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Venezuela's Maduro to Peru summit before swearing-in

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Venezuela's President-elect Nicolas Maduro flew to a South American summit in Peru Thursday, seeking international support on the eve of his inauguration amid a crisis over demands for a recount.

Maduro smiled and appeared relaxed at his arrival in Lima before the meeting with presidents from across the region who were convened for a special session on the political impasse in his oil-rich OPEC nation.

"We are going to take the truth about Venezuela" to the meeting, Maduro said in a nationally broadcast speech before leaving.

Capriles said in a Twitter message that he too was considering attending the summit, adding that he had been in conversation with several leaders. "In democracy, votes are counted," he wrote.

Maduro countered that there was no opposition in Venezuela.

"In Venezuela, what there is is a permanent conspiracy, abetted from the United States," said Maduro, repeating claims that the government had "defeated" an attempted coup in its initial stages.

In Caracas, meanwhile, a din of pots being banged by supporters of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles competed with fireworks launched from the rooftops of government buildings by Maduro's backers for a third consecutive night.

The two sides have been locked in an angry showdown since the country's National Election Council declared Maduro the winner in Sunday's snap elections to replace the late Hugo Chavez, by 50.8 to 49 percent.

At least eight people were killed after protests called by Capriles turned violent in some parts of the country, but by Thursday, Maduro appeared to have regained control of the situation.

"We will denounce the political assassinations that resulted from opposition political intolerance," said Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on his Twitter account as he prepared to leave for Lima.

Nearly all Latin American countries have recognized Maduro's election and several leaders were taking advantage of the summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to travel together to Caracas for his inauguration.

Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Evo Morales of Bolivia have confirmed their attendance.

Before the summit, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who is on a European tour, sent a message of support to Maduro: "Free and democratic elections must be respected. UNASUR will not permit a coup d'etat."

In Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed hope that Venezuela would keep an "open door" whatever happens, but said an audit of the vote would help provide confidence that Maduro's victory "has been fairly arrived at."

The Carter Center urged all sides to avoid aggressive rhetoric and said "an expeditious and full response from the CNE (National Electoral Council), should help to lower the tensions generated by the April 14 election results."

Preparations were underway to swear Maduro in with pomp and circumstance on Friday to complete Chavez's six-year term, cut short by his death from cancer March 5 after 14 years in power.

Venezuelan fighter jets, including Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35s, streaked across Caracas in an apparent rehearsal for Friday's swearing-in ceremonies, while helicopters circled below them over the mountain-rimmed city.

Chavez has been as dominant a figure here in death as he had been in life, but Maduro, campaigning as the comandante's political "son," was left with an uncertain mandate after the close vote.

Capriles, claiming irregularities, has submitted a formal request for a recount to the electoral council, and was awaiting an answer.

"The whole world is in complete agreement that there should be an audit because this strengthens democracy," he told NTN24, in an interview rebroadcast by Globovision television.

Maduro has the backing of the Supreme Court, which said it was impossible to conduct a manual recount as the opposition has demanded.

The Venezuelan judicial system not only has shown no willingness to take up his cause, but could act on threats to prosecute the opposition for the violence that occurred during opposition protests.

The authorities announced this week that they have detained 135 people and placed under investigation a group of military officers suspected of plotting with the "Caprilistas."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130418/venezuelas-maduro-peru-summit-swearing-2