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Despite protests, Maduro certified as president

CARACAS -- Venezuela's government-friendly electoral council quickly certified the razor-thin presidential victory of Hugo Chávez's hand-picked successor Monday, apparently ignoring opposition demands for a recount as anti-government protests broke out.

People stood on their balconies in Caracas apartment buildings banging pots and pans in protest as the electoral council's president proclaimed Nicolas Maduro president for the next six years.

Across town, thousands of students clashed with National Guard troops in riot gear who fired tear gas and plastic bullets to turn the protesters back from marching on the city center. Students threw stones and pieces of concrete.

The city was otherwise peaceful.

Maduro was elected Sunday by a margin of 50.7 percent to 49.1 percent over challenger Henrique Capriles -- a difference of just 235,000 votes out of 14.8 million cast, according to the official count.

Sworn in as acting president after Chávez's March 5 death from cancer, Maduro squandered a double-digit advantage in opinion polls in two weeks as Capriles highlighted what he called the ruling Chavistas' abysmal management of the oil-rich country's economy and infrastructure. He pointed to food and medicine shortages, chronic power outages and rampant crime.

Until every vote is counted, Venezuela has an "illegitimate president and we denounce that to the world," Capriles tweeted Monday. -- AP

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