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Henrique Capriles, one of Venezuela’s opposition leading members, has announced he was leaving the coalition.

The former presidential candidate said the move was in protest at the decision by four newly elected opposition governors to pledge allegiance to the constituent assembly.

The Roundtable for Democracy (MUD) regards the constituent assembly as illegitimate.

The MUD governors were elected in regional polls this month in which the government won 18 out of 23 states.

The outcome of the October 15 elections, which the MUD said were fraudulent – and President Nicolas Maduro’s insistence that all new governors bow to the constituent assembly – has caused a rift among members of the opposition coalition.

Image source Flickr

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On October 24, Henrique Capriles said that he “would not be part” of the opposition MUD “because it is not unity as a concept or a vision”.

“It is just some people that grab the bones that are thrown to them,” he said.

Five MUD governors who won seats opted to boycott a previous event in which 18 newly elected socialist governors were sworn in to the constituent assembly.

However, four of them – the governors for Táchira, Mérida, Nuevo Esparta and Anzoátegui – later changed their stance and pledged allegiance, defying their coalition’s official position.

President Maduro, who has described the election result as a victory, said governors who refused to be sworn in by the constituent assembly would not be allowed to take up office.

The MUD have published what they say is evidence of fraud in the state of Bolívar, where the government candidate was declared the winner after a two-day delay.

Nicole Graham, a brave young mother from Australia, battled to keep her beloved horse calm as sea water closed in on the animal after he became trapped in mud “like quicksand”.

Exhausted and mud-splattered, Nicole Graham clung to her trapped horse Astro for three hours keeping his head high in a race against the tide.

Astro, a 78-stone show horse, had sunk into quagmire-like mud and was facing the prospect of drowning as the water rose around them.

Nicole Graham had been out on an afternoon ride with her daughter along the coast near Geelong, south of Melbourne, when 18-year-old Astro suddenly sank into the mud.

Before the woman could shout a warning, the smaller horse her daughter Paris was riding was also partially swallowed up by the mud.

After dragging herself through the mire, Nicole Graham helped her daughter and the other horse on to firmer ground.

However, Astro was stuck fast and her efforts to pull him free only resulted in herself sinking deeper into the quagmire.

As Paris ran to their car and phoned for help, Nicole Graham stayed at her horse’s side. She courageously clung on to his neck, terrified that he would not be freed before the tide came in.

Exhausted and mud-splattered, Nicole Graham clung to her trapped horse Astro for three hours keeping his head high in a race against the tide

Exhausted and mud-splattered, Nicole Graham clung to her trapped horse Astro for three hours keeping his head high in a race against the tide (photo Rex Features)


After three “terrifying” hours, rescuers managed to pull Astro and Nicole Graham from the mud.

Nicole Graham, who owns more than 10 horses and runs an equine dentistry business, told the Geelong Advertiser how a peaceful afternoon’s ride had turned to terror.

She said: “It was terrifying. It was also heartbreaking to see my horse exhausted and struggling.

“We went straight down and under. There was mud everywhere and every time I moved it sucked me back down. It wouldn’t let us go.”

After ensuring her daughter and her horse were safe, Nicole Graham returned to Astro and prayed that rescuers would arrive before the tide engulfed the horse.

The woman added: “I’ve been riding here for 20 years and never had a drama. I’ve never seen any signs and didn’t realize it was so boggy.

“When I saw the dust from the rescue trucks I was so relieved. I was starting to get overwhelmed.”

Fire lieutenant Roger Buckle, who was among a team of helpers, said: “It was like a quicksand.”

Fire crews worked with a local farmer, who provided a tractor, and a veterinary team. The firemen used hoses and a winch, but none of this equipment was successful.

A local helicopter was put on standby as a last resort at pulling Astro from the mud.

The combined rescue effort paid off. With minutes to spare before the water reached him, Astro – who had been sedated by vet Stacey Sullivan – was dragged from the mud with the aid of the farmer’s tractor.

“It was a race against the tide and fortunately we won,” said Lieut Buckle, who praised everyone efforts, including those of Stacey Sullivan whose work in sedating Astro made it easier to pull him free.

Stacey Sullivan said Astro was dehydrated but had coped well.

“A lot of horses don’t make it and I think without the owner there the chance of survival would have been a lot lower,” she said.