saw Chavez protégé Maduro emerge victorious — but only by the narrow margin of about 230,000 votes. The close results surprised some observers, as Maduro had double-digit leads in the polls heading into voting day.

Venezuela's President-elect Maduro gestures as Lucena, president of CNE, reads a certificate confirming him as winner of Sunday's election, in Caracas. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Due to widespread reporting of problems at polling stations and possible counting errors, Capriles asked for a recount. Violent protests followed the election, resulting in at least 135 arrests and 60 injuries just on Monday.

Regional media have picked up the story in Spanish and report that the warrants are for “the instigation to commit crimes.” The authorities may be trying to tie the post-election unrest to Capriles and Lopez, since the two are encouraging the general public to contest the results. Capriles called off a protest scheduled for today, fearing “rivals were plotting to infiltrate the rally to trigger violence.”

The drama is playing out across social media, with Capriles, Lopez, and Maduro-supporting Venezuelan leaders posting their call to arms on Twitter.

Lopez tweeted a photo of the alleged arrest warrant, saying “Here is the signed order I was sent”:

The second tweet reads, “Not a rumor! My sources confirm to me orders are issued against me and @hcapriles Complain to the country and the world that this is persecution!”

In English: “Last night they wanted to order armed groups to put on our t-shirts and generate violence to later blame us. The orders were signed!”

Yesterday, the speaker of the Venezuelan Congress tweeted that Capriles is a “fascist” and requested that the National Assembly “initiatie a criminal investigation that Capriles generated violence in the country.”

Under the relevant Articles 285 and 292 of the Venezuelan Penal Code, Capriles and Lopez could face 3 to 6 years in prison if convicted.

It’s not the first time Capriles, a long time outspoken critic of Hugo Chavez, has been threatened with jail. An arrest warrant was issued in 2004 for his participation in 2002 protests that also turned violent.

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