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Punch-up in Venezuelan parliament

Fistfights broke out during an angry session linked to the South American nation's bitter election dispute.

Last Modified: 01 May 2013 03:28
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Opposition MPs say they were blocked from speaking in the National Assembly over their refusal to recognise President Maduro's victory [Reuters]

Fistfights have broken out in Venezuela's parliament, injuring a number of legislators during an angry session linked to the South American nation's bitter election dispute.

The opposition said seven of its parliamentarians were attacked and hurt on Tuesday when protesting a measure to block them from speaking in the National Assembly over their refusal to recognise President Nicolas Maduro's April 14 vote victory.

Government legislators blamed their "fascist" rivals for starting the violence, which illustrated the volatile state of politics in the OPEC nation after the death of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez last month.

"We knew the opposition came to provoke violence," Maduro said of the incident. "This must not be repeated."

Exchange of blame

The 50-year-old Maduro, who was Chavez's chosen successor, defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by 1.5 percentage points. Capriles, 40, has refused to recognise his victory, alleging that thousands of irregularities occurred and the vote "stolen."

The vote exposed a nation evenly divided after 14 years of Chavez's rule.

The fracas came after the government-controlled assembly passed a measure denying opposition members the right to speak in the chamber until they recognised Maduro as president.

"Until they recognise the authorities, the institutions of the republic, the sovereign will of our people, the opposition deputies will have to go and speak (to the private media) but not here in this National Assembly," said Diosdado Cabello, the head of parliament.

Both sides accused each other of starting the incident, which took place behind closed doors without media present.

In another potential flashpoint for Venezuela, the government and opposition are planning rival marches in Caracas on Wednesday to commemorate May Day.

Venezuela has been on edge since the April 14 presidential election. At least eight people died in violent protests the day after the vote. There have been scores of arrests in what the opposition is calling a wave of repression.

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