Sun, Nov 29, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela slams US, opposition over accusations

THREAT TO ‘CHAVISMO’:The Socialist Party faces a blow if opposition party Democratic Action wins the legislature in upcoming parliamentary elections

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuela’s government on Friday blasted the US for linking an activist’s murder to upcoming legislative elections and said it would sue an opposition leader who blamed the ruling Socialist Party.

The killing of Luis Diaz, a leader of the opposition party Democratic Action in central Guarico state, has rocked Venezuela days before the vote for a new National Assembly, which the Socialists risk losing for the first time in 16 years.

Diaz was shot dead at a campaign rally on Wednesday.

In the emotional aftermath, Democratic Action national head Henry Ramos and Lilian Tintori — wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and a witness to the shooting — blamed the ruling party.

However, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said initial investigations pointed to a gang dispute. Officials accused the opposition of exploiting the case to discredit the Socialists before an election scheduled for Sunday next week.

“Trying to link a murder between criminal gangs with Venezuela’s electoral process shows desperation and bad faith,” Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodriguez said of a US statement linking it to other aggression against opposition candidates.

Democratic Action is part of an opposition coalition that polls show has a strong chance of winning the legislature, which would be a heavy blow to the ruling “Chavismo” movement, named after former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Opposition leaders have for several weeks been denouncing hostility against their candidates, including several incidents of shooting in the air during marches.

However, the head of the government’s election campaign, Jorge Rodriguez, said Diaz had been part of a gang linked to extortion, murders and kidnapping, and named an alleged rival as his presumed killer.

Rodriguez said he would bring a lawsuit against Ramos for defamation of the Socialist Party.

“From Jan. 5 onward, I am going to investigate you all for the multiple crimes you have committed,” Ramos said, referring to the date the new National Assembly starts.

The killing brought widespread international condemnation.

The UN on Friday urged Venezuela to provide better safety for political opponents and rights defenders.

Underlining a cooling of relations with Maduro, regional heavyweight Brazil also weighed in, expressing “dismay” at Diaz’s death.

“The Brazilian government hopes the Venezuelan government will act to deter any acts of violence or intimidation that might call into question the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of the voting results,” a Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said.

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