CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's opposition watched its options dwindle Wednesday after the head of the Supreme Court said there could be no recount of the razor-thin presidential election victory by Hugo Chavez's heir, leaving many government foes feeling the only chance at power is to wait for the ruling socialists to stumble.
Opposition activists and independent observers called the judge's declaration blatant and legally unfounded favoritism from a purportedly independent body that is packed with confederates of President-elect Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor.
The recount issue isn't before the court, but its president, Luisa Morales, declared that the opposition call for an examination of every paper vote had "angered many Venezuelans."
It was an unsubtle reminder that virtually every lever of power in Venezuela sits in the hands of a ruling party unafraid to use almost all means at its disposal to marginalize its opponents.
"In Venezuela the system is absolutely automatic, in such a way that manual recounts don't exist," Morales said.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles kept silent, shying away from what experts called his only remaining option: public protest. He called on Twitter for his followers to remain calm and resist provocations to violence from the government.
Maduro hectored the opposition during a 45-minute live appearance on state television Wednesday, calling his opponents "fascists" who are plotting to overthrow the government.
"Superman could not win an election here," Diego Arria, a former U.N. ambassador and conservative member of the opposition coalition, said resignedly.