Politicians brawled in Venezuela’s parliament yesterday amid rising tension over the nation’s presidential election.
The punch-up left at least one opposition supporter badly bruised and bleeding, and video showed groups of National Assembly members shoving and pushing each other on the floor.
Pro-government politicians started throwing punches after opposition coalition members unfurled a banner protesting against a post-election ban stripping them of most of their powers.
Assembly member Julio Borges appeared on an independent TV station soon after the brawl with blood running down one side of his swollen face.
The opposition said at least 17 of its allies and five pro-government deputies were injured.
Pro-government politicians appeared on state TV accusing opposition members of attacking them.
The opposition has refused to accept President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow April 14 victory.
They say the government’s 1.49% margin resulted from fraud, including votes cast in the names of the thousands of dead people found on current electoral rolls.
In retaliation, the government-dominated assembly has barred opposition politicians from public speaking and sitting on legislative committees.
Yesterday’s fracas was the second in which opposition members claimed the other side attacked them for protesting against the ban.
Since the election the government has arrested dozens of protesters, mostly students. Most have been released but many say they were subjected to physical abuse and humiliation while detained.
The government has also arrested a 35-year-old American filmmaker and a retired general who became a prominent member of the opposition.
Both men are charged with illegally adding demonstrations that the government says were aimed at destabilising the country.
Both sides plan to take to the streets today in different parts of the capital Caracas for marches celebrating International Workers’ Day.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is boycotting an audit of the election and plans to file a challenge seeking to overturn it in court.
Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, has barred opposition politicians from speaking until they publicly recognise Mr Maduro’s victory.
Mr Maduro accused the opposition of provoking the violence, which he condemned and called on the country to work out its disputes peacefully.
“We don’t agree with violence,” he said on national TV. “This can’t be repeated. We spoke personally with Diosdado Cabello and he’s going to take the disciplinary measures needed so that these events don’t repeat themselves.”