Venezuela’s government-controlled parliament on Wednesday set up an inquiry into violence over a disputed election that authorities blame on opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Nine people died and dozens were injured after opposition protests against Nicolas Maduro’s narrow April 14 presidential poll win turned violent.
The government said the unrest was evidence the opposition was planning a coup. Capriles’ camp rejects it, saying officials exaggerated the violence and included deaths from common crimes to bolster the toll and discredit the opposition.
“The government is desperately sowing lies,” said Capriles, who called supporters onto the streets after the disputed election results, but has since urged only peaceful protests.
“I have a clear conscience ... the people who stole the election want the country to stay divided,” he said.
The National Assembly said on Twitter that a special committee would begin meeting on Monday to investigate the violence.
“The commission will determine responsibility for violent actions directed by Capriles,” it said.
Government legislator Pedro Carreno, who will head the committee that does not include any opposition parliamentarians, called Capriles a “murderer” during Wednesday’s announcement.
“Sooner rather than later, he will have to pay for those crimes,” Carreno said, describing the death of an 11-year-old girl as the result of “fascism.”
Inside Venezuela, reports of the violence have varied, with state media painting an image of pro-opposition mobs burning government offices and health facilities.
Opposition media have quoted relatives of victims as saying some of the deaths had nothing to do with the political tensions and showed images of facilities functioning normally.
In a sustained assault against Capriles from numerous senior officials, National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello called him a “fascist murderer,” while Prisons Minister Iris Varela said a jail cell and rehabilitation therapies awaited him.
Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who promises Brazilian-style pro-business policies mixed with strong social protections, confounded opinion polls to run a close finish against Maduro in the vote to succeed former Venezuelan president leader Hugo Chavez.
Despite an initial large gap in the polls, Maduro won by less than 2 percentage points.
Capriles said the ballot was marred by thousands of irregularities, including intimidation of voters at poll centers, and demanded a recount.
The election board is carrying out a partial audit, but has said that will not change the result.
Capriles had told reporters the opposition would only wait until yesterday for concrete details on the process.
“We will not accept a joke audit,” he said. “It’s time to get serious.”
He did not say what would happen if the deadline were not met.